‘Canes Victor Rask Proving He Belongs

Victor Rask is one of those Swedish guys. A while back, I wrote that ‘Canes captain Eric Staal “glossed Elias Lindholm the Swedish Beast.” It was a well-deserved nickname, as Lindholm was a beast in that game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Another player of Swedish origin has emerged for the Hurricanes who is playing very well. Victor Rask, the 21-year old center from Leksand, Sweden made this team in the offseason, and has proven very convincingly that he belongs on NHL ice. In the contest Tuesday night with the Predators, Rask had what proved to be the game winning goal, blasting one from almost the blue line right by the Predators elite netminder, Pekka Rinne.

Victor Rask spent the last two seasons with the Charlotte Checkers. In 2013-14, he played in his first full season there, appearing in 76 games and notching 16 goals and 23 assists. Are you yawning? Why did he earn a spot in the Hurricanes’ training camp and preseason? Why is he still wearing a ‘Canes sweater? Brian LeBlanc at SB Nation wrote on October 8th,

“Rask in particular, despite a bit of a lull in the middle of camp, has more than proven that he deserves a spot, and

Victor Rask by (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

probably would have earned one anyway even if Jordan Staal hadn’t gone down with a broken leg.”

So even if the number one center for Carolina was playing, Victor Rask would still be in Raleigh? When you’re good you’re good is not something to project in the NHL. Either you belong or you don’t. ‘Canes radio pre and post game show host, Mike Maniscalco wrote of Rask yesterday,

“Nash and rookie center Victor Rask might have been the brightest lights in October. With Nash proving he is a dependable NHL centerman and rookie Rask fitting in on the team playing second line minutes. Rask’s play might have slowed a bit during the second month of the season, but he has shown that he can play for this team, a question that needed to be answered.”

How this question got answered is by his play at the NHL level. While Riley Nash is becoming the go-to face off guy for the Hurricanes, Rask is no slouch at 51.7% thus far this season. He’s a rookie, facing off against some of the NHL’s best, and he is in the positive on faceoffs won. Not too shabby.

No rookie jitters here

Victor Rask ranked tied for fifth in points among rookies in the month of November with 3 goals and 5 assists. He has nine points in Carolina’s last 15 games. Rask is one of 6 ‘Canes to have played in all 24 of the team’s games this season. He is averaging 15:01 minutes of time on the ice, and ranks third among NHL rookies with 55 shots on goal. While Filip Forsberg of the Predators was named the NHL rookie of the month, on Tuesday night in Raleigh it was Victor Rask who was rookie of the night.

I spoke with Victor Rask after Tuesday night’s game and asked him how he is feeling about belonging at this level. He said,

“Yeah, you know, I have a lot of fun. It’s my dream to play here, and you know, just trying to do my best every day, every shift and you know, trying to prove that I belong here, you know, just keep having fun, that’s the most important thing.”

I can say that from where I stand, Victor Rask does belong, and the fans are having a lot of fun watching him work hard and have fun proving that he belongs. He may however, get a bill from the PNC Arena if he keeps this up:

“When you’re good you’re good.”

This was the opening question/statement delivered by yours truly to Carolina Hurricanes Coach Bill Peters in the media gathering after Tuesday night’s game. The ‘Canes had just beaten the Nashville Predators, 2-1 in Raleigh’s PNC Arena. It was a typical Hurricanes vs Predators contest in the sense that it was a grinding, hard-fought battle. Not so typical in that the Hurricanes didn’t get pushed around as they have in seasons past.

Coach Peters responded to my, “when you’re good you’re good” statement with a typical “Petersesque” reply:

“Well, I thought we were good for the most part. I think we’ve been good here for a while. So, you know I was talking to the guys earlier today about it  – now with tonight being a one goal game – I think we’ve played six one goal games in a row against some pretty good teams, so you’re looking for a play here or there that can make a difference, and we got one tonight.”

“Got one tonight is pretty much an understatement.” The Hurricanes got several plays that made a difference, and were able to defeat a team that I actually predicted on Monday will be hoisting The Cup in June. Am I wavering? Nah, I still like the Predators. They are a very good team that lost Tuesday to a Hurricanes team that played a near perfect game, much like their outing in Pittsburgh last Friday night. The bottom line, as illustrated in the wins against Pittsburgh and Nashville, is that when the ‘Canes are good, they’re good.

“Skinny” getting right

Jeff Skinner, also known as “Skinny” or “Skins” depending on which teammate or coach is talking, seems to be getting right. He had an assist on the goal that Victor Rask scored, and opened the scoring against Nashville in the first period with this from the spinning Andrej Nestrasil:

Andrej Nestrasil looked like the normally acrobatic Skinner on that play, and Skinner finished it off. Skinner has 6 goals and 7 assists this season, which is not typical for the young phenom. He has shown some spark lately in his play, and I believe he is getting right, and will start accumulating points regularly in the near future. His two points last night are just the start of what could be the spark the Hurricanes need to get them moving up in the standings.

One final note

Cam Ward was brilliant once again. He played against an elite goalie in Pekka Rinne, but he was very bit as elite in his own right Tuesday night. Watch the final seconds of the game with the Predators on the power play bombarding Ward in attempt to tie the game:

Ward has returned to form. And that is a very good thing for the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s a season that is moving along, but if the Hurricanes continue to get hard work from Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Cam Ward and the rest of the cast, the Hurricanes might just be “very” good when they’re good.