It feels nice to say that the Hurricanes will be holding a development camp this year. While nobody will be making the NHL based on their performance in development camp, it gives fans an opportunity to see the team’s drafted prospects in person. For most folks, this is their only opportunity to see these players in person until the next year, so it’s an exciting time.
This year is especially exciting because it will give fans their first look at members of Carolina’s 2020 and 2021 drafts. Below, you’ll find analysis on all of the Hurricanes prospects that will attend development camp this year, as well as notes on one of the invites that I watched this past season.
This is a smaller roster than we’re used to seeing in years past for development camps. Normally, the Hurricanes would have a ton of prospects and invites attending, but this year, the roster is fairly small. 21 players will attend, and that number would be larger if we did not have prospects attending World Juniors camps this month. Patrik Hamrla, Joel Nystrom, Ronan Seeley, Ville Koivunen and Aleksi Heimosalmi are all attending camps this month. It’s also very difficult to get Russian players to the United States right now, which is why I’m a little surprised that Alexander Pashin is attending.
Cruz Lucius - Lucius is a really interesting prospect. Had he played in a full season, it’s possible that he could’ve been picked much higher. There’s solid tools in his game with the way that he scans the ice and works around the net. Outside of that, I don’t know a ton about the player, which is why I turned to my friend Paul Zuk at Smaht Scouting for some insight.
“I like [Lucius], i just find he struggles to execute. Like he thinks the game and knows what to do with the puck as good or better than his brother. He just has a hard time putting the pieces together.”
I like the bet that the Hurricanes are making. Chaz Lucius was selected 18th overall in last year’s draft, so if Cruz’s hockey sense is better than his brother’s, it may be possible that he can outperform his draft position.
Bobby Orr Jr. - Orr is a strong skater and a tenacious forechecker in the offensive zone. I see a great two way forward and a player that can make a lot of things happen in the offensive zone, but his individual skill hasn’t quite popped yet. Orr plays a style of hockey that Rod Brind’Amour will love, however, so that could be a huge factor in his game next year. I normally hate using NHL comparables for players, but Orr reminds me a lot of Brock McGinn.
Justin Robidas - Robidas likely signs an entry-level contract with the team at the end of his QMJHL season. I thought that he was great this past year. He’s a good skater, strong on the puck, good in his own end and a great shooter. I think that Robidas can fill a role in a team’s middle six, size be damned. He has elite goal scoring ability and works his tail off in all three zones. Smaller players get a lot of disrespect but it’s not a good determinant of a player’s skill.
Jackson Blake - Blake was one of the top scoring players in the USHL this past year and has a lot of potential in his own end. He’s tricky with the puck, a shifty skater, incredibly smart and a great playmaker. Blake will likely be more of a playmaker if he makes it to the NHL, but it’s going to take a while. He is still fairly raw in his own end and I feel that he’s still pretty slight and can’t win puck battles just yet. That can easily be worked on over four years in college.
Alexander Pashin - Pashin is a huge addition to the Hurricanes organization. When he was drafted, there were doubts that he’d be willing to come to North America right away, but here we are two years later. Pashin has elite offensive upside and while he needs to add strength, he might be one of the most exciting prospects in the pipeline. Very few players are able to manipulate defenses the way Pashin can. He can slice through a defense and create offense out of nothing. Keep an eye on Pashin, he’ll be a good one.
Massimo Rizzo - Rizzo established himself as one of the best passers in the NCAA as a freshman this past season. He also won a National Championship, so he’s off to a promising start. I wasn’t sure how Rizzo would perform this past year due to his injury history, but he outperformed any expectations. Rizzo’s skating and puck skills are elite and I feel that he blossomed as a playmaker this past year.
Lucas Mercuri - Mercuri began his collegiate career with UMass this past year and played in a depth role for the most part. His strength and two way play make him a possible NHL player, but it’s going to take at least three more years. There’s untapped offensive potential in his game, but I see Mercuri as more of a defense first center at the next level.
Scott Morrow - Morrow is arguably the Hurricanes’ best prospect and has elite offensive upside. He could be a future top pairing defenseman based on the way he skates, thinks the game and makes plays happen, but he’ll need to improve defensively first. Morrow had a stellar freshman season with UMass and was one of the best defensemen in his conference last year. This year, Morrow should be one of the top defensemen in college hockey.
Bryce Montgomery - Montgomery is a big defenseman with solid skating and shutdown ability. He hasn’t gotten the chance to show his offensive skills yet, but the tools are there. Montgomery makes a lot of smart plays in his own end and can join the rush, and while in the offensive zone, he isn’t afraid to contribute to the play.
Simon Forsmark - Forsmark is one of three 2022 draft picks that will be attending this year’s development camp. Our group at Smaht Scouting ranked him 61st on our board because of his skating, defensive maturity and hockey sense. The offensive part of his game didn’t click at the SHL level last year, but he was a productive defenseman in U20, which shows that he can contribute offensively when given the opportunity.
Cade Webber - Webber is another big shutdown defenseman that can skate exceptionally well for his size. I haven’t seen anything from him offensively since he got to college, but he’s tough to play against and can help move the puck in transition. He has fantastic hockey sense in his own zone, too.
Domenick Fensore - Fensore is a treat to watch. Very few defensemen skate as well as he does, and even fewer have the ability to make plays happen like Fensore can. Fensore can shut down a rush and then take the puck the other way, making a play to generate offense for his team. He’s great in the offensive zone and would have been much more productive in the first half of the season if he wasn’t passing to Tyler Boucher. Fensore will be the captain of Boston University next season.
Jakub Vondras - Vondras is the third and final 2022 draft selection that will be attending development camp. I haven’t been able to watch any film on him yet, as I’ve taken a few days off since the draft, but I hope to get a look at him in development camp. Interestingly, he catches with his right hand, which isn’t something you see a lot of.
Nikita Quapp - That’s right folks, we’re talking Quapp Quapp Quapp at development camp. I like Quapp and I believe there’s potential in his game. He’s fairly athletic but his real standout trait is the way he tracks the puck. He knows where the puck is going and is able to get square to the puck with ease, preventing a lot of scoring chances and taking away the net. Quapp should get more of an opportunity with Berlin in the DEL next season and should also be one of Germany’s goalies at August’s World Juniors as well as the one in December.
Dylan Ernst - Ernst is the only camp invite that I know anything about this year. The other two WHL skaters weren’t really on my radar, but I watched Ernst a few times. I think he has potential. He backed up Dylan Garand this year but has solid tools, such as his size and athleticism, that could make him a decent goaltender down the road.
Enjoy development camp, folks. While these games are relatively meaningless, it’s a great opportunity to see hockey in the summer. You also get the opportunity to see some potential NHL players, which is always a fun experience. Since all of the games happen while I’m working, I will be unable to attend. I’ll be hitting up InStat for some film on our drafted prospects when it comes time to get some prospect profiles out.
Here are all of the non-drafted camp invitees who will be in Raleigh this week:
- Joe Arntsen, Defenseman
- Eric Cooley, Right Wing
- Dylan Ernst, Goaltender
- Sam McGinley, Defenseman
- Nick Nardella, Forward
- Devin Phillips, Forward
- Jeremiah Slavin, Defenseman