Victor Rask’s return gives huge boost to the Calgary Hitmen

Kelly Friesen

The Calgary Hitmen just received an early Christmas present. The Carolina Hurricanes' AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, reassigned 6-foot-1, 200-pound centre Victor Rask to their club.

Rask was sent back to Calgary because the Checkers thought it was the best option for his development. He was a healthy scratch three times. He did, however, make his presence known on the score sheet when in the lineup, notching one goal and four apples in 10 games.

"We're just trying to do what we think is best for Victor," said Checkers head coach Jeff Daniels to Paul Branecky of gocheckers.com. "We want him to be able to get as much ice time as possible in all situations that he might not have gotten here. He needs to be playing at the end of games, taking key faceoffs and being in more of a leadership role."

At the age of 19, Rask's confidence is in a vulnerable stage. Being a healthy scratch and playing sparingly in the AHL could have been detrimental to his long-term confidence. It is the safer bet to have him munch up major minutes in the Western Hockey League. This is the smart decision for Rask's development.

Heading back to major junior will give Rask an opportunity to capture back-to-back gold medals with Sweden. He won gold last year in Alberta, posting one assist in six contests.

Rask's return has Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio smiling from ear to ear. Here is his reaction to the news from Scott Fisher of the Calgary Sun.

Kelly Kisio just added the best player available to his roster — and it didn't cost him a thing.

The Calgary Hitmen GM was all smiles Tuesday after learning Swedish star Victor Rask was being returned to the club by the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL-affiliate of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.

"He was a key part of our team last year," Kisio said. "And you saw in the playoffs, we struggled when he was out.

"And I think we've definitely missed him up to now."

Despite being without Rask, who is a Hurricanes' second-round pick, thus far this season, the Hitmen sit tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings for first-place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division. They have a 13-5-1-2 record (29 points).

Rask gives the Hitmen uncanny strength down the middle. Calgary has overager Cody Sylvester, who has 26 points in 20 games, 19-year-old Brady Brassart, who has 18 points in 14 games, and 2013 draft prospect Greg Chase, who has 15 points in 20 games, at centre.

Last year the Hitmen got their feet wet in the second season by losing to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games in the first round. It was a learning experience for a young team.

It appears this year Calgary is a contender. With their strong depth and talent up front and Ottawa Senators prospect Chris Driedger between the pipes, they have what it takes to make some noise in the playoffs.

It will be far from easy for the Hitmen to make it to the Ed Chynoweth Cup, though. The Oil Kings and Prince Albert Raiders will be tough competition down the stretch.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen