Zach Boychuk

Hurricanes forward competition open for business in training camp

With training camp starting up in just under two weeks, the chatter about what’s at stake in camp is picking up.

In Carolina, things figure to be more than intriguing. After all, Jeff Skinner is going into his second season building off a Calder Trophy-winning season, Erik Cole is gone and Alexei Ponikarovsky is in, and Tomas Kaberle joins the blue line corps on defense. With all that in place as well as having All-Stars Cam Ward and Eric Staal, there’s plenty to watch for the Hurricanes.

Adding to that fun is the competition that will be happening for openings among their forwards. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer finds out from Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford that there’s a slew of forwards gunning for jobs with a limited number of openings.

Canes general manager Jim Rutherford says two forward slots will be filled in training camp. Among those vying for the slots: Jiri Tlusty, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson. And there could be others.

One way or another, youth is going to continue to be served in Carolina. Boychuk, 21 years-old, was the team’s first round pick (14th overall) in 2008 and a guy they’re hoping can finally bust through and stick in Raleigh. Last season, Boychuk played in 23 games and had four goals and three assists.

Dalpe is also 21 and a 2008 second round draft pick. He too got a taste of NHL life last year scoring three goals and one assist in 15 games. Bowman too is 21 and played in 23 games for Carolina last year scoring just one assist.

Jiri Tlusty is 23 years-old and still trying to find a way to stick with the Hurricanes. He was acquired in a trade with Toronto two seasons ago and has spent the majority of his career in the AHL. Last season he spent most of his season with the Hurricanes playing in 57 games and scoring six goals and six assists. Samson is the oldest of the bunch and turns 24 later this month. He got his first real taste of NHL life last year playing in 23 games and earning just two assists.

Out of those five, depending on what coach Paul Maurice is looking for out of his lines, you’d have to lean on Boychuk and Tlusty as being the guys that will be the leaders of the pack. Those two have the highest upside in talent and have the ability to break through and provide some offensive punch to a lineup that could stand to use a boost.

With Erik Cole gone to Montreal, that’s a loss of 26 goals from last year’s team, the third best total on the team. While Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart are fine players they’ve added, they’re not viewed to be 20+ goal scorers. That offense will have to come from somewhere and Boychuk and Tlusty are the most likely guys to help solve that problem.

Then again, training camp can provide surprises and with the youth there for Carolina, the time is ripe for someone to breakout and show they’re ready for the NHL now. Seize the day training campers.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.