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Pro contract something else Skinner can smile about

Tuesday, 09.21.2010 / 12:43 PM / Prospects

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Pro contract something else Skinner can smile about
Jeff Skinner has fun on the ice, and the Hurricanes have so enjoyed watching him so far, they've signed their first-round pick to an entry-level contract.
Jeff Skinner, selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the seventh pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, is all about having fun and making plays.

It's a combination that not only is infectious -- he genuinely loves the game and doesn't hide that fact -- but made a believer of Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford.

Don't think for a second Rutherford wasn't grinning ear-to-ear when his prized prospect finished as co-scoring leader of the recently completed Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament, with 7 points on a tournament-high 21 shots on goal.

With a few roster spots still vacant prior to the season-opener Oct. 7 against the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, Rutherford signed the 18-year-old Skinner to a three-year, entry-level contract Tuesday prior to the team's preseason opener against the Florida Panthers.

"What I think I like most is it looks like he's having fun out there all the time. He's got a smile on his face and tongue hanging out and wants to do things to help the team. He's a young guy who wasn't on pins and needles worrying about making a mistake. He wants to create things with the puck and I thought that was great."
-- Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice

"He's prepared himself properly from a strength point of view to play in our League this year," Rutherford said. "He's got the skill level and the determination, so he's a guy who will have a really good chance at making our team (out of training camp)."

Skinner's goal 3:36 into overtime Sept. 15 gave the Hurricanes' prospects a 4-3 victory against Tampa Bay Lightning youngsters in the third-place game of the Traverse City tournament.

"The puck seems to find him and he knows what to do with it in the right situations," said Jeff Daniels, coach of Carolina's AHL affiliate in Charlotte who also led the Hurricanes' prospects in Traverse City. "He's a guy who likes going into traffic. He'll go to the net and get those dirty goals and he's a smart, heads-up hockey player. He has the skill level and now it's just a matter of going to camp and making adjustments to the speed of the game and the size and strength of the players."

Carolina coach Paul Maurice also was impressed with Skinner during the prospect tournament.

"What I think I like most is it looks like he's having fun out there all the time," Maurice told NHL.com. "He's got a smile on his face and tongue hanging out and wants to do things to help the team. He's a young guy who wasn't on pins and needles worrying about making a mistake. He wants to create things with the puck and I thought that was great."

When asked why he's always so happy, Skinner smiled.

"I don't know," he said. "I just find the game fun. There are a lot of great guys on the team and it's just fun to be around them and fun to be on the ice. I guess it takes a little bit of the pressure off when you're having fun out there. I've just always been like that."

Skinner's summer regimen included workouts with retired forward Gary Roberts, and prior to that, with renowned fitness trainer Lorne Goldenberg -- the owner of The Atlantic Conditioning Center in Ottawa. Skinner's program with Roberts included four days of muscle training and two days of cardio -- also prescribed by Roberts -- on his own.

In 2009-10, Skinner's second with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League, he helped lead the club to the Western Conference finals against the Windsor Spitfires. In 20 playoff games, he had 20 goals, 13 assists and a plus-3 rating. He connected for 50 goals, 40 assists, a plus-7 rating and 72 penalty minutes in 64 regular-season games for the Rangers.

Skinner said he has every intention of making the Hurricanes' roster this season.

"Anytime you go to a camp you're trying to make a team," he said. "That's what my mindset is going to (training camp) -- I'm trying to make a hockey club. I'm just going to work my hardest and see if they think I can fit in. I'm not worried about the future because all I have to worry about is right now, how I play the next game."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

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