WINNIPEG - Paul Maurice watched Jeff Skinner like a hawk last season.
The Carolina Hurricanes head coach was waiting, waiting and waiting for the 18-year-old rookie to falter, to hit the metaphorical wall after too many games, too many practices and too many miles.
It never happened, and Skinner ended up being named the NHL’s rookie of the year after scoring 31 goals and adding 32 assists in 81 games.
“You’re always waiting and watching for a sign,” Maurice said.
“His best hockey was played in the last eight games. He handled everything.”
The Skinner situation is what has some Winnipeg Jets fans hoping Mark Scheifele can make the jump to the NHL after only one year in the Ontario Hockey League. Skinner says: Why not?
“He doesn’t seem to be having any (problems) so far,” Skinner said. “I think I’ve met him once in the summer. He’s a big kid who has hands and can skate.
“For him, it’s just keeping an even keel and working hard. It’s a step up in terms of the size and speed of players. He’s definitely handled it pretty well so far, so good for him, I guess.”
Skinner had to overcome several obstacles being such a young player in the NHL, and those hurdles were both on and off the ice.
“On the ice is just the size and the speed of the players,” he said. “The difference between this league and any other league is that any forward line, any player on the ice, can handle the puck and can shoot. They all have the skills.
“So there’s just no room for soft-player errors out there.”
Off the ice, Skinner consulted the team’s veterans to better understand issues like his personal schedule and transportation.
“There’s a lot of new things coming at you,” Skinner said. “You’re in a different situation, and you’re in a totally different country sometimes, a totally different area than where you grew up, and you’re playing with men.
“So just try to be as comfortable as you can.”