The first few days of an NHL training camp are usually about the young guys.
Who listens and can concentrate. Who shows that extra fire and grit, standing out. Who makes plays and not mistakes.
In short, who really wants to stay in camp and not be an early roster cut.
Sergey Tolchinsky is one of those guys for the Carolina Hurricanes. One of the shortest guys in camp – the Russian forward claims to be slightly taller than 5 feet 8 – he realizes he has to use his strengths and prove his value to stay on the roster.
Three-on-three overtimes, for example.
The NHL has adopted the overtime change and it will be used in exhibition games and in the regular season. There’s a lot of open ice and room to show off some offensive creativity, creating an opportunity for a quick, skilled player like Tolchinsky to shine.
“It’s easy to make something happen,” Tolchinsky said. “I like it.”
During a Saturday scrimmage at PNC Arena, Tolchinsky got his chance. In a three-on-three segment, he scored on a breakaway. He also scored during offensive-zone work.
“He’s been very good, definitely a guy who’s trending in the right direction,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “We put a premium on offense, certainly in our situation currently. He’s like everyone else – he’s got a very good shot to make our team or make a good, quality impression.”
Carolina will hold its annual Red-White scrimmage Sunday at 1 p.m., highlighting the Caniac Carnival at PNC Arena. Admission is free and among those on the rosters are Tolchinsky and a batch of young defensemen – Noah Hanifin, Haydn Fleury, Jaccob Slavin, Josh Wesley and Roland McKeown among them.
Hanifin, the fifth overall pick of this year’s NHL Draft, missed the recent Traverse City (Mich.) prospects tournament after being slashed and injured during USA Hockey’s World Junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Fleury, the Canes’ first-round pick in 2014, did play and played well.
“I can’t wait,” Hanifin said Saturday. “Any time you’re playing a game here it’s awesome. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Tolchinsky, 20, is set to begin his professional career after three productive years with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. He said he added almost 10 pounds in the offseason, to 179, and came to camp off a strong performance in Traverse City, winning one game with an overtime three-on-three goal.
“I just want to show my best hockey and play smart defensively and try to make the team,” he said Saturday.
During Saturday’s scrimmage, Tolchinsky was energetic on the forecheck, hounding Hanifin and defenseman James Wisniewski behind the net, fighting for the puck.
“I think Bill (Peters) likes it, too, in his system – be strong on the forecheck,” Tolchinsky said.
Wisniewski finally found a way to stymie Tolchinky, knocking him to the ice. But Tolchinsky quickly was on his feet and at it again.
But training camp is filled with players looking to make their mark. Forward Niki Petti, who played at Belleville in the OHL last season, was not drafted but signed an amateur tryout offer, went to Traverse City with the Canes, earned an invitation to training camp and will play in the Red-White scrimmage Sunday.
Canes captain Eric Staal smiled Saturday when asked if he remembers being young and hungry in camp.
“I remember being young and nervous,” he said. “I know what they’re going through. You have to give them a tap and give them a pickup. They’ll get more comfortable as they come to the rink every day ... and realize it’s just hockey and that’s what they love.”
16th Caniac Carnival
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena.
Admission and parking: Free
Of note: The Red-White scrimmage will be held at 1 p.m. The Carnival also includes an autograph session with Canes players, 15 food trucks, inflatable rides and interactive games, and live music.