The Carolina Hurricanes have three preseason games in the books in their exhibition schedule. So, how many important things have we learned that will play a massive role in this team’s success throughout the regular season and the playoffs?
Well... none. These are practice games, and we haven’t seen any teams at full strength.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about what we’ve seen. So here are some of the most significant early takeaways from the Hurricanes’ perfect 3-0 start to the preseason.
One of the few roles on the team seemingly up in the air heading into training camp was that of the second-unit power-play defenseman.
While it’s safe to say that nothing is set in stone, first-year Hurricanes Dylan Coghlan is making a solid case for his candidacy in his early preseason action. The 24-year-old former Vegas Golden Knight has flown out of the gates with four points in his first two outings - all on the power play, three of which came in the preseason opener.
“I always knew since I got traded that I was going to have an opportunity to play on the power play,” Coghlan said after game one. “And it’s been something that I’ve taken pride in for quite some time.”
He did see some powerplay ice time with Vegas last season, scoring a pair of goals and four total power-play points.
While not flashy, Coghlan has been steady in all of his roles in the very early going, which has helped clarify Carolina’s blue line situation. The likes of Ethan Bear and Jaccob Slavin will undoubtedly continue to get some looks there, but Coghlan made a statement early on.
Brent Burns’ game didn’t need much clarifying, but the veteran defender provided some in his preseason debut over the weekend.
He netted a pair of goals in the team’s win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday, including the ice-breaker early in the first period from a wicked wrist shot from beyond the right circle that beat Spencer Knight cleanly.
He then scored the game-deciding goal near the midway point of the third period. His second tally was a little less pretty, but what it lost in looks it made up for in cheekiness, as the lumbering big man pinched down the right wing and chipped the puck through Knight’s legs at an awkward angle.
Lol, Brent Burns - from below the goal line! Cheeky.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) October 1, 2022
Two goals for the vet in his first game action with the team. pic.twitter.com/kztw94GuQF
Burns has produced double-digit goals in each of the last ten 82-game seasons, and if Saturday was any indication of what’s to come, perhaps the 37-year-old can make it 11.
Strong Start for Svech, New Second Line
The Hurricanes’ second-round collapse in last year’s postseason didn’t totally lie on the shoulders of the team’s young stars. Still, the top of the lineup’s disappearing act certainly exacerbated their problems en route to their seven-game ousting at the hands of the underdog New York Rangers.
Andrei Svechnikov was at the center of that, but coming off of a career-best 30-goal, 69-point season, the 22-year-old hopes his fifth year in the league will be an even bigger success.
He has started strong in exhibition action, recording a goal and an assist in each of the first two preseason games.
He scored the team’s first preseason goal in the opener on a perfectly teed-up one-timer and then rifled home a two-on-one chance on Saturday.
It seems like Rod Brind’Amour and co. plan to go all-in on Jesperi Kotkaniemi taking on a more prominent role on the team in year two. He’s been centering Svechnikov and Martin Necas, and the results have been promising thus far. Kotkaniemi and Necas have also factored into the scoring in their preseason outings.
With Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck now elsewhere and Max Pacioretty slated to miss a vast majority of the season, all eyes are now on Kotkaniemi and Necas, and their pressure to succeed is at an all-time high.
Kotkaniemi’s first season contained plenty of ups and downs, but when he was asked to step up, he did so more often than not. Necas, on the other hand, struggled mightily last season, putting his future with the team in doubt. Nevertheless, he’s still here and has a lot to prove as he enters year four.
Depth Pieces Standing Out
As Svechnikov, Burns, and Coghlan have garnered attention, many fringe players competing for roster spots have also shown out, particularly in the first game against the Panthers.
Against most of Florida’s projected opening night roster, Carolina was powered to a win thanks to goals from Stefen Noesen, Derek Stepan, Justin Robidas, Vasiliy Ponomarev, and Jack Drury.
Noesen returned to the organization after a monster year in the AHL last season, netting 48 goals in 70 regular season games and nine more in 18 playoff games.
He and Stepan, who are currently in camp on a professional tryout contract, are both running for spots at the bottom of Carolina’s forward depth chart.
On the other hand, Robidas and Ponomarev are young guys who likely won’t make the team out of camp. Robidas has already been sent back to his QMJHL team after an extended look in training camp. Ponomarev is still with the team and is expected to suit up again tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Jack Drury falls somewhere in between those two classifications. Drury saw NHL action last season and made the most of his opportunities, scoring twice in as many games. He’s also coming off a solid rookie year in the AHL, where he built on a great regular season by tallying 24 points in 18 playoff games en route to a Calder Cup.
He is firmly in contention for a roster spot while simultaneously holding a good deal of upside at age 22.
We will see how the chips fall in due time, but a handful of players are worthy of a shot on the NHL roster. Of course, most of them will be victims of the numbers game, but it’s nice to have a diverse group of young and veteran players fighting for those spots.