Five takeaways from the Carolina Hurricanes traning camp:
1) Small sample size and no games played yet, but the Hurricanes’ trade for Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland appears to be an upgrade.
Ferland will be a more physical forward than the traded Elias Lindholm, who played with an edge but not often enough for the Canes. Ferland also had the 20-goal production -- scoring 21 for Calgary -- last season that Lindholm always talked about but never delivered.
Hamilton, 25, is a big man who looks even bigger on his skates. Placed on a power-play unit Monday with Justin Faulk, the 6-foot-6 defenseman gave the Canes two heavy shots from the point along with Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Martin Necas, three skilled forwards.
Defenseman Noah Hanifin, traded to the Flames, is 21 and has offensive potential but Hamilton, used with Jaccob Slavin in the top D-pair in camp, could better his 17-goal, 27-assist totals for Calgary last season.
Hamilton scored on three straight shootouts in Sunday’s practice. Told afterward that he might have found a shootout guy, coach Rod Brind’Amour smiled and said, “Oh, man, you’re going to make me use him now.”
2) Brind’Amour said not to read too much into the lines in the first few days of camp, but one line has had Jordan Staal centering Justin Williams and Janne Kuokkanen.
Kuokkanen was a second-round draft pick in 2016 and was on the Canes’ opening-day roster last season. Assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, his offensive numbers were modest -- 11 goals and 29 assists in 60 games.
Why Kuokkanen with Staal and Williams?
“We’ve got some spots open and I think it’s fair to give our best prospects a chance and play them with real NHL players and help them the best we can, then really assess what we have,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s kind of hard to bring up a guy and then you don’t really use him, to really assess what he is.
“We’ll give him a game or two to see how it all works out. We know the guys who can play and we know the combinations that do work. It’s pretty safe to say Aho and Teravainen work well together but I don’t necessarily need to start them together (in camp). That doesn’t do me any good or the team.
“We need some of these guys to step up.”
3) Hockey players live with the fact they’ll probably be cut at some point, it’s that kind of hazardous sport, but in their own kitchen?
A lot of people can empathize with Victor Rask after the Swedish center accidentally sliced into his right hand while cutting food. Brind’Amour said the cut affected tendons and fingers and Rask will be out for months after major surgery.
The ripple effect on the ice in camp should have Aho, Staal, Necas and Lucas Wallmark used at center in the early going. Jordan Martinook and Saku Maenalanen, signed in May as a free agent out of the Finnish Liiga, also could get looks in the middle.
It’s tough for Rask, who had rehabbed his right shoulder after surgery in March and said he was physically ready and determined to atone for two mostly disappointing seasons.
“I know I need to get back to my game,” Rask said. “I don’t think I played very good the last two years. I want to put the puck in the net more this year but also play better overall.”
Rask may do that, but it could be January before he’s ready.
4) There was some concern about Brett Pesce’s health coming into camp and he has been the seventh defenseman in the first few days of camp, often paired with Jake Bean.
Brind’Amour mentioned before camp began that Pesce had some upper-body discomfort during the summer that curtailed part of his conditioning. But Pesce says he’s OK. He looks OK.
“It was just a little respiratory thing I had going on, a little tightness in the chest,” Pesce said Sunday. “It’s getting better and we’re trying to ease back into it. We’re kind of taking it slow. But I’m doing everything out here and I’ll be ready to roll, for sure.”
5) Brind’Amour is new to this head-coaching thing and also honest to a fault. After the first two days of training camp, Brind’Amour said he needed a brief mental break -- Saturday was an off-day for the team during Hurricane Florence.
As an assistant coach, he said, his attention might drift from time to time in practice but not as the head coach. That was a rare admission from a coach.
When Brind’Amour named Williams the team captain, he said he would have done it last year if he was the head coach and making the call. That, too, was being frank.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out between Brind’Amour and the media, not that it’s a huge concern. Former coach Bill Peters always tried to put on an air of positivity, not that it always played well. Brind’Amour will be Brind’Amour.
Brind’Amour was asked Monday if he could sense the players treating him differently as the head coach. “I’m sure they’re talking behind my back a little more than they used to,” he joked.
“I really like what’s going on with the group as a whole, the coming together,” he said, more seriously. “You can really feel a positive vibe. I love walking through the room. It’s a big change and I’m enjoying that.”