The 2017 NHL draft was the last draft that Ron Francis oversaw as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes. A little over a year and a half later, we’re looking ahead to see which of these prospects will sign this season, which will need another year, and which prospects might not make it to the AHL. With the deadline to sign Stelio Mattheos and Brendan De Jong just a few months away, let’s take a look at how well the Hurricanes did in the 2017 NHL draft.
Martin Necas looks like an excellent pick. He may not have had as big of an NHL impact this season as we thought that he would, but he’s still on his way to becoming a great NHL player. Necas has spent most of the season in the AHL and has done very well in terms of production while also working on his play without the puck. He still needs to get stronger and better in his own end, but Necas has a lot of tools that are going to make him a good NHL player. He’s capable of 50-60 points as long as he has linemates that can finish his passes. He won’t be the Hurricanes’ first line center since Sebastian Aho is an NHL superstar, and that’s perfectly fine. Necas will be a great second line center for the Hurricanes, giving the team a solid one-two punch down the middle for years to come.
The second round was a confusing one at the time and is still pretty confusing a year and a half later, but for different reasons. Luke Martin looked like he was going to be a great value pick at 52nd overall, especially considering the fact that he was doing so well defensively for an underwhelming Michigan team. Martin’s development over the course of two years has been disappointing and slow to say the least, and the optimistic projections of having him in the AHL lineup in 2019 look a little far fetched as of right now. Martin has grown marginally in the year and a half that he’s become a Canes prospect, but his ice time has decreased significantly this season as Michigan gets better. Martin’s skating, an issue when he was first drafted, is likely his most improved skill since becoming a Hurricanes prospect. He still has a lot of time to develop and will likely return to the University of Michigan for his senior year in the fall of 2019. Martin may only be a third pairing defenseman due to his lack of offensive upside and average skating.
Eetu Luostarinen is a player that is surprising a lot of Canes fans, myself included, with his production this season. KalPa is 11th out of 15 teams in terms of goals scored this season and currently sits outside of the playoff picture. Luostarinen is third on his team with 30 points in 45 games, a ten point jump from last season’s totals of 20 in 55 games. He’s a much better player than we originally thought he was. The Luostarinen pick was confusing right from the start, especially considering the fact that most scouts agreed that he would likely be available in the third or fourth round when the Hurricanes had more picks. Luostarinen’s skating has gotten a lot better and his first few strides are no longer holding him back. His puck skills and shooting have been on display for most of this season, something that we saw briefly in this summer’s development camp:
He’s improved a lot and looks like more of a middle six center than the fourth line center that Canes fans had hoped that he’d grow into. He’s a player that I believe that the Hurricanes will be trying to sign once KalPa’s season is over so that he can turn pro.
The third round of the 2017 draft looked fantastic on draft day and hasn’t failed to disappoint so far. Morgan Geekie, the 67th overall pick, had an 84 point season and a torrid playoff run, carrying the Americans to the third round of the WHL playoffs. He signed with the Hurricanes and has had an impressive rookie year with the Charlotte Checkers.
Geekie has averaged 10:20 of ice time per game this season and is still over .5 points per game. That’s not a lot of ice time to really make an impact, but he still has 29 points despite fourth line ice time. Geekie may need another year in the AHL so that he can be a second or third line center and prepare for the role that he’ll likely have in the NHL. His shot is an underrated asset and has been NHL ready ever since he was drafted. Geekie’s vision with the puck and passing ability is outstanding and the only thing holding him back is his skating.
Stelio Mattheos has quite honestly carried a horrible Wheat Kings team on his back and into playoff contention. He and Luka Burzan are the only players that will finish anywhere close to a point per game this season. Mattheos’ 88 points put him in a tie for second in league scoring, and on any other team, Mattheos would be in contention for the league scoring title. NOTE: He’s technically in contention, but Joachim Blichfeld has 102 points. That’s a pretty tough hill to climb for Mattheos. Regardless, Mattheos has had a fantastic season and looks more than ready to begin his career as a professional. He’s a strong skater that possesses good speed, a great shot, and good passing abilities. He’ll need a year in the AHL to adjust to a professional environment, but he’ll be more than capable of taking on an NHL role in 2020. The 2017 third round was excellent for the Canes as of right now and Canes fans should be excited to see how these two players progress as the years go by.
The Hurricanes used their fourth round pick on Eetu Makiniemi, who had a great season with Jokerit U20 the year following the draft. He was injured during the off-season and wasn’t able to play for the first two months of the season. This year, Makiniemi has played for Kiekko-Vantaa in the Finnish second tier league. He’s better than most of the competition in Mestis but not quite good enough to make it to the KHL just yet. Luckily for the Hurricanes, they have two more years before they have to make a decision on Makiniemi. It’s possible that he starts the next season with Jokerit, and it’s equally as possible that he decides to take a guaranteed job in the Finnish Liiga. His injury has made it tough to determine exactly where he is in his development, so we’ll have to wait at least another year or so to see how the pick plays out.
The Hurricanes selected Brendan De Jong in the sixth round, hoping to find a bit of a gem in the overage player. De Jong has since been a great junior hockey player and a fairly unimpressive player in camp and in Traverse City. De Jong has limited offensive upside but plays a responsible shutdown game in his own end. At this point, it’s not clear whether or not the Hurricanes will offer De Jong an entry-level contract. He doesn’t have a lot of NHL potential but could be a very solid AHL player in a few years.
The Hurricanes picked a player that wasn’t on anyone’s lists with their seventh round pick. Ville Rasanen was a largely unheard of player who had played in Mestis and the Mestis U20 team in his draft year. After being drafted, Rasanen moved up to Jukurit’s U20 team where he wasn’t able to make much of an impact. This season, Rasanen has been the seventh defenseman in the USHL, most recently for the Chicago Steel. His ice time has increased as of late but he has shown little to no promise as an NHL player. He’s a smart player but struggles in his own end. His struggles on both sides of the puck have given me little reason to want the Hurricanes to sign him. The good thing about Rasanen is that he also has two years to prove me wrong.
The 2017 draft looks great for the most part except for a few picks, and even the “bad” picks were late round picks. The only pick that I’m a little disappointed with thus far is Luke Martin, but he still has a decent chance at becoming an NHL player.