Victor Rask is up to the task. He broke into the NHL ice with the Carolina Hurricanes last year and I believe will have another sold season this year. Even before Jordan Staal went down with a broken leg Rask was catching the attention of Coach Bill Peters and the fans. He earned his spot with above-average play in the preseason and never looked back.
While it can be argued that Staal’s injury served to cement his position on the ice, the truth is that Rask was getting it done with a solid work effort and play that had to be noticed. He stood out and secured a spot on his own.
Rask played in 80 games in his rookie NHL season. He scored 11 goals and had 22 assists. 33 points is not a bad start for someone who turned 22 in March. He is part of the table of what I have termed the Hurricanes’ “young guns.” Guys like Rask, Elias Lindholm, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy, and Jeff Skinner are really the future of this team. (If Skinner can stay healthy and return to form and doesn’t get traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.)
The rebuild is underway in Raleigh, and GM Ron Francis has a nice stable of young guns upon to which to build a winning team. Fans may be disappointed that Francis has not gone out and brought in a star player via trade, but that has not been the Carolina way over the past few years. Offsetting this disappointment is the hope that the young players will develop quickly and bring a culture of winning to the Hurricanes.
Rask distinguished himself in the preseason with a noticeable face-off prowess. He continued being reliable in the circle for the Hurricanes in the regular season. According to www.faceoffs.net Rask slotted in at 44th in the NHL in face-offs last season with an overall face-off winning percentage of 51. Rask averaged 11.5 face-offs per game, winning 468 and losing 450.
Boston’s Patrice Bergeron was the only player to break the 60% threshold in face-off winning percentage. Rask was one slot ahead of teammate Riley Nash. Jordan Staal was ranked eighth in the league with a 56.4 winning percentage, although based on 46 games.
The point is that as a rookie, Rask distinguished himself as a worthy center and someone who could hold his own in the face-off circle. One has to believe that Rask will continue improve his game and his face-off efficiency. Coach Peters has to like what he sees.
There is no need for me to go all analytics on Rask in this article when Kyle Morton at SB Nation has already done a thorough job. Morton’s “Victor Rask’s Impending Breakout” is a sold read and gives an in-depth look at Rask’s rookie season from an analytics perspective.
Morton’s piece shows that offensively Rask performed much better than average, especially for a rookie. Morton wrote,
“Only nine rookies had more points than Rask did last season. Of those nine, Rask is younger than six of them. The only rookies that were both ahead of Rask in points and are younger than him are Aaron Ekblad, Johnny Gaudreau, and Filip Forsberg.”
Rask did not disappoint, but rather exceeded expectations for a guy in his first season on a team that struggled to find offense most of the season.
— Hockey Motion (@hockey_motion) July 29, 2015
All in all, the Hurricanes don’t bring a lot of big names to the ice. Eric and Jordan Staal and Cam Ward may be the exception. But, guys like Victor Rask can be a part of something special going forward if Peters and Francis can put together the type of hardworking dedicated squad that wants to win.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.