RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes’ penultimate preseason game, Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Nashville at PNC Arena, may have further clouded the biggest unanswered questions the team has heading into next week’s start of the NHL season.
1. If the look in the eyes of the Hurricanes’ Rod Brind’Amour wasn’t enough to convince you the coachis leaning toward wanting 19-year-old Seth Jarvis on his roster for next Thursday’s opening night against the Islanders, his words were just as convincing.
“He certainly doesn’t look like a teenager in his first camp,” Brind’Amour said of Jarvis. “That was a real team out there. They were coming hard, and he was impressive. That’s all I can say. He looks like he belongs in this league, that’s for sure.”
Jarvis, on a line with Nino Niederreiter and fellow rookie Jack Drury — who also had another solid performance — looked the part of an NHLer in his second exhibition game. Jarvis didn’t register a point, but according to NaturalStatTrick.com, he had three scoring chances and two high-danger chances to go with a pair of rebound chances and 0.63 individual expected goals — second-best of any player in the game behind Steven Lorentz’s 0.73.
Those numbers exhibit Jarvis’ willingness to get to the difficult spots on the ice, namely the front of the net, and his teammates took notice of his effort in all three zones.
“He certainly has the talent. He certainly has the head for it,” defenseman Ian Cole said of Jarvis. “But I think his confidence level is high, and he’s trying to make plays. He’s making the right reads and playing defense. He’s doing all the things that you’d want to see. And I think that, coupled with the skill that’s already there, I think he’ll grow and mature into a heck of a player.”
Brind’Amour and the Hurricanes’ brass will now need to decide whether Jarvis is best suited for the NHL or if he should go back to his junior team, the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. Because Jarvis is only 19, he is ineligible to play for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
“That’s the problem with this system, unfortunately,” Brind’Amour said. “There’s still a huge learning curve, there’s still a lot of mistakes being made, and that’s just not being here and understanding it. But he’s a quick learner from what I’ve seen in the time I’ve been with him. So yeah, the system on kids like that, I think, definitely doesn’t help them.”
2. Antti Raanta got his final tuneup of the preseason Tuesday and fared much better than his exhibition debut. Raanta was shelled for seven goals on 25 shots in the loss in Tampa last Friday, but the 32-year-old goalie stopped 31 of 34 shots Tuesday, and all three of the goals he allowed were characterized as high-danger chances by NaturalStatTrick.com, with just one of them at 5-on-5.
“He was good,” Brind’Amour said. “He made some big saves, especially early on (when) we were running around a little bit. Then he didn’t have a lot of work for, I don’t know, maybe almost a period there. And then a couple of saves at the end of the game that, really, got us into overtime.”
3. Coming into training camp, Lorentz and Josh Leivo looked like they’d be battling to see who the 12th and 13th forward would be on opening night. Lorentz, who scored in the first period Tuesday, seems to have solidified his spot with his play during camp.
“I don’t want to say I knew what to expect, but I knew what the battle level is going to have to be every single time I stepped on the ice coming into this camp,” Lorentz said. “No spot is given, especially when you’re trying to break into the league. I pride myself on my hard work, and I really think I put the work in in the summer, and this is kind of the best I’ve ever felt coming to camp.”
Leivo, meanwhile, hasn’t stood out aside from his team-worst minus-4 in last Friday’s 8-5 loss in Tampa Bay. He did not play Tuesday.
With Lorentz solidifying a roster spot, Jarvis’ emergence, prospects Drury and Jamieson Rees both having good camps, and veteran Stefan Noesen making an impression, the path to a spot in the opening night lineup seems paper-thin for Leivo.
4. Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to say he had spoken to both the NHL and NHLPA regarding a series of Twitter posts he made Saturday that touched on a range of topics, including medical ethics, mental health, Jack Eichel and more. While the NHL — and society as a whole — has come a long way in better understanding mental health, pain management and concussions, there are still worlds of knowledge and treatments that require further examination and implementation.
I asked Brind’Amour — who was one of the league’s most durable players during his career — earlier in the day how things have changed from when he was on the ice.
“I look back, we were doing stuff that just now we don’t do,” the Hurricanes coach said regarding pain management efforts. “But it wasn’t because they were trying to force guys to play. It was just they didn’t know (the effects of the treatments). The minute they found out, ‘Oh, you can’t take that’ — not allowed to do that anymore. … Whenever they find out something new or a better way to do stuff, that’s what we always do.”
It’s a step in the right direction, the same way the league, sports and the world have evolved on the treatment of concussions.
“No one knew what they were back in the day,” Brind’Amour said of concussions. “I probably had a hundred of ’em based on how they do (testing) now. Well, now you know that safety is always first with the players. … There’s so much that I guess we don’t know, but I think they’re always on it.”
Lehner singled out Flyers coach Alain Vigneault in his Twitter diatribe as one old-schooler who hadn’t caught up with the times and insinuated he encouraged players to use pain killers, an accusation Vigneault denied.
For what it’s worth, one source told me the Hurricanes training staff is on the right side of this issue and that the team’s pain management is generally limited to common, over-the-counter pain relievers.
5. Speaking of injuries, Vincent Trocheck exited Sunday’s Red-White Scrimmage with what Brind’Amour described as a “middle-body” injury. Trocheck sat out practices on Monday and Tuesday, and he did not play in Tuesday’s preseason game.
Brind’Amour said the team was just being overly cautious with Trocheck and that he should be fine for the start of the season.