RALEIGH, N.C. – Sergey Tolchinsky is looking to make an impression.
As one of the original members of the group of players in the Carolina Hurricanes system who have put in reps at Raleigh Center Ice (RCI) since mid-August, the 22-year-old Russian forward is in a precarious position.
Heading into the final year of his entry-level contract that he earned after an impressive showing as a prospect camp invitee back in 2013, he knows that he must show team management that he deserves to remain a part of the organization.
After working out on the ice with fellow pros in Moscow, he knew that he should come back to show his commitment to working out with Hurricanes teammates and to prepare for the team’s upcoming training camp.
“I think it’s good to come early before camp starts to get in better shape,” Tolchinsky said.
“Just wanted to get used to the time change, work out with Bill (Burniston) – he’s a great strength coach.”
Going undrafted, the smallish five-foot-eight-inch lefty has an appeal to him that is sparked by quick hands that can easily dangle the puck to set up a pass or a shot.
He’s used to putting up offensive numbers.
He scored 60-plus goals in each of his three seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and finished with 237 points before starting his pro career with the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Even while posting 14 goals to go along with 22 assists in 72 games during his first full season in Charlotte back in 2015-2016, his production tailed off to 23 points (7g, 16a) in 59 games last season.
A glaring stat category that didn’t help his cause was plus-minus ratings of -16 and -10, numbers that could and did result in limited playing time and even being a healthy scratch while with Charlotte.
During training camp in 2015, he talked about continuing to work on developing his strength, playing better defensively and committing less turnovers – “less risky plays, and more smart plays,” as he termed it.
He made improvements last season in cutting his turnovers down almost 50 percent, but with the development of numerous prospects in Carolina’s system, negative plus-minus numbers in the minors are not helpful to stay high in the depth chart.
Tolchinksy feels he plays his best hockey when he allows himself to create offensive opportunities and keeps his legs moving on the forecheck to turn pucks over.
Even with his brief four total career NHL games played, two in each of the last two seasons, he’s tallied two assists, a plus-one rating, to go with three shots on goal.
No spectacular measure to extrapolate anything more from than feel-good moments at the time, but still a glimpse of scratching at the surface of a small gem that could shine for the Hurricanes one day.
However, with more prospective gems that executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis has brought in and dumped at the feet of head coach Bill Peters in the last three years, now is the time for Tolchinsky to really stand out.
Otherwise, he may be looking to continue his career somewhere else.
“My goal is to make the team,” Tolchinsky said.
“I know it’s my last year in the contract. I’ve gotta go all in. The goal is just to make the team and make the NHL.”