When a tsunami of trade action hit the NHL draft floor last night, trade centerpiece Jordan Staal was the last person in the hockey universe to know.
The Carolina Hurricanes' acquisition of Staal, brother of current team captain Eric Staal, sent shock waves through the first round; the hometown Pittsburgh Penguins fans roared as young two-way center Brandon Sutter, prospect defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 pick, eventually used on rearguard Derrick Pouliot, were sent to Pittsburgh as part of the deal.
Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero was called onto the NBC Sports Network platform for an interview within minutes, and Carolina GM Jim Rutherford received a floor-level questioning moments after Shero finished.
The trade, arguably the most jaw-dropping draft-day deal in decades, spawned hundreds of news articles within the hour, became the No. 1 trending story on Bleacher Report's front-page feature "The Lineup" and sent the hashtag "Staal" rocketing up the Twitter trends leaderboard.
Several hours later, Jordan Staal finished a heartfelt and emotional wedding to his wife, checked his cell phone voicemail and heard a tinny recording of Shero relaying the news.
Not quite the dramatic welcoming to Raleigh many would have expected.
Now, however, Jordan will join brother Eric and, in all likelihood, up-and-coming winger Jiri Tlusty on the Hurricanes' revamped first line. It's a huge promotion for Jordan, who was stuck as a world-class third-line center in Pittsburgh.
As reports Chip Alexander of the News & Observer, Rutherford confirmed that "the two Staals could play on the same line, with Eric Staal shifting from center to wing." Such a move would allow Jordan, one of the best two-way centers in the league, to keep his usual position while still skating alongside Eric.
They'll be joined by Tlusty, 24, who had a breakout campaign in '11-'12 with a career-high 17 goals and 36 points. In the absence of Erik Cole, the winger emerged from the 'Canes' checking line last season as a great chemistry partner for Eric Staal.
Jordan, who looms large at 6'4", 220 lbs., has had his share of injury problems in recent years—various foot and hand injuries kept him out for 40 games in '10-'11 and 20 games in '11-'12—but is an excellent all-around forward at the still-young age of 23.
He's a four-time 20-goal scorer and, through 431 career games, has compiled 120 goals, 248 points and a plus-53 rating. In 62 regular-season appearances last season, Jordan tallied 25 goals and 50 points before racking up six goals and nine points in only a half-dozen playoff games.
Defensively, Jordan also finished second among Penguins players with 39 takeaways and won 51 percent of his 1,158 faceoffs, the second-highest total on the team.
All of those statistics occurred, conversely, when Jordan was averaging only 20 minutes of ice time per game.
With the Hurricanes, his TOI could rise by another two or three minutes a night—if Jordan can stay healthy for an entire 82-game season, that would equate to a roughly 150 percent increase in his total season-long ice time.
Moreover, Jordan could also still have room to grow, as Rutherford noted in a TSN interview last night. At 23, his prime years are still a full four or five seasons off.
Those indicators, combined with the family chemistry he's sure to have with brother Eric, signal that another major production increase could be in store for Jordan upon his arrival in Raleigh.
Last year's 25 goals and 25 assists are solid numbers, but they should pale in comparison with Jordan's 2012-2013 season output.
Prediction: 77 games played, 70 points (37 goals, 33 assists)
Mark Jones is a Bleacher Report featured columnist. In four years with the site, he has written more than 390 articles and received over 525,000 reads.
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