Looking Ahead to the Draft: February/March

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We’re three months away from the draft, and this is usually when a lot of fans start looking for potential draft picks to fawn over. For the third year in a row, my shift has focused towards the draft. This is the second year that I will be doing articles like this, however. If you’re new to these, here’s a rundown. For the next three months, we will be discussing the 2018 NHL draft, with player profiles and a small mock draft for the Canes at the end. The deadline has come and gone, and the Canes have the same picks that they had before the trade deadline. They did not trade anyone of consequence, but it’s probably for the best. Since it’s a deeper draft, the Canes can get a lot of value with their picks by either drafting some players or trading some of them. Their prospect pool is full of players with third line or bottom pairing potential, but not too much top talent. On defense, you have Bean. He’s still a top quality player, and will make an impact in the AHL next season. Luke Martin is a bit of a wild card, because he’s a shutdown guy. He definitely has top four potential, but nothing more than the second pair. I’m not sure if you’d call him a top prospect, but he definitely has potential. At forward, Martin Necas is a great player. He’ll be an NHLer for sure next season, and might even come over once his season in the Czech league is done. Necas will be an impact player in the NHL, so he’s definitely a player that we should keep our eyes on. Julien Gauthier still has that potential, but he’s the only player in our pipeline that has legitimate top six potential. Our first two picks in this draft will be critical for the Hurricanes’ future.

Sorry for the delay on this one. School has been kicking my butt, so I just decided to add an extra round in there for you all.

First Round

The Canes have a good defensive core that is still very young. We have a couple good pieces in the pipeline that have potential, such as Luke Martin and Roland McKeown. They also have three prospects with some potential in the pipeline. Noah Carroll, Brendan De Jong, and Ville Rasanen are all young players that could turn into decent AHL guys, and possibly NHL guys. As it is now, defense isn’t too much of a concern. The Canes, (surprise surprise) are struggling to score this season. In the first round, you’ll most likely need to draft a forward to help your scoring woes. Where the Canes stand now, they’re likely picking between picks 11 and 15. Not great, but there are some good players to be had there.

Joe Veleno: For a few seasons now, a lot of Canes fans have called for Jordan Staal to be more physical. Veleno plays a similar two way game as Staal, but he’s much more dynamic offensively. He creates chances for his teammates, draws attention to himself, and is dangerous in the offensive zone. Veleno isn’t quite physical enough yet, but nobody in the QMJHL is. He’s a fantastic puck handler, and could very well center a top line in the NHL in a few years. He’s finally starting to show me why scouts have had him high on their lists for a few years now. I’d like to see Veleno work on his release before making the transition to the NHL. He’s got a good shot, but his release and velocity are a little weak compared to the rest of his game.

Rasmus Kupari: If you wanted a slightly taller version of the Canes’ Sebastian Aho, Kupari is your guy. He’s fast, skilled with the puck, and dangerous in the offensive zone. Like most Finnish skaters, Kupari is also capable in the defensive zone. I’ve written about him in past posts, but I just wanted to reiterate that Kupari is the real deal. He could easily be a top line center or winger in the NHL in a few years.

Joel Farabee: He’s a really quick left winger that drives offensive play. While he may be a bit small at 161 pounds, Farabee is a player that can make you pay for even the smallest mistake. The Canes like players with high hockey IQ, and Farabee has that. He’s able to make plays happen out of nowhere, and is adept at scoring goals. Farabee will take some time to get stronger and work on his game in all zones, which is perfectly fine. Ideally, he’d be ready at the start of the 2020-2021 season, the year after his freshman season at Boston University. What happens between then will be the most telling of his potential. Will he continue to grow in the NTDP, or will he go to the USHL for a year? Could he possibly go to the CHL? His shot will need to improve before coming to the NHL, which is fine. At best, he’s a top six scorer. At worst, he’s a third line guy with time on the second unit.

Bode Wilde: Yeah, yeah, he’s a defenseman. Wilde has the potential to be Faulk’s more defensively adept replacement in the future. He’s a two way defenseman that’s a bit of a project, and will likely need a year or two at the University of Michigan to fine tune his game. Still, he’s got enough talent to be considered a top 15 draft pick by some. Scouts rave about pretty much every aspect of his game, however. It could be that Wilde has already outgrown the league he’s currently in and will need to be challenged at the next level. He’s got a hard shot, good skating, great positioning in all three zones, and a big frame. He’ll likely need just one year at Michigan before he’s ready to make the jump to the pros.

Isac Lundestrom: He’s this year’s Lias Andersson. Another Swedish center with decent size and great two way skills. Aside from a couple mistakes here and there, Lundestrom is a very smart player. He drives the net, has a good shot, and is physical when he needs to be. He’s put up good numbers as a second year player in the SHL, and will only continue to get better. Lundestrom can play the left wing, but his game is better at center. Since he’s a two way center, I’m not sold on him just yet. I like his game, and he’s a real pain to play against. Lundestrom is dangerous on the forecheck, and deceptively strong. He thinks the game well, but is definitely more of a pass first player. It’s too bad, because his shot velocity and release are incredibly strong. His shot placement needs just a little bit of fine tuning, but it’s improved since last season. He was dangerous at the U18’s last year as a 17 year old, with 5 points in 7 games.

So who would you pick? Out of these five guys, nobody stands out as a franchise-altering pick. The Canes could use defense, but there are enough good defensemen in this draft. You can pass up on a couple and still get a good defenseman a round later. I’d go with a forward here. Veleno, Farabee, Kupari, or Lundestrom? Each player has a different skill set. Veleno is a two way center that’s incredibly creative with the puck. Farabee is a speedy winger with a nose for the net. Kupari is a smart center that compares really well to Sebastian Aho. Lundestrom is a two way center that’s great in all three zones. My pick here would be either Lundestrom or Kupari. In Lundestrom, you’re getting a player that’s gotten much better offensively with more ice time in the SHL. He’s dangerous on the forecheck, wins puck battles, and doesn’t get knocked off the puck. The Canes need more of that in their lineup. In Kupari, you’re getting a smart offensive center that can really change the offensive dynamic of your team. As of right now, I’d go for Lundestrom. He’s a natural center whose skills will develop after another season or two in the SHL. He’ll be the type of player that Lindholm was drafted to be: a two way center that’s a pain to play against in any zone.

Second Round

Select a defenseman here. You already got your top six forward, now you need another top four guy. There are plenty to choose from in the second round.

Adam Ginning: I wrote about him early on in the season as a potential sleeper pick, and my thoughts haven’t really changed on him. He’s a good two way defenseman that can really move the puck quickly. A very mobile player, even in the offensive zone. Hard shot, but he hesitates to use it on occasion. I really like his game. It’s simple, and not overly fancy. He is successful thanks to great skating and hockey IQ. You rarely see him make mistakes, and if you do, he never makes it a second time. Ginning has offensive potential as well, but that will take a lot more time to develop. He definitely has top four potential, but he’ll likely need two or three seasons before he’s ready for an NHL role.

Alexis Gravel: Gravel is a goalie that has a lot of potential, he just hasn’t quite hit his stride just yet. He’s 6’3, quick, and tracks the puck really well. Gravel has improved a lot in his second season in the QMJHL, but it’s a stretch to think the Canes will pick another goalie this high. Still, NHL Central Scouting has him as the best North American goalie in this draft.

Kevin Bahl: He’s still serving a ten game suspension, but that doesn’t take away from his skill. Bahl is 6’5, and moves really well for such a tall defenseman. He’s a strong, tough, shutdown guy that makes it hard for players to generate any offense whatsoever. His offensive game isn’t terrible either. Only one goal this season is a little concerning, but his potential as a top four shutdown defenseman is definitely intriguing.

Xavier Bouchard: He’s a really interesting player that scouts can’t quite decide upon. Is he good enough for the second round? Some scouts think so. Other scouts have him as a late third round pick. His shot is average for a defenseman, and it is used mostly to generate rebounds. I like his skating ability for a defenseman. Some young defensemen are a bit slow, especially if they’re taller. Bouchard isn’t terribly slow, but his positioning is off. He’s out of position a lot more often than I’d like. He’s had a down year on a decent team, which has to have hurt his draft stock. I like his speed for a young defenseman, but there’s room to grow. If he cleans up his play in his own end, he could have second pair potential.

My pick here would be Ginning. I really like what he has to offer, although a lot of it is untapped potential. More playing time in the SHL will definitely reveal what kind of player he is, but I really think he could be a dynamic two-way defenseman in the future. Bahl is another good pick, but the Canes already have a lot of defense-first players both in the NHL and in the pipeline. Slavin, Pesce, De Jong, Martin, Fleury, and McKeown all fall into that category. As for two-way prospects, we really only have Noah Carroll, who doesn’t show much upside at the pro level. Ginning could be a great addition to our blue line. His two-way game is fantastic, he thinks the game well, and his skating is top notch.

Third Round

This is where you just draft the best player available. It’s so hard to predict what can come out of the third round. You can get another guy like Pesce or Vincent Trocheck, or you can get a guy like Keegan Lowe. There’s no telling, so just draft the player that you think will make an impact in the NHL.

Jesse Koskenkorva: The Canes love to take Finnish players, and they’ll get another chance in the third round. Koskenkorva is a prospect that is a little bit of a project, which is fine for now. He’s a really smart player, and uses that to create offensive opportunities. He rarely makes mistakes, and hasn’t been given a shot at the pro level since Karpat is a very good team. He’s strong on the puck for a young forward. Skating isn’t an issue for him, which is encouraging. He’s quick to get to top speed, but will need to work on balance just a bit. Makes the right play, and sees the ice well. We’ll just need to see him get a bigger look in the men’s league before seeing if he’s a good enough prospect.

Blade Jenkins: He’s playing in his first OHL season against better competition, and he’s done fairly well. He has a decent shot, and he’s a fairly smart player. What you’re looking for in the third round is a player with decent skill and room to grow. Jenkins was a high pick in the OHL draft, and he hasn’t quite lived up to potential yet. He definitely has the potential to become a strong offensive force in the NHL, but he’s another project. Still, Jenkins uses his size and strength well to generate offense and to create turnovers.

Nicolas Beaudin: There are questions about his defensive game, but he’s one of the QMJHL’s best defensemen when it comes to assists. Beaudin is a really talented playmaker on the left side, and could be a power play quarterback in the distant future. He’s patient, but loves to join in on offensive plays. His pinches can be costly, though. His shot release, velocity, and accuracy are above average for defensemen, which might make him an interesting prospect. Since the Canes have Bean in the pipeline, I’m not sure if Beaudin will be a good pick. Still, he’s a decent prospect that has NHL upside.

So who should they pick? My pick would be Blade Jenkins. He has the highest ceiling out of any of these guys, and could be a really interesting prospect in a few years. He was a high pick in the OHL draft, which I like. His potential hasn’t changed, and I think that Jenkins will surprise a lot of scouts once he’s drafted.

Round Four

Again, just draft the best player available. There’s always room for someone who has untapped potential here.

Liam Foudy: Here’s a guy that I really like as a value pick in the fourth round. He’s got a lot of raw potential as a scoring forward, but will take at least four years to be NHL ready. Foudy could surprise people next season once the London Knights get a little better. He’s got the shot to be a successful pro, and his offensive skills are off the chain. Unfortunately, he plays on a bad team, so his defensive mistakes stand out a lot more. He’s also super light, and will need to add some weight. Still, creativity with the puck and a hard shot is enough for me.

Ryan O’Reilly: No, not that guy. Differrent player. He’s got a lot of raw talent, and could be another quick forward that the Canes grab in the fourth round. He’s done well in the USHL, and will have one more year there before he moves on to the University of Denver in 2019. I like his game, although he does need work in all zones.

Filip Kral: He’s had a great season with Spokane, with 31 points in 50 games as a defenseman. Kral started the season with Kometa Brno, Martin Necas’ Czech team. Kral decided to go to Spokane after four games with Brno, and has done really well as of late. He has a good seeing-eye shot, moves the puck well, and plays well defensively. He’ll need to fix his gap control, but we won’t need him to be NHL ready for a while.

It’s a tough choice here. I like Foudy, and I think that he has a lot of potential to be a scorer in some capacity someday. On the other hand, Filip Kral could be a very good two way defenseman in the future. He’s got the potential to be a penalty killer on the third pair in the future to go along with a little bit of offensive upside. Foudy edges out Kral here, but only by a small margin.

Fifth Round

The Canes don’t have a fifth-round pick in this draft, but a player I’d look out for is Bryan Lockner. He’s unpolished, but reminds me a little bit of Hudson Elynuik minus the height. Lockner is 6’1, but plays a really strong physical game. He can score a gritty goal here and there, and if you give him a year or two, he could be a fourth line guy. There are plenty of defensemen available, but the Canes are pretty weak in terms of right-wing depth in the system. Adding Lockner would be a good move to try and bolster the right side.

Sixth Round

Look out for Kristian Tanus. He’s petite, standing at 5’6. Still, the kid has a ton of talent. He’ll definitely get passed over in the draft due to his size, and I believe that teams will really regret passing up on him. He had an excellent year with Tappara’s U20 team, with 36 points in 48 games. He’s a really gifted playmaker who will likely get time in the men’s league next season. He’ll definitely need to work on his game a lot, but I believe that he could be a really valuable forward to have in the organization. Speed, smarts, and good hockey IQ.

If Tanus isn’t a fit, how about Jack Randl? He’s really unpolished, and needs to work on his play in every zone, but the goal scoring talent is definitely there. He’s got a hell of a shot, but like Julien Gauthier, he’s a bit of a lost puppy without the puck. Once he works on that a bit, he’ll be a legitimate threat. He’s committed to the University of Michigan, and will play there next season.

Mock Draft

First round: Rasmus Kupari. Yeah, I know that I said Lundestrom up there. Realistically, the Canes go for another offensive center to help the team’s scoring issues. If Aho or Lindholm can’t permanently play center, Kupari will be a great option. He can also play wing, which is why I think the Canes pick him.

Second round: Adam Ginning. He’s going to be a good NHLer, it just might take him longer than two or three years to get there. That’s fine, though. The Canes have plenty of pieces, and he’ll be a really good player on the second or third pair when he is ready for the NHL.

Third round: Blade Jenkins. I’m really hoping for this pick because he’s got a ton of potential that he just hasn’t quite tapped into yet. Plus, the jokes that we could make when he scores would be phenomenal. He’s just the sort of cutting edge player we need. He’s pretty sharp, and will cut through opposing teams with ease. I’m so sorry.

Fourth round: Liam Foudy. A fast goal scorer is never a bad thing to have, even if his overall game isn’t great just yet.

Fifth round: No pick

Sixth round: PICK TANUS. We’ve seen Marchand succeed. We’ve seen DeBrincat succeed. We’re going to see Heponiemi succeed. A player’s height doesn’t determine how much talent he has. If he doesn’t work out, it’s fine because he was only a sixth round pick. If he does, the reward could be really high.

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