By Allan Muir
Jared Staal hasn't made much of an impact this season with the AHL Charlotte Checkers, scoring just four goals and seven points in 52 games. In fact, he probably hasn't done enough to earn a new deal with the Carolina Hurricanes after his three-year entry level contract expires at the end of this season.
But if that's the way it plays out, the organization is giving him a pretty sweet parting gift: a chance to make his NHL debut on Thursday night when the 'Canes host the New York Rangers at PNC Arena.
No word yet on where the 22-year-old winger will slot into the lineup, but there's a good chance he'll see some time with his brothers Eric and Jordan. It's just too bad his other brother, Rangers' defenseman Marc, is still recuperating from an eye injury suffered earlier this season and won't be able to make it a family affair.
The Hurricanes acquired Jared Staal for a fifth-round pick in 2010 from the Coyotes, who'd drafted him 49th overall two years earlier. Despite good size (6'-4", 200) and impeccable genes, he's never been able to make his mark at the pro level, scoring just 18 points in 119 AHL games.
So why did he get the call?
With their own season winding down, the Hurricanes reassigned Tim Wallace and Riley Nash, two high-end AHLers, to Charlotte earlier today ahead of their playoff opener against Oklahoma City on Friday. Needing a body to fill out the NHL roster, and not wanting to hurt the Checkers, Staal made for a logical recall.
At least, that's the practical view. Of course, his older brothers may or may not have put a bug in GM Jim Rutherford's ear to make this opportunity happen. Or maybe this is just a quality move by an organization that saw a chance to make a kid's lifelong dream come true. Let's go with that. Here's hoping his debut is a memorable one.