Despite his regular place among the top scorers on the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliates in Albany and then Charlotte, he wasn’t considered to be in the upper echelon of forward prospects in the same way as players like Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe. It took three training camps before he even had the opportunity to play in an NHL exhibition game, never mind regular season.
Thanks to continued success at the AHL level, he’s now starting to get chances to impress. At Sunday’s red-white scrimmage at Hurricanes training camp, he spent considerable time filling in for Jiri Tlusty on the projected top line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin and did not seem out of place.
“There’s so much opportunity and fairness to camp, those who work the hardest are going to take those spots,” said Terry, who has 230 points in 305 AHL games over the last four seasons. “I want to show that I can play alongside those players.”
A part of the red team that took the 3-1 victory, Terry had a quality assist on a goal by Semin, patiently outwaiting the sprawling challenge of a defenseman before dishing a pass across the crease for a shot that bested No. 1 goalie Cam Ward. Another would-be assist to Ron Hainsey came just seconds after the buzzer to end the second period and did not count, and Ward had stymied him earlier on a nifty move that would have finished a nice play involving Victor Rask.
Along with Bowman, who also spent some time on that top line, Carolina coach Kirk Muller listed Terry as one of his standouts from the game.
“Some guys are keeping the merit of where they belong, but other guys are going to make it really hard for us,” said Muller. “The depth of our organization right now is the fun thing. Guys are going to push for those few open spots, and that’s what we're hoping for.”
Terry and Bowman weren’t alone in terms of recent Checkers making an impact, as Dalpe also scored and Boychuk, who netted two goals in the previous day’s less-formal scrimmage, had an impressive effort disallowed as he batted his own breakaway rebound into the net with a high stick. After giving up a three-on-one goal to Staal shortly after relieving Ward, goalie Mike Murphy also looked to be getting back to his old self, particularly when he stopped Staal on a breakaway and made a sliding, stacked-pad save on Justin Shugg.
Many who played well on Sunday have been in that position before. Having not received an invite to last season’s more exclusive, mid-season training camp caused by the NHL’s lockout and shortened season, this is easily the closest Terry has ever been. At the very least, he seems to have broken through to that small group of players that will get long and serious looks for NHL jobs, either right off the bat or as a top option when help is needed throughout the season.
Compared to some of his teammates, it’s been a long process to get to that point. Thanks in part to his first taste of NHL action last season, when he scored the eventual game-winning goal in his big-league debut in March, he seems comfortable being a member of the top tier of roster hopefuls.
“It’s big,” said Terry of making that NHL breakthrough last season. “It gives you that hope and faith that what you’re doing in Charlotte is being watched every day. It gives you more confidence and a little swagger coming into camp.”