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Tracking the Storm

Canes, Prospects Getting to Know Each Other

Saturday, 07.10.2010 / 2:58 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Canes, Prospects Getting to Know Each Other
As the Hurricanes’ rookie conditioning camp draws to a close today, the team’s coaches and management can leave with a little more familiarity about the young players who have only recently joined the organization.

Click here for photos from camp

Paul Branecky
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Evaluators are careful not to put too much stock in the on-ice portions of the camp, which come after long, grueling periods of off-ice training. If the legs seem a little heavy at the end of the day, particularly towards the conclusion of the four-day event, no one will find fault in that.

Still, certain things tend to stand out. With his shot and nifty moves around the net, 2010 first-round pick Jeff Skinner comes as advertised. What observers may not have known is that he isn’t afraid to answer or initiate physical contact despite not being the biggest guy on the ice, or that he genuinely seems to love the game, often wearing a big smile during drills and making an effort to keep his teammates loose.

”We’ve got a great bunch of guys here that are all working hard,” said Skinner. “When you go through something like this that’s so tough and demanding physically and mentally, it’s good to try to have a bit of a laugh and keep it fun.”

Then there’s the monster size of Jared Staal, who one can’t help but imagine being a “mini-me” version of older brother Eric, but in reality seems to be the larger of the two despite their similar official listings (Note: Jared's official listing has since been updated to 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, making him the same height and five pounds heavier than Eric). There’s the scoring touch of Justin Shugg, who prides himself on his defense but has a shot every bit as good as Skinner’s, having netted 39 goals in junior last season.

While all of that only serves to reinforce the Canes’ reasoning for bringing these players into the fold in the first place, the real value of the camp is the conditioning aspect.

“When this camp started around 12 years ago, it was strictly off-ice,” said Jason Karmanos, the team’s assistant general manager. “We started doing it as a way of teaching younger players how to work out, because there were so many examples of kids coming right into training camp and having their eyes opened.”

Other teams have similar events with their recently-drafted prospects, but few are as physically rigorous as Carolina’s. Staal and Riley Nash confirm that, having participated in rookie camps with Phoenix and Edmonton, respectively, prior to joining the Hurricanes. Nash estimates spending around four hours on the ice per day during his two camps with the Oilers, while the Canes prefer to spend that time in the gym.

None of this is to suggest that every one of the incoming players is clueless in the weight room.  For example, defenseman Danny Biega, who blew scouts away with his fitness at the combine in May, carried that over to this week. In addition to nearly breaking the apparatus used to test grip strength, he wowed Strength and Conditioning Coach Pete Friesen in every exercise designed to gauge leg power, drawing comparisons to the most fit athletes he’s seen at the NHL level.

There’s also the benefit of getting to know a player like Tommi Kivisto, who is the first unsigned European-based prospect that anyone in the organization can remember coming to the camp. The defenseman will return to Jokerit of the Finnish league next season, after which time the Hurricanes will need to make a decision about whether to sign him or let him re-enter the draft. The same call will need to be made with winger Mattias Lindstrom, who is reportedly healthy after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury but was unable to attend this week’s camp due to scheduling conflicts with his Swedish club team.

Karmanos estimates that a handful of this year’s camp participants will be back at the team’s full training camp in the fall, with the exception of Kivisto and the college-committed players in Biega, Nash (unless he chooses to sign with the Canes and forego his senior season at Cornell) and Justin Faulk. Some, including Skinner, will also represent the Hurricanes at the Traverse City prospects tournament in September.

When they do so, they’ll be armed with a better understanding of what it will take to be successful and a higher comfort level with their new organization.

“It’s definitely been a new experience and really challenging, but that’s what we’re here to do,” said Skinner. “We’re learning as much as we can about taking that next step.”




1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48


E. Staal 69 21 28 -11 49
J. Faulk 74 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 73 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 69 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 72 11 20 -11 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 70 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 74 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 46 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 38 4 16 -7 20
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62