Making push for roster spot, Carolina Hurricanes’ Dylan Coghlan is proving he belongs

It was big news when forward Max Pacioretty was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes this year.

It was also big news, and unfortunately so for Pacioretty, when he tore an Achilles tendon in training.

But while Pacioretty won’t be in the Canes’ lineup on opening night for the 2022-23 season, the other player involved in the trade — Dylan Coghlan — may well be.

The defenseman also was sent to the Hurricanes as part of the deal with the Vegas Golden Knights. He has quickly jumped into some intense competition for a roster spot, proving his value to Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour and management with his play on the ice.

Talk about a good first impression. Coghlan had three assists Tuesday in the Canes’ first preseason game, a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena, and was named the game’s second star.

Quarterbacking a power-play unit, Coghlan’s sharp pass from the point led to a goal by Andrei Svechnikov. Later, his bomb of a shot from the near the blue line was tipped by forward Paul Stastny past goalie Maxime Lagace.

“I was just trying to get out of the way,” Stastny said, joking with the media after the game.

And Coghlan, 24, appears to be shouldering his way into the Canes’ plans for the season, as someone who could be in the third defensive pairing.

Coghlan describes himself as a guy who plays hockey with a perpetual chip on his shoulder.

“It’s been crazy. I wasn’t drafted (by NHL teams) and wasn’t really the first pick of my junior team,” he told The News & Observer last Sunday. “I’ve had to work for everything and prove people wrong.

“It hasn’t been easy, with lots of doubters. That’s kind of been going on my whole career, people saying I can’t do something and me going out there and proving them wrong. I’ve always had that fire in my gut, to keep proving people wrong.”

Carolina Hurricanes’ Dylan Coghlan (15) controls the puck ahead of Tampa Bay’s Cole Kopek (45) during the second period of an NHL preseason game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Carolina Hurricanes’ Dylan Coghlan (15) controls the puck ahead of Tampa Bay’s Cole Kopek (45) during the second period of an NHL preseason game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

A native of Duncan, British Columbia, Coghlan spent four seasons playing for the Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League before moving up to the American Hockey League. He was with the Chicago Wolves for two seasons when they were the Vegas AHL affiliate, then was signed by the Golden Knights.

Coghlan made his NHL debut and got in 29 games with Vegas in 2020-21, the condensed NHL season, then 59 last season. But he said he was not shocked, much less dismayed, to be a part of the Vegas trade with the Hurricanes..

“I always had it in the back of my head it wasn’t going to work out there and I was never going to get a chance,” Coghlan said. “The way the coaching staff was, it didn’t really feel like they believed in me. When I got a chance to move up in the lineup and did really well, I didn’t really get rewarded for it.

“By the sound of it, it’s going to be better here. And I can see with the guys here, and how they play, it fits my style of play. I’m already super comfortable.”

A right-hand shot, Coghlan is being used on his off-side and played the left side Tuesday with defensive partner Jalen Chatfield. It’s something new for the 6-2, 208-pound D-man and has been an adjustment, he said.

“I’m just trying to get the reps in and try to get the gap figured out,” he said. “It’s going well, though. It’s a work in progress and getting better every day.”

While another newcomer, veteran defenseman Brent Burns, will quarterback the Canes’ top power-play unit, Coghlan could run the second unit and seems comfortable in doing it. That will be sorted out in camp and other preseason games before some tough final decisions on the roster spots are made.

“So far he’s got the heavy shot, which I like, and seems to move pretty well, too,” Brind’Amour said.

Coghlan has quickly caught the eye of his teammates, including defenseman Brett Pesce, who said Tuesday he knew little of Coghlan before the trade.

Pesce’s assessment: “Really good player, it seems. Super smooth with the puck. Great competitor who will be good for us.”

As for Coghlan, he said he has just one thing in mind: “Keep the foot on the gas.”

Carolina Hurricanes’ Dylan Coghlan (15) is greeted by teammates Andrei Svechnikov (37) Martin Necas (88) and Jasper Kotkaniemi (82) after an assist on a goal by Paul Stastny (25) during the second period of an NHL preseason game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
Carolina Hurricanes’ Dylan Coghlan (15) is greeted by teammates Andrei Svechnikov (37) Martin Necas (88) and Jasper Kotkaniemi (82) after an assist on a goal by Paul Stastny (25) during the second period of an NHL preseason game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Hurricanes vs. Panthers preseason game info

When: Thursday, Sept. 29

Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise, Florida

Puck drop: 7 p.m.