Canes' Staal just superb

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- When Eric Staal sits down at his locker in the Carolina Hurricanes dressing room, it's no coincidence that the man to his right is wearing the captain's C.

Though Staal has played a mere 93 NHL games, it's not hard to figure that only time stands between now and the day the Hurricanes announce he is their captain. For the Hurricanes, there is no better role model than Rod Brind'Amour.

But Brind'Amour has been as impressed with Staal off the ice as he has been during games.

"Even from Day 1, when he came here even as a little kid a couple of years ago, he was still mature," Brind'Amour said. "He is humble and to me that is the most important thing. He's a classy kid and that's what is going to help him down the line as he continues to get more attention.

"I'm sure he could be a great (captain) at some point, but right now don't even throw that in his face. Give him some time."

GOOD INFLUENCE

Coach Peter Laviolette likes the influence Brind'Amour has on Staal.

"Any young person should cling themselves at the hip to Rod Brind'Amour to find out about the professionalism that goes on, how to prepare, how to train, what to say, what to do," Laviolette said. "He has been an outstanding captain by all of those means."

Whether Staal's superb start leads to a spot on the Canadian Olympic team has become a hot topic. In a twist, Laviolette will coach the U.S. side and realizes the better Staal plays for him with Carolina the better the chance Staal will have of suiting up for Canada, one of the Americans' foes.

You can bet Leafs coach Pat Quinn will keep a close eye -- not that he will have much choice -- on Staal in the weeks leading up to the announcement of Team Canada on Dec. 21. Quinn will be back behind Canada's bench.

"Everything you hear about this young man, it is all good, as an individual and a leader at a young age," Quinn said. "He certainly will be a guy our scouts are going to be paying attention to."


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