Last night the Carolina Hurricanes played a hockey game! Tonight the Canes play another match against the Florida Panthers. Hockey is officially back and the regular season games are rapidly approaching.
The NHL preseason is not long but will be increasingly important as the games get closer to the October 11 season opener. Just six games will be played over a few weeks and only 4 remain after this evening’s rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Granted this is a watered-down version of hockey with the “regulars” mixing in with prospects and fringe players. Speaking of fringe players, last night was a good one for some in the 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canes are one of the deepest teams in the NHL but as we all know, injuries can and will occur during an 82-game season. Additionally, performances may not be up to par and some fresh faces may be needed.
Obviously, young prospects like Ryan Suzuki and Justin Robidas are exciting to watch in these games but the veterans fighting for a spot are the real stars of the show.
Two players that you may not be familiar with who recorded a point last night were Kieffer Bellows and Cory Conacher. With the depth on defense, Dylan Coghlan needs to step up this camp and also registered an assist in the game.
Both Bellows and Conacher are not what you would call household names but will be battling for their NHL lives these next few weeks.
Bellows scored a goal last night and is on a professional tryout with the Canes. The power forward is just 25 years old and has played in 95 NHL games. The Minnesota native had a rough season last year after being released by the New York Islanders, the team that drafted him 19th overall in the 2016 NHL draft.
From there, the 25-year-old played in 28 games with the Philadelphia Flyers, recording 3 goals.
Bellows still has untapped potential with a solid 6’1, 195lb frame and a phenomenal shot. His play away from the puck has been his downfall. If he can improve his skating and defense, he could stay with the Carolina organization and provide some strong AHL depth.
Conacher is a different story from Bellows. The 33-year-old Ontario native has been scraping around the NHL to stay in the league while battling injuries. Carolina is his fifth organization having played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Islanders.
Conacher is small but still has some speed left in him. His highest point total was 29 points in 2013 with the Lightning and Senators.
The left wing is more than likely hoping to catch the eye of another organization at this tryout as the Canes will not be able to provide many opportunities at the AHL or NHL levels.
Since the NHL does not have “hard knocks” like the NFL, it is easy to look past the unknown names but keep a look out in the preseason for these veterans fighting for a roster spot.
I do think that Bellows will find his way into the organization by the end of training camp.