Andrei Svechnikov took to the ice on Friday for the morning skate, donning the same yellow non-contact sweater that has appeared all training camp.
The reigning All-Star is just shy of seven months out from suffering a torn ACL and has been a constant participant since camp opened on Sept. 21.
That being said, Svechnikov has not recorded any playing time during the preseason, as the team is rightfully taking every precaution and not rushing him back into action.
But, with opening night just five days away, is there a chance he finds himself in the lineup on opening night, seven months to do the day of his injury?
“He’s so close. We’re going to test him again [on] Monday and make another evaluation,” said Brind’Amour. “He’s right around the corner. You know he’s coming.”
With a long regular season, especially one with such lofty expectations, rushing him back onto the ice and not truly thinking long term is not the answer. However, when he does return, there is no doubt that he can help this team reach the next level.
Despite missing the final 18 games of the regular season, the 23-year old finished third on the roster with 23 goals and fourth in points with 55.
So, if he isn’t able to suit up on opening night and his season debut is ultimately delayed, who will take his place?
Earlier today, Carolina trimmed their training camp roster down to 30, leaving a clearer picture of who is still vying for a roster spot and could play substitute for Svechnikov.
Felix Unger Sorum has been the hottest name in training camp, turning in an impressive preseason slate after being selected in the second round of this year’s draft. Rod Brind’Amour hinted at the possibility of Unger Sorum, at just 18 years of age, making his NHL debut on opening night.
While this would make him the youngest player in the league and become a historic occurrence, it would also allow Svechnikov to ease his way back to health.
At 18, Unger Sorum could receive valuable experience, even if he is at the very least a year away from becoming a mainstay on the roster.
Although they are listed as and have primarily played as centers, Vasily Ponomarev and Ryan Suzuki could have been potential replacements for the short term. Ponomarev suffered a knee injury on the opening day of camp that has kept him sidelined, while Suzuki left last night’s contest in Nashville after suffering an upper body injury.
Suzuki, like Unger Sorum, has found consistent success when on the ice, albeit in just four preseason contests.
Another potential scenario for the Hurricanes is carrying just 11 forwards and seven defensemen. They plan to do so on Friday night in the preseason finale, potentially testing out this option moving forward.
Caleb Jones, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, was put on waivers on Friday, but Carolina still maintains an extremely talented blue line. Carrying an extra defenseman could allow both Jalen Chatfield and Tony DeAngelo to see consistent time and see how the two can impact the lineup, particularly with DeAngelo on the power play unit.
Andrei Svechnikov could receive good news on Monday and even make his season debut versus Ottawa on opening night, but regardless, the Hurricanes have a handful of quality options if he is unable to play.