Tracking the Storm
 
  • PRINT
  • RSS

AHL Seasoning Can Work Wonders

Tuesday, 09.29.2009 / 11:43 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
X
Share with your Friends


AHL Seasoning Can Work Wonders
As was the plan coming into training camp, each of the Hurricanes’ top young prospects ended up with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Albany. However, they shouldn’t be disheartened.

Paul Branecky
Index | Archive
When putting that plan into motion this summer by signing a handful of veteran depth players to fill open roster spots, Jim Rutherford and the rest of the team’s management continuously pointed to the full season that Eric Staal and Cam Ward spent in the AHL as being key to their eventual development into franchise players.

Although the circumstances are a little different now (there was no NHL team for Staal and Ward to make that season due to the lockout), the players who went through that process just four years ago are quick to point its benefits.

I think everybody goes through a learning curve, and I did that spending the year in Lowell,” said Ward of the Canes’ AHL affiliate at that time. “People don’t realize how big of a jump it is from the junior level to the pro level. You’ve got to be able to make those small steps, and I think that having a year under your belt is something that benefits you in the long haul.”

It wasn’t bad for the short haul, either. A year after posting a 1.99 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in the AHL, Ward won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Ward had yet to play in the NHL during his season in Lowell, but Staal had already played a full year at the highest level after making the team mere months after being drafted second overall in 2003. After scoring 98 points in a mere 66 games with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League the year before, he put up just 31 points in 81 games as a 19-year-old with the Hurricanes.


Related Content
Canadian Olympics
Big Step Foward
Cole Reunion
Community Efforts
Photos
Highlights
Seven More Years
Clancy Nomination
“Coming from junior where you’re counted on and you’re the man and the offensive juggernaut, coming to an NHL club you’ve got to try to fit in where you can because sometimes those guys are already there,” said Staal. “For me, it was about building that confidence back. I obviously didn’t have a choice going down there, but we had a pretty good young team and I got to play all situations – penalty kill, power play and the last minutes of games. You build that confidence as a player.”

If that story sounds familiar, it’s because the Canes are hoping that the exact same thing will happen with center prospect Brandon Sutter, who made the Hurricanes as a 19-year-old last season and played 50 games, but will start the 2009-10 campaign in the AHL. As was the case with Staal, Sutter figures to play as much for Albany as he did for his junior team in Red Deer, where he can build the confidence he may not have been able to find in limited minutes with Carolina.

While Sutter is surely disappointed after an excellent training camp where he did everything he was asked to do but was nonetheless reassigned over the weekend, he could also be appreciative of the move as early as next season.

“Looking back now, it definitely helped me,” said Staal of his season in the minors, during which he tallied 77 points in 77 games. “I came back the next year extremely confident and excited. I fit in nicely with everybody and really felt like I was counted on.”

Counted on he was, to the tune of a 100-point season, only an increase of about 70 from his rookie season. For Sutter, Zach Boychuk and the rest of the Canes’ talented stable of youngsters, that year of development could make all the difference.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
K. Versteeg 63 11 22 -6 33
E. Staal 63 10 23 -3 33
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81