Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 09/29/11 at 05:19 PM ET
On Thursday, the Hurricanes trimmed their training camp roster to 24 by sending 12 players to Charlotte of the American League. The group of twelve includes Zach Boychuk, who was projected to make the final round of cuts. Instead it was former Oilers first round pick Riley Nash who has ended up as the thirteenth forward on the depth chart.
Although the league allows a roster of up to 23 players, Carolina will not carry more than 22. The final cuts will be from the blue line.
Boychuk played in 23 games for the big team last season and in 31 the season before that. He was expected to make the big team out of camp last fall, but Jeff Skinner exceeded everyone’s expectations and stole the roster spot from him. Boychuk would later say that he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been. He worked hard this summer and he arrived to training camp early, hoping to get up to speed and impress the coaches. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to impress the coaches. From what I’ve heard and read, he didn’t look good in any of the scrimmages or pre-season games.
Not every Canes fan agrees with me here, but I fully expected Boychuk to make the big team, and play the entire season in Raleigh. It looks like he’ll have to bide his time and wait for an injury to one of the regulars. As of right now, Tuomo Ruutu isn’t playing at 100% and will be rotated in and out of the lineup after suffering a “lower body injury”.
Riley Nash, who is no relation to Rick Nash, wasn’t expected to be in the mix at this point. He has had, according to coach Paul Maurice, “a real good camp”, and he is the most improved player from last summer’s camp to now. That’s precisely what Boychuk wanted to be, but I think he falls under that umbrella of “guys who ... can play better than they’ve played”. Maurice has said that Nash will play “some games” on the big team this season, making his much-anticipated NHL debut. He was selected by Edmonton in the first round of the 2007 Entry Draft. Instead of signing, he chose to play collegiately at Cornell. Oilers fans started to get restless when he went back for a sophomore season. Top brass got restless when he went back for his junior season. They got even more restless when he kept saying that he was going to go all four years. At the 2010 draft, the Oil shipped Nash to Carolina in exchange for a second round pick in that draft. After about two weeks, Nash signed with the Canes and reported to Charlotte.
Nash tallied 32 (14/18) points for the Checkers last season, and was in the second tier of talent down there. Apparently, he’s made great strides this summer and will likely be on the opening night roster.
On defense, the Canes have seven players who played the entire season in the NHL last season. Derek Joslin is in that group of seven, although he spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch. This means that 2011 first round selection Ryan Murphy will probably be returned to Kitchener after a nine-game trial. He’s impressed everybody in camp, but still needs to tighten up his defensive skill set.
Justin Faulk, who was the Canes second round pick in 2010, is also in that final group of three players trying to make the opening night roster. He’s also impressed the coaches and fans quite a bit. He’ll see some NHL action this year, but because of the numbers game, he may end up in Charlotte to start the season.
My guess is that to start the season, Carolina will actually go with the league maximum of 23 players. I think they’ll send Faulk to Charlotte, keeping both Nash and Murphy. Murphy can play in nine games, and then they have to decide to keep him on or send him back to Kitchener. And they will send him back. But for nine games, at least, they’ll scratch Derek Joslin and dress Murphy as a seventh defenseman. To make room for that, they’ll have to scratch two forwards. Nash and Jiri Tlusty, probably. Or Ruutu, if he still needs some maintenance.
Carolina has back-to-back games on Friday (vs Columbus) and Saturday (at Nashville) to close out the pre-season. It’s already been said that Ruutu won’t play in both, and that he won’t be seeing back-to-back action for a while. So we’ll still see plenty of Riley Nash.
The final cut(s) will probably be made on Sunday morning. After that, the team will prepare for their season opener at home against the Bolts on October 7.
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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.