After an injury postponed the start of his first pro campaign, Spencer Smallman took a big step towards recovery Thursday morning.
A fifth-round pick by Carolina in 2015, Smallman took part in Charlotte’s training camp prior to this season and was then assigned to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. But before he could make his pro debut with Florida, the rookie forward suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him.
Now months later, Smallman was cleared to take the next step in his rehabilitation.
“He had surgery so he hasn’t been on the ice,” said head coach Mike Vellucci. “Today is the first time we’re getting him back skating.”
Smallman emerged from the locker room draped in a yellow no-contact jersey as the team was wrapping up practice. Vellucci invited the forward to lead the team in their stretch, with his teammates cheering him on. Then Smallman took a few spins around the ice with the trainer.
Returning to the ice is a big milestone in the rookie’s road back, but there is still a ways to go.
“He’ll be skating by himself for a week and then he can practice with the team,” said Vellucci. “I think he’s at least a month away.”
Once he is ready to return to game action, a decision will have to be made where to have Smallman begin his season.
“Yeah but we haven’t really decided,” said Vellucci when asked whether the original plan was for Smallman to go back to the ECHL. “We’re going to wait and see what happens. It changes every day. Guys get called up so then maybe we need him here or we send him to Florida to get some games in.”
Regardless of where he ends up, Smallman has the organization excited about his return.
“Great kid, great player, I really like him,” said Vellucci. “He’s a coach’s dream and exactly the kind of player we’re looking for. Someone who’s smart, plays hard and fast, can play on the power play and kill penalties, does a lot of the little things.”