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Hurricanes in Traverse City

Though they finished the Traverse City prospects tournament with a record of 1-3-0, the Hurricanes' team had standout individual performances. Game results and a preview written prior to the tournament can be found below.

Game Updates

Monday: Blues 8, Hurricanes 3

After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the second period through a goal by Brent Pederson and two by Sergey Tolchinsky, the Hurricanes allowed St. Louis to score eight unanswered goals in an 8-3 loss to conclude the tournament on Monday. Projected Checkers forwards Brendan Woods and Brody Sutter each picked up assists for the Hurricanes, who finished with a record of 1-3-0. Stats

Tolchinsky, an undrafted free agent signing who has impressed throughout the summer, finished as the tournament's leader in goals (5) and points (8) in four games. Ryan Murphy led all defensemen and ranked tied for fifth overall with six points, all assists, which were more than any other player. The only other Hurricanes skater to finish at a point-per-game pace was forward Brock McGinn, who netted four points (3g, 1a) in three games. Full team stats

Many players from the Traverse City team will now head to Raleigh to participate in the Hurricanes' main training camp, which starts Thursday.

Sunday: Sabres 7, Hurricanes 4

Forward Brock McGinn, who made his professional debut with the Checkers at the end of last season, scored two goals and added an assist as the Hurricanes fell to Buffalo in their final round-robin game on Sunday. McGinn, a 19-year-old who will likely return to his junior team in Guelph this coming season, also fired a game-high six shots on goal and was tied for third in the tournament with three goals. Defenseman Ryan Murphy also picked up three points, all assists, giving him sole possession of the tournament lead with six through three games. Stats | Highlights

The Hurricanes, who finished the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 1-2-0 record, will face the St. Louis Blues in Monday's fifth-place game.

Friday: Blue Jackets 7, Hurricanes 5

Victor Rask scored his second goal in as many tournament games and Danny Biega to tie the score at 4-4 early in the third period in the Hurricanes' 7-5 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. After two games, Rask was tied with six other players, including teammate Sergey Tolchinsky, for fifth in tournament goal scoring.

Defenseman Ryan Murphy had two assists in the game, giving him three for the tournament to tie him for first in scoring among defensemen. Fellow blueliners Austin Levi and Keegan Lowe, each of whom are expected to compete for jobs in Charlotte this season, also picked up primary helpers. Stats

The Hurricanes are off until Sunday, when they take on the Buffalo Sabres.

Thursday: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 3

Victor Rask opened the scoring and Brock McGinn netted the eventual game-winner in the first game of the tournament, a 4-3 win for the Hurricanes on Thursday. Free-agent tryout Zach Mitchell and recent signing Sergey Tolchinsky, who will return to his junior team this season, had the team's other goals. Stats | Highlights

Joining former Checkers Rask and McGinn on the score sheet were center Brody Sutter and defenseman Ryan Murphy, who assisted on what was, by all accounts, a highlight-reel goal by Tolchinsky.

The Canes next take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Tournament Preview

Contrary to the younger group of more recent draft choices who will be playing competitive hockey under the Hurricanes umbrella for the first time, for tournament veterans like Ryan Murphy, Victor Rask, Brody Sutter and Danny Biega, it will be about demonstrating their development over the last few seasons and their ability to compete for increased roles at either the NHL or AHL levels. That process will continue at training camp, which is set to begin in just a few weeks.

As for the younger group, they’ll likely end up taking a similar path. Of those who played for Charlotte last season, 20 were veterans of at least one Traverse City team since the Hurricanes first started playing there in 2009, suggesting that this year’s edition features plenty of names which may not be familiar yet but will be soon.

In the meantime, a rundown of what to watch for when it comes to the group of potential Checkers:

RYAN MURPHY AND VICTOR RASK

Ryan Murphy
Easily the most high-profile players who have a realistic chance of playing in Charlotte this season, Murphy and Rask, the Hurricanes’ first two choices in the 2011 draft, will be expected to make a big impact in their second tournament (if not for the lockout leading to the cancelation of last year’s event, it would probably be their third). In both cases, dominant performances could be the first step toward more of the same in Charlotte or an indication that they’re ready for an even higher level of competition.

With news that Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen is expected to miss the start of the season and an indefinite amount of time beyond that, Murphy, who would provide a puck-moving element the team will now be in greater need of, has a clearer path to the NHL today than he did yesterday.

In addition to a successful two junior seasons with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, Rask impressed in a short stint with the Checkers last season and at Carolina’s rookie camp earlier this summer. Though he’ll be the dark horse candidate in a competition with Lindholm, Riley Nash and Jeremy Welsh – none of which could be assigned to the AHL level as freely as he could – for a center spot with the Canes, his ongoing development could make this tournament an important showcase.

INCOMING ROOKIES

Austin Levi
After Murphy, there are three young defensemen who are expected to start their first full professional seasons next month – Biega, Austin Levi and Keegan Lowe. Biega, previously tied up with his college classes, is playing in his first tournament, while Lowe is competing for the second time and Levi for the third.

No matter who starts the season in Carolina, spots on Charlotte’s roster will be in short supply with veterans Matt Corrente and Mark Flood joining returnees Brett Bellemore, Michal Jordan and Rasmus Rissanen. Meanwhile, Tommi Kivisto and Beau Schmitz, who split last season between the Checkers and ECHL Florida, will be looking for bigger roles, making this tournament the first step in what will be an ongoing evaluation between players.

At forward, Brendan Woods, who played just two professional games at the end of last season, will be working to establish a role and a position on next year’s Checkers team, both of which remain up in the air. This tournament – one of the first real chances for him to show what he can do in an increased role – could put him in the conversation for something other than the depth role he played in college.

A true x-factor for the tournament is forward Adam Brace, who signed a one-way AHL contract with the Checkers last month despite having yet to make his debut in the league. As a 25-year-old with a history of scoring at the collegiate and ECHL levels (62 points in 55 total games with Robert Morris University and the Florida Everblades last season), it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise if he scores in Traverse City, but it would be a good sign for the Checkers, who could use some offensive contributions on the right side next season.

RETURNING PLAYERS

Of all the players on this year’s Hurricanes team, Brody Sutter, who will be entering his second full season since concluding his junior career, will be one of the more experienced pros. Because of that, this environment should give him a good chance to start proving that his late-season offensive breakout with Charlotte was no fluke and that he could be capable of taking on a similar role with the Checkers, who won’t be sure what kind of balance they have at the center position until Carolina picks its opening-night squad.

Though also entering his second pro season, Schmitz’s participation on the Hurricanes’ Traverse City team goes all the way back to 2009, when he joined the team as an undrafted invite from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers and played alongside several key members of last season’s Checkers team including Zach Boychuk, Michal Jordan and Chris Terry. Having also played in 2011, he becomes one of two players playing in their third tournament along with his former junior defensive partner in Levi.

Like Sutter, Schmitz was also able to settle in nicely at the AHL level after starting his rookie season in the ECHL. In order to secure a more prominent role on next season’s team, he’ll have to distance himself from the above-mentioned rookie class.

THE FUTURE

Though technically a former Checker, forward Brock McGinn, expected to play in his first Traverse City tournament, is not eligible to start this season in the AHL due to his age. That’s also true of a handful of fellow Canadian junior players including goalie Daniel Altshuller, defensemen Trevor Carrick and Tyler Ganly and forwards Brent Pedersen and Sergey Tolchinsky, while forward Erik Karlsson is eligible to play but will instead start the season in Europe.

Any of those players would be able to come to Charlotte if the Checkers are still playing by the time their own seasons are over, just like Biega, McGinn, Murphy and Woods all did last season. Looking beyond that, there’s a pretty good chance they would all need some AHL seasoning at some point, making them likely to join the Checkers as full-time players within the next few years.

Unless fellow 2012 draft pick Collin Olson, a sophomore at Ohio State, somehow beats him to it, Altshuller would become the first goaltender drafted by the Hurricanes to play a game for their AHL affiliate since Mike Murphy made his professional debut for Albany in 2009.

To give a sense of how many of these players will become more well-known over the years, check out this picture (click to enlarge) of the Hurricanes' 2009 championship team that includes current and former Checkers Bellemore, Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Stefan Chaput, Nick Dodge, Matt Kennedy, Mike Murphy, Matthew Pistilli, Schmitz and Chris Terry as well as former Hurricanes Jamie McBain and Brandon Sutter. Not pictured are Jordan and Rissanen, who were on the roster but did not play in the final game due to injury.
Carolina Hurricanes 2009 Traverse City team
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.