Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

These days, it seems it’s every week that the Carolina Hurricanes are making an under the radar move that could pay off big time down the line. From Mike Komisarek to Anton Khudobin to Nathan Gerbe, general manager Jim Rutherford has put together an off-season that’s held a common theme: little risk, high reward.

But his latest move is perhaps the most intriguing. Development camp standout Sergey Tolchinsky thoroughly impressed Rutherford and fans alike last month, but escaped without a contract. The undrafted forward had already appeared at a New York Rangers’ rookie camp, and had seemingly narrowed his decision down to one of the two clubs.

In the end, it was the Canes who won his services.

Tolchinsky was passed over by all 30 clubs in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft largely due to his small stature–5’8’’, 165lbs on a good day–but turned heads in both New York and Carolina this summer. While all eyes initially might have been on 5th overall pick Elias Lindholm or even blue-chip blueliner Ryan Murphy, it was Tolchinsky that everyone couldn’t stop talking about. He weaved his way through defenders with ease, rarely putting himself in harm’s way.

It’s a skill that he’ll have to further whenever his professional career begins. Jeff Skinner is also a gifted skater, but has taken some heavy hits since his debut. Tolchinsky is smaller than Skinner, and may not be able to stand up to the same punishment that he has taken.

Many of the Hurricanes’ forward prospects share a common trait: gritty, two-way guys but not much scoring prowess.  Tolchinsky is ridiculously talented, immediately becoming one of the more offensively capable players in their system.  His 26 goals ranked 3rd for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and he only figures to improve from there.

Though Tolchinsky went undrafted, it does not mean he was unwanted.  Had the Canes had a 7th round pick in the draft, they may have used it to select him.  It’s not as if they were unfamiliar with him–6th round pick Tyler Ganly plays for the same OHL team as Tolchinsky.  While scouting Ganly, the Canes undoubtedly took notice of the shifty Russian.

Over the years, Rutherford has not been averse to giving diminutive forwards a shot as an undrafted free agent.  Look no further than Chad LaRose, who carved out a pretty healthy career in Raleigh despite being undersized.  If Tolchinsky’s work ethic is half that of LaRose’s, his skill-set could make him a heck of a find.

With six months still to go before he turns 19, there is still room for him to grow–figuratively and literally.  Next up for Tolchinsky is the Traverse City rookie tournament during the first week of September, just prior to the opening of the Hurricanes’ training camp.  First up is a matchup with, ironically, the Rangers’ prospects on the 5th.  Should Tolchinsky continue the impressive summer he’s had, Rangers’ management might be left wondering what might have been.

 

Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7