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Developing the youth: Ryan Murphy, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Riley Nash

August 6, 2013, 12:48 PM ET [9 Comments]
Matt Karash
Carolina Hurricanes Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
First in catching up from yesterday, I created a quick 3-question poll on Jeff Skinner to go with the blog, but life got in the way and I did not get it up in time to include in the blog. I will post results here in the next couple days. You can find that here:

Jeff Skinner 3-question survey

In typical early August fashion, there is not a ton of new earth-shattering Canes news, so with the itch to write a bit last night, I took a quick look at development paths for 4 key Canes youth. With the core of the team eating up much more salary than in years past (Canes top-heavy salary structure blog from July 3 ), it becomes even more important to get good young players into the lineup in roles where they can contribute not just temporarily plug holes.

1-Ryan Murphy. I am not nearly as high on Ryan Murphy as many. My pre-training camp prediction is that he spends most of the season in Charlotte and plays a small part as an injury call-up in 2013-14. Longer-term, I think he takes a couple years to develop enough defensively to be an okay 3rd pairing defenseman who contributes on the power play. If I am right, it would not be the worst thing to trade him while someone still sees more.

BUT…I would not even consider trading him right now. He is an elite skater with high-end potential as a puck-moving defenseman if he can round out his game. I want to see 40 games in the AHL to see if his skating and offense carries over. He was dominant offensively in juniors. If he can maintain his level of offense/creativity with the puck with the step up to the AHL, then I start to think that even if it takes a couple years there is a good chance I am wrong and put his NHL ceiling too low (and happy about it).

If he blows the doors off in camp, wins a spot in the top 6 and is the best option for 12-16 minutes per night that is great. But if it turns out that he can help the NHL team in 2013-14 but only in a narrow/limited role (i.e. limited minutes/7th defenseman/power play specialist), I am not a big fan of putting Murphy in this role to start the season. It is always tricky to balance winning today with developing players, but for a 20-year-old 1st round pick, I lean toward the latter. So I vote against any Ryan Murphy role to start the season that looks like 6-8 minutes of ice time largely on the power play and then mostly hiding him on the bench in 4th-line forward slot while 6 other defensemen carry the load. I would expect that with injuries, Murphy will see some NHL ice time this season, but I would not force it and do it at the expense of having him play 20 minutes/game most nights to continue to round out his game.

If you have not seen it yet, the Hurricanes have continued a tremendous summer of hockey programming posting the 1st installment of "Open Ice" which covers prospect camp and features Ryan Murphy. You can find that HERE

Short version: My prediction is that his ceiling is that of a power play specialist/3rd pairing defenseman, but no way would I consider trading him right now before we get the next look at whether it might be way higher. And I would be very hesitant to plug him into a narrow/limited "specialist" role at the NHL level that keeps him from working to develop into more.

2-Elias Lindholm. He is a natural center with all of the basic tools (2-way play, hockey IQ, faceoff ability, well-rounded gam, etc.) to be a great 2-way center. Leave him there. There are going to be some growing pains and adapting to the NHL is harder at center than wing, but the team needs to stay the course. I realize that there are decent reasons in all cases, but the team has made a habit of taking fairly high level center prospects and converting them to wing. The track record has not been great. Dalpe and Boychuk are still drifting in trying to find their way in the NHL. Skinner has worked out overall, but now 3 years deep in his NHL career, he is still struggling with the defensive part of things as a wing.

If the team things Lindholm has the tools to be a solid 2-way NHL center (which I think it does) then commit to it and stick with it. I vote strongly against moving him to wing to puzzle piece the 2013-14 lineup together versus doing what is best to help Lindholm reach the elite level that was envisioned for him when he was drafted #5 overall in a very strong draft.

Short version: If the team thinks Elias Lindholm's skill set is that of a great 2-way center, the team needs to commit to playing him at center NOT slowing his development by making a short-sighted 2013-14 decision to move him to wing.

3-Brock McGinn. Per my previous blog, be open-minded and give him a chance at camp. When you measure the Canes futures on 2-point scale first being pedigree or expectation to eventually be a contributing NHLer and second on their ability to bring the physicality and grit that the team needs, he arguably scores the best across both categories. As a 2nd round draft pick, he is not in the extreme top-tier pedigree-wise, but he is high enough. And in terms of adding a little more Tuomo Ruutu, with more than 4th-line skill level, he might rank #1. I honestly have no idea if he can adjust quickly enough to the NHL speed at this early stage of his development. But if it looks like a maybe early in training camp then I would go out of my way to get him ice time in pre-season games on real lines with real NHLers to see if just maybe he can be fast-tracked to the NHL.

Short version: If the early read on him in camp is that he might be able to adjust to the NHL speed quickly, the team needs to give him a shot with real NHL players to see if he can stick. The team desperately needs more of his style of play.

4-Riley Nash. If you slot Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm at C1-C3, this puts Riley Nash competing for and probably most likely to win the C4 spot for 2013-14. While some disagree, I just do not see him bringing enough offensively at the NHL level to be a true 3rd-line center even if the spot were open. Ideal for a 4th-line center would be the ability to take on some of the penalty kill minutes, so that the team’s most talented players can spend their ice time in situations where they can score.

If the team thinks it is possible for Nash to be an NHL penalty killer, the time to audition him is now, in preseason and then stretching into the regular season if the preseason goes well. Nash’s skill set is not that of a 4th-line agitator/physical force, so minus the ability to play penalty kill, I think his job description/contribution just becomes too narrow and makes him a placeholder until someone better can be added.

Short version: To be more than a short-term placeholder, Nash needs to bring something other than being a reasonably sound 4th-line center, so the team needs to figure out if he can contribute on PK which would be the “something” for him. I would pair him with a decent proven NHL penalty-killer (Dwyer?) in scrimmages/preseason games to see what he can do.

For a quick heads up when I post a Canes blog and/or to be part of the occasional banter on Twitter follow me at CarolinaMatt63.

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