Philip Botti The Hockey Writers
Rask Rolling as Raleigh’s Top Rookie
The last Hurricane player to win The Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie was Jeff Skinner. Skinner took the league by storm scoring 31-goals with 63-points in his breakout season. The ‘Canes haven’t had a rookie play anywhere near that level in recent years but have had their share of talented rookies who have tried. Last season Elias Lindholm struggled to contribute consistently for the team as a rookie, but has turned his game around. He is now a strong part of the ‘Canes lineup this season. So far this year one rookie has stood out for the faltering Carolina Hurricanes, and that rookie is Victor Rask. He won’t win the Calder Trophy this season but he is rolling through as the ‘Canes rookie of the year.
Jeff Skinner has been the best rookie in the ‘Canes recent history, but there have been other rookies who have made their presence felt in the ‘Canes lineup. Elias Lindholm registered 21-points in his inaugural season playing in 58-games last year. In 2011-2012, Justin Faulk played in 66-games his rookie season scoring 21-points. Going back to the 2003-2004 season, Eric Staal scored 31-points in 81-games in his rookie campaign. Even before that there was Erik Cole, who impressed in his rookie season scoring 16-goals and adding 24-assists. Cole finished fourth in the league in scoring as a rookie in the 2001-2002 season. Digging even further back there was Shane Willis in 2000-2001. Shane Willis played in 73-games for the ‘Canes finishing second in league rookie scoring with 20-goals and 24-assists. Willis played in a few games for two years before that, but the 2000-2001 season was his first full season and his most successful in the NHL. Willis didn’t have a long NHL career, and never again put up numbers like he did for the ‘Canes that year. Skinner was the best rookie to dress for the ‘Canes, and it might be a while before a rookie is able to touch those numbers playing in Raleigh.
Victor Rask is the ‘Canes Top Rookie
The Swedish born center Victor Rask can’t beat the points mark set by Jeff Skinner in 2010-2011 . Rask won’t get a nomination for the Calder Trophy but he has been by far the top first year player for the ‘Canes this season. The young Swedish forward has 11-goals and 18-assists in 70-games, and has only missed two games as a healthy scratch. Beside the point totals, Rask has been plugged in all over the roster this year trying to help with the struggling ‘Canes gain an edge, and he has recently found himself playing on the team’s top line. He also has averaged around 16 minutes of average ice time a game this season. Rask has been solid in the face-off department for the ‘Canes and has spent time working on the ‘Canes power play unit. The ‘Canes power play has been a strong point in a rough season for the team, and Rask has 2-goals and 9-assists with an extra man this year.
I think I saw Victor Rask kick his right foot up after his goal. About all the emotion you’ll see from the cool Swede.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) March 24, 2015
Who Else Is There?
Andrej Nestrasil is the only other rookie that is having close to the success that Rask is having for the ‘Canes this season. He has 19-points on the year but he has dealt with his share of injuries this season. On the blue line, Michal Jordan has impressed in his first long stint with the NHL club, but hasn’t done enough to gain the label the ‘Canes top rookie. There are no fresh rookies on the ‘Canes this season that can measure up to Rask’s success.
The Future is Bright for the ‘Canes Rookie of the Year
Victor Rask is on pace to have the best rookie season by a Carolina Hurricane since Jeff Skinner. Skinner set the bar high, but Rask is having a successful season showing that he is a future top-six forward on a team still trying to find its identity. The ‘Canes are going to have a high draft pick this year and will get to add more young talent to that depth pool. Victor Rask was a second round pick, and is proving that the ‘Canes scouting department can come up big when selecting talent. Rask recently scored the only goal for the ‘Canes against the Western Conference powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks.
Rask is not going to receive any votes for the Calder Trophy this season. The trophy will be a battle between Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg and Aaron Ekblad who have had more success putting up big numbers and helping their teams push towards the playoffs. Jeff Skinner had that success his rookie season, and now has to live up to those numbers for the rest of his career. Rask is setting a good standard of play for himself in his rookie year. He still has room to grow and develop his game. He still will have to continue to prove himself as an important piece in what the ‘Canes brass is trying to do with the future of the team. Is Victor Rask the leagues Calder Trophy stud? No, but he is by far the rookie of the year for the Carolina Hurricanes this season.
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