For Six Sent Home, Experience Unlike Any Other
The Carolina Hurricanes made the first chunk of cuts today, trimming their training camp roster to 49 after day five of on-ice work.
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This group of cuts comes after the one made late yesterday when the team assigned goaltender Matt Mahalak to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. More cuts are expected in the days ahead, as camp progresses into the second full week.
For those sent home early, head coach Paul Maurice looks at it as the first step in becoming a professional hockey player.
“For a lot of these guys, this is a big deal,” he said. “They see it on TV in their small towns. They’ve never rubbed shoulders with an NHL player before. They play them on video games, and now it’s real life.”
Keegan Lowe, son of six-time Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Lowe, who was drafted in the third round this summer. Even still, this is an experience that can’t compare.
“Lowe is going from juniors to trying to stop Eric Staal one-on-one,” Maurice said. “And that is a fantastic experience.”
The first days of camp also can provide a training experience unlike anything these players have ever completed. But Maurice said that isn’t even the biggest drain on their bodies.
“I like watching the interactions, and I like when something funny or good happens on the ice and you see a kid smile, and they break that nervousness that they carry around with them,” he said. “I think the biggest energy burn isn’t what we put them through – it’s the anxiety and anticipation that those kids go through.”
Camp will only get more competitive in the days ahead, especially as the roster continues to shrink. Assessing the situation today, Maurice said that the defensive spots would be more of a question than the forward spots.
“I think (Jiri) Tlusty and (Zac) Dalpe have pushed a little further. They can still be caught. The jobs are still open,” Maurice said. “But we may spend more time talking about the 6-7 position on D than the spots up front by the end of camp.”
The biggest roadblock for a Justin Faulk or a Ryan Murphy trying to break into the defensive group this season is that the team already has seven players under NHL contract – Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Tomas Kaberle, Jamie McBain, Bryan Allen, Jay Harrison and Derek Joslin. But Maurice said it isn’t a question of if the young guys would play; rather, it’s a question of when.
“When we put together that lineup against Tampa opening night, we’re going to put out the guys that we think will help us win that game,” Maurice said. “Age will not be a factor.”
Tomorrow, the remaining players will skate in two groups, with the first practicing at 10 a.m. and the second following at noon.