The most beautiful time of the year has arrived, and that is hockey season. To kick things off is the prospects challenge, where the teams’ rookies get to showcase their abilities in exhibition games. The Carolina Hurricanes headed south to Florida, and plenty of young guys participated. It is a great measuring stick to see where players are in their development. Here are three of the Hurricanes rookies that stood out in this weekend’s games.
The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki displayed his skill while centering the top line. He played with great speed and skill and could generate offense noticeably.
Ryan Suzuki helped lead a highly skilled power play for the Hurricanes rookie team. In their first game, he grabbed the assist on the fourth goal. Playing the Hurricanes way, he forechecked hard and won the puck battle. From there, he found his open man to help extend the lead against Florida. However, he was able to shine more brightly against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a multi-point game. As the Hurricanes were down 2-1, Suzuki displayed his quick hands and made the game 2-2. His display of stick handling and deking was noticeable as he shined in the shootout.
Two days in a row, Suzuki was chosen in the shootout round. He scored on both attempts and showcased his raw skill with nifty puck-handling moves. He is one of the top prospects in the Hurricanes’ system and a player who could see time with the big club if he keeps this up. To cap off his weekend, he finished with one goal and three points. Up next is another forward who is turning heads with his play.
Like Suzuki, forward Justin Robidas was a factor in these games. He notched one point in the game against the Panthers but showcased more in the second game.
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Robidas finished with a goal and an assist, which jump-started the comeback against the Lightning. With premiere passing ability, he floated a magnificent saucer pass over to big defenseman Griffin Mendel for the goal. It was a great way to get things going and great awareness to try and create offense. He factored in on the offense once more with a goal of his own.
After receiving a rebound from Vasily Ponomarev, Robidas batted in the goal to help give the Hurricanes the lead. The big guns on the team came to play and played a strong few games. Carolina secured the victory in a shootout, giving them a 2-0 record for the weekend. He had this say after the game concluded, “We were flat to start. It was two games in under 24 hours for a lot of our guys, but we got our legs going. In the second we started to play the Hurricane way and that’s what we wanted.”
The Hurricanes’ way has resulted in two significant victories. The next player that shone brightly was another forward whose impact was felt in both games.
Looking back at the 2022-23 season, generating offense was never an issue for the Hurricanes. However, the problem was finishing on their chances and burying them in the back of the net. One tall tale from this weekend is that the offense is in full swing, as the young guys are showcasing their abilities.
Of the three players mentioned, Ponomarev had the strongest performance in both games. One area he shined the most was on the power play, which is an area the big club needs help with. He put pucks on the net that created rebounds, which found Domenick Fensore for the first goal. Also, his second assist in this game displayed his premiere passing ability.
After taking a pass through the gap from Suzuki, Suzuki fed the puck across the ice to Murray, who banged it into the net. His performance continued, as he found a way to create chances that produced rebounds. Robidas was the one who cashed in on that chance to give the team the lead against the Lightning. Ponomarev has been a bright spot offensively, and his ability to create opportunities while in the zone is a treat to watch. All three rookies showcased their skills and should get a further look in preseason action.
Young Hurricanes Shining Bright
The wins are great, but development is the main focus of these games. These young forwards for the Hurricanes stood out the most over the weekend, which is excellent as we advance. Roster spots might be limited at the big league level, but further development of the prospects will help keep the Hurricanes deep into contention for the Stanley Cup.
The Hurricanes have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league, and the development of these younger guys is enormous. With many of the core group on expiring deals, these three could see action at the big league level sooner rather than later. The present of Hurricanes hockey is great but the future is also bright.