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November 6, 2010 // 11:29am ET
Jeff Skinner, No Ordinary Rookie
By Bob Wage, TheFourthPeriod.com

Raleigh, N.C. -- Before last summer's draft, two high profile junior players were getting a lot of attention from the main stream press.

Who would be selected No.1: Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?

While much of the pre-draft discussion was about that duo, one high scoring player slipped a bit under the radar.

Kitchener's Jeff Skinner, who scored more goals than either Hall or Seguin in the OHL last season, was not getting much attention from the major scouting services or from the hockey media in general.
 

The NHL's Central Scouting Service didn't even have him rated in their top 30. Still, the Carolina Hurricanes scouting staff was very high on him and after his outstanding performance in the OHL playoffs - where he scored 20 goals in 20 games - the Canes were sure that he was their man.

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford described part of the process to me.

"I saw some of the ratings on him and I asked the scouts if they were sure," Rutherford said, "but after watching what he was able to do in the OHL playoffs, we all agreed that he was the player we wanted."

Sure enough, when draft day came, the Hurricanes selected him at seventh-overall and he has yet to disappoint.

One of the knocks against the prospect was his small (5-foot-10) size, but Skinner spent much of the summer training with Gary Roberts and toned up his already, well-fit body. The rookie also learned diet, training, and exercise tips from the fitness guru which have served him well so far this season.

"I learned things like what to eat and what not to eat. It was an eye-opening experience," said Skinner, when asked about his time off-season training.

Perhaps some of the youngster's teammates might be trying the same diet shortly. Not only is he presently leading all NHL rookies in scoring with 10 points, (4 goals and 6 assists in 13 games), he leads the Canes in scoring as well.

Coach Paul Maurice recently placed the 18-year-old on the team's first line, allowing him to play alongside All Star center, Eric Staal. More points should be forthcoming.

Skinner has a great breakaway move that you can not teach. He already has a game winning shootout goal to his credit and recently beat Henrik Lundqvist on a breakaway chance, helping the Hurricanes to a victory over the Rangers in New York. Over the first two weeks of the season, the rookie's best attribute is his tenacity about going to the "dirty" areas of the ice to score.

Maurice was quoted as saying, "he's the first young player I have ever coached who didn't need to be told to drive the net;" a statement speaks volumes about the rookie's game.

While Skinner might have been overlooked by many prior to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, he is certainly starting to get noticed now. Could the Calder Trophy be on his horizon?

Bob Wage covers the Carolina Hurricanes for TheFourthPeriod.com



 
 
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