The Hurricanes had their first day of on-ice sessions for training camp on Thursday, skating two groups over about three hours at PNC Arena. The team will have a handful of days to prepare for its first preseason game, which is Tuesday at home against the Predators.
Here’s what was noticeable from Day 1 of training camp.
1. After a couple of years of extolling the benefits of having continuity on the roster, the Hurricanes enter the 2021-22 campaign with lots of new faces.
“The good news is we have a real training camp,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said following practice for the veteran-laden Team Attitude group. “So as far as timelines, I’m not feeling like, ‘Oh I gotta get this in a week and we’re gonna start playing right away.’ We’ve got some time.
“But there’s no doubt we have, potentially, eight or nine new players on the team. So that’s a lot for them to just get it, whereas last year was a little different. So that’s the challenge, but I think we’ll be fine.”
Captain Jordan Staal said it will be a top-to-bottom effort to get everyone acclimated and pulling the rope the same way.
“It’s just about getting the guys on the same page as quick as you can,” Staal said. “And that comes, obviously, from Roddy down to myself and the leadership group and all the way through all our players. … Hopefully, the new guys can jump on as quick as they can.”
2. The first face-to-face meetups with Carolina’s new goalies showed two different guys in style and demeanor who both have the same goal.
Unsurprisingly, Frederik Andersen was pretty stoic in his first Raleigh scrum. That’s generally how it goes with players who have been battered by the hordes of media in places like Montreal or, in Andersen’s case, Toronto. That said, he was already on board with Carolina’s goal to win a Stanley Cup.
“There’s a clear-cut mission for where we want to go, and I think that’s obvious to everyone,” he said. “We want to build towards a championship, and we all know that’s a long process. So we start today and keep building every day.”
Raanta, on the other hand, was all smiles after joining a Cup contender following four seasons in Arizona. He also noticed the drive of a team that has gained a reputation as one of the hardest-working in the league.
“When I got here, when we got to a couple of the first meetings, I noticed that you can’t just come here and hang around,” Raanta said. “You have to put on the work shoes and do what the guys are doing and maybe even a little bit more.
“I think that’s really, really cool right now for me to get into a new spot and just try to match my work ethic. … I’d say it’s a hard-working crew.”
Brind’Amour didn’t commit to much of anything on the first day of camp, including who his No. 1 goalie might be.
“Let’s just see,” he said. “And let’s be honest on the fact that the way the schedule is set up, it’s going to be tough to ride one guy. We’re going to need both guys going. If it’s (not) every other night, it’s going to be something close to that.”
3. While I’ll strongly preface this by saying nothing should be read into line combinations or defense pairings on the first day of training camp, it was noticeable that Ethan Bear — acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Warren Foegele this offseason — was the replacement for Dougie Hamilton alongside Jaccob Slavin on the top defense pairing Thursday.
Bear seemed to welcome the chance to play alongside Slavin.
“He’s dependable and reliable, so for me, it just allows me to do my job and play my game,” he said, “and it doesn’t get easier for me than that.”
Brind’Amour will have options alongside Slavin. He could always reunite him with Brett Pesce, though the team seems content keeping Pesce alongside Brady Skjei as a shutdown pair.
They could also try Tony DeAngelo there. DeAngelo, who drew hoots and high-fives from teammates after scoring a shootout attempt early in practice, would seem like a natural fit given his offensive ability. That said, the Hurricanes have much more invested in Bear — who just turned 24 and will be a restricted free agent this offseason — than a player on a one-year prove-it deal after his flameout with the Rangers.
The good news is whoever doesn’t end up with Slavin will probably play with Ian Cole on the third pairing and benefit from his veteran guidance.
One final thing on Bear: He’s bigger than I expected him to be, with a Brind’Amour-esque upper body stretching his post-practice T-shirt.
4. Seth Jarvis was not on the ice Thursday with Team Energy — the second group of players comprised mostly of prospects — but don’t read too much into it. The 2020 first-round pick, who was dominant at the four-team Prospects Tournament in Tampa Bay and should see action in the preseason, was just having a maintenance day.
But does he have a shot to make the Hurricanes as a 19-year-old?
“Anybody has a chance,” Brind’Amour said. “If they’re better than the players that we have here, they’re gonna be here.
“I mean, that’s just how it is.”
5. My favorite part of Day 1? Seeing Stelio Mattheos on the ice rocking some long, flowing locks. The last time I saw him in-person was in September 2019, and he was bald after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy following a testicular cancer diagnosis. The 2017 third-round pick came back to play 16 games with the Chicago Wolves that season and played nine total last year between Chicago and ECHL Fort Wayne.
With his treatment and two seasons of COVID uncertainty behind him, he can now focus on showing why he twice scored 90-plus points in a season with the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
I can’t think of a better player in camp to root for.