In the 2011 NHL Draft, Victor Rask was touted as one of the most talented prospects to be taken outside of the first round and a possible steal for the Hurricanes with the 42nd overall pick. Rask has a lot of raw talent and offensive skill that would find him a home in the top-six of any organization but he is also regarded as one of the most "enigmatic players" of this draft class, as well. The scouts never denied his talent but they had questions about his compete level and have said that Rask has more chance of being a bust than other prospects. I'm not sure if these are legitimate concerns or just European bias, but I'm sure that Rask's stock and expectations have increased a lot after the year he had with the Calgary Hitmen.
Rask made his North American debut this season playing with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL and it was a huge success. He had 63 points in 64 games and ranked second on the team in goals with 36. This is no easy feat since this was his first year playing hockey in North America and he was only 18 years old for most of the year. Rask also took helped Team Sweden take home the gold medal in the IIHF World Junior Hockey tournament last January, so he definitely got to showcase his talents to a wider audience in a lot of ways last season.
Rask's goal-scoring and play-making skills make him a very dangerous player and in addition to that, he is very effective as a physical presence. Rask is pretty big and knows how to use his impressive size to advantage and it's helped him become a solid power forward at the junior level. It isn't easy to knock him off the puck and he also has an advantage over opponents when it comes to winning puck battles and playing along the boards. Rask's ceiling is tough to figure out because he has a lot of offensive upside and he clearly showed that with the Hitmen this season but he has a lot of limitations, the biggest of which being his skating. It's difficult to succeed as an offensive force in the NHL if you are a poor skater and that is one thing that could hold back Rask this season.
Fortunately, skating is a skill that can be taught and can also improve over time, so it shouldn't halt Rask's development that much. He excels in so many other areas that he should be able to correct this problem within the next couple of years. However, this is something that the Hurricanes coaching staff should keep an eye on in training camp this year. Rask is pretty far off from being ready for the NHL but there is a possibility of him making the Charlotte Checkers as early as this season. He already has an entry-level deal signed, so he can play for the Checkers if the team feels that he is ready but another year in juniors won't hurt him either and the team won't have to burn a year of his ELC.
So, where should Rask play next season? Ultimaitely, I don't think it matters too much because he has holes in his game and he can work on them in either the WHL or the AHL. It all depends on what the coaching staff thinks of him and whether or not he outperforms the rest of the Charlotte centers in training camp. The Checkers could lose some talent to the NHL so that may open the door for Rask but I can't help but feel that it's a little too premature to have him in the pros next season. He still has things he needs to work on in juniors but if he is one of the four best centers in Charlotte in training camp then I could easily see him spending the year there. My opinion is that he might be better off facing junior competition next season and it's probably better for his development if he plays another year in Calgary. It could be awhile before Carolina knows what they have in Rask but the future is bright for him, regardless.