After turning heads at the Rangers’ post-draft Prospect Development Camp, 18-year-old Sergey Tolchinsky attended Carolina’s camp last week and put on another show.
The Soo Greyhound was one of the highest-rated prospects by independent scouting services to go undrafted in June, but since then he’s made a lot of teams look foolish. Now, it appears that Tolchinsky has both the Rangers and Hurricanes – the only two teams with which he’s eligible to sign – competing for his services.
Tolchinsky was outperformed perhaps only by 2013 third-round choice Anthony Duclair at New York’s camp, yet the Blueshirts decided not to offer Tolchinsky a contract. New York’s reasoning for hesitating wasn’t wrong – after all 30 teams passed on the 5-8, 160-pound forward through seven rounds of the draft, turning around and committing to a three-year Entry Level contract for the same player a week later based on his performance in a few drills and scrimmages would have been rash. The Rangers have also successfully signed players that impressed at their camp months and even years later, so rushing to move on Tolchinsky may not have felt necessary at the time. And finally, New York was preparing for free agency and is currently at 45 contracts out of 50, pending new deals for Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello.
But it’s becoming more clear that Tolchinsky is a bona fide prospect and that his stock is quickly rising around the league. Tolchinsky was widely regarded as the best player at Carolina’s camp and drew high praise from coach Kirk Muller: “He was probably the biggest surprise or explosive guy this week that really made people look at him.”
Those comments indicate that Carolina is prepared to have a conversation about extending its own offer to Tolchinsky. There’s some pressure on the ‘Canes to move quickly, within the next few weeks, because apparently Tolchinsky promised to play with the Rangers at September’s Traverse City Tournament, according to Carolina GM Jim Rutherford. The Rangers are likely looking at that week as a better gauge of Tolchinsky’s game and it could have been New York’s plan all along to see if Tolchinsky also excelled in the tournament before offering him a contract.
Tolchinsky’s stated preference is to sign with an NHL team this summer and it seems likely that he’ll get an offer from at least one of these teams. If nothing else, the still-growing Russian has improved his draft stock for 2014 markedly.