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Rutherford: Tlusty Can Eventually Play in Top Six

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
While it wasn’t the veteran-for-youth trade some had anticipated, the Hurricanes nonetheless added some young talent to the organization on Thursday.

The team acquired 21-year-old left wing Jiri Tlusty from Toronto in exchange for forward Philippe Paradis, who was Carolina’s first-round pick, 27th overall, in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft. Tlusty was also a first-round pick, having been chosen 13th overall by the Maple Leafs in 2006.

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Although the Hurricanes have traded young talent to get young talent, General Manager Jim Rutherford said that his team would benefit from having a more NHL-ready prospect and that Tlusty’s skill set better suits the organization going forward.

“They’re two different types of players,” said Rutherford. “We need to score more goals and we need to have skill. In our opinion, Philippe is more along the lines of a power forward and Jiri is more skilled to where we project him being able to put up points in our top six.

“We’re going through a stretch now where we’re a low-scoring team,” added Rutherford. “You can have all the bigger, physical guys that you want, but if you can’t score enough goals it’s not going to do you any good. In this case, I’m dealing with trying to put a player in our lineup by the start of next season that’s going to be able to help produce points.”

For now, the Hurricanes will assign Tlusty to Albany of the AHL where he’ll join the team’s crop of talented young forwards headlined by Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk. Rutherford said that Tlusty would be in contention for a potential recall later this season, but won’t be counted on for regular duty until next year.

Tlusty already has a good amount of NHL experience, having posted 10 goals and 10 assists in 74 games with Toronto. He made his major league debut in the 2007-08 season, which the Hurricanes, including Tlusty’s former coach in Toronto, Paul Maurice, think may have been too early.

“Paul felt that he had been put in a little bit before he is ready, which is something that we’re trying to be careful with for our guys,” said Rutherford, who also received positive reports on Tlusty’s character and work ethic from Maurice. “It’s really along the same lines as what we talked about with Sutter, Boychuk and Bowman and these guys being in Albany.  As much as we’d like to make the transition to be younger, we’re trying to be careful, and this is a good example of that.”

Rutherford said that the Hurricanes liked Tlusty in his draft year back in 2006, but were unable to draft him ahead of the Maple Leafs. Since then, the team has been following his progress and was impressed by his play this season, during which he has posted 15 points in 19 AHL games. In 105 career AHL games, Tlusty has scored 43 goals and earned 60 assists, leaving him just shy of a point-per-game.

“All of his AHL years have been really productive,” said Rutherford. “He’s just a young guy at this point, which is why he hasn’t done it at the NHL level, but he‘s real close to doing that.”

The Hurricanes already know one thing about Tlusty – he enjoys playing at the RBC Center. In two career games in Carolina’s home building, Tlusty has scored four points, including a three-assist effort on January 15, 2009.

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