Canes general manager Jim Rutherford hasn't come out and fully awarded Jeff Skinner a roster spot for this year, but he has made some strong comments about the team's first-round draft pick.
In an interview last week with the Kitchener (Ont.) Record, Rutherford said this about Skinner, the seventh overall pick of the 2010 draft:
The key word is "probably." But Rutherford, talking Sunday from Traverse City, Mich., didn't hedge or back off on any of his comments about Skinner.
"The roster spot is there for him," Rutherford said. "He has to compete with several other players, but the way he's trained this summer, and with his strength and conditioning work with Gary Roberts, he's very advanced for his age from a strength and conditioning standpoint.
"Everyone knows his skill level. It's a matter of how well he adapts to the tempo of training camp and the games, and it is quite a change from junior hockey. But he's put up a lot of points (in junior) and certainly has a lot of things going for him."
Skinner, who scored 70 goals for the Kitchener Rangers in 84 regular-season and playoff games last year, is competing with the Canes' prospects team in the Traverse City tournament. He did not have a point in the Canes' first two games, a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild and 1-0 win over the New York Rangers.
Rutherford again mentioned that while Skinner was drafted as a center, he could be used on the wing, again comparing him to former Canes standout Jeff O'Neill.
And keep this in mind: Rutherford's comments are similar to those he made before training camp two years ago about Brandon Sutter's chances of gaining a roster spot. Sutter was on the Canes' opening-day roster.