Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 09/20/11 at 10:15 PM ET
Over the summer, the Carolina Hurricanes added a lot of pieces. By now, they’ve definitely shored up the blue line, and they even have a log jam. Barring a trade, no matter how well a certain 2011 first round draftee plays in camp, there just isn’t any space for defensemen. On the other side, there’s going to be plenty of competition for forward spots.
The way I see it, there are two forward positions up for grabs and the leading contenders are Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry, Jerome Samson and Drayson Bowman. In that order. I’ve been asked whether I think Dalpe will make the Canes and how big of an impact he’s going to have. The first part of that question has a simple answer: without a doubt. The second part is anybody’s guess. My guess is that he’ll put up Chad LaRose-type numbers. Somewhere in the vicinity of 13 goals and 15 assists. If he plays on the right wing. As third line center, he won’t get those kinds of numbers, but I think he will if he’s allowed (asked?) to play right wing.
Dalpe played 15 games with the big team last season, notching three goals and an assist. He’s still considered to be a rookie since he played fewer than 26 games. After having a great camp and an above-average showing in the first couple of weeks of the season, he was caught in a numbers game and was sent back to Charlotte of the American League. He was called back up for a couple of cups of coffee, but wasn’t ever able to snap into place. On the Checkers, he was a top player, finishing the season with 57 (23/34) points in 61 regular season games. He also added 13 (6/7) points in 16 playoff games. He’s worked on his fitness over the summer, and he’s ready to prove that he’s a full-time NHLer. I think that he is, and I won’t be surprised to see 30 points out of him. As of right now, the Hurricanes have him penciled in as the second line right wing. I don’t think it’ll play out that way, but I like him better as a winger.
Zach Boychuk is in the final year of his entry-level contract, and I think he realizes that this is his big chance to make it to the bigs. Last summer, he took his time arriving to training camp, and he believes that it cost him a roster spot. Ironically, although he was and still is considered to be behind Dalpe in development, he saw more action (23 games) in Raleigh than Dalpe did. He also put up better numbers in Charlotte than Dalpe. Boychuk registered 65 (22/43) points in 60 AHL games compared to Dalpe’s 57 (23/34) in 61. By all accounts, Boychuk has looked good in camp and he was good enough in NHL action last season to show that he can play at the highest level.
Chris Terry has been somewhat of a surprise. Although some Canes fans have him further down the “top prospects” list, I think he’s on the verge. He hasn’t yet made his NHL debut, but he’s been a player on the rise for a couple of seasons. He played really well with the Checkers last season, putting up 64 (34/30) games in all 80 contests. In the post-season, he added nine (6/3) points in 16 games. I’ve had the opportunity to see him play a dozen or so times, and he was always one of the best players on the ice. I think this will be his season to make a few appearances in Raleigh. I hope he makes the best of it.
Jerome Samson, however, might be the type of player who Terry proves to be. Excellent at the AHL level, but just not good enough to make the next step. He played in 23 games with the Canes last season, and was thoroughly unimpressive. I had been singing his praises for about two years as a stud at the AHL level. I was excited about his opportunity to play with the big team. Although the coaches must have seen something that they liked, I sure didn’t. He looked out of place and timid in Raleigh, but a major force in Charlotte. 54 (26/28) points for the Checkers in 53 games and just two assists in those 23 big-league games.
Like Samson, Drayson Bowman played in 23 Hurricanes games last season. He’s got a lone assist to show for it. He played nine games in the previous season and notched two goals in limited ice time. He’ll probably see time on the big team, but I’ve never liked what I’ve seen from him at the NHL level.
Aside from this lot, there are a couple of “too soon” guys, none of whom I think have any chance of playing in Raleigh at all.
The Hurricanes have six defensemen with one-way contracts and they also have Jamie McBain. He’s in the final year of a two-way entry-level contract, and he’s not getting sent down. He earned a permanent spot on the team with some really solid play at the end of the 2009-10 season. Last season, he played the entire season on the big team, missing six games with injury. He took on more and more responsibilities as the season wore on, and he’s already looking less like a second-year player and more like a veteran. Derek Joslin, who has been inconsistent, has a one-way contract, and will probably be a healthy scratch more often than not. There’s no room at all, barring an injury in camp, for anyone to earn a blue line roster spot out of camp.
In short, Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk will get full-time spots. Jiri Tlusty and Boychuk will most likely rotate as healthy scratch. Some of those other guys will get called up throughout the season, but they won’t be earning an opening night roster spot.
Within a few days, I hope to put together a list of my predictions for offensive output for the Canes players .
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.