Skinner will stay here

Canes keep young forward

Staff WriterOctober 11, 2010 

— The Carolina Hurricanes returned from Finland with two wins in the books and four points in the standings.

And, it appears, with a decision made on rookie forward Jeff Skinner.

General manager Jim Rutherford indicated Sunday that Skinner, the team's first-round draft pick this year, would remain with the NHL team this season and not be returned to his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

"Unless there's something that we're missing, that we haven't seen, it would safe to say that," Rutherford said before the Canes' practice at the RBC Center. "We made our decision when we signed him. We felt strong about him right from the start."

Skinner, 18, was the seventh overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He has impressed his coaches and teammates with his strength, skating and spunk in training camp and preseason games, an exhibition game in Russia and then the first two games of the regular season in Helsinki, Finland.

"He gets more and more adjusted and more impressive as you watch each game," Rutherford said. "He's made his way onto the team, and he's made an impact already."

Skinner scored the shootout goal that decided the Canes' 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday in the second game of the Compuware NHL Premiere in Helsinki. He also recorded his first NHL point, an assist, on Tuomo Ruutu's goal in the game.

"The way he played in Finland, he was probably our best player on the ice, especially in that second game," Ruutu said Sunday.

The best skater, that is. Goaltender Cam Ward, with his 41 saves and three stops in the shootout, easily was the Canes' best player in the second game.

But Skinner, on a line with Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen, was effective in both Premiere games. He had the Wild's attention.

"He plays like a veteran," Ruutu said. "He's not afraid or shy to try things. That's the way you've got to be, to be one of the best players in the league, and I think he will be in the future. He's got all the tools."

Skinner signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Carolina on Sept. 21. Because of Skinner's age, the Canes can play him in nine games and return him to Kitchener for the season. If he plays more than nine NHL games, the first year of the contract - which would pay him $810,000 - goes into effect.

"He seems to be getting stronger, and he also seems to be figuring out the game, what he can do, pretty quickly," Maurice said.

The Hurricanes will practice twice at the RBC Center before leaving on a five-game road swing that begins with a Thursday game in Ottawa. Forward Sergei Samsonov was at practice Sunday and could be cleared to make the trip.

Samsonov suffered a neck sprain in the Canes' Sept. 25 preseason game in Atlanta. The veteran was placed on injured reserve and did not make the European trip.

"There's a chance he could play Thursday," Maurice said.

Maurice is aware that some NHL teams that have begun seasons in Europe inevitably have paid a steep physical price once back in North America. The Florida Panthers, for example, returned from Helsinki last year and were whipped 7-2 by the Canes.

"Everybody says it's the week or two after you get back," Maurice said. "I don't know if that means a week or two after we get back from this trip coming up or when the clock starts to see the effects of the travel.

"There were a lot of questions we were going to have to answer. Better to do it after two wins than two losses."

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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