The shuttle of forwards from the Charlotte Checkers to the Carolina Hurricanes landed Sergey Tolchinsky in Raleigh for his NHL debut.
“Pretty exciting,” Tolchinsky said Thursday morning. “A dream come true.”
Tolchinsky made the most of it, assisting on Justin Faulk’s second-period goal in the Canes’ 4-3 victory. He proudly held up a puck commemorating his first NHL point in the Canes’ room after the game.
“It’s great, an unbelievable feeling,” the Russian forward said of his first game. “I think things went really good for my first game.
“I was nervous at first and wanted to make sure I didn’t turn the puck over. But I’m happy with how I played. I didn’t make any huge mistakes.”
Undrafted in 2013, when he attended the NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, Tolchinsky was invited to the Rangers’ rookie camp. They passed on him and Tolchinsky came to the Canes’ rookie development camp, impressing management with his offensive flair and penchant for finding the net.
Tolchinsky signed a three-year entry level contract with Carolina in August 2013, then headed to Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL for another two seasons of junior hockey. At the 2015 World Junior Championship, the Moscow native helped oust the U.S. team — with Canes defenseman Noah Hanifin — as the Russians took the silver, losing to Canada in the final.
But Tolchinsky’s first professional season has been a challenge for the 5-foot-8, 170-pound winger. He has 11 goals and 21 assists in 65 games for the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) and didn’t get into a good offensive flow until the past month.
“It was kind of up-and-down,” Tolchinsky said of his start. “It was some rough moments, where I just couldn’t score and didn’t know how to play. After I figured out what I needed to do, it came much easier for me. In the second half of the season I started kind of picking it up and right now it’s going pretty good.”
For Tolchinsky, 21, it was the first time he found it difficult to score. He’s a sniper, but the physicality of the AHL level and better competition made the goals harder to come by.
“I was really disappointed about that,” he said. “The first 20 games I had like five points and I didn’t know what was happening and why it was happening. But coach (Mark Morris) helped me, my teammates helped me figure it out.”
Tolchinsky said he played the past four games with Derek Ryan at center. He was on a line with Ryan and Patrick Brown against the Rangers, had 10:53 of ice time and was plus-1.
“I try to create offense as much as I can, creating plays, making plays,” Tolchinsky said. “I just want to play my game, skate and just try not to be nervous. Just play my game.”