Jeff Skinner was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft. Picked that highly, people had fairly high expectations for the player he might become, but no one could have guessed how quickly he would get there.
He entered the Hurricanes 2010-11 training camp with the chatter being an undersized skill player, Skinner’s development might be best-suited playing another year in Canadian juniors partly because of his size. But he looked reasonably comfortable notching a goal and an assist in four preseason games and at least earned the chance for the nine-game trial before heading back to juniors. In the first nine games, his scoring totals were modest (had only one goal and three assists in first eight games), but Skinner showed the offensive flare that caused him to be drafted so highly. With the chatter still ongoing about whether he should ultimately stay in the NHL, he busted out for two goals and an assist in his ninth and final tryout game. No one knows for sure if that game was the deciding factor, but soon after it was announced that Jeff Skinner would remain with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In his next six games, he scored three goals and had five assists, threw his hat in the ring early for the Calder Trophy race and launched what would become one of the most scintillating individual seasons in Carolina Hurricanes history. Most memorable from his first impression was his crazy ability to score from anywhere on the ice, on any shot and at any time. As an 18-year old rookie, he was arguably the most dynamic goal scorer the team ever had. Sure Jeff O’Neill and Eric Staal scored more and over longer periods. Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams and Eric Cole also had some great seasons. But I am not sure anyone was ever more dynamic than Jeff Skinner.
With his boyish smile, underdog size and propensity for highlight reel goals, Jeff Skinner went from being mostly unheard of to being a Hurricanes and league-wide fan favorite in the span of a couple months. By three months into his rookie year and in time for the 2010 winter holidays, Jeff Skinner jerseys and gear were a gift of choice amongst Canes fans. One month later he was selected for the Young Stars game and then upgraded to become the youngest All-Star in NHL history when injuries opened a couple roster spots. Skinner’s combination of the home venue in Raleigh and his rising star power earned him the nod. Skinner, along with team mates Eric Staal and Cam Ward, were the centerpiece of a tremendous All-Star weekend that took the event to a higher level and united the city of Raleigh around NHL hockey.
As the season wore on, Skinner gained momentum on the ice and with a growing fan base. When the whirlwind season ended, Jeff Skinner had collected 31 goals, 32 assists, an All-Star game appearance, a Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie and superstar status across the entire NHL. When I look back upon individual regular season campaigns over Hurricanes hockey history, this easily rates in the top five to seven seasons ever, and I think you can make a case that it is the single greatest individual regular season when you consider Skinner’s age and the extra accomplishments.
Since his magical rookie season, Jeff Skinner has continued to score goals at a steady pace including many of the dynamic, highlight reel variety. He beat his rookie totals with 33 goals in the 2013-14 season and crossed the 100-goal level at the young age of 22 years old during the 2014-15 season. Currently (as of August 2015) as a 23-year old he has already amassed 115 goals and 101 assists.
His magical rookie season, significant accomplishments for such a young age and promising future make him a young entry amongst the Hurricanes greats and a in position to build toward being a favorite when Canes and Coffee launches its ten-year anniversary summer bracket event.