Murphy, Faulk Shine in Traverse City
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“It allows all of our prospects to compete in real games, whereas some of them might not be able to get themselves into pre-season games at the NHL level,” Jason Karmanos, Vice President and Assistant General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, said. “It’s a real opportunity to evaluate them against their peers.
“The most positive thing about this week is that we had two elite prospects participating – that’s exciting.”
Those would, of course, be Murphy and Faulk, two sub-20-year-old defensemen in the Canes system who very well may make a push to make the team in training camp.
“Both players showed that they aren’t too far from the NHL and that they have a chance, if they continue to improve over camp, to make our hockey team,” Karmanos said. “They are very young prospects, but they both have exceptional offensive ability.”
The main upsides to the 18-year-old Murphy’s game are his speed and puck-handling abilities.
That talent level is what led the Canes to select Murphy 12th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Last season with the Kitchner Rangers – the same junior team with which Jeff Skinner played – Murphy ranked second among all OHL defenseman in scoring with 79 points (26g, 53a) in 63 games.
At 5-foot-11, 176 pounds, he certainly needs to get stronger, but that won’t stop him from being competitive in training camp.
“He’s not the biggest player, but he has that quickness, and in today’s game that is very important,” Karmanos said. “He continued to improve over the course of the tournament, just like Jeff Skinner did last year.”
Just a year older than Murphy, Justin Faulk is a more physically built offensive-defenseman who already has some professional experience.
“Strength is not an issue with him at all, and he seems to have such a solid base to his frame,” Karmanos said. “He doesn’t get knocked around, and he is very strong in the corners and 1-on-1 battles.
“That’s a skill you don’t commonly see developed a young age, but he’s got it. And that, more than anything, is what gets him to the point where he’s not far from the NHL.”
After winning the NCAA Championship with Minnesota-Duluth last season, Faulk signed an entry-level contract with the Hurricanes. He reported to Charlotte, where he and the Checkers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Faulk skated in 13 of the Checkers’ 16 playoff games, as he gained valuable professional experience that gives him an edge coming into this season.
“He didn’t have a small part in the team making the Final; he was very much a key contributor,” Karmanos said. “Playing in Charlotte makes him feel more comfortable on the ice at this level and in getting to know the coaches and staff that he’s going to work with moving forward.”
Both Faulk and Murphy will be on Team Black (Group C) to begin training camp, and they comprise a pair that Caniacs should definitely keep an eye on.
“These are two young players that we think have very bright futures for the Hurricanes,” Karmanos said.
Aside from Murphy and Faulk, Karmanos singled out two other players who had strong weeks.
Austin Levi, a 19-year-old, U.S.-born defenseman, also impressed Karmanos, notable for a kid who didn’t start playing hockey until he reached double-digit age.
“We feel he has improved quite a bit from one year to the next,” Karmanos said. “Obviously he has a lot of natural ability. He’s a big, strong kid who competes hard and looks like he’s a solid prospect to one day be an NHL defenseman.”
Levi played in 66 games for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL last season, recording 25 points (6g, 19a) and a plus-16. He can be found on Team Black (Group C) in training camp.
Victor Rask, a Swedish-born center drafted in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, also performed well, according to Karmanos.
“He’s getting his first taste of hockey in North America, something that most European players have to experience before they get totally comfortable” Karmanos said. “He played well and showed that he’s a smart player who plays a solid two-way game.”
Karmanos said that he would prefer Rask stayed in North America this year – perhaps playing in Calgary with the junior club that has his rights – but added that it’s most important that he simply gets a lot of playing time no matter where he ends up.
The Canes will most likely return to Traverse City next year, as the tournament is a preferred choice within the front office. Karmanos said that he likes the tournament because eight teams participate, which gives the prospects exposure to a lot of players in different organizations.
“The intensity level of the games you can’t replicate with internal scrimmages. And the pace of those games is unlike anything these kids have ever seen before,” he said. “To be able to push them to that degree in games against kids their age is a great entry point for them coming into the big camp where it’s a whole other level in practicing and playing with men.”
Training camp officially kicks off tomorrow with player physicals. Fans' first chance to catch players in action will be Sunday, Sept. 18 in the veteran-packed Red-White game as a part of the Caniac Carnival.