It’s a tale that never gets old no matter how many times it’s told: the story of a player making his National Hockey League debut.
Justin Shugg, recalled on Monday, will be the latest Hurricane to accomplish that feat on Tuesday in Montreal. And as a native of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Shugg will have friendly faces in the otherwise partial Bell Centre crowd.
“Fortunately enough for me, I’m going to have a lot of family members that will be able to watch my first NHL game,” he said after practicing with the Hurricanes on Monday morning.
Shugg, 22, received the news of the call-up on Sunday, as the Charlotte Checkers made their way back to North Carolina after a 3-1 win over the Texas Stars.
“JD called me. Pretty exciting news,” said Shugg, a fourth-round pick of the Canes in 2010. “It’s a feeling that guys in my shoes in the past understand. A lot of emotions that words can’t describe.”
In 164 career AHL games with Charlotte, Shugg has totaled 37 goals and 46 assists (83 points). This season, he ranks tied for second on the Checkers in scoring with 11 points, which includes a team-leading nine goals on 37 shots (24.3 shooting percentage).
“There’s been some adversity,” Shugg said of the season in Charlotte thus far. “We have a young group of guys down there, but we’re finding ways to win games and then losing some tight games like up here. We just need to find a way to will through it.”
Now in his fourth professional season, Shugg skated in one Hurricanes preseason game, logging 13:37 of ice time in Buffalo on Sept. 23.
“He was good early in camp,” head coach Bill Peters said. “He played in the Buffalo game and had some good looks. He’s a guy who’s playing well down there and deserved the opportunity to come up. He’ll play tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.”
In addition to seeing some friendly faces in the stands on Tuesday night, he saw plenty of familiar faces in the Raleigh Center Ice locker room on Monday, guys he has skated with in Charlotte since the 2011-12 season.
“Seeing a lot of familiar faces today in practice makes it a lot easier on the mind,” he said. “From a mental state, it just feels like we’re back in Charlotte, almost. Definitely comfortable.”
Of all the places in the league one could make his NHL debut, Montreal is not a bad spot. Shugg will have that to look back on in the years to come.
“It’s exciting and a dream come true,” he said.