Off the ice, Jeff Skinner is an average teenager. He’s not tall, nor very big. When he speaks, his voice is more comparable to a middle schooler than a professional athlete. He enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, and isn’t afraid to admit it.
Generally speaking, there is nothing that separates Skinner from any other adolescent boy.
That is, until, he laces up his skates.
Once Skinner hits the ice, he is anything but average.
While typical hockey fans his age spend their free time playing the new NHL video game, Skinner is playing center for the Carolina Hurricanes. Coming into the National Hockey League as an 18-year-old rookie, the Markham, Ontario native has exceeded expectations in every way, and has been one of the ‘Canes most valuable players so far this year.
Through 14 games, Skinner has put up five goals, seven assists, an even plus/minus rating, and only two penalty minutes. While statistics fluctuate throughout the season, the 2010 first round pick is on pace to register 70 points over the course of the regular season. Not bad for the youngest player in the league.
One of Skinner’s biggest fans thus far has been the man standing behind Carolina’s bench. Head coach Paul Maurice has been so impressed with Skinner, he moved the young forward to the Hurricane’s top line.
“The only thing that tells you he is eighteen is the fact that he doesn’t have to shave,” Maurice said. “He’s a really gifted player and it’s his compete level that’s the difference.”
While adjusting to life in the NHL is a difficult task for a rookie, Skinner has received a lot of help and praise from his teammates.
“These guys in this locker room have helped me learn what it takes to play at this level,” Skinner said at the beginning of the season. “There’s been a learning curve, but my teammates make the whole process a lot easier.”
“He’s a really good kid,” said linemate Chad LaRose. “I look for stuff to pick on him about, and I can’t really find anything. He’s a great player and has a lot of potential to be a great, great player.”
Aside from his offensive prowess, Skinner has proven that he is capable of being a complete player in the NHL. He skates hard every shift, backchecks with assertiveness, and plays an overall responsible game.
“He stays on pucks and fights down low, and he’s the opposite of a perimeter guy,” Maurice said. “He’s in the dirt all the time.”
Skinner’s even plus/minus rating is indicative of his high hockey I.Q. and ability to compete on both ends of the ice. Neither the pace of the NHL nor the intellectual challenge of playing against the biggest, fastest, and smartest players in the league has slowed him down.
While fellow 18-year-olds continue to go to school, play video games, and live the normal teenage life, Skinner will continue to do what he does best: play hockey. And if the first 14 games of this young man’s career is any indication, he will be playing this game for a long, long time.