August 19, 2011
When Gabriel Landeskog was in the spotlight last season before going No. 2 overall to the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL draft, many speculated that he might inspire a wave of highly touted Swedish players coming to the Canadian Hockey League.
While there wasn't a huge run on Swedes in the CHL import draft (nine were chosen in Round 1, three more than in 2010), it is worth noting that two of the gold-and-blue boys who slipped to the NHL's second round could be in major junior. The Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting last month signed left wing Ludvig Rensfeldt, the Chicago Blackhawks high second-round choice. Now it appears Victor Rask, the centre who was touted early on as a possible first-rounder but went to the Carolina Hurricanes at 42nd overall, could find his way to the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. Calgary chose Rask (pictured) with the third pick in the import draft.
Rask's NHL organization, as Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told Chip Alexander, wants him somewhere in North America where he "will play a lot."
Rutherford said today he was hopeful Rask would play in North America this season — either with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL), Checkers (AHL) or possibly even the Canes if Rask has strong enough showings in the Traverse City (Mich) rookie tournament and then Carolina's preseason training camp.
"Our understanding is he will play in North America and that he wants to," Rutherford said. "It's very important to get him to a place where he plays a lot of minutes. We'd like to see him somewhere playing more than 20 minutes a game."
Gaining a roster spot with the Canes is probably a stretch. As Rutherford put it, "That's probably pushing it too quick." (Raleigh News-Observer)
There are some loose ends that have to play out before Rask would end up with the Hitmen, who can probably use a quick fix for their offence after finishing dead last in the WHL last season during the first year of GM Kelly Kisio's rebuilding phase. As outlined above, this hinges on Rask first coming to North America, then showing Carolina where he should be playing for his age-18 season. That being said, one can see the storyline with Swedish draft choices taken after the first round scurrying to play in North America. NHL teams probably don't have much to worry about if first-rounders stay home for a year, but anyone else has a little more to prove before they're fully a prospect and not so suspect.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Getty Images).