New additions bring more diversity to Hurricanes

Nearly half of team comes from Europe

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Hurricanes center Andrej Nestrasil skates past the defense during a practice drill Sept. 29at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — A major talking point surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes last season was not only the youth on defense, but also the unit’s American tilt. There were games where six U.S.-born defenders, including three rookies, dressed for the Hurricanes.A look at the team’s season-opening roster shows the defense still has a red, white and blue flavor (the Hurricanes’ top five defensemen are American), but also features multiple players from four other countries, led, unsurprisingly, by Canada with eight.Just six of the 22 players (27.2 percent) who made the opening night roster at the start of last season were European. That number has nearly doubled this October, with 11 of 24 players (45.8 percent) surviving the final cut of training camp coming from outside North America.That includes three players the team added right before the start of the season: Czechs Jakub Nakladal and Martin Frk, and Swedish defenseman Klas Dahlbeck.It has made the transition easier for the new players, who often find a countryman or former teammate waiting to greet them in the locker room.Frk, a waiver claim who arrived from Detroit, already found a place to stay in Raleigh courtesy Andrej Nestrasil, a fellow Czech and former Red Wings prospect like Frk.”I know him very well and it was a special moment,” Frk said of Nestrasil. “I couldn’t ask probably for anything else. I’m happy I can be with him.”Nestrasil first met Frk with Detroit’s AHL team when he was tasked by then-Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill to keep an eye on Frk and “make sure he’s doing things right.””Four years later and I have him at my apartment again,” Nestrasil said. “Even during the summers he stays at my place. He’s a really good guy, he doesn’t complain much. He’s happy with whatever you give him.”During the summer he sleeps on the floor in my apartment and he always thinks it’s great,” Nestrasil added. “He wakes up five minutes before I wake up and he makes me breakfast.”Frk is living rent-free with Nestrasil, so he cooks and cleans to earn his keep.”Nesty’s a little dirty I guess,” Frk said and Nestrasil later denied. “I think I can clean the house. Being with him in the summer, I used to clean his house a lot because it was really messy. … I said I have to take care of him.”Jakub Nakladal, who played in Calgary last season and was signed Wednesday to add defensive depth, made it three Czech players with Carolina. Nakladal hadn’t joined the team before it departed for Thursday’s season-opening 5-4 overtime loss to the Jets, but it sounds like there’s no more room at the Nestrasil Inn.”I was always saying for the past couple years the only roommate I’m ever going to have is going to be Martin Frk,” Nestrasil said. “He’s such an easy-going guy and fun to live with.”The other new addition is Dahlbeck, who was picked up on waivers from Arizona Tuesday afternoon.”There’s a couple guys, a lot of Swedish guys,” Dahlbeck said of already knowing some of his new teammates. “But especially [Joakim] Nordstrom, who I played with for about two years [in the Chicago organization]. So it’s good to have some familiar faces. Hopefully I’ll just dive right into it.”Dahlbeck and Nakladal give Carolina two bigger bodies on defense.”I don’t know how all the other guys are, but I’m going to be bringing a physical presence out there and just play a heavy game and try to help this team to win,” Dahlbeck said.Carolina’s two Finnish players, Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, are also new to Raleigh and will start the season on a line together centered by Swede Elias Lindholm. Teravainen and Aho got to know each other while playing for Finland at the World Cup of Hockey, and Carolina is hoping they can build chemistry with Lindholm to form a lethal scoring line.Another of the six Swedes on the roster is new alternate captain Victor Rask, who will wear the team’s third A on the road, while Jeff Skinner will wear it at home. The Hurricanes opted to not name a captain, with Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal retaining the other two A’s. All but Faulk scored in the season opener.”It’s something we spent some time on in the summer, talking about it,” coach Bill Peters said of handing out letters. “And what we don’t want to do is have that letter be a burden. We’ve got some guys that are great leaders, more than the four that are wearing letters.”The leadership core — consisting of two Canadians, an American and a Swede — is just a sampling of the international diversity on a team hoping to return to the postseason.