It’s that time of year again, folks. Well, sort of. It’s time for way too early draft coverage from Calm Before the Storm! If you read these articles last season, you can probably skip this paragraph! If you haven’t, then welcome! As the season progresses, I’ll go more in depth. To start, I’ll just talk about what the Canes might be lacking, and give some players to look out for. During the first part of the season, I’ll just have the first three rounds of the draft! After December, I’ll add another round each month. So January will have four, February will have five, and so on. In late May or early June, I’ll do a big article, complete with a mock draft or two, and an in-depth look at some possible draft picks. As always, don’t expect these players to stay where they are ranked currently. No draft list is perfect, and there will be discrepancies between some of the rankings. Also, there’s a good chance that the Canes don’t use all of their picks that they have. They currently have seven picks, (no fifth, VGK’s seventh) and I fully expect at least one or two picks to move before the season is over. For this article, I’ll be using Future Considerations, The Draft Analyst, and Recrutes’ mock draft. Their rankings vary, and it’s good to pick from many sources. Alright, now that I’ve explained myself, let’s get started!
The Canes seem to be in good shape with talent in the system. A lot of players have performed really well this season, and last year’s first round pick, Martin Necas, has shown us more than we had expected. So what types of players do the Canes need? As of right now, they sit at pick number 15, give or take. The Canes don’t have a huge glaring need other than a scoring forward, but adding a power forward that can shoot might be a good idea as well.
Ty Dellandrea – Definitely a player the Canes could take a chance on. He’s a 6’0 center that’s a bit lanky, but has time to fill out. Future Considerations likes his skill and grit level, which is definitely a combination that this franchise values. Dellandrea might be a top six center in the NHL someday, but the Canes would also be able to play him on the right wing. Dellandrea is unfortunately on one of the OHL’s worst teams, so this may cause his draft stock to falter slightly. He’s definitely a bit of a stretch for the Canes.
Season Stats: 19 GP, 6G, 6A, 8 PIM, -4
Rankings: Future Considerations (27), The Draft Analyst (13), Recrutes (NR)
Rasmus Kupari – Another Finnish forward up for grabs, but will Francis draft one before the second round? Rasmus Kupari has loads of skill, but one of the bigger questions is his size. Kupari is 5’11 and only 163 pounds, so this may be an issue. Still, Kupari is a tantalizing forward prospect. He’s another natural center, and people are calling him a mix between Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho. Two excellent comparisons. He’s split time between Karpat’s U20 team and the men’s team, but he’s done well in both leagues. Kupari has good hands, speed, and hockey sense. He’s your typical Finnish forward with loads of talent, but he’s still a year or two away. The Canes won’t need him to be ready anytime soon, so why not take a shot?
Season Stats: (U20) 9 GP, 3G, 3A, 12PIM, +6 (Karpat) 17 GP, 3G, 1A
Rankings: Future Considerations (13), The Draft Analyst (15), Recrutes (19)
Evan Bouchard – Time for the fan base to freak out! Yes, I’m putting a defenseman as a possible option for the Canes in the first round. This is a defense-heavy draft, and the Canes will definitely be looking at options. Bouchard is a 6’2 RHD that needs to add a bit of muscle before transitioning to the NHL. He’s got a lot of skill for a defenseman in the OHL, but his physical game is a little weak. Still, Bouchard can man the point on the powerplay and kill penalties. He’s defensively responsible, and a decent threat offensively, but he’s just not as exciting as some of the other defensemen in this draft. He’s worth a shot, however. A big two way defenseman is a hot commodity in the league, and Bouchard could be a good pick.
Season Stats: 18GP, 4G, 15A, 10 PIM, +1
Rankings: Future Considerations (16), The Draft Analyst (23), Recrutes (24)
Ryan McLeod – To finish up the first round, we have the younger brother of New Jersey Devils prospect, Michael McLeod. Ryan is a talented center with good two way skills. He seems to be in the power forward archetype. He’s tall, strong, and has a good enough shot where he can likely put up 20+ goals in a season. He’s definitely a more gifted passer, though. McLeod would be a bit of a gamble for the Canes, however. Do they really need a power forward, or should they go for a scorer? I’m not sure if he’s the right fit, but he’s definitely a player I’d keep an eye on in the future.
Season Stats: 19GP, 7G, 16A, 4PIM, +1
Rankings: Future Considerations (14), The Draft Analyst (16), Recrutes (11)
So What are the Options?
There aren’t many proven scorers around the area where the Canes would pick. McLeod is a good player, but the Canes already have plenty of forwards with grit in the system. Dellandrea seems like a bit of a high risk high reward kind of player, and picking him would be a bit of a stretch for the Canes. My pick would be Rasmus Kupari. From what I’ve read/seen, he looks like another Sebastian Aho. He’ll be a solid player for any NHL team, and he could develop into a scorer for some teams in the near future. Evan Bouchard would be a nice pick as well, but only if the Canes trade a defenseman. That likely won’t happen, so we’ll go with Kupari here.
If the Canes are in the playoff race around the trade deadline, this pick will likely be in the hands of another team. For now, let’s assume that they use this. This pick will be 46th overall, and there are quite a few options. The second round might not be a bad time to draft another Finn or a player that’s a bit of a project. The Canes likely draft a defenseman later on in the draft, but once again, there are some great defensemen available.
Jacob Ingham – Hear me out. I know that the Canes have a pretty crowded goalie pipeline, but Ingham might be a really good asset to have. He’s pretty tall, 6’3, and he seems to be pretty positionally sound. Future Considerations really likes his glove side, which is something that will catch the attention of Canes fans. He might be a valuable goalie when the Canes eventually have to get rid of one. His numbers aren’t fantastic this season, so he might fall quite a bit.
Season Stats: 13 GP, .882 Sv%
Rankings: The Draft Analyst (65), Future Considerations (48)
Kirill Nizhnikov – A left-handed right winger with a good combination of size and speed. Seriously, the kid has some tremendous speed. He’s a pure goal scorer, similar to 2017 pick Jason Robertson, but will really need to improve on defense. He seems to have Gauthier-like tendencies away from the puck. He’ll coast and lose track of his man, allowing for a good chance. His size allows for him to get open, and the Canes definitely need a goal scorer. His numbers may be a little unimpressive, but it may be because Barrie has a lot of talent on their roster this season. I can see him turning into a quicker Zykov in the future, and hopefully he’ll have a higher NHL upside.
Season Stats: 18GP, 3G, 7A, 9PIM, +4
Rankings: Future Considerations (50), The Draft Analyst (50)
Dominik Bokk – He’s pretty tiny, 5’11 and 154 pounds, but he has the potential to be a really good forward. He may be slept on because of his size, but look at what Aleksi Heponiemi is doing this season. He looks to be a quick RW that has a high offensive ceiling in the NHL someday. The biggest criticism of his is his size, and it may cause him to fall deeper into the draft than he should. He has 5 games played in the Swedish men’s league this season, but he’s tearing up the U20 league.
Season Stats: 5GP, 1G, +1
Rankings: The Draft Analyst (46), Future Considerations (81) Hockey Prospect (27)
I’d go with Nizhnikov here. He’s got a lot of skill, especially when it comes to scoring goals. The Canes don’t really have a whole lot of those guys in their pipeline, so adding a goal scorer would be really great. Nizhnikov wouldn’t be AHL eligible until he turns 20, so he’d likely take three or four years to make it to the NHL. Still, with some conditioning and work defensively, he could be a really solid scoring option on the right wing.
Now what? At this point, the Canes will likely have selected two forwards. Here is where they should draft a defenseman, assuming that they haven’t traded their third round pick in 2018.
Owen Lalonde – The former second overall pick in the OHL Draft hasn’t panned out as well as people would have liked him to, but it could be because he’s been on some bad teams. He played on Sudbury last season, which was one of the worst teams in the OHL. This season, he’s playing for the Guelph Storm, the sixth place team in the OHL’s western conference. Lalonde is a right shot that has some good size to him, he’ll just need to bulk up a good bit before he’s ready. He plays a more defensive game, and he’s not a threat in the offensive zone. Lalonde might fall, especially if he continues to have a mediocre season.
Season Stats: 21GP, 0G, 3A, 8PIM, -7
Rankings: Future Considerations (70), The Draft Analyst (88)
Adam Ginning – A Swedish defenseman that combines size and strength to be effective. He’s 6’3, 190+ pounds, and he will add more muscle with time. Has spent most of his time in the men’s league this season, which is encouraging. Had great Hlinka and U18 tournaments, and he showed some offensive capabilities there. Could be ready for the NHL much sooner, and he could be a sleeper pick. I’ll use the rankings from some other sites for this guy, just to show you how uncertain some people are about him.
Season Stats: U20 – 3 GP, 1G, 8PIM, +4 SHL – 4PIM, -4
Rankings: Future Considerations (94), The Draft Analyst (78), ISS Hockey (29), McKeen’s (27)
Johnny Gruden – An American Born LW that has good speed and decent two way abilities. Has produced with the U18 team this season, but has yet to play in any international tournaments for the USA. Gruden is a Miami (Ohio) commit, and he should see some decent ice time there. He’s a solid option if the Canes want to take a LW that might be a little bit of a project. After all, they don’t need him to be AHL ready for a long time.
Season Stats: 16GP, 7G, 5A, 12PIM
Rankings: The Draft Analyst (75), Future Considerations (73)
The Canes have a few options here. They’ll likely draft a defenseman, and I’m thinking that they draft a guy like Adam Ginning. Still, the draft is quite a ways away, and we don’t really know who will be taken when. Noah Carroll was projected to go in the third round in November of 2015, but fell to the Canes in the sixth round in June 2016. Artyom Minulin was a projected third round pick last year, but he went undrafted. There’s really no telling who will get drafted after the first two rounds. Still, I hope that this gave you some insight into some players that are eligible for the 2018 draft. We’ll be back with this in January or February, depending on when rankings get updated.