The Hurricanes used their second-round pick on a European-based player, but it’s not clear how much longer he’ll remain there.
General Manager Jim Rutherford believes that Swedish center Victor Rask, the 42nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, may elect to come to North America next season, perhaps to play for the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers – something North American picks aren’t able to do until they’re 20.
“Earlier I talked to his agent, and his agent felt he was coming to North America,” said Rutherford.” Part of that was possibly getting an earlier contract done with him, which we’re willing to talk about. We have to look into this a little bit more."
Rutherford admits that there have been some conflicting reports about Rask’s intentions, including from the player himself, who following his selection on Saturday told the gathered media that he planned to sign a contract in the Swedish Elite League. Should that occur, Rutherford said that the Hurricanes would hold no hard feelings.
“If he goes back to Sweden and plays for a year or two, that’s still good for his development,” said Rutherford. “That really doesn’t affect how we view his future.”
At the very least, Rask is expected to attend the Hurricanes’ prospect camp in July as well as the team’s main camp in September in an attempt to make the team. While it’s not clear that he’d be able to accomplish that feat so soon after being drafted, the Canes, who appear to be just as pleased about this second-round pick as other recent choices, believe he’s on the right track.
“He’s a very skilled centerman, a great puck distributor with a good shot and quick release,” said Hurricanes Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald. “He’s good in the faceoff circle and is a very intelligent hockey player with a lot of speed and a lot of skill.
“You don’t want to say we stole him, but we were pretty pleased he was there for us in the second round.”
From the beginning of the year on, the Hurricanes felt that Rask would be a first-round selection. MacDonald said that the reason Carolina was able to grab him in the second could have been due to some inconsistencies throughout the season, including a rocky period in which he went down to the Swedish second division to earn more ice time. Rask then experienced what MacDonald called an “adjustment period,” finishing with 11 points (5g, 6a) in 37 games with Leksand of the lower division.
However, a strong finish helped his cause.
“In some of the tournaments he was a little inconsistent, but in the end had an outstanding under-18 tournament,” said MacDonald, referring to Rask’s 5-point performance (2g, 3a) in six games for Sweden.
Despite his skills, Rutherford did express some caution about Rask’s readiness to play in the AHL, calling it an “option” rather than something he knows he wants to do.
“That’s a big jump, and it’s a much bigger jump than people think,” said Rutherford. “We all saw Jeff Skinner have a phenomenal year last year and jump to the NHL, but there are not many guys that can do that. Even to go to the American Hockey League and play at a young age is pretty tough.“We just have to walk through this week by week and see what’s best for him.”
Rutherford said that he expects the Hurricanes' other European-based draft pick from Saturday, center Gregory Hofmann, to remain in his native Swiss league for the last year of his contract next season.