Pick By Pick: Analyzing Carolina’s Drafts from 2010-2019

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As Bob Ross would say, pull up your easy chair and an iced tea. I’ve worked on grading drafts in the past, but with each passing year more and more gets revealed about the players that were selected in each draft. In this article, I’ll be grading each individual pick from the 2010 draft all the way up until this past draft in 2019. Grab whatever comfort food you need, 2010-2013 might bring up some painful memories.

2010

The 2010 draft is arguably Jim Rutherford’s best with the Hurricanes, despite the fact that only two players from this draft played NHL games with the Hurricanes.

Jeff Skinner (A) – Skinner won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season, scoring 31 goals and finishing the season with 63 points. He took on a lot of criticism from fans and media alike during his tenure with the Hurricanes, and trade rumors always circled Carolina’s star forward. Skinner hit the 30 goal mark three times in eight seasons with Carolina and eclipsed 20 goals in all but two seasons if we’re including the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. Skinner was traded in the summer of 2018 for what eventually became Tomas Jurco, Pyotr Kochetkov, a 2020 third round pick, and a 2020 sixth round pick.

Justin Faulk (A) – Faulk was a good defenseman for the Hurricanes who was often used more than he should have been. He was a good second pairing defenseman that was treated as a number one defenseman, exposing his defensive problems. He wasn’t the most loved player, but it’s still a good pick if you can get eight seasons from a second round pick. Faulk had six seasons of 30 points or more, including a monster 2014-15 season where he had 49 points. Faulk was traded right before the 2019 season began for Joel Edmundson and prospect Dominik Bokk.

Mark Alt (D) – Swiiiiiiing and a miss. The grand result of trading Niclas Wallin and a fifth round pick in this same draft. Wallin was nearing the end of his career and the Hurricanes were looking to get some draft picks in exchange for the “secret weapon.” I’m sure that at the time, getting a second for Wallin was good value, but after two great picks, the Hurricanes stuck out big time by taking Alt at 53. Before he could sign with the Hurricanes, Alt was traded in 2013 along with Brian Boucher in exchange for Luke Pither. Pither finished out the year with the Checkers and was not re-signed by the Hurricanes.

Danny Biega (C) – After being selected 67th overally by Carolina, it looked like Danny Biega was going to be a top prospect for the organization. He was named to the second all-star team in the ECAC a year after being drafted, and one year later was an All-American, All-Ivy League, First All-Star (ECAC), and the best defensive defenseman in the ECAC. Unfortunately, Danny Biega’s offensive skills never translated to the pros, and he was strictly a shutdown guy for Charlotte. In his last professional season, Biega played in just 27 games for the Checkers due to some injuries. Biega could have been an NHL defenseman if the Checkers were even remotely good in this period of time, but it was a development graveyard for prospects. Still, Biega managed to appear in ten games with the Hurricanes during the 2014-15 season. Just another example of what could have been if Jim Rutherford didn’t trade everything away.

Austin Levi (D) – The Hurricanes selected four defensemen in a row in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in an attempt to bolster their weak and aging defensive core. Unfortunately, only two of them would play for the Hurricanes. Levi was likely a third round selection because the Hurricanes loved them some Plymouth Whalers back in the day. Levi was a product of the Compuware team that Karmanos helped to create and then went on to play for the Plymouth team that Karmanos owned. It seemed only fitting that he would be drafted by the NHL organization that Karmanos owned as well. The Hurricanes received this pick in exchange for Andrew Alberts, if you’re curious. The Hurricanes could have selected Joonas Donskoi, who was picked up at 99th overall. Levi split two seasons with the Checkers and the Everblades in the ECHL. Are you sad yet? Just wait!

Justin Shugg (C-) – The Hurricanes traded Aaron Ward for Justin Pogge and the pick that led to Justin Shugg. Shugg played in the organization for five years and appeared in three games for the Hurricanes. SPOILER: That’s three more games played for the Hurricanes than all but three players in this draft. He looked fairly promising out of the gate but wasn’t able to be more than a solid AHL player that had some grit to his game. The Shuggernaut is an elite nickname, however, and that makes me want to alter his grade to an A.

Tyler Stahl (F) – The fact that the Hurricanes selected an enforcer in 2010 is enough to make me laugh enough to hide the fact that those years honestly made me want to cry. Stahl had no offensive potential, nor did he seem all that good at hockey. Stahl never made it past the WHL and didn’t play hockey afterwards, at least not as far as I can tell.

Frederik Andersen (C) – Ah, what could have been. Andersen was going to be a FANTASTIC pick for the Hurricanes, but their lifelong commitment to Cameron Kenneth Ward was enough for Andersen to say “nah fam” and not sign with the Hurricanes. He is now an NHL starting goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs after some time with the Anaheim Ducks. This was a really tough loss for the Hurricanes, who were already facing uncertainty with their backup goalies. Little did we know in 2010, we would be faced with nearly a decade of goalie controversy that would divide the fan base more than when someone suggested that the fake quote twitter accounts weren’t funny.

2011

Let’s move on, the 2011 draft can’t be worse, right? It had a rough middle, but the Hurricanes got two NHL players in the draft! That’s good! The middle of the draft had no NHL players. That’s bad. But Frederik Andersen is an NHL goaltender! That’s good! He never played for the Hurricanes and probably never will. That’s bad. But the 2011 draft has Ryan Murphy and Victor Rask! …That’s bad.

Ryan Murphy (D) – Carolina follows up a home run of a first round pick in 2010 by turning the puck over in their own end and getting walked on the way back to defend a rush. Ryan Murphy was considered the best defenseman in the draft until noted locker room cancer Dougie Hamilton selfishly took the best defenseman spot for his own. Now to be fair, people loved the Murphy pick at the time, even draft experts. It just goes to show how unpredictable the draft can be. It’s possible that Murphy never recovered from some concussion troubles he had in junior, and it’s also possible that Murphy was never good enough for the NHL. Either way, the pick ended up being a spectacular failure and Murphy was traded to Calgary, where he was immediately bought out. The only thing worth mentioning about Carolina’s return is Kevin Wall, who we’ll talk about when we get to the 2019 draft.

Victor Rask (C)

I’m not sad about the Niederreiter trade at all. I love that Nino is on our team! It’s just depressing when you think about all of the promising prospects that this team had that either didn’t pan out or went on to succeed with other teams. Rask was considered a top ten, maybe even a top five pick, before concerns about his effort arose in his draft year, causing him to fall all the way to 42nd overall. Rask putting forth a half-assed effort? Color me shocked. We can take comfort in the fact that Don Waddell traded Rask, who the Hurricanes were considering buying out in the summer, for Nino Niederreiter. Nino ended up being a key piece in the Hurricanes’ playoff push, so it’s worth it in the end, I guess?

Keegan Lowe (D) – Another defenseman selected, another bust. Lowe played in two games for the Hurricanes and was traded for Philip Samuelsson in what seemed a tad like nepotism at the time. Samuelsson was the son of Ulf Samuelsson, who at the time was the coach of the Charlotte Checkers.

Gregory Hofmann (F) – Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau. Don’t talk about Johnny Gaudreau.

Matt Mahalak (F) – Another former Compuware and Plymouth Whaler player! Mahalak was a sixth round pick that the Hurricanes didn’t sign, and that’s all there is to talk about.

Brody Sutter (C) – Despite being picked in the seventh round as an overage forward, Sutter managed to turn pro. He appeared in four seasons for the Hurricanes organization and played in 14 games for the Hurricanes at the NHL level. Sutter was eventually traded for Daniel Brickley, ending his tenure with the Hurricanes. While you would hope for more from any pick in the draft, it’s still encouraging that the Hurricanes got at least *something* out of the seventh round.

2012

Thank goodness that’s over. Now we can move to 2012, where we can’t get mad about a first round pick because we don’t have one! That’s right, the Hurricanes traded their 2012 first round pick, Brandon Sutter, and prospect Brian Dumoulin in exchange for Jordan Staal. Staal has been useful for the Hurricanes and is one of the most consistent players on the roster. He’s also the current captain of the Hurricanes! Dumoulin is a solid NHL defenseman still. This is probably the only part of this trade that hurts because he was the Hurricanes’ best defensive prospect at the time and would continue to be until 2015 when Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce emerged. Sutter was a big loss at the time, but in hindsight, it wasn’t a big loss for the Hurricanes. They weren’t going to be good even with Sutter and Staal on the roster. The first round pick turned into Derrick Pouliot, who was a bust for Pittsburgh. Solid trade for both teams! I’m sure Canes twitter will take this rationally and not get mad about this take.

Phil Di Giuseppe (D) – This was a bad second round pick. Di Giuseppe showed promise until people realized that his success was a product of playing with Skinner and company. Di Giuseppe was a weak fourth line player and currently plays in the Rangers organization. This pick was just plain bad. The only solace that I can take in this pick is that there ends up being nothing better than good ol’ PDG until the Hurricanes pick again.

Brock McGinn (B-) – I’m a little shocked that I gave this pick this rating too. I’m not a fan of McGinn and think that he’s consistently slotted too high in the lineup. Still, he’s passed the 200-game threshold to become a “good” draft pick. His career high in points is 30, which isn’t that great for a second round pick. The Hurricanes acquired the pick to select Brock McGinn from San Jose in a trade that sent Ian White to the Sharks in exchange for the 47th overall pick. The Hurricanes had traded Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos for White and Brett Sutter earlier that year, so the Hurricanes essentially turned errant slapshots and defense(?) for a bad fourth line forward and a good bottom six forward. Meh.

Daniel Altshuller (D) – Daniel Altshuller was another goalie prospect with some promise but ended up being underwhelming. He had some good showings at the ECHL level but was never able to replicate those performances in the AHL. Altshuller may have been the nicest pick in the draft (69th overall), but Frederik Andersen was selected by the Anaheim Ducks at 87th overall. More sadness.

Erik Karlsson (F) – We regret to inform you that this is not that Erik Karlsson. Karlsson didn’t have a ton of promise and was never impressive when he was in the Hurricanes organization. He lasted two seasons with Charlotte and was often a healthy scratch. Disappointed but not surprised: the motto of my Hurricanes fandom from 2010-2018.

Trevor Carrick (C-) – Remember when he was the best prospect in the system? It’s okay, I try to forget sometimes. Carrick sort of came out of nowhere. He wasn’t all that great in the OHL, and then all of a sudden, he became a much more threatening presence in the offensive zone. Carrick was always right on the cusp of becoming an NHL player. We’d always say that yes, this is going to be the year that Carrick finally makes the team full-time, and it never happened. All that he was able to amass at the NHL level was four games with the Hurricanes and zero points. Carrick was traded to San Jose this past summer for Kyle Wood, who currently plays for the Checkers.

Jaccob Slavin (A) –

ALL BASK IN HIS GLORY. Jaccob Slavin is without a doubt Jim Rutherford’s best pick from 2010-2013 and there’s no need for debate. Slavin is a number one defenseman for the Hurricanes and one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s consistent, a three-time 30-point scorer, and a leader on this team. Slavin is a key player on the Hurricanes and will be for a long time. I could go on, but let’s be honest. You’re only here for the depressing stuff.

Brendan Woods (C) – The Hurricanes selected double overage forward Brendan Woods in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. Isn’t it weird that we’re seeing players who either recently left the organization or are still in the organization pop up in these drafts? Woods never showed more than fourth line potential at any point, but his work ethic and solid two way play earned him seven NHL games throughout his tenure with the Hurricanes. He currently plays for Providence in the AHL Fun fact: Woods’ father is an assistant coach for the Minnesota Wild.

Collin Olson (F) – Olson was a risk at the time because of his inconsistencies with the USA NTDP. His eliteprospects page is weird, though. After being drafted, Olson played a season with Ohio State University. He left after two starts in the following season, played with the NTDP again, and then for Sioux City in the USHL. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player return to the NTDP from the NCAA, not even in a transfer year. Olson then played for Western Michigan and did not sign with the Hurricanes.

Brendan Collier (F) – The later rounds are where you take a gamble on a long-term project, typically one from Europe or the USA, and hope it pays off. That’s what the Hurricanes did with Collier. It didn’t pay off, which is fine considering it’s just a seventh round pick. It’s just frustrating to see how many of these picks fizzled out a year or two after being drafted.

2013

The 2013 draft is considered one of the weakest this century, although not much can compare to the 2002 draft, which in my opinion is the weakest. Luckily, the Hurricanes made just four picks in this draft, making it hard to screw a whole lot up. Their fourth and seventh round picks were traded to Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, respectively, in trades that had little significance to the future of the organization. What’s that? You want to know? We acquired Kevin Westgarth and Marc-Andre Bergeron. See? That’ll teach you to stop asking questions. The Hurricanes’ second round pick was a part of a draft day trade that sent Jamie McBain and that same second round pick to Buffalo in exchange for Andrej Sekera. Buffalo drafted JT Compher, now in the Colorado organization. Sekera was later traded for a 2016 first round pick and Roland McKeown, more commonly known as Prince Pretty.

Piercing eyes, and a chiseled jaw. Molded by the Gods without a flaw.

Elias Lindholm (B) – Lindholm was a good pick that never got a fair shake in Raleigh-Durham, the center of the hockey universe. He had size, skill, and a good amount of offensive potential, making him a top prospect. Lindholm was rushed to the NHL, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the Jim Rutherford motto might as well have been “rush to the NHL or bust.” That motto ended up being true for a lot of reasons, sadly. Lindholm could have been a big part of the Hurricanes moving forward, but the Hurricanes didn’t want to commit close to $5 million and five years to the forward with a career high of 45 points. He was traded to Calgary in the Dougie Hamilton trade, where he subsequently lit up the league for 78 points while playing with first line talent. I, for one, am shocked that a good player would have a great season with linemates that were not named Victor Rask and *insert replacement level player here*. Lindholm did provide some discourse in his return to Carolina by mocking the Storm Surge. Fans were outraged for a moment until some other trivial thing set the website ablaze once again. Keep doing you, Elias. I miss you.

Brett Pesce (A) – Pesce is another fantastic pick despite being criminally underrated for his entire NHL career. Leafs fans thought that he was some scrub because LOL POINTS, and the NHL still doesn’t give him enough credit. Pesce never stood out to the casual viewer before this season because he was always the responsible one on the back end. He made the defensive plays and was as good at preventing offense as Jay McClement was at preventing his own team from creating offensive opportunities. For the past two seasons, Brett Pesce has decided that he’s tired of being the mom friend and wants to have fun as well. He’s joining the rush, getting a lot of great looks offensively, and even set career highs in goals, assists, and points in 2019. I always say this, but I will never forget when the Capitals’ broadcast team called him Joe Pesci multiple times on their play by play call. Have I mentioned that I’m thankful for John and Tripp?

Brent Pedersen (F) – It appears that the Hurricanes tried to select Brett Pesce in disguise with their next pick in the draft. Pedersen was a “meh” OHL player that never got above “meh” status after being drafted. The Hurricanes didn’t sign him, so he went to university. Pedersen is currently under contract with Manitoba in the AHL.

Tyler Ganly (F) – Ganly was likely going to be a career AHL player even if his career wasn’t plagued by injuries, but I still wonder what could have been. He never played in more than more than 26 AHL games in a season when he was under contract and never scored a goal in the AHL.

2014

2013 was Jim Rutherford’s last draft with the Hurricanes, although he likely oversaw a lot of the scouting leading up to the 2014 draft. He resigned at the end of the season and Ron Francis was quickly named the new General Manager of the team. This draft marks the start of the Ron Francis Era and the end of the Jim Rutherford Era. At least Jimmy went out with a bang in 2013, acquiring a good defenseman via trade while also getting two NHL players with four picks in the draft.

Haydn Fleury (C-) – I think it’s time for me to stop being so optimistic about Fleury. He was the right pick at the time since the Hurricanes had no answers on defense, and while there may have been better players, the need for defense outweighed anything else. After all, we had Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and were close to the Victor Rask Experience. Yikes, none of those players remain. Fleury’s struggles have a lot to do with him being too good for the AHL but not quite good enough to ever beat anyone on the NHL roster for their job. The Hurricanes drafted Noah Hanifin the year after, and he instantly took up a roster spot. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce made their NHL debuts shortly after. All of a sudden, Fleury is out of an NHL job that was all but his just one year prior. Fleury has been a scratch more often than he’s been in the lineup with the Hurricanes, and that’s been a major concern for his development. I still think that he can be a good NHL player for the Hurricanes, but that all depends on if they’re willing to move a different defenseman out.

Alex Nedeljkovic (B) – Ned is the first prospect on this list that is still TBD. He’s shown plenty of potential and was the AHL’s Goalie of the Year in 2019, but has yet to earn a full-time NHL job. A lot of that has to do with the Hurricanes acquiring James Reimer this offseason. While Reimer has been his usual inconsistent self, Ned has also experienced struggles of his own. It’s probably best to let the goalie situation sort itself out for another month or two and then reevaluate. Ned likely earns his spot on the roster next year.

Warren Foegele (C+) – You’re going to be hard pressed to find a more dedicated player than Foegele. He’s without a doubt one of the hardest workers on the roster and his energy on the ice reflects that. I haven’t been sold on Foegele as an NHL player through his first 93 NHL games (not including playoffs). Foegele still makes a lot of mistakes and hasn’t been able to factor in on the offensive side of the puck as much as we thought he would. It’s very likely that all he’ll amount to is being a great fourth line energy guy, and that’s okay. It’s better to draft one of those than to draft a guy that doesn’t make it. There’s still room for growth, so it’s possible he turns into a decent third line guy.

Josh Wesley (F) – Remember when the Canes traded Jeremy Welsh and Zac Dalpe for Kellan Tochkin’s signing rights and a fourth round pick in 2014? *sigh* me too. Welsh and Dalpe had potential but sadly never panned out for the Hurricanes. Welsh never worked out in the pros. I will say that Dalpe has been excellent for Cleveland in the AHL and has strung together some strong seasons. Tochkin never signed an NHL contract, and we were left with a fourth round pick. Josh Wesley was picked right where he was ranked in the draft, so at the time, it seemed like a decent pick. Wesley struggled in the AHL and spent most of his ELC in the ECHL with Florida. Wesley was traded to Hartford in exchange for Dustin Tokarski, who helped Charlotte win the Calder Cup. He’s now playing in the ECHL with Tulsa and is under contract with San Antonio, Colorado’s AHL affiliate.

Lucas Wallmark (B+) – I almost want to give this pick an A because it was a fourth round pick, but I’ll hold off for now. Wallmark has played in 115 regular season games for the Hurricanes and has been a consistent two-way forward so far. He’s never going to wow you with his skill and is more of a silent presence on the ice, but in a good way. Wallmark quietly had 28 points last season and is currently the ideal fourth line center.

Clark Bishop (C+) – I was as shocked as everyone else when Clark Bishop was recalled last season. I was even more shocked to find out that he appeared in 20 games with the team throughout the course of the regular season. Bishop has struggled with the Checkers this season, but I’m impressed that the Hurricanes were able to get 20 games out of him. He’s a hard worker and was a valuable pick.

Kyle Jenkins (F) – Jenkins had some offensive potential but never showed that he could be a good professional player at any point in his junior career. He’s the only player from the 2014 class to not sign a contract with the Hurricanes.

2015

I remember when we were praising Francis for his great work in the 2014 draft. We did draft some good players, but in hindsight it’s pretty funny to see how some of it has worked out. Fleury isn’t a lock on the roster, Ned is good but not an NHL goalie yet, Foegele and Wallmark are bottom six forwards, Bishop looks like a depth forward, and Wesley and Jenkins weren’t great picks. Now we’ll move on to the 2015 draft which shaped the team in many ways. This was arguably Ron Francis’ best draft.

Noah Hanifin (B) – Hanifin was a no-brainer at the time. This was a player that had been the consensus number three pick for almost the entire season, so when he was available at five, the Hurricanes had to pick him. Hanifin should have started in the AHL and worked his way up to the NHL, but the Hurricanes were desperate for talent and rather than simply tank for a second year, they gave Hanifin a spot. Hanifin showed slow progress through the duration of his ELC, but his growth was almost exclusively on the offensive side of the puck. Hanifin was still making the same errors that he was making when he was a rookie, so when he was asking for another $5 million contract, the Hurricanes laughed. His wasn’t showing enough potential to commit that money to him long term, and the Hurricanes wanted to give him a bridge deal to prove that he was actually worth that money. He was shipped off to Calgary, along with Elias Lindholm, in exchange for Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and Adam Fox. The trade has worked well for both teams, although it’s satisfying to know that Hanifin only had one more point with the Flames than he did with the Hurricanes. I could go on a rant about Hanifin, but I’ll save that for another time.

Sebastian Aho (A+) – Admit it, you all were confused about this pick at first. Not many people were talking about Aho, and none of the scouting sites had him ranked in the second round. ISS had him as an early third round pick, while other sites had him going in the late fourth or early fifth rounds. Aho immediately proved his doubters wrong, scoring at a point per game pace in the Liiga. He had a 49-point rookie campaign and followed it up with 65 points and 83 points in his next two NHL seasons. Aho currently has ten points in fourteen games to start the season and is one of the faces of the franchise. A pick considered to be a massive reach at the time turned out to be a massive steal for the Hurricanes organization. Aho is also a part of Montreal’s biggest self-own of the century, when they submitted an offer sheet that was instantly matched by the Hurricanes. It led to a lot of whining and complaining from the Montreal fan base, and there are still some big brained Habs fans that think he’ll become a part of their beloved team in five years. It totally wasn’t a decision he made to gain bargaining power as an RFA without arbitration. 100%.

Callum Booth (D) – As much as I hate to say it, it doesn’t look good for Booth right now. He’s in his third year of his ELC and has spent the majority of it in the ECHL. A lot of this has to do with the Hurricanes having Alex Nedeljkovic and a revolving door of AHL backup goalies in their system, but I still believe in Booth. It’s not likely that he’ll sign an extension with the team and he’ll likely look for a better opportunity elsewhere. It’s a shame because I’m a big fan of Booth’s game. The pick that the Hurricanes used to draft Booth was acquired in the Tim Gleason trade.

Nicolas Roy (C) – Roy was a steal at the time because of the fact that he was a former first overall pick in the QMJHL. He then went to tear up the Q and earn an NHL contract. His power forward style of play was something that the Hurricanes lacked in their pipeline, and his goal scoring touch was an added bonus. Roy was good but not great in the AHL and only played in seven games for the Hurricanes before being traded to Vegas in exchange for Erik Haula. That trade has worked out well for the Canes, if you ask me.

Luke Stevens (F) – Stevens is still a part of the organization, but it’s not looking like he’ll be a pro player. He has yet to show any offensive potential in the NCAA and has been very disappointing for Yale. The reason why Stevens was drafted in 2015 was that he was a 6’5″ forward that had some offensive potential at the high school level. He wasn’t the fastest, but the hope was that he could improve on his speed and become a consistent threat in the NCAA. That hasn’t happened, unfortunately.

Spencer Smallman (?) – Smallman is the only question mark on this list. Why? Because he’s yet to play in more than 50 pro games since he signed his ELC. Smallman has had some tough injuries since turning pro. He had shoulder surgery in his first season and then tore his ACL after just twelve games with the Checkers this past season. Smallman is still recovering from that injury and has missed the team’s first ten games of the season. I still have hope for him because he does a lot of things well, but I’m not sure what his future with the organization will be after these injuries.

Jake Massie (F) – If you’re thinking to yourself “who is this player?” then worry not! So is everyone else! Massie was a Hurricanes prospect for two and a half months before he was shipped off to Chicago in exchange for Kris Versteeg, Joakim Nordstrom, and a 2017 third round pick that was traded back to Chicago in the Teravainen deal and then to Detroit, who selected Keith Petruzzelli. Massie didn’t sign with Chicago and signed with the Florida Panthers. He’s bounced between Springfield in the AHL and Greenvile in the ECHL in his first pro season.

David Cotton (C+) – Cotton has shown tremendous amounts of growth in the organization. He’s in his senior year with Boston College and has ten points in seven games to start the season. Assuming he signs with the team, there could be an NHL roster spot waiting for him next season. He has the makings of a good third line power forward, and I can see him fitting in Rod Brind’Amour’s system nicely. Of course, this is a bad pick if he doesn’t sign, but I don’t want to freak anyone out.

Steven Lorentz (C) – I like Lorentz. He’s having a strong contract year in the AHL and has been given more responsibilities this season. He even earned a long look in the NHL training camp, which I think has led to some strong performances in the AHL. Lorentz’s game six against Toronto in the AHL Playoffs was the best game that I had seen him play in the AHL, bar none. He was wreaking havoc on the Marlies and set up the goal that sent Charlotte to the Calder Cup Final. I could see Lorentz being this year’s Clark Bishop.

2016

After a great 2015 draft, it was only fitting that Ron Francis followed it up with his most polarizing draft during his tenure as GM. Let the narratives commence!

Jake Bean (B) – Bean would have been a great pick for any other team, and draft experts were praising Carolina for stockpiling good defensemen. Canes fans, on the other hand, were frothing at the mouth in rage at this pick. Admittedly, so was I. I hadn’t seen Bean play all that much, and to be honest, after picking two straight left handed defensemen, what more could you want? But after seeing Bean play and then watching him develop, I’ve become a member of the Jake Bean fan club, and while some folks may still be mad and calling him a bust, I think that most people have come around on him. Sure, he may not have been what the organization needed at the time, but he’s looking like a solid prospect. He’s being given the proper amount of time to develop, which ends when the Hurricanes deem him ready for the NHL. There’s no longer a need to rush a prospect.

Julien “Trending Towards a Bust” Gauthier (B) – When you have the opportunity to call a player a bust two years before his ELC expires, you absolutely have to do it. And when you have the opportunity to call out someone for a lazy take, you absolutely have to turn it into a bit. Gauthier had a great camp and finally earned some time with the Hurricanes, appearing in two games. It’s clear that Gauthier still needs some time to develop, particularly on the defensive side of the puck. He gets lost occasionally and loses his man, which causes him to take a careless penalty. He’s second in goals on a Charlotte team that’s struggling to score, so that’s a positive. Gauthier has one more year on his ELC after this one, despite this being his third pro season. Thank goodness for his contract sliding. When he makes the roster next year, he’ll still be on an entry level salary.

Janne Kuokkanen (C+) – The #StayKuokk movement has been quieted a bit recently due to Kuokkanen’s injury troubles at the end of last season and his quiet start to this season. Kuokkanen looks like a great AHL player but needs at least another couple of weeks or months before he’s back to his normal self. Luckily, Kuokkanen has another year remaining on his deal, and I think he’ll be ready to contend for a roster spot next year.

Matt Filipe (D) – This is about to get ugly. The Hurricanes had three third round picks in the 2016 draft and elected to keep all of them. The Hurricanes elected to pick Matt Filipe, a speedy goal scorer from Cedar Rapids in the USHL. Filipe has had an up and down NCAA career, and despite earning high praise from Sergei Samsonov, the Hurricanes’ director of forward development, it’ll be tough for Filipe to earn a contract. He has three points in eight games for Northeastern to start his senior year. That’s not ideal for a guy on the first line. This pick was acquired along with the pick that the Hurricanes used on Spencer Smallman in exchange for Jiri Tlusty.

Hudson Elynuik (F) – Elynuik had some promise since he was another 6’5″ forward with good offensive instincts. He lacked discipline and was a little reckless, but the potential was there. After two great junior seasons and some high praise from Zach Boychuk for some reason, he opted to not sign with the Hurricanes. (I had to un-block Boychuk to find this tweet. You’re welcome) Elynuik could have been a good prospect for the Hurricanes, but he likely wouldn’t have cracked the top ten at the time he was drafted, nor at any point afterwards. He’s currently playing for the Toronto Marlies where he has zero points in ten games.

Jack Lafontaine (D) – I’m cautiously optimistic about Lafontaine. He turned his career around with Penticton last season and is now playing for the University of Minnesota. His numbers haven’t been stellar, but he’s playing for a Minnesota team that lost some serious talent this past year. I think that he’ll rebound and possibly earn a pro contract at the end of next season, although I’m not sure if that’ll be with the Hurricanes or not. Three third round picks and three whiffs will not be good for Ron Francis’ legacy, though. The Hurricanes acquired this pick, Anthony Camara, and a 2017 fifth round pick in exchange for John-Michael Liles. The 2017 pick was traded to Vegas for expansion considerations, and Vegas used it to draft Jack Dugan, who currently leads the NCAA in scoring.

Max Zimmer (F) – Zimmer has frustrated me because I see his potential and don’t see the results at the NCAA level. He makes too many mistakes and gets lost too often for a player with his speed. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t believe we’ll see Zimmer in the sightless eye.

Jeremy Helvig (C) – There is much to be seen regarding Helvig’s development since he’s only begun year two of his professional career. He’s struggled mightily in two starts for Jacksonville in the ECHL this season, but part of that has to do with Jacksonville being a bad team. Helvig likely gets an AHL job next season once Nedeljkovic graduates to the NHL, so we’ll get a better look as to what kind of player he is at that point.

Noah Carroll (F) – Carroll was a risk that never paid off. He had some poor junior seasons and an average contract year that failed to result in a pro contract. There’s not much to say about Carroll. He had offensive potential but made a lot of costly mistakes.

2017

Most of the 2017 draft class are beginning their first professional seasons this year. A lot of uncertainty still surrounds this draft class because of that, so if there are some grades that you don’t agree with, it’s because we haven’t seen enough of that player yet!

Martin Necas (A) – Necas looks like one of Ron Francis’ best picks during his tenure as GM, which is pretty impressive considering some of the prospects on this list. Necas has top six potential and has shown that he’s a legitimate NHL forward. He’s quick, creative, and incredibly gifted offensively. So far this season, Necas has eight points in 14 games and has gotten better with every shift. The sky is the limit for the young forward, and I expect him to be a bigger part of the team moving forward.

Eetu Luostarinen (C+) – Luostarinen was a confusing pick at the time and I’m sure the hindsight folks will be the first to complain about this pick, saying that such and such player is better. Luostarinen had a good overage season for a bad team and was picked by the Hurricanes in the second round. This was probably a lot earlier than he should have been picked, but the Hurricanes liked what they saw. Luostarinen has been great for Charlotte thus far and had his seven game point streak snapped against Cleveland. It’s likely that he’ll only be a bottom six forward in the NHL, but I like what I’ve seen from him in Charlotte. Could the Hurricanes have done better? Yes, but Ron Francis went for the safe pick every time.

Luke Martin (C) – Speaking of safe picks, Luke Martin is a thing. He was another second round pick of the Hurricanes, courtesy of the Eric Staal trade. Martin is great in the defensive zone and a decent skater, but that’s about it. There’s little to no offensive upside in the way he plays, and he seems more like a shutdown defenseman than anything else. I still believe that he’ll turn pro, although the addition of Chase Priskie makes me believe that Martin’s chances of becoming a full-time Hurricane are slim.

Morgan Geekie (B) – Geekie has the best name in the system and is Charlotte’s number one center after an impressive rookie year. He was an overage player with lots of offensive skill and good size, but his skating kept him out of the first two rounds. The Hurricanes struck gold with this pick, especially since Geekie could very well contend for a roster spot in the near future. His nine points in ten games is good for first on the Checkers as well. The Hurricanes acquired this pick as a result of the Tuomo Ruutu trade in 2014. It took three years, but the Hurricanes made it worth it in the end.

Stelio Mattheos (B) – Another good pick for the Hurricanes. Mattheos was already a good two-way player by the time he was drafted, and his offensive game sort of exploded as soon as he was allowed to be himself. Mattheos carried Brandon in back to back seasons despite the Wheat Kings being one of the worst teams in the WHL. Mattheos signed his ELC and joined the Checkers for their playoff push, helping the team win the Calder Cup. Mattheos made his return this past weekend after a cancer diagnosis over the summer. It’s hard not to cheer for the guy, and he has NHL upside.

Eetu Makiniemi (C-) – Makiniemi is a player that I considered putting a question mark next to his name. He’s shown flashes of potential but hasn’t played a whole lot in two years. In his first season after being drafted, Makiniemi played for Jokerit U20, one of the worst teams in that league. He faced over 50 shots in multiple games and still managed to do well. Injuries held him to just 14 appearances the following season. This year, Makiniemi is playing with KooVee in the Finnish second-tier league and has been one of the best goalies in the league. He’s more than ready for a Liiga job, but Ilves is not a good team so it’s best for him to get playing time in Mestis while he can.

Brendan De Jong (F) – De Jong was an overage defenseman with great size and solid defensive play, but he wasn’t able to do very much past that. His lack of offensive skills and turnovers made it difficult to warrant a pro contract. De Jong is currently playing for Wichita in the ECHL.

Ville Rasanen (F) – We could talk all day about the players selected after Rasanen, but I won’t. There was a great QMJHL forward selected after him, though. Rasanen has struggled after being drafted by the Hurricanes and has played for six different teams in three years. Seven if you count the contract he signed in Slovakia, although he never played a game for them. Rasanen wasn’t a good pick and it’s a shame that he hasn’t worked out.

2018

I still consider the 2018 draft to be a part of the Ron Francis Era since he was forced to resign a few months prior to the draft. His fingerprints are all over this draft, especially since the Hurricanes managed to make a bunch of safe picks with average NHL potential in this draft. This draft still had a massive impact on the franchise, as the Hurricanes finally got a lucky bounce and landed the second overall pick. Despite media narratives about trading the pick, Svechnikov not actually being that good, and Brady Tkachuk being the second coming of Jesus despite looking like Napoleon Dynamite, the Hurricanes managed to make the right decision.

Andrei Svechnikov (A+) – There was virtually no way the Hurricanes could f*** up this pick, but local media seemed to find a billion ways to do so. In the end, Don Waddell and his team made the right decision. Andrei Svechnikov scored 20 goals in his rookie season, and not one of them occurred on the power play. This season, Svech has indeed happened. He has a nice six goals and nine assists for fifteen points in as many games. He’s (finally) getting first line minutes and is scoring goals both on the power play and at even strength. He’s likely the front-runner for goal of the year with his lacrosse goal, despite the fact that I’m conditioned to not be as impressed by these moves anymore. Svechnikov has been everything this team had hoped he would be, and he’s not even 20 yet. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

Brady Tkachuk could never

Jack Drury (B) – The safest of safe picks. Drury has a skill set that translates to the NHL, but not many people see him as a top six forward. It’s likely that he pans out and becomes a good third line forward, which is valuable, but not always what you’re hoping for in a second round pick. The Hurricanes could have done worse with this pick, but I would have liked to see a little more upside. There’s still a chance that Drury raises his ceiling, but that all depends on if he can get faster.

Luke Henman (C) – Henman is a long-term project with solid upside once he reaches his potential. He’s a smart player with good offensive instincts and playmaking abilities, which make me think that he’ll be a good professional player. The one problem is that he’s very light and still needs to bulk up. He’s pushing 170 pounds right now, which is almost a 20 pound difference from when he was drafted. His numbers may not impress you, but he’s played on two terrible Blainville-Boisbriand teams since he was drafted. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he lit the QMJHL on fire after being traded to a contender.

Lenni Killinen (C) – Another long-term project, although I’m more sure about Henman than I am about Killinen. His hockey sense is a concern because there are definite lapses in his decision making and his vision. He’ll make some great plays and dominate in the offensive zone at times, so that’s encouraging for the future. Killinen’s other problem is that he can’t stay healthy. He missed a lot of games in the season after being drafted and is in the middle of a ~four week absence. Killinen will likely play for Finland at the World Juniors, so that’s a good opportunity for fans to see where he’s at in his development. Playing for a weak Assat team doesn’t help.

Jesper Sellgren (B+) – Sellgren was tremendous value for a sixth round pick. As a double overage player, Sellgren wasn’t well known until the World Juniors in December. His strong play and good hockey sense stood out to the Hurricanes, and he paid off in a big way. Sellgren impressed enough in the SHL to earn a tryout with the Checkers, where he continued to impress. Sellgren had four points in eleven playoff games with the Checkers en route to a Calder Cup win. Sellgren also signed his Entry Level Contract with the Hurricanes and is currently playing for Lulea in the SHL. This burns a year of his ELC and will leave him with two years on his ELC. Sellgren has NHL upside and nearly made the team out of camp with Trevor van Riemsdyk out due to injury.

Jake Kucharski (D) – Kucharski has potential but hasn’t played a whole lot since being drafted. He’s currently the third goalie for a good Providence College team and will probably see more playing time next season. Kucharski has some good size but is slow to cover the lower half of the net.

2019

This draft marks the beginning (sort of ) of the Don Waddell Era. This era has been marked with a playoff berth and some absolutely great trades, and the 2019 draft may be one of the best drafts on this list, at least in terms of reactions from draft experts. Of course, it’s so tough to evaluate players less than six months after being drafted into the NHL. I’ll give my initial grades and some thoughts after the first month and a half of the season.

Ryan Suzuki (B) – Much remains to be seen about Suzuki, but getting him at 28th overall was a steal. Suzuki has elite vision and is one of the best playmakers in the OHL, but his hesitancy to shoot is a concern. There’s top six potential in his game, and he’ll likely take four or five years to develop. I’m fine with that, especially with how deep the team is right now.

Pyotr Kochetkov (B) – Kochetkov could very well be the goalie of the future, but I don’t want to overhype him just yet. He’s a great goaltender that has franchise potential, and he’ll likely be in the top half of the league in terms of starting goalies. If there were a way to get Kochetkov out of Russia and into the AHL next season, the Hurricanes will find a way. He’s not getting a lot of playing time in Russia right now, so I think some more playing time will help. This pick was acquired via the Jeff Skinner trade.

Jamieson Rees (B) – Another good pick from the Hurricanes. They get a Travis Konecny-lite in the second round and he’s been phenomenal so far. Rees plays a gritty game with a lot of offensive flair. His compete level is high and he’s a great skater. Rees has started to shoot more often and become more of a goal scorer, and if he can keep up this production, he could find his way into the top ten in scoring in the OHL. Rees has nine goals in as many games and 22 points on the season. The Hurricanes traded pick 37 in this draft for the pick used to acquire Rees and the 83rd overall pick.

Patrik Puistola (B) – Getting Puistola at 73 was tremendous value. If Puistola can turn into an NHL goal scorer, then this pick will look phenomenal. I do think he’s a bit of a one-trick pony and that his skating is just okay, but his goal scoring and strong two way play make him an intriguing prospect. Puistola is currently bouncing between Mestis and Liiga this season, where he’s a top line forward in Mestis and a fourth line forward in the Liiga, playing for a coach that refuses to give him more ice time. The pick used to draft Puistola was acquired via another draft day trade, where the Hurricanes sent pick 59 to Minnesota in exchange for picks 73 and 99.

Anttoni Honka (B) – Yet another good value pick. Honka was easily the biggest boom or bust prospect in the draft due to his elite offensive skills and weak defensive play. Getting him at pick 83 was impressive, considering some had him ranked in the second round. Honka has looked impressive for JYP in the Liiga this season, with eight points in 19 games. Honka has looked better at even strength and has shown some growth in the defensive zone, but it’s still clear that he needs time to develop. He’s been playing over 18 minutes per game this season. Honka was the second player drafted from the trade with Ottawa, the other being Jamieson Rees.

Domenick Fensore (C+) – Fensore has a lot of potential as an offensive defenseman, perhaps even as a forward. He’s a hard worker and a great skater, but the only thing holding him back is his size and struggles in the defensive zone. Fensore has looked alright for a weak Boston University team this season, with two assists in seven games. He was one of the youngest players in his draft class, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a bit of a late bloomer.

Cade Webber (C) – Webber was a bit of an unknown for me after the draft, and I didn’t know much about him until development camp. Webber is a shutdown defenseman that is pushing 6’7″, but what sets him apart from most is his great skating ability. Webber doesn’t have a lot of offensive potential, but he’s looked good in the BCHL. He’ll be a nice addition to Boston University next season, a team desperately looking for defensive help. Webber was picked with the second pick acquired in a trade with Minnesota after Patrik Puistola was selected 73rd overall.

Tuukka Tieksola (B) – Tieksola was a fantastic pick and he reminds me a bit of Sebastian Aho in the way that he moves the puck. He’s playing in the U20 league in Finland and has 26 points in 18 games. It’s clear that he’s too good for that league, but with Karpat being such a stacked team, it’s hard for him to keep a roster spot. I would love to see Tieksola loaned to Mestis so that he can play against men and face tougher competition. He consistently skates circles around the competition.

Kirill Slepets (C) – I don’t mind this pick, I just don’t know if Slepets ever plays in North America. He doesn’t dominate play, and while he has a great shot and skates well, I don’t see him being a top six forward in the NHL. Slepets has 15 points in 21 VHL games, which is the second-tier league in Russia. I’d like to see how Slepets fares in the KHL before I read too much into his development.

Kevin Wall (C) – Wall is one of those players that had a good overage season in the BCHL and is heading to a good Penn State program. I mentioned much, much earlier that you sometimes want to take players heading to the NCAA in the later rounds in the hopes that he develops into a good pro player by the time that his NCAA career is done. Wall is a good scorer with some good speed, and that’s all I know about him. He’s been the extra forward a couple times this season, so it may be a slow year for him. The Hurricanes acquired this pick in the trade that sent Eddie Lack and Ryan Murphy to Calgary.

Blake Murray (B) – I immediately liked the Murray pick, which was surprising. If you told me in December that the Hurricanes were picking Murray, I’d be mad. He frustrated me due to his inconsistent effort, and I was not a fan. Murray turned it around and I started to come around on him about halfway through the season. He put up 30 goals in his draft year, which is tough to do for a weak team, and has looked excellent so far this season. Despite being labeled as a goal scorer, Murray has shown some potential as a playmaker this season with twelve assists and twenty points in eighteen games. Getting a player with top nine potential, particularly a goal scorer, in the sixth round is excellent value for the Hurricanes.

Massimo Rizzo (C+) – As far as seventh round picks go, this is a good one. Rizzo has a lot of skill and can dazzle you with his stickhandling. He’s had some injury troubles, which were likely the reason why he fell so far in the draft, but those seem to be behind him. Rizzo is committed to the University of North Dakota, which is a consistently good program. It’s likely that we won’t see Rizzo turn pro until he graduates, so that gives him plenty of time to develop into the top nine forward that he can be. There’s some risk due to his injury history, but I’m optimistic.

And that’s it! We start and end with good drafts, and we can ignore some of the other drafts in the middle. The Hurricanes have six picks in the first three rounds in 2020, so it’s likely that we see the pipeline expand and the Hurricanes get deeper as a team. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? The future is still bright!

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