Twelve months ago, the only Hurricanes fans who knew the name Jeff Skinner were draft-philes who had only seen him as a name on a webpage or a piece of paper.
Now? He's only the most popular 19-year-old in town after a 30-goal season, an appearance on the All-Star Team, a Calder Trophy nomination, features in just about every major national hockey publication and a smile that was pretty much omnipresent ever since he first put on the Hurricanes' jersey at last June's draft. Not a bad run for a guy ranked 34th overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting before the draft.
#53 / Right Wing / Carolina Hurricanes
May 16, 1992
|2010 - Jeff Skinner||82||31||32||63||3||46||6||0||2||215|
The Good: Well, this section could go on for a bit, no? Skinner set Hurricanes rookie records in goals, assists and points, leading all NHL rookies in points, and his 32 assists tied him with Sylvain Turgeon for the franchise rookie record first set in the 1983-84 season. Thirteen of his 31 goals came in the third period, leading the team, and when Skinner scored a goal the Hurricanes were an amazing 20-4-2. Despite playing all 82 games at only 18 years old, Skinner only went pointless in three or more consecutive games three times, and none of those pointless streaks came after early February.
In January, Skinner was named Rookie of the Month, and that award was only the beginning of a remarkable month for him. Originally named to the Super Skills roster with fellow Hurricanes rookie Jamie McBain, five days before the game Skinner was named an injury replacement for the All-Star Game itself, making him the youngest player to ever participate in the game (beating the record held by Steve Yzerman by 9 days). While Skinner didn't score in the game, despite coming close a couple of times, his popularity went into orbit over the three-day festival; suddenly, instead of the media asking Skinner what it was like to play with Eric Staal, they asked Staal what it was like to play with Skinner.
Skinner became the first 18-year-old to score 30 goals in the NHL since Sidney Crosby in 2006 (when Skinner was 13) and despite Paul Maurice's efforts early in the season to limit Skinner's ice time and keep him away from top defensive pairings, Skinner only played under ten minutes in a game once all season. After the All-Star Break, he never had a game in which he played less than 14 minutes.
The Bad: Really? Seriously?! OK, here: Skinner only scored the first goal of the game once and he didn't have a hat trick all year. Happy now?
The Money: Skinner isn't going anywhere. He just played under the first year of his three-year entry level deal that will pay him $900,000 in base salary plus incentives (most of which he reached this year). Jim Rutherford stated at his press conference yesterday that Skinner is one of the four cornerstones of the franchise, along with Staal, Cam Ward and Brandon Sutter - so, in other words, you can go ahead and buy that #53 jersey. It won't be obsolete anytime soon.