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About Last Season: Vincent Trocheck and Brady Skjei Performance Reviews

Acquired at the trade deadline, Trocheck and Skjei showed glimpses of what they can bring (and are expected to bring) to the Canes moving forward.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Vincent Trocheck 2019-20 By the Numbers

  • Age: 27
  • NHL Seasons: 7
  • Games Played: 62 (7 with CAR)
  • Scoring: 11 goals, 27 assists, 38 points (1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points with CAR)
  • Average TOI: 12:21 ES, 2:06 PP, 1:12 SH, 15:39 TOT (with CAR)
  • Contract: 2 years remaining at $4.75 million AAV

On the morning of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, it looked like the Trocheck deal was going to be the one big splash that the Hurricanes would make for the day.

While that didn’t exactly end up being the case (we’ll get to that later), the move was still far-reaching with regards to its impact on the Canes’ forward lineup. In came Trocheck, but out went two centers in Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark (in addition to young AHL players in Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen).

It was a relatively significant price to pay for the Canes, but Haula’s uncertain future and Wallmark’s perceived lower ceiling made the move pretty logical given what Trocheck can bring to the middle of a team’s forward depth chart. He’s a steady, two-way right-shot center two seasons removed from a 31-goal campaign with the Florida Panthers.

While two seasons seems like a short period of time, those two seasons for Trocheck feel like an eternity. The 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons for the 27-year-old center were derailed by injury, making it nearly impossible for him to regain the 30-goal form that made him one of the brightest young centers in the league.

His first impression in Carolina wasn’t one to write home about. In seven games, Trocheck scored just one goal - albeit a huge overtime-winner in Brooklyn that marked what should have been the turning point for him in his early Canes tenure.

That goal came five days before the season was suspended.

Trocheck’s numbers through four games in red and black weren’t flattering, but his final three games saw him change course in the right direction. He notched two points and appeared to start gaining his footing on his first “new team” in his NHL career.

My thoughts immediately following the trade were largely positive. The Canes dealt multiple assets that add up to the value of what Trocheck brings. When you are a contending team with a deep pool of NHL-caliber players like the Hurricanes are, making a move to bolster a top-six center spot for multiple seasons is something you have to do.

A flighty start doesn’t change my opinion there. After several months of getting adjusted to his new home in Raleigh and learning the system that his new team plays (albeit under very strange circumstances), this upcoming play-in round and subsequent postseason should be a much better gauge of what this player will bring moving forward.

He has a track record that resembles a steady second-line pivot who can score 20+ goals and be a presence at both ends of the ice - when he is healthy. Only time will tell whether he can stay healthy and be that player, but if the former happens, odds are the latter will happen as well.

Brady Skjei 2019-20 By the Numbers

  • Age: 26
  • NHL Seasons: 5
  • Games Played: 67 (7 with CAR)
  • Scoring: 8 goals, 16 assists, 24 points (0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point with CAR)
  • Average TOI: 17:59 ES, 0:05 PP, 2:45 SH, 20:50 TOT (with CAR)
  • Contract: 4 years remaining at $5.25 million AAV

The trade that shocked the NHL world on deadline day involved Skjei, who was acquired by the Hurricanes for a 2020 first-round pick just as the clock struck 3:00 p.m, EST.

It was definitely a surprising move for the Canes, a team that already had a growing logjam of long-term contracts on the blue line with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Jake Gardiner, and soon-to-be Dougie Hamilton all on the books for the next 85 years - or something like that.

Short term, the deal made sense. Carolina lost both Hamilton and Pesce for the remainder of the regular season, making things tough on the remaining fixture of d-men, especially Slavin who saw his ice time skyrocket to north of 27 minutes on many nights in the weeks leading up to February 24. Long term, it presents the team with more questions that will have to be answered over the next two offseasons.

Upon his arrival, Skjei wasn’t just impressive, he might have been the Hurricanes’ best defenseman. His end-to-end rushes were dazzling, his defense was fine, and he roamed around the offensive zone with a Hamilton-esque level of confidence.

In contrast to Trocheck, Skjei’s performance tailed off in the final few games of his seven-game pre-COVID Canes tenure. His defensive zone play quickly started to resemble what it had been at times with the New York Rangers, including questionable reads, some poor man-marking, and occasional failed break-out attempts.

Also like Trocheck, it’s tough to really evaluate such a short period of time for a guy following the first time he had ever been traded, but there is some good and some bad.

The good comes with his skating. Skjei can absolutely fly up and down the ice, and with his big frame and long reach, he can be a hugely intimidating force in open ice. The bad comes with his defensive-zone play. He just wasn’t consistent enough, and that’s been an issue for him throughout his still relatively young NHL career.

It’s also worth noting that Skjei played on his off-side with Slavin, Gardiner and Haydn Fleury, which he did not do in New York. If the long-term play here is for him to play with Pesce on the second pairing, I see the reasoning behind bringing him in. With a strong anchor in Pesce next to him, it isn’t far-fetched to envision Skjei blossoming into a quick and dangerous puck-handler in the neutral zone and an active force in the offensive zone. If that’s what ends up happening, the Hurricanes will look back at the trade favorably.

The tools are clearly present here. He’s shown that he is capable of being a dynamic player, and his strengths should translate well to the style that Rod Brind’Amour and his staff employ.

The upside is there, and with him gaining a better understanding of his role on this team and the system that they play, Skjei could very well end up being a great top-four defenseman. Right now, though, it remains uncertain what that role looks like and how he will adjust to his new surroundings.

It wouldn’t be fair to actually grade either of these players’ performance with the Canes to this point, so the grade I’m going with for Trocheck and Skjei is... TBD-.