Haydn Fleury can grab a spot on the Carolina Hurricanes blue line. A vacancy has been created by the team’s buyout of James Wisniewski’s contract. Going into the third season since he was drafted seventh overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the time is now for Fleury to step up and prove himself on NHL ice.
The Fleury Basics
Fleury is 6 feet 3 inches and 207 pounds – within the parameters for the average-sized NHL defenseman. He turned 20 a few days ago on July 8 and would fit right in with the other young guns that ‘Canes general manager Ron Francis has assembled for head coach Bill Peters to immerse in his system. Defense is the foundation of what Peters is building in Carolina, with an emphasis on grit, speed and a willingness to go to the net.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) July 8, 2016
Fleury had 12 goals and 29 assists last season with the Red Deer Rebels. Not quite the 46 points he put up in 2013-14, but much better that the 28 points he notched in 2014-15 with the Rebels. In the one appearance he made with the ‘Canes AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, he did score a goal.
— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) July 6, 2016
In the team’s recent development camp, Fleury seemed to impress. Andrew Schnittker wrote at technicianonline.com recently,
Watching Fleury at one of the practice sessions, it is clear he has grown as a player since drafted. He was poised and clearly a step above the younger players. His defensive instincts were impressive. In many of the defensive rush drills, he was able to bottle up forwards and keep them from getting by him for an open rush to the net, in addition to breaking up passes off the rush with his stick.
Schnittker also liked Fleury’s offensive growth:
His offensive instincts stood out as the biggest improvement in his game since last year’s camp. Fleury was comfortable with the puck on his stick and was able to make crisp, tape-to-tape passes to move the puck up the ice. He even showed a little offensive flair, with a nice backhand deke and finish for a goal in the July 9 prospects’ scrimmage.
Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote that the ‘Canes director of amateur scouting said of Fleury, “Physically, he can probably make a run at playing in the NHL. Whether he’s ready for that day-to-day grind is the question, but from a physical perspective, we’re real pleased with where he is.”
The challenge Fleury had was demonstrating that he belonged at the highest level. I watched him early on in 2014 when he played in a couple of Hurricanes exhibition games, and he at times he seemed lost. This is understandable for a rookie, and in some cases can be forgiven. Noah Hanifin did not always make the right play in his rookie season last year, but he never gave the impression that he was overwhelmed by the NHL.
Fleury, on the other hand, never appeared comfortable and I believe this is one of the things that has kept him from moving up. In order for him to grab the attention of Francis and Peters, he will have to stand out and grind like never before. Francis has a large pool of defensemen, and will not need to feel pressured to bring someone up if he does not think they are ready.
For Fleury, however, he has a shot at a spot, but will need to grab it fiercely and not let go if he wants to finally make it with the Hurricanes. Yes, he is still very young and not moving up this year will not be the end of the world or his career. But, why not go for it? Victor Rask and Noah Hanifin have both shown that it can be done. It’s Fleury’s time to grab a spot.