January 20, 2012 9:06 AM
Looking to begin a new chapter in his hockey career, forward Evgenii Dadonov hopes to have found that opportunity in the Carolina Hurricanes organization.
Dadonov, who the Hurricanes acquired along with A.J. Jenks in a Wednesday trade with Florida that saw Checkers leading scorer Jon Matsumoto head the other way, said that he had been looking for a better chance to make it in the NHL than he was getting with the Panthers. The 22-year-old Russian winger had played most of this season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, recording 9 points (5g, 4a) in 20 games.
“The situation was that I had played up and down all year,” said Dadonov, speaking from the airport in Calgary on Thursday night en route to join the Checkers in Abbotsford. “Everyone realized how many forwards Florida had and how many were on one-way (contracts), so my agent talked to them about getting more of a chance to play in the NHL.”
Dadonov, a third-round draft choice of the Panthers in 2007, has played 15 games at that level this season, recording 3 points (2g, 1a) in limited ice time. He played more of a role last season, playing 36 games (8g, 9a) and finishing the season with the Panthers, where he expected to be for the duration of this season.
“All summer I’d been working out like I was going to stay, but for some reason I didn’t show my best hockey in training camp,” he said.
Since then, like many legitimate prospects playing in the minors, including those with the Checkers, he’s found the constant recalls and reassignments difficult, saying that his season to date has likely taken the same up-and-down path.
“Some games I’ve been good and some have been OK,” he said. “It’s hard when you play 20 minutes then go up and play six or seven, then down again to play 20.”
Now with the Checkers, Dadonov said there were no guarantees that he’d avoid a similar fate in his new organization. He understands that he’ll still have to compete with the likes of Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe and Jerome Samson for whatever spots become available up top, but is looking forward for a chance to make a good first impression.
“It’s up to me how I play,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. If I play good, I’ll get more chances to play. I’m playing this weekend with the Checkers, and then we’ll see how it goes.”
Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said that he wasn’t fully familiar with Dadonov at the time of the trade, but will at least have Friday’s morning skate to determine where to fit him in to that night's lineup. Dadonov does figure to start on a scoring line, where he’ll get an immediate chance to show what he’s capable of.
“I know that he’s a highly-skilled player,” said Daniels. “He was looking for a fresh start somewhere and he deserves a look.”
Over the course of the last few seasons, Dadonov has had stretches where he’s made a significant impact at the big-league level. In December of 2010, he recorded 7 points (2g, 5a) in a five-game segment that was among his first in the NHL, helping him make a trip to Raleigh for the NHL All-Star Game as one of the league’s top rookies. He also scored goals in his first two NHL games this season following a November recall from San Antonio, despite averaging around 10 minutes of ice time.
With the possibility of Carolina moving some of its veteran players around the NHL’s trade deadline in February, Dadonov figures to be among those who will get a hard look from Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller as the team begins to plan for next season and beyond. Unlike Matsumoto, whose contract expires at the end of this season, Dadonov’s keeps him in the fold for one more year.
Until that opportunity comes, Dadonov said that his focus would be to do as well as he could for Charlotte, which he recognizes as the all-important first step.
“I’m really looking forward to trying to play for a new team,” he said.