RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters was beaming following the team’s prospect on-ice session on Friday.
The third day of comprehensive and intense immersion into National Hockey League (NHL) training and play saw the roster of 27 players start to show their strengths and weaknesses as one-on-one battles for possession and driving to the net ended the day.
“It’s been fun to sit upstairs and watch them play, watch the pace that they play at, and with some of the skill level,” Peters said.
“It’s been very good here to get to know them as people, but also watch them play.”
With more experience comes an increased awareness of when to turn it on and what to do with the puck when you get it.
The Canes bench boss took note of not just a few, but many who have made an impression on him so far.
“There’s lots; I’ll rattle off five or six,” Peters said.
“Kuokkanen’s outstanding with pace and hockey sense; Guathier’s willingness and desire to score; Bean’s hockey sense is unbelievable; Fleury’s bigger, stronger, faster; Ned’s motion and how tight he is in net; Foegele, Wesley, lots of progression there. There’s just so much on and on and on. I think we’re so much deeper now than we were two years ago at this time. It’s night and day.”
Peters continued to talk of this year’s group with the size and speed it possesses, but at the same time emphasized the learning curve and different stages each of these hopeful and future pros are at.
“Guys who are in their first development camp are behind guys who were here last year, or two years straight going into their third camp,” he said.
“You see it in the fitness results, their knowledge of nutrition, weight training and everything else. Now, it just has to go to a higher level – an NHL level and to NHL standards. Now they’re aware of that and know what to work on.”
As part of the learning process, today’s younger players are encouraged to ask questions and get feedback according to Peters.
“These guys are very confident in their ability and their knowledge as people, players and athletes.
“They’ll have questions and that’s healthy and good. They’re very intelligent in their approach. You look at a guy like Guathier, his fitness results are off the charts. That’s a guy who got after it early in a good environment. He’s on a good path. He’s a guy who literally loves to score and take it to the net. He likes to get into the dirty areas, pay the price net-front. That’s what he does and that’s what we need.”
Now knowing what’s expected of them to play at the pro level, the camp’s conclusion on Saturday will be highlighted by a controlled scrimmage and shootout among camp attendees, similar to last year.
One thing to note is that it won’t be a win-at-all costs affair.
Yes, they’ll be skating at full speed and looking to continue to impress the coaching staff as well as fans in attendance as part of the Hurricanes’ Summerfest activities, but there won’t be an expectation to run each through the boards at PNC Arena – not at this point.
“I think you’ll see more goals and a little bit more skill on the ice,” Peters pointed out.
“I’m not goin’ to be askin’ for contact tomorrow. If there’s contact, so be it, but it’s been a long week. These guys have had some long days. They haven’t been on the ice until 5:30 p.m. on some days after being up at 7 or 8 a.m., so those are long days. We don’t need a bunch of contact in July.”