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Hurricanes forward competition open for business in training camp

Sep 5, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

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Zach Boychuk Getty Images

With training camp starting up in just under two weeks, the chatter about what’s at stake in camp is picking up.

In Carolina, things figure to be more than intriguing. After all, Jeff Skinner is going into his second season building off a Calder Trophy-winning season, Erik Cole is gone and Alexei Ponikarovsky is in, and Tomas Kaberle joins the blue line corps on defense. With all that in place as well as having All-Stars Cam Ward and Eric Staal, there’s plenty to watch for the Hurricanes.

Adding to that fun is the competition that will be happening for openings among their forwards. Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer finds out from Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford that there’s a slew of forwards gunning for jobs with a limited number of openings.

Canes general manager Jim Rutherford says two forward slots will be filled in training camp. Among those vying for the slots: Jiri Tlusty, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and Jerome Samson. And there could be others.

One way or another, youth is going to continue to be served in Carolina. Boychuk, 21 years-old, was the team’s first round pick (14th overall) in 2008 and a guy they’re hoping can finally bust through and stick in Raleigh. Last season, Boychuk played in 23 games and had four goals and three assists.

Dalpe is also 21 and a 2008 second round draft pick. He too got a taste of NHL life last year scoring three goals and one assist in 15 games. Bowman too is 21 and played in 23 games for Carolina last year scoring just one assist.

Jiri Tlusty is 23 years-old and still trying to find a way to stick with the Hurricanes. He was acquired in a trade with Toronto two seasons ago and has spent the majority of his career in the AHL. Last season he spent most of his season with the Hurricanes playing in 57 games and scoring six goals and six assists. Samson is the oldest of the bunch and turns 24 later this month. He got his first real taste of NHL life last year playing in 23 games and earning just two assists.

Out of those five, depending on what coach Paul Maurice is looking for out of his lines, you’d have to lean on Boychuk and Tlusty as being the guys that will be the leaders of the pack. Those two have the highest upside in talent and have the ability to break through and provide some offensive punch to a lineup that could stand to use a boost.

With Erik Cole gone to Montreal, that’s a loss of 26 goals from last year’s team, the third best total on the team. While Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart are fine players they’ve added, they’re not viewed to be 20+ goal scorers. That offense will have to come from somewhere and Boychuk and Tlusty are the most likely guys to help solve that problem.

Then again, training camp can provide surprises and with the youth there for Carolina, the time is ripe for someone to breakout and show they’re ready for the NHL now. Seize the day training campers.

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