by Nicholas Niedzielski | AHL On The Beat
Chase Priskie’s career at Quinnipiac University was full of highlights, from conference All-Star selections to NCAA tournament berths to a Hobey Baker nomination.
When those four years came to an end, though, a big decision loomed.
The blueliner’s rights belonged to Washington, who selected him late in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, but the Capitals had yet to sign Priskie and the deadline to do so was rapidly approaching, leaving the hockey world to wonder what he would choose.
“Probably a week or two after my season ended I sat down with my agent and my family,” said Priskie. “We decided that [signing with Washington] wasn’t the right fit for myself at the time. And after talking to them I decided I would pursue August 15 and become a free agent.”
Priskie was undoubtedly an intriguing prospect to many across the league, including Charlotte Checkers head coach Ryan Warsofsky, who had a familiarity with the blueliner.
“I watched video on him pretty in depth,” said Warsofsky, who spent four years on the coaching staff of Washington’s ECHL affiliate in South Carolina. “I knew him a little bit when he was getting drafted by Washington and when he was up in development camp there. You knew he had high-end skill. I didn’t make the final call [on Carolina signing him] by any means but I suggested that he would be a really good pro player one day.”
In the end, Priskie made his decision and the Carolina Hurricanes landed themselves a top prospect.
“Looking into teams that had interest in me, I just saw a really great fit with Carolina,” said Priskie.
His choice to come to Carolina was an interesting one on the surface. The Canes boast a strong corps of defensemen at the NHL level and a strong pipeline feeding into it. There were likely other destinations where Priskie could have found himself thrust into the NHL more quickly, but that wasn’t the driving factor behind his decision.
“I think they do a phenomenal job here of developing players, not just defensemen,” said Priskie. “That was a big thing for me. I’ve never tried to rush development, I truly believe that you develop on your own pace. I seem to be kind of a late bloomer as some people call it, I’ve never tried to rush anything. Being able to come here and really learn the pro game and develop and not just be able to play but to learn to dominate and be a great player, that’s what I strive for.”
Having patience with Priskie is something that should ultimately benefit the young blueliner, especially early on as he navigates the transition to this next level.
“It takes some time to get used to the pro game, no matter where you come from or how you sign or anything,” said Warsofsky. “In college you’re playing against guys who are maybe four years older than you, here they can be 10 years older than you. And then getting used to how the game is structured. College is a little more run and gun and heavy forechecks whereas here it’s more structured and the play is quicker. He’s still getting used to it but the sky is the limit for this kid.”
“It’s faster and it’s more structured than it was in college,” said Priskie. “So for me it’s more of making sure I’m in the right place at the right time because every team we play has first or second rounders and really highly skilled players on them. They’ll expose you if you’re out of place. I’m really just trying to learn my game.”
Priskie’s calling card is his offensive flair, as evidenced by the gaudy numbers he put up at Quinnipiac, and looking around at the other blueliners in the Carolina system, the fit is obvious.
“I love how aggressive they allow their defensemen to be, to jump up in the rush and try to create offense,” said Priskie. “Throughout camp I talked a lot with Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin and they showed me a couple things while I was playing, and then just being able to watch them and the way they conduct themselves every day as true pros is something I’m trying to emulate now here as I start my pro career.”
The offensive prowess is there for Priskie, even at the AHL level – he has three assists in his first four pro games – so the focus is now on his overall game.
“The main thing I want to work on is my defensive play,” said Priskie. “If I can be a player that breaks pucks out really well and is sound defensively, it allows me to play my game offensively, which kind of just comes instinctually. I don’t really have to think about that part of the game.”
As an offensively gifted blueliner, Priskie is drawing comparisons to another Checkers defensive prospect in terms of his possible trajectory.
“Something we’ve talked about with him is to jump up if you can, but to read the play a little quicker and understand when you can’t,” said Warsofsky. “He understands that, which is step one. It’s similar to how Jake Bean was last year. They figure it out because they’re smart hockey players and can comprehend things really quickly.”
It wasn’t long ago that Priskie made his highly anticipated decision, but with an apparent strong fit and an eye toward developing the right way, it’s a match made in heaven.
“They’re on the up-and-up and the culture that they’ve built here is fantastic,” said Priskie. “To see it from the inside now, it’s unbelievable how they’ve created that family culture that pushes each other every day. I’m really glad I picked Carolina.”