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Skinner leading candidate to be Hurricanes' next captain

Forward has respect of players, staff on, off ice

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Sitting in a quiet room in the NHL offices, microphone clipped onto his shirt and the camera parked on the other side of the table recording everything he says, forward Jeff Skinner was asked to state his case for why he should be the Carolina Hurricanes' next captain.

He giggled and smiled, but he got skittish. This was hardly an interrogation, simply a preseason interview on a timely topic, but there might have even been a bead of sweat that dripped off Skinner's forehead.

 

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"I don't have much," Skinner said, clearly trying to avoid giving some awkward answer. "I guess I'm a bad campaigner. I think we've got a lot of great leaders."

He's one of them, and he's a candidate to be named the Hurricanes' first captain since Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28, 2016.

Video: Skinner talks about the buzz surrounding Hurricanes

Coach Bill Peters has said he will name a captain before the season opener against the Minnesota Wild at PNC Arena on Oct. 7. He said Skinner is under consideration along with a few others, including defenseman Justin Faulk, center Jordan Staal and right wing Justin Williams, who won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and returned this offseason on a two-year contract.

That Skinner is a candidate isn't surprising. He was an alternate captain last season.

However, considering Skinner still smiles, laughs and looks like the 18-year-old who stole the show at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the 19-year-old who accepted the Calder Trophy a few months later, it does seem surreal that he's in this position now.

It shouldn't be.

Video: Jeff Skinner comes in at No. 17 on Top 20 Wings list

Skinner is 25, entering his eighth NHL season and is Carolina's second-longest tenured player behind goalie Cam Ward. His voice has become one of the most respected in the dressing room. His impact on the Hurricanes extends off the ice.

"He's a passionate guy and he's a passionate player," Peters said. "He's a real good pro in the fact that he looks after himself, he trains properly and the guys have unreal respect for the way he looks after his body. The maturity shows. I know guys bring it up quite a bit."

To that end, Peters said he was at a staff golf outing prior to the start of training camp with about 16 people, including members of the Hurricanes' medical and strength training staffs, and he polled as many people about the captaincy candidates as he could.

"[Skinner's] name came up in the conversation quite a bit, and they bring up that type of stuff, the way he looks after himself and the way he prepares," Peters said. "He's passionate about it and he's hungry to win."

Skinner did his part last season, scoring an NHL career-high 37 goals and tying his NHL career high of 63 points, a mark he hadn't hit since his rookie season (2010-11). He has 330 points (180 goals, 150 assists) in 497 games, all with the Hurricanes, but he has never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since 2009. Theirs became the longest drought in the NHL when the Edmonton Oilers ended a 10-year postseason drought last season.

Skinner and Peters expect the drought to end this season.

"This is our best team in my four years here, for sure," Peters said.

"There's definitely a buzz around the city, around the team," Skinner said. "It's deserved."

They're confident because of the way the Hurricanes finished last season. They're eager because of the offseason additions. They're optimistic because of the expected growth of the young players who now look up to Skinner.

Video: CAR@MIN: Skinner wires home a one-timer for a PPG

The Hurricanes had a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) from March 9-30 to move within four points of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference before losing five straight games to start April.

They added goalie Scott Darling, who slots in as the new No. 1, forwards Williams and Marcus Kruger and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk in the offseason. Between them their names are engraved on the Stanley Cup seven times.

Carolina also re-signed defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce to long-term contracts, solidifying one of the most promising blue-line groups in the NHL, which also features Faulk, Noah Hanifin and van Riemsdyk -- all 26 years old or younger.

Forwards Sebastian Aho (49 points), Victor Rask (45 points), Elias Lindholm (45 points) and Teuvo Teravainen (42 points) -- all 24 or younger -- are expected to build on their production from a season ago.

Skinner is too.

"The way we finished last year was a good message internally for us," Skinner said. "We were just on the edge of being in the mix for quite a long time coming down the stretch. Those are the games you want to play. For us the next step is pretty obvious and it's been talked about a lot, but now it's up to us to take it."

Regardless if he is named captain, Skinner will be one of the players expected to hammer home that message throughout the season. That he doesn't have a dynamic speech outlining the reasons why he should be the captain shouldn't matter.

He knows his role in Carolina now. He has grown into it.

"You want to be counted on by your teammates, by your coaches," Skinner said. "That's obviously what a captain is supposed to do. They're supposed to lead and be the guy that people can count on.

"I want to be counted on."

Video: CAR@NJD: Skinner puts Canes ahead with superb goal

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