It’s prospect tournament time around the NHL, signaling the unofficial start of a new year of hockey. With the Canes heading out to Nashville this weekend, here are five things to watch for.
After several years of taking part in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, the Hurricanes are switching things up this season. They’ll be taking part in the NHL Prospects Showcase, a rotating-host tournament held in Nashville this year. There they will face a new slate of opponents with the Predators, Capitals and Lightning all sending teams.
As is customary, the prospect team will be helmed by the Checkers’ coaching staff, which means this will be the first time the duo of new head coach Ryan Warsofsky and new assistant coach Patrick Dwyer man the bench together. Warsofsky attended last year’s prospect tournament alongside Mike Vellucci, but this will be the first time he’ll run the show himself and be able to implement some of his head coaching ideas.
The Canes won the Chase Priskie lottery earlier this offseason when the highly sought after blueliner signed an entry-level deal with them after declining to do so with the team that drafted him, Washington. Priskie was an offensive force at Quinnipiac, racking up 39 points in 36 games and getting the nod as a Hobey Baker finalist in his senior year, and this prospect tournament will be his first chance to throw on a Canes sweater and show what he can do. At 23 he’s on the older side of the tournament participants, with many of the prospects clocking in between the 18-20 range, so this could be a solid opportunity for the defenseman to take over games and assert himself ahead of training camp for a Canes team that is stacked with defensive prospects.
All of the Hurricanes’ games in Nashville will be streamed via the team's website.
Saturday, Sep. 7
vs. Washington, 2 p.m.
Sunday, Sep. 8
vs. Tampa Bay, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Sep. 10
vs. Nashville, 2 p.m.
Janne Kuokkanen got off to a hot start in his sophomore season, rolling at a near point-per-game pace for Charlotte and earning an All-Star nod while logging call-up time with Carolina, but a nagging injury forced him to the sideline in January and ended his campaign prematurely. But the 21-year-old is back and making his return to “game” action with this prospect tourney. With the most pro experience on the team Kuokkanen should be able to stand out against the younger prospects and put up some impressive performances, but more importantly this tournament allows the young Finn to get his legs back under him and ramp himself up to training camp as he looks to pick up where he left off last season.
LUOSTARINEN MAKES THE JUMP
A second-round pick in 2017, Eetu Luostarinen has been honing his game in his home country of Finland, but after a breakout season for KalPa the forward could be slated to make the jump to North America, having signed an entry-level deal with Carolina earlier this summer. Having already gained experience playing against men in Finland’s top league, this tournament will be Luostarinen’s first step toward acclimating himself to a North American sheet of ice. Listed at 6-foot-3, the 21-year-old has the combination of size and skill to make an impact wherever he plays, and this tournament could serve as a glimpse to one of Charlotte’s more intriguing possible newcomers.