Weight: 192 lbs.
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2011 Draft
Last Year's Ranking: 11
One of the few prospects in the Top 10 who has yet to play in the NHL, Victor Rask figures to be a big part of the Hurricanes long-term future. He was an interesting selection for the Canes in the second round of the 2011 draft because while he did have an impressive skillset, there were questions about his attitude and defensive play which shyed some teams away from him. There was also some questions about whether or not his playing style would translate over to a smaller ice surface. Two years later, those questions appear to be gone as Rask has now played two seasons in North America and his performance and playing on smaller ice hasn't appeared to affect his performance much at all.
A talented play-maker, Rask has the skill to play on any scoring line and brings a decent physical edge to the table, as well. He isn't going to be a player that delivers big hits, but one of his best assets is his ability to win battles along the boards and isn't shy about playing a tight-checking style either. He is also very good at protecting himself and is hard to knock off the puck, which could make him a strong territorial player at the next level. Rask's defensive game is also solid, although that was a problem for him during his younger seasons and he is strong enough to be a good top-nine center in the NHL if all goes right for him.
There are some concerns about Rask's NHL potential, though and the biggest thing is easily his skating. He struggled with this a lot during his time in Europe and while it has improved the last couple of seasons, it is far from his strongest asset. Rask's offensive upside and play-making skills would make him a great fit with a lot of Carolina's younger forwards, but he may struggle to stay in the NHL if his skating issues are anything serious. That being said, this is one thing he has gotten better at over time and he doesn't need to be a speed demon to stay in the NHL if he can make up for it in other areas, especially in his own end of the rink.
If there's anything to be encouraged about with Rask, it is that he has gotten better every season and seemed to really elevate his play since moving to North America. He was third on the Calgary Hitmen in points in his rookie season and was an absolute stud last year. Despite joining the team in January, he was sixth on the team in points and scored at a point-per-game clip in the WHL. Rask was also their best forward in the post-season with 16 points in 17 games and a big reason why the Hitmen went deep into the WHL playoffs. In addition to that, Rask gained some attention on the International stage by being a part of Team Sweden's silver medal hockey team at the IIHF World Juniors this past year. He had a decent showing with 4 points in 6 games in 2nd/3rd line role.
Rask has accomplished plenty at the junior level, so next year is when everyone is going to be expecting him to take that next step to the pros. He got a little taste of that last season by playing 10 games with the Charlotte Checkers, but most figure he should be on their roster full-time this coming year. The Checkers were juggling a lot of players thanks to the NHL lockout and Rask struggled to stay in the lineup because of that, despite his on-ice performance being very solid, and the team ultimately decided that he would be better off getting top line minutes in Calgary. His counting numbers indicate that he took full advantage of that and hopefully he will be able to do similar things in Charlotte next year.
Will playing time be an issue for Rask, though? Personally, I could see him getting top line minutes right off the bat but it will probably depend on how he performs early in the season. The Checkers could lose a few players to the NHL and that includes centers Jeremy Welsh, Riley Nash & Brett Sutter. If one of those three make the Hurricanes out of camp, it opens the door for Rask to play big minutes and all he has to do is take advantage of it. He wasn't getting big minutes or consistent playing time last year and still managed to put up decent numbers, so I would expect him to have a good showing in a bigger role.
Rask is one of those players who scouts seem to love because he has a lot of tools that would make him succeed in the NHL, but he is still untested in the professional rankings and it will likely be a couple of years before he's ready to contribute to the Hurricanes. Still, Rask has built a nice reputation for himself in the junior rankings and has improved a lot over the last couple of seasons. As far as his work ethic is concerned, the fact that he was willing to move to North America and improve the weak points of his game is enough to dispel some old rumors about him. He should be ready to make the jump to the pros and it will be interesting to see how his rookie season goes.