Players on the bubble at the Carolina Hurricanes training camp did everything they could to distance themselves from the pack at Sunday’s Red-White Scrimmage at the RBC Center.
The only problem was that the pack followed suit.
Drayson Bowman and Zac Dalpe each netted two goals, while Zach Boychuk added another and hit a goal post in Team White’s 10-7 victory at the RBC Center. In such a wide-open, offensive affair, one would be hard pressed to determine which had the better performance among the trio who spent most of last season in Charlotte.
“The four or five guys that are competing for those jobs up front all did what they could,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice.
“You know the other guys are going to do that, so you have to focus on what you can control,” said Bowman.
In that regard, neither player walked away with a clear advantage over the other. However, a few players thought to be dark-horse candidates to make the NHL roster, namely Riley Nash and Chris Terry, may have played their way into the conversation. Each player had two goals while forming the game’s most dynamic offensive line along with recent draftee Gregory Hofmann – an 18-year-old slated to play in Switzerland next season.
Terry, a fifth-round pick in 2007, continues to make a name for himself despite the higher pedigree of his peers. His 34 goals led the Checkers last season, giving the 5-foot-10, 197-pound left wing a total of 51 in his first two professional seasons.
If Terry is producing at a higher rate than expected, Nash seems to have taken a different developmental curve. Some expected the type of performance shown at Sunday’s scrimmage one year earlier, as the 2007 first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers was thought to have a chance at playing with the Hurricanes last season. Instead, he played the entire season with the Checkers, scoring a relatively modest 32 points to rank ninth on the team.
This season, Nash may be ready to deliver on his promise.
“Riley Nash is coming off a great learning year,” said Maurice. “From his training camp last year to what I saw in the playoffs, he had made so many great improvements. You hope then when you put him with better, faster players that he can do it, and it looks like he’s continued at that level. I was really happy with what he did.”
Nash, who did not register his first professional point until last season’s 10th game, admitted that he found the transition from college, where he played three seasons at Cornell, difficult at first.
“The game is so much different than college and it took me a while to get used to it,” he said. “It took three or four months before I felt comfortable and not worried about putting up a minus every time I stepped on the ice and then not playing for a while after that. I think I've gotten to the point where I’m not worrying about making mistakes and I have the confidence to go play.”
Nash’s first goal came on a two-on-one break when Terry’s wrist shot rebounded off expected Checkers goaltender Justin Peters and back to him for the finish. He again victimized Peters for goal No. 2, rifling a perfectly-placed wrist shot into the near post as he came down the right wing.
If he’s able to keep up that pace – Maurice said that all of the young forwards trying to make the Hurricanes’ roster would play in Monday’s night’s preseason game in Buffalo – Nash could be closer to the NHL than some might think.
“I was ready for it last year, but at the same time I wasn’t,” said Nash. “It’s a much better feeling this year.”