Along the left wall of the Carolina Hurricanes dressing room during Prospects Development Camp sit Victor Rask
, Erik Karlsson
and Elias Lindholm
, congenially referred to as – for lack of a better term – “the three Swedes.”
Maybe one day the three forwards will form an NHL line.
“Yeah, that’d be awesome,” Rask said. “It’s pretty nice to talk Swedish with guys here, and I’m happy they’re here.”
Lindholm is likely the closest of the three to making the big club, based on expectations of Hurricanes management.
But Rask might not be far behind.
“It’s just a matter of time before he gets to the NHL, and he’s got as good of a chance as anybody this September,” said Ron Francis, the Hurricanes vice president of hockey operations. “He’d be a good guy to keep an eye on, for sure.”
Rask, 20, was selected by the Hurricanes 42nd overall in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He skated in 37 games with Leksands of the then-Swedish Elite League in 2010-11; since then, he’s played in two seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
In his two-year junior career, he’s been better than a point-per-game producer for Calgary, recording 104 points (47g, 57a) in 101 games. En route to the Hitmen’s 4-3 series loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference Final of the WHL playoffs, Rask posted six goals and 10 assists (16 points) in 17 games.
“It’s a very demanding schedule, and he got a better taste for what it’s like in North America, the style of game and the smaller rink,” Francis said of Rask’s time spent in the WHL. “Those adjustments happen naturally in junior.”
“It’s so much different off the ice than it is back home, so it was definitely important for me to get used to the North American style,” Rask said.
Rask began the 2012-13 season with the Charlotte Checkers, logging 10 games and five points (1g, 4a) before returning to Calgary. Had their not been an influx of NHL-qualified talent in the AHL, the Leksand, Sweden, native might have remained in Charlotte for the balance of the season, Francis said.
“We had a lot of bodies, and we wanted to make sure he was going to play and play a lot, which he was going to do in Calgary,” Francis said. “For him to come in and see that level – you’re playing against bigger, stronger men and the pace of the game is much faster – it was a great process for him to understand where he’s at, gauge himself and find out the areas he needs to get better in, which he’s done a good job.”
“It was definitely huge for me,” Rask said. “I think I stepped up my game when I came back to Calgary. It was a great experience to get a taste of the pro life and an awesome feeling.”
Two years removed from his draft year, Rask is now poised to turn pro.
“The one thing he needed to do when he was drafted was get stronger, and he’s certainly done that. You can see it in his release and the power behind his shot,” Francis said. “He’s always had a knack for scoring goals, but with that extra zip, it makes it tougher for goalies to defend. He’s made a lot of good strides in the right direction in the past few years.”
Come September, Rask will be vying for a depth position with the Hurricanes. He’s perhaps more of a long shot than say Lindholm or Ryan Murphy, but he’s got the raw ability to do so.
“All the talent he has – his hockey sense, his vision and patience with the puck – is something you can’t teach,” Francis said. “He’s very close [to making the jump to the NHL].”
And Rask is prepared to prove he’s ready. Just ask him.
“Absolutely,” he said with confidence. “I’m looking forward to it.”