Raleigh, North Carolina certainly has come a long way since the days of Lyle Wildgoose and the old ECHL Raleigh Icecaps. First NHL hockey in 1999, followed by a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 and this year an All-Star Game. A hockey hat-trick of sorts for the city which received rave reviews for its All-Star weekend hospitality. While other Sunbelt teams may be soon rising up north of the border, the Carolina Hurricanes are an organization on the rise.
Granted the club hasn’t taken advantage of two Atlanta Thrashers losses out of the break, dropping their own two out of the gate to the Boston Bruins 3-2 and Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 respectively. That being said they still find themselves sitting in fairly good shape at 25-21-6 (56 points) just one behind the Atlanta Thrashers who they face at home Saturday night for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, with two games in hand. After starting last season winless in their first 14, Canes fans are quickly reaping rewards for their patience.
Upon having a league high eleven picks in the 2010 NHL Draft, it has been their first round selection Jeff Skinner who has shined the brightest thus far. Skinner, a 50 goal scorer a year ago for the Kitchner Rangers of the OHL, became the youngest member ever selected to the NHL All-Star (or “Staal-Star”) squad at 18, passing Detroit Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman. That selection was buoyed by his NHL rookie of the month award for January, where Skinner posted nine goals and five assists in 14 games. On the campaign through 52 contests Skinner has 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points.
Along with Skinner and standouts Eric Staal and Cam Ward, was rookie All-Star defenseman Jamie McBain. McBain, owner of a hard and heavy shot on the blue line had 40 points in 68 games for the Albany River Rats in the American Hockey League last season. While the Hurricanes missed out on the playoffs, McBain sent back down made the most of his eight Calder Cup playoff contests which included a game winning goal against the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins, four goals, two assists and a plus eight in eight games.
Additionally Brandon Sutter who notched 21 goals last year seems to be picking it up of late with eleven thus far. Recently recalled Zach Boychuk also appeared to be clicking of late with Sutter and grinder Pat Dwyer, after picking up his game in Charlotte of late.
Speaking of the Checkers, they were represented by Jerome Samson and Bryan Rodney. Samson has 24 tallies on the season. Of course there are many others stockpiled down there, including Zac Dalpe, Chris Terry, Jon Matsumoto, Jacob Micflicker and Drayson Bowman.
While they might stand to use some grit to help them down the stretch, the present and future certainly look promising in Carolina.