Rutherford wants Rask in N. America
The clock is ticking for Carolina Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask.
Rask, regarded as one of the more skilled forwards in the 2011 Entry Draft, told NHL.com that he is debating whether he'll remain in North America or rejoin his team in Leksand, Sweden, for the 2011-12 season.
Rask played in 37 games for Leksand in the Swedish Elite League last season, producing 5 goals and 11 points. He also represented his country and won a silver medal at the World Under-18 Championship, scoring twice and finishing with 5 points in six games. He was named one of the top three players on his team.
His North American rights are held by the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen, who drafted him with the third pick of the 2011 CHL Import Draft. Rask also could play for Carolina's American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte this season.
"I haven't decided yet," Rask told NHL.com. "I like to play in North America, but have to wait and see what happens. Maybe I will, because it's good hockey here."
The adjustment wouldn't be too much of a problem for the 19-year-old Rask, who is one of 21 Carolina prospects here at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
"I need to get quicker because everything happens faster here; the rink is smaller and the zones are bigger," he said. "It's more physical here than in Sweden, but I think I got it in me, so that's no problem."
Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford is counting on Rask to begin his career in North America this season.
"I'd like to see him stay in North America; I think it would be good for his maturity on and off the ice and to start to learn the North American culture and game," Rutherford told NHL.com. "Based on what I've seen, he's a guy that could play in the AHL or in junior hockey, so it'll boil down to what's the best for him and the best thing for him is to play somewhere where he'll play a lot of minutes and play in all situations."
Rutherford felt Rask, who was chosen in the second round (No. 42) this past June, wasn't given the proper chance in Sweden.
"He played in a situation that didn't give him an opportunity and expose his real assets," Rutherford said. "He didn't play enough minutes, didn't play in the right situations and that's the point I'm trying to make with regard to him playing in North America this season. You can certainly see why he was rated in the first half of the first round at the start of the season; he's a highly skilled player who does things at high tempo with his head up. He's well aware of where he's supposed to be on the ice."
--Mike G. Morreale
In fact, position may be the only difference between the former Kitchener Rangers teammates.
"From a skill level point of view, Murphy has about as much skill as anyone in the 2011 draft, and in a lot of ways he has as much skill as Skinner, only he plays a different position and may take a little longer to get to the team," Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford told NHL.com. "But these are the types of defensemen you need with the way the game is played today."
Like Skinner, Murphy is hoping to impress three months after hearing his name called in the first round of the draft at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament with the Hurricanes. It hasn't been easy, but it isn't as though Rutherford expected a carbon copy of his prized pick Skinner, either.
"It's a lot harder to make it at that age as a defenseman," he said. "We're going to be careful of his confidence, but it's only a matter of time until he's with the Hurricanes. You can't teach that skill -- and you can't find it every day."
While there's no denying Murphy's immense potential, it probably would behoove the Hurricanes to allow Murphy to continue to mature and develop in Kitchener in 2011-12. Murphy isn't concerned one way or another.
"If I had to be sent back to Kitchener, I'd be just as happy," he said. "I'm still only an 18-year-old kid and another year of junior could never hurt me. I still have a lot to learn and I wouldn't be upset at all."
The 12th pick in the draft this past June has had two successful seasons with the Rangers, including a 2010-11 performance in which he finished first among OHL defensemen with 26 goals and second with 79 points in 63 games. He was voted into the top three by OHL Western Conference coaches in the Smartest Player and Best Offensive Defenseman categories.
Murphy, who has no points and a minus-4 rating for Carolina through two games in Traverse City, feels more confident with each game.
"I'm trying not to focus on any pressure," Murphy said. "I'm an offensive guy and they know that, but I want to prove to them that I can play defense at the same time. I want to try and keep up the best I can, but it's a lot harder in the defensive zone. I am getting the hang of it, and hopefully I'll continue to get better and better."
Longtime NHL defenseman Glen Wesley, now the Hurricanes' Director of Defensemen Development, likes what he sees in Murphy.
"He's a tremendous prospect and he's a special kid just because of his offensive potential," Wesley told NHL.com. "I think any time you break into the League, especially as a defenseman, it takes time to be able to mature and do the things confidently that you need to do at the pro level. I thought he was a little nervous at the start, but as the games wore on, he felt more and more comfortable."
Wesley didn't seem overly concerned when asked if Murphy will need to learn how to harness his urge to go on the offensive more times than not.
"As you move up to different levels and get further up the ladder, I think you have to understand that there are only so many opportunities during a game when you can jump into an offense and create things without sacrificing defense," Wesley said. "Obviously, defense is a very important part of the game. It's making that first pass and being able to find the holes out there, which I think he'll be able to do because he's got those offensive instincts and he thinks the game well. He has good hockey sense, so it's a matter of physically maturing and mentally making the right reads out there. Over time, it will happen, but it's a process."
Murphy also has proven to be quite determined, another trait that no doubt pleased Carolina's scouting department. After being cut from Canada's national under-18 team in August and Team Canada's World Junior team in December 2010, he made his Team Canada debut in April at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship in Germany -- and led his team and all defensemen with 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) in seven games. He was named the tournament's top defenseman.
Murphy did admit he and Skinner discussed the Traverse City tournament prior to his participation at the five-day event.
"He just told me to leave it all out there and give it my all," Murphy said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale