With a new contract signed and a healthy shoulder at last, a refocused Victor Rask arrived in Raleigh on Thursday night eyeing another productive season in 2016-17.
“I think I had a good season last year but I also want to improve and get better for every season. I think this year’s going to be even better,” he said.
The Carolina Hurricanes center underwent shoulder surgery immediately following the 2015-16 season after playing with a brace from January on.
A summer of rehab and rest has worked wonders, however. Rask said his shoulder is back to 100 percent healthy and that he’s “ready to go” for training camp.
Despite not being able to raise his arm during some games and being limited in his ability to take one-time shots, Rask still finished the season well by scoring 20 points in his last 33 appearances, virtually equaling the same points-per-game rate he averaged up until mid-January.
The 23-year-old ultimately improved upon his rookie season by 15 points and ranked second on the Canes in goals (21). His remarkable consistency – in a season in which he made 80 appearances, his longest scoring drought was just four games – made him one of the team’s most reliable weapons and helped establish Rask as a top-six regular beneath fellow center (and locker room neighbor) Jordan Staal.
The breakout season earned Rask, a restricted free agent at the time, a six-year, $24 million new contract in July.
“I wanted long-term and I’m happy that they believe in me,” he said. “I’m just excited for the future and I think we’ve got something really good going on here… It feels like home for me, so it’s very nice to come back here.”
Sans last spring’s distractions and having missed out on another – next month’s World Cup of Hockey, for which Rask said he did not receive interest from his native Sweden – Rask looked focused and cheerful in his first day back in North Carolina on Friday. Ron Hainsey, Brock McGinn and he were the new arrivals at the Canes’ informal skates this week, joining Jaccob Slavin, Cam Ward and Trevor Carrick.
Rask noted that took care of a third item on the offseason to-do list, too: getting a new tooth to replace the one knocked out late in the 2014-15 season.
“I’m trying to use it as much as I can, but it’s kind of annoying sometimes,” he said, his smile showing it had indeed not made the cut for Friday’s skate.