There’s still one game to go in the preseason, but the Carolina Hurricanes have their roster and there’s one surprise, a lot of positive reinforcement and still a few gambles that will, most likely, decide whether this season is a success or failure.
Saturday’s cuts of Janne Kuokkanen and Saku Maenalanen, among others, established that Warren Foegele had upset the odds and won a spot on the roster, and deservedly so. He came into training camp pretty far down the list of forwards contending for a spot despite solid all-around numbers in Charlotte (AHL) last season, but his stellar preseason performance not only won him a job, but perhaps a spot on what may be the Hurricanes’ top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
This is the group of 22, with the injured Victor Rask a 23rd on paper for now – leaving room to add a waiver claim if anyone who can help the Hurricanes goes on the wire before Thursdsay.
In a preaseason that, so far, has represented everything Rod Brind’Amour wanted to bring to the team – the commitment and accountability that had been missing under the previous regime(s) – the decision to keep Foegele, along with the early departure to Charlotte of Aleksi Saarela previously in training camp, establishes a baseline that effort and performance will be regarded regardless of draft position, contract or reputation.
Now, there’s a caveat to that: Neither Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas has had the kind of training camp the Hurricanes would have wanted to see from either rookie, but they’re still here because there’s no other option the way this team is built. Svechnikov has to score goals and Necas has to hold down a top-six center role or this team is going to struggle. That’s just the way it is.
Other than that, there’s plenty to be happy about. The goaltending, from both Scott Darling and Petr Mrazek, has easily cleared the low bar of basic competence that’s been lacking in recent years. Aho has struggled at center but looked better when reunited with Teravainen – and the reverse was true as well. The defense looks as advertised. And while it’s hard to put too much stock into preseason power-play results, the Hurricanes shouldn’t lack for confidence, at least.
Regardless of what happens Sunday, the Hurricanes will head into the season full of belief and optimism for the first time in years. They have done everything they could to put themselves in position. Now, it’ll come down to talent.