The Prospects Showcase gets underway Friday morning with the Carolina Hurricanes taking on the Florida Panthers at 10 a.m. at Invisalign Arena in Morrisville. Games are open to the public and free to attend, and it’s a great opportunity to see some top prospects for every team. This year, Hurricanes fans have the opportunity to see some of the team’s top prospects such as Noel Gunler, Vasiliy Ponomarev, Ronan Seeley, Ryan Suzuki and more.
While this roster may only feature one first-round pick, it does feature a number of players with professional experience as well as players that could be making a big impact in the AHL this year. I wrote about all of the Hurricanes prospects in my system overview, so if you’re looking for a scouting report or background on a certain player, that’s going to be where you want to look.
Full roster for the Canes for next weekend’s Prospects Showcase: pic.twitter.com/oXQm2ejp10— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) September 8, 2022
The Hurricanes are bringing a strong forward group, headlined by Alexander Pashin, Gunler, Ponomarev and Suzuki. Jamieson Rees and Tuukka Tieksola could also have big roles with the team, and I’m also expecting Justin Robidas to have another big tournament. I thought that Robidas was one of Carolina’s best forwards last fall when the prospects showcase was in Tampa due to his elite skating and work ethic. He has had a full season to improve, and so I expect him to be one of the team’s strongest scorers. Given the amount of depth that this roster has, it’s likely that this Hurricanes team will be able to match up against all three of their opponents. Florida and Tampa both have rosters that are a little depleted, but Nashville’s roster is chock full of strong prospects to contend with. Carolina’s prospects will have to figure out how to get pucks past Yaroslav Askarov and also find ways to shut down Luke Evangelista and Zachary L’Heureux.
Carolina’s forward depth in this tournament is solid, and I feel that they have a good balance of skill and grit that can constantly wear down the opposition. The biggest question is going to be whether or not this lineup can create enough offense. Gunler, Pashin, Suzuki and Tieksola are all players that rely on their offensive game to make an impact, but if teams are able to shut those guys down, it’s going to fall on prospects such as Robidas, Orr, Ponomarev and Rees to score.
The camp invites are Eric Cooley (under contract with Chicago in the AHL), Jackson Berezowski and Deni Goure. Out of the three, I’m the most excited to watch Berezowski. I watched the Everett Silvertips a lot this past season and Berezowski was consistently one of Everett’s best players. I’m still not 100% sure about his professional upside, but I do think that he’ll be a player to keep an eye on in a depth role this weekend.
Carolina’s defense for this tournament got a tremendous boost when Anttoni Honka signed his entry-level contract with the Hurricanes. Now, the team has Honka and Seeley to quarterback their power play units and Bryce Montgomery and Griffin Mendel to provide some solid shutdown defense. The biggest factor here will be whether or not Honka can make plays from the back end, and whether or not Seeley is able to match up against more physical competition. I’m excited to see how both players handle the pressure. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Montgomery in preseason with London, but preseason games are a far cry from the regular season in the OHL. I’m curious to see if he has made some improvements, as I was unable to attend development camp. Mendel also intrigues me a bit. He’s definitely more of a shutdown defenseman but during his time with Chicago, he showed signs of strong foot speed and the ability to join the rush. I’m interested to see if Mendel can use his performance in the showcase to earn an invite to Hurricanes camp.
Aside from these four players, the rest of the defensemen are camp invites. There will be two roster spots open during each game, and it’s likely that we see Grigori Dronov play in a lot of these games. He is a prospect that could be an impact player in the AHL this season if he signs, so that’s a player to keep an eye on. The Hurricanes also invited Charlie Desroches, Joe Arntsen and Sam McGinley to camp, so I would imagine that we see a rotation of those defensemen throughout the three games.
Carolina’s goaltending situation consists of Patrik Hamrla, Jakub Vondras and Dylan Ernst, a camp invitee. Hamrla looked great at times this past season and I’m excited to see him play again, as I was really impressed with him when I watched him last fall and throughout this season. I wasn’t familiar with Vondras until I watched a handful of his games, and I can see why the team drafted him. He’s incredibly smart and athletic, utilizing a quick mind and quick athletic ability to keep pucks out. There’s still a ways to go in terms of his development, but early signs are promising. Ernst is also a player that I’d like to see at least once during the showcase. He had some strong games when I watched him this past year and I would like to see him get at least half a game, if not a whole game. I doubt that he earns a contract from the prospects showcase, but he could establish himself as a legitimate draft candidate when he re-enters the draft next summer.
All in all, it’s a strong roster for the Hurricanes and I’m excited to cover these games. I’ll be attending each Hurricanes game in person and likely getting thoughts, interviews, and more throughout the tournament. Look out for a recap to come out sometime on Tuesday after the prospects showcase wraps up, as well as some prospect storylines to keep an eye on as we get ready for NHL training camp.