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Victor Rask’s return gives huge boost to the Calgary Hitmen

Victor Rask (WHL.ca)

The Calgary Hitmen received an early Christmas present on Tuesday when the AHL's Charlotte Checkers reassigned Victor Rask to their club.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound centre was sent back to Calgary because the Checkers, the Carolina Hurricanes affiliate, thought it was the best option for his development. He was a healthy scratch three times. He did, however, make his presence known when in the lineup, scoring one goal and four assists in 10 games.

"We're just trying to do what we think is best for Victor," said Checkers head coach Jeff Daniels to Paul Branecky of gocheckers.com. "We want him to be able to get as much ice time as possible in all situations that he might not have gotten here. He needs to be playing at the end of games, taking key faceoffs and being in more of a leadership role."

For Rask, 19, being a healthy scratch and playing sparingly in the AHL could have been detrimental to his overall confidence. It is the safer bet to have him see major minutes in the Western Hockey League. This is the smart decision for Rask's development.

Heading back to major junior will also give Rask the opportunity to head to the world junior championship with defending gold medallist Sweden. He won gold last year in Calgary, posting one assist in six games.

Rask's return has Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio smiling from ear to ear. Here is his reaction to the news from Scott Fisher of the Calgary Sun.

Kelly Kisio just added the best player available to his roster — and it didn't cost him a thing.

The Calgary Hitmen GM was all smiles Tuesday after learning Swedish star Victor Rask was being returned to the club by the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL-affiliate of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.

"He was a key part of our team last year," Kisio said. "And you saw in the playoffs, we struggled when he was out.

"And I think we've definitely missed him up to now."

Even without Rask, a second-round pick of the Hurricanes, the Hitmen sit tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings for first-place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division. They have a 13-5-1-2 record (29 points).

Rask gives the Hitmen a lot of strength down the middle with overager Cody Sylvester, who has 26 points in 20 games, 19-year-old Brady Brassart, who has 18 points in 14 games, and 2013 draft prospect Greg Chase, who has 15 points in 20 games.

Last year the Hitmen got their feet wet in the playoffs, but lost to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games in the first round. It was a learning experience for a young team.

This year, it appears Calgary is a contender. With their strong depth and talent up front and Ottawa Senators prospect Chris Driedger between the pipes, they have what it takes to make some noise in the playoffs.

It will be far from easy for the Hitmen to make it to the Ed Chynoweth Cup, though. The Oil Kings and Prince Albert Raiders will be tough competition down the stretch.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen

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