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ericncsu

Checkers Forwards question

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I figured I would start this in another thread since this was asked in the defensemen's thread.

"Can somebody please offer their thoughts regarding the forwards? Which players may be ready to compete for a spot with the Canes next season? With free agency looming, it would be nice to learn which of the younger guys may step up. Thanks. "

Only seeing a handful of games on TV, and one in person plus talking to my brother who went to about 15 games is not a whole lot of experience with the guys, but I started to get a feel for a few of them so here is my take on them. Other guys who have seen them play more often will hopefully chime in as well.

Zac Dalpe - This guy is a human highlight reel. He seems to often find himself behind the defense and breaking in on the goalie 1 on 1. He scored 2 goals in the March 27th game I attended and nearly had the hat trick. 57 points in 61 games this year at the AHL level. He also played 15 games up with the Canes this year, scoring 3 goals and 1 assist. Incredible year in his first full year at the AHL level (he played 9 games last year). He seems to have Erik Cole speed and Ray Whitney puck handling.. this kid will be something else. If he can win face-off's he could be a good 2nd line center, dangler/sniper type. Or move him to the wing with Skinner.

Chris Terry - This guy is a work horse. Second year in the AHL and he has played 160 games. He has never missed a game. Second on the team in points behind Zach Boychuk. He's a checker, physical winger who can score (think Ruutu). He could play on a third/checking line next year or the year after.

Zach Boychuk - Boychuk has some NHL experience and probably should be a full time Cane. He played 20 less games than Terry (60) but still led the team in points by 1 point. 65 points in 60 games at the AHL level. 4 goals and 3 assists in 23 games with Carolina. Boychuk is probably being held back due to Carolina's glut at the center position. I wonder if they would switch him to winger. He's currently waiting behind Staal, Skinner, Ruutu (C/W), LaRose, and Sutter.

Jerome Samson - 54 points in 53 games at the AHL level. Probably would have led the team in scoring had he not left at the end of the season for an extended call up with the Hurricanes. He hasn't lit the lamp yet at the NHL level, but not for lack of trying, several quality scoring chances including multiple rings off the post. I fully believe Samson will be a full time Cane next year. We are thin at RW and will be even thinner if Cole leaves as a free agent. If Cole leaves and Ruutu moves up to first line, Samson could join a second line with Skinner at center and Jokinen at the other wing. I've been impressed with his time up with the big boys, even though the score sheet doesn't show it (0g 2a in 23 games) his hard work is evident even with limited 3rd/4th line minutes. I don't see him in a 3rd line/checking role since he is a scorer, and hopefully he will earn more than a 4th line spot.

One to watch, hopefully will get an invite to training camp - Cedric McNicoll - 14 points in 15 games as a call up from Florida this guy has broken in in a big way. Undrafted, was signed by Colorado and played for the Lowell Loch Monsters and (get this) was assigned to the ECHL Charlotte Checkers. Traded to the Hurricanes in March 2010 and assigned to Albany, then Florida. No wonder he is busting out, he has played in Charlotte before. I hope he gets a chance to attend training camp and possibly earn a full time Checkers roster spot.

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Another guy is Riley Nash. He can definitely find the back of the net. He's an all around great player. He passes, shoots, and skates well & isn't afraid to get physical. Nash is my favorite forward and I think he's really proved himself in his rookie year.

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I think this creates an interesting dilemma that continues to build as more guys are at the point that they should be moving into the NHL.

If Cole had not broken out, and Jussi had not developed into such a reliable playmaker, it would be easy to find room for the guys you are mentioning.

But in my opinion, JR cannot let either Cole or Jussi walk. If that is true, then where do these guys fit in? We have more good prospects than spots for them to play at the NHL level. Ultimately there will probably need to be a trade.

Guys with clear cut NHL potential, or really new in the NHL, but might be out a spot:

Tlusty (ok on a one way, but he's getting to put up or get traded time)

Bowman

Dalpe

Boychuk

It seems to me that these 5 guys need a spot at the least in the top 12, and ideally in the top 9 this next year. Based on NHL time, and points per game at the NHL level.

Then there's the special case of Jerome Samson, who has put up a ppg at the AHL level 2 years running, including 37G in 74 Games in 09-10. Yet who seems to be not quite big enough, not quite fast enough for the NHL, and yet I think is solid on the 4th line and could have a Chad LaRose like career, or better.

Then I wonder and ask: what is the deal with this Micflikier? He is +15 by FAR the best on the team and has put up 29G and 61 Points, and with Chris Terry 34G,64 pts. They have put up numbers to see NHL time. Probably early call ups?

Then there is a whole other level of guys who have clear NHL potential, but seem a bit further away:

Nash

Osala

Brett Sutter

So, not counting any of the question marks or guys most likely to need more AHL time, there are the 4-5 (depending on how you count Tlusty) guys that really need to see serious NHL time next year, or be traded. So where do they play?

That's why I am more skeptical about the LaRoses and Dwyer's of the world. If we keep Cole and Jussi, then how do we also keep LaRose and Dwyer? We need to get at least the 4: Bowman, Daple, Boychuk, and Tlusty in the top 9 (or 12 with the chance to move up). Unless we trade one of them.

Personally I want a top line winger, or center with Staal moving over (yes, unlikely). Or at least a second line center. Thus I let LaRose and Dwyer either walk. Sorry, I like LaRose too, but it's a business, and he can pick up with another team. His minus 21 on a team that needed defensive responsibility is not worth the 16G on only 15 assists. We simply need the space in our top 9. Sign Cole and Jussi. Yes, Chad is a decent third line player, but this team needs to play our new guys there. Just bad timing.

So if I were JR this is what I'd be trying to make happen up front:

Cole-Staal-FA or Traded for 1st line playmaking winger.

Skinner-Jussi-Ruutu

Boychuk-Sutter-Tlusty

Samson-Dalpe-Bowman

Every guy on that 4th line can get time up on higher lines as the year rolls on. There will be at least 3 guys in that bottom 6 that will have very solid years and form a very formidable 3rd line. But that 4th line can score also.

Assuming we make some moves to shore up the d and back up goalie, that top 12 should be quite powerful. The playmaking winger on that top line, with Cole flying would really push Staal into the stratosphere and the Cole of the last 3/4 of this year is a 30 goal player. There would be 85-90 goals on that line. But lest teams focus too much on that line the second line would have 80 goal potential. Sutter has put up 20 already, and one or two of Boychuk, Tlusty, Daple and Bowman could easily break out to push 20 goals.

I know the debate about the roll of the 4th line, but in a year when so many of our guys need NHL time, a 4th line that can cycle and occasionally score (recall Walker and the Rats) would be great and those guys can do that.

So with Skinner, Boychuk, Tlusty, Samson, Dalpe, and Bowman all on bargain deals, and Sutter probably not going to break the bank, why can't we afford that one winger to put our offense into elite territory instantly?

Got a little carried away, but that's my take. I know JR has been waiting to see it.

Edited by remkin

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