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Can Zac Dalpe have a Jeff Skinner-like breakout for Carolina?

Sep 27, 2011, 1:45 PM EST

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Zac Dalpe Getty Images

Last season, the Carolina Hurricanes had a phenomenal breakout rookie season from 18 year-old Jeff Skinner. Skinner went from the 2010 NHL Draft to being the Calder Trophy winner at the end of the season thanks to putting up 31 goals and 32 assists finishing just behind Eric Staal on the team in points. Without Skinner, the Hurricanes could’ve been one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Instead they were a threat to make the playoffs, just missing out in the end.

The Canes head into this season having Staal and Skinner being known factors, but they very well might have a new, young breakout candidate in their midst in the form of 21 year-old Zac Dalpe. Dalpe is entering his second NHL season and while he got a small taste of the action last year playing in 15 games, he’s opening a lot of eyes in training camp. After having an impressive season in the AHL that saw him score 23 goals and add 34 assists, he’s gunning to stick with the Hurricanes full time this year.

Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer gets Dalpe’s thoughts about getting a shot in the preseason playing alongside Eric Staal and Alexei Ponikarovsky on the first line.

“They like to play north-south and that’s my game too,” Dalpe said of Staal and Ponikarovsky. “Hopefully we’ll complement each other well and hopefully I’ll get a couple more games with them and get more comfortable.

“But you don’t want to get too comfortable and start trying to make plays that are out of your element just because you’re playing with them. Obviously I got put there for a reason so I’m just going to keep doing that I’ve been doing, finding the big guy in the slot and hopefully it all works out.”

Getting Dalpe work on that line allows Jeff Skinner to work with Tuomo Ruutu on the second line and if Dalpe can continue to show his skills off, he could help the Hurricanes forget about losing Erik Cole to free agency this summer. Without Cole around, that’s 26 goals and 52 points gone from last year that they’ll need to find a way to replace. Dalpe has been in competition with Jiri Tlusty during training camp to see who can get the bigger minutes with the big time players, but it’s been Dalpe whose seemingly taken advantage of the opportunity so far.

If Dalpe can bring the sort of game he showed in the AHL with Charlotte last season and take the lessons learned from his cup of coffee with the Hurricanes, he could be poised for a big season, especially if he sticks on a line with Staal. Ponikarovsky isn’t the scoring forward he was while with Toronto so Staal is going to need someone to help him out. Dalpe could just be that guy.

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