I’m sure that some of you are devastated that the Hurricanes do not have a lottery pick this year. Nobody? Cool. Well let’s break down who the Hurricanes can pick with their first round pick this year.
As of right now, the Hurricanes will be picking 21st overall in the 2019 draft. That could change depending on if the Hurricanes advance further into the playoffs or if teams below them advance. For the sake of this article, let’s assume we’re picking 21st overall. They’re picking right after Anaheim, who will more than likely draft a forward due to the lack of defensive depth in the first round. The whole draft is weak, but the lack of legitimate defensive prospects outside of the first round or two is a big concern. Carolina will likely be drafting the best player available since this is the first year in a while that there hasn’t been a glaring area of need this season. Of course we could use a forward, so that’s likely where the Hurricanes are leaning towards. Let’s break it down into a few categories: legitimate candidates, risks, and “do not want.”
Alex Newhook is one player that comes to mind right off the bat. He’s having a very good season for Victoria in the BCHL and will likely sneak into the top 20 on draft day. If he doesn’t, I could see the Canes taking a look at him. 100 point seasons aren’t as hard to come by in the BCHL, but Newhook has skills that translate to the NHL. He’s lightning fast, has good hockey sense, and he’s a talented playmaker. The only issue is that he’s playing in the BCHL, a weaker league that doesn’t produce a whole lot of NHL talent. He’s on the border of a legitimate draft candidate and a risk.
Raphael Lavoie is another player that comes to mind. He’s fallen out of favor with some scouts this season due to his issues with consistency being exploited. There are some games where he’s a dynamic offensive talent that can dominate in any zone, and there are some games where he’s invisible. Lavoie’s size and strength are assets that NHL teams will covet and he has the makings of a power forward in the future. You’re seeing Lavoie play some absolutely incredible hockey during the QMJHL playoffs, which will likely raise his draft stock. In the unlikely scenario that he falls to the Hurricanes, it’d be hard to see the Canes passing on him.
Connor McMichael is a very fun player to watch. He’s quick, has some great hands, and can be a dangerous player in almost any aspect offensively. I’ve watched him play some phenomenal hockey this season and I’m wondering if he could be the best player to come out of the OHL in this year’s draft. It’s possible, but McMichael will have to get better defensively. He’s very underwhelming in his own end and makes a lot of dumb mistakes. Those can be worked on.
I put Philip Tomasino in the same category as McMichael. They’re two good players that are playing on two very good teams. Tomasino has done great for Niagara all season long and was a bit of a surprise. A lot of people were underwhelmed by his rookie season in the OHL, but that’s not the case this season. He’s pretty average in terms of height, has good strength, fantastic hands, and is a quick skater. Tomasino is a finesse player that understands the technical aspects of the game as well. He’s occasionally guilty of making one too many passes or stickhandling himself into a corner, but he possesses enough talent to make me believe that he could be a great first round pick.
Lastly, Jakob Pelletier is a player that I’d seriously consider. Size issues aside, Pelletier is a dynamic talent. He’s a great playmaker with a deceptively good shot, something that’s hard to come by in this draft. We saw him put up 89 points this season with a Moncton team that is just kind of okay. Pelletier has missed some time in the playoffs due to an injury, but that shouldn’t take away from his draft stock. He’s a very fun player and I believe that you can work out all of the other issues in his game.
Let’s be honest, every pick in this draft that’s outside of the top five is a risk. This has been a pretty awful draft, and I’m starting to think that the Canes might be getting as good of a player with Buffalo’s second round pick as they can with their own first round pick. It’s a tough situation to be in and it’s very likely that a lot of teams don’t do very well in this draft.
Samuel Poulin is a bit of a risk because before the playoffs, I wasn’t convinced that he could bring anything to this franchise that we didn’t already have. Poulin reminds me of Jordan Staal in the sense that he’s a good two way player with size and above average skating. His offensive upside is questionable, even with his solid playoff performance thus far. If he’s the best player available, I’m fine with the pick. My only concern is that when he reaches the NHL, he won’t reach a lot of the expectations set for him.
Simon Holmstrom is one of those players that was considered a top 20 pick before injuries slowed his production. He’s missed a lot of time this season and it’s been hard to tell exactly how good he is. Holmstrom skates well and has decent hockey sense, but my biggest concern is that he’s more of a Lias Andersson type of player. Andersson has struggled in the pros so far and I see a lot of similarities between Holmstrom and Andersson. I’d avoid picking Holmstrom in the first round, but it’s very possible that he’s still around when we’re picking at 36th overall.
The Do Not Want
The first round has a lot of talent that you can find in the second or third rounds in a lot of previous drafts. It’s a very shallow pool to pick from and a lot of players selected will be busts. It could be the 2013 draft all over again. However, there’s one player that has shot up the draft boards this season due to a dominant WHL season. His name is Brett Leason. On the surface, he looks like a good player. He’s 6’5″, had an 89 point season in the WHL, skates well, and has good hands. That looks like a great player when you think about it. Then you hear that his first draft year was 2017 and this is his third go-around in the draft. That’s less impressive to me. A player that turns 20 at the end of the month should be dominating the junior ranks. They’re older than most of their competition and already more physically mature. Folks want to draft Leason because of one good season as a double overage player. That’s 100% fine, just don’t make the mistake of drafting him in the first round.
For context, Leason and Stelio Mattheos had the same draft year. Mattheos played in 65 games and had 96 points on one of the few WHL teams that did not qualify for the playoffs. Leason had 89 points in 55 games, which is seven less points than Mattheos in ten fewer games. They would likely have finished around the same point totals if Leason didn’t miss time due to the World Juniors. To me, I’m looking at Leason and thinking that he’s about as good as a player that the Hurricanes took in the third round two years ago. Sure he has size, but that’s not the only thing that people should be looking for. If Leason was a year younger, I’d consider taking him in the first round. He isn’t, and so I have a lot of hesitations with picking him that early in the draft. Unless you were desperate for a player to turn pro right away, which the Hurricanes aren’t, I think that you pass on him in the first round.
So Now What?
Now who do you pick? It seems like guys like Poulin and Holmstrom are off the board, but it would be an extremely Canes thing to select Poulin knowing that he wouldn’t be a great player. Lavoie probably won’t be available to the Hurricanes at 21 due to his strong second half and playoff performance, so that leaves you with Connor McMichael, Philip Tomasino, and Jakob Pelletier. Tomasino has to be the favorite here. He’s quick, a fantastic offensive forward, and fairly strong. Once he works on simplifying his game a little bit, you’ll start to see him grow in every area. Tomasino has second line potential and could be a 50 point scorer in the NHL in about four to five years. He would be another right-handed shot for the Hurricanes, something that the team is currently lacking.
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