Grading the Drafts: A Pick-By-Pick Analysis of Carolina’s Drafts

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It’s been about a year since I graded the Hurricanes’ drafts of the past decade, so it’s time to look at some of those drafts again! Instead of grading the 2010-2019 drafts, I’ll be looking at the 2014-2019 drafts. I’ll be taking a look at the Hurricanes’ drafts under Ron Francis and Don Waddell exclusively, taking the information we learned from this past season and using it to grade each draft. We’ll break down each pick, give it a grade, and have a bit of fun along the way.

New to this analysis will be a brief list of “risers” and “fallers” for each draft. These picks may not have had their grades changed, but their development or NHL production may have pushed the needle enough for me to consider a change. For instance: Foegele’s grade won’t change from my November grades, but he had a solid NHL season and was an improved player. That’s what will classify him as a riser.

2014

Haydn Fleury (B) – In my last article, I gave the Fleury pick a C-. He hadn’t been a consistent player in the lineup in his NHL career and hadn’t broken out either. Oh man, do I look dumb now. Fleury is finally living up to his draft pedigree and could very well be the fourth best defenseman on a team with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton, Jake Gardiner, Brady Skjei, and Sami Vatanen. Crazy, right? Hamilton’s broken leg in January made a huge difference for Fleury, who stepped into a larger role with the team and thrived. Fleury’s presence has been noticeable in the playoffs, particularly on the physical side of the game. I’d argue that Fleury is a more complete player than Aaron Ekblad, the defenseman selected first overall in that draft. Fleury isn’t going to be as valuable as some of the players selected after him (Nylander, Ehlers, Fiala, Larkin, Tuch, Pastrnak), but he’s a damn good NHL player.

Alex Nedeljkovic (C) – Nedeljkovic hasn’t had a fair shake with the Hurricanes, and with how well the Hurricanes’ current goalies are performing, it’s hard to find a spot for Ned in the lineup. This means that the 24-year-old goaltender may have to spend another year in the AHL unless the Hurricanes can find a new home for him. It stinks, too. Nedeljkovic has been a great goaltender in the AHL and led the Checkers to a Calder Cup in 2019, earning the AHL’s Goaltender of the Year award along the way. Ned has proven himself in every way, but the Hurricanes keep bringing in backup goalies that take a roster spot from him. It’s hard to see Nedeljkovic in the lineup next season barring a trade, but anything is possible.

Warren Foegele (C+) – I’m not amending my grade from November just yet. Foegele had a good season on the Hurricanes’ third line with 30 points in 68 games, but he hasn’t quite earned the “good pick” title yet. In order to earn that, he’ll have to appear in at least 53 more games for the Hurricanes, which will put him at 200 NHL games. Foegele’s energy, grit, and passion has made him a solid NHL player for the Hurricanes. He’s an option on the third line, and if he can figure out how to finish chances on a more consistent basis, then the NHL will need to watch out. Foegele’s ceiling may not be higher than 40 points, but there’s tremendous value in a player that can put up close to 40 points without any power play time.

Josh Wesley (F) – This grade doesn’t change since Wesley is no longer a part of the organization. He had a so-so OHL career after being drafted and was an ECHL player for the majority of his tenure with the Hurricanes.

Lucas Wallmark (C+) – Wallmark was 40 NHL games away from being classified as a “good pick” before the Hurricanes dealt him, Haula, Priskie, and Luostarinen for Vincent Trocheck. Recency bias affected my last grade of a B+ due to Wallmark’s great start, but it became obvious very quickly that Wallmark struggled to score and wasn’t going to be able to produce on a line higher than the fourth line. He was a great fourth line player, but in a system with plenty of depth, that’s expendable. Trocheck has been great for the Hurricanes despite not finding his way onto the scoresheet too often. All in all, it’s a decent pick that was used to acquire a better player.

Clark Bishop (C-) – Any time you can get NHL games out of a fifth round pick, you’re doing something right. Sure, Bishop has only appeared in 25 regular season games for the Hurricanes. Sure, he hasn’t been all that effective at the NHL level. He’s a fine depth player that you can call up if you need him on your fourth line. It’s not great, but Bishop has done a lot better than most fifth round picks in that draft save for Bjork and Lindblom.

Kyle Jenkins (F) – The Hurricanes didn’t sign Jenkins before his rights expired in 2016 and he is currently enrolled in university in Canada. I don’t see a pro future for Jenkins, but I’ve been surprised before.

Risers: Fleury, Foegele

Fallers: Wallmark, Bishop, Nedeljkovic

Overall draft grade: C – The Fleury and Foegele picks look great, but the rest of that draft is incredibly average. None of the players that the Hurricanes selected in the 2014 draft have played in over 200 games with the Hurricanes, but Foegele and Fleury could both hit that mark next season. The Hurricanes didn’t pick any stars in this draft and wound up with a number four defenseman and a good third line forward.

2015

Noah Hanifin (C) – Remember when the Hurricanes picked Hanifin and fans thought he’d turn the franchise around? Good times. Hanifin improved marginally over three seasons and was pretty much the same player that was drafted in 2015 when the Hurricanes traded him in 2018. The good news? Hanifin is a “good” pick based on the fact that he played in over 200 games for the Hurricanes. He was also involved in the trade for Dougie Hamilton, which has proved to be great for the Hurricanes. With the Flames, Hanifin has shown that he can put up decent offensive numbers but still be a liability in the defensive zone. Hurricanes fans have had a few “I told you so moments” with regards to Hanifin in the past few years. The fact that Hanifin played in over 200 games and was involved in a big trade for the organization doesn’t outweigh the fact that this was a disappointing pick. Hanifin never lived up to his draft position and fans were happy to be rid of him when he was traded. It’s a shame.

Sebastian Aho (A+) – This pick keeps looking better and better. Aho is a true star in the NHL, and anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t watched a Hurricanes game. He’s a player that can take over a hockey game and make you look silly for leaving him even a little bit of ice to work with. The fact that so few people ranked Aho in the second round in 2015 makes this pick look even better. There’s no sense in lingering on this pick here since we all know how good Aho his. What a fantastic pick by Ron Francis and his staff.

Callum Booth (D) – I won’t amend my grade from November just yet since Booth is still with the organization. It’s a shame that he hasn’t gotten a fair shot with Charlotte, but I don’t think the Hurricanes will be signing Booth to a new contract. It would be great if they did, because I do think that there’s some potential there. Alas, it may be too little too late.

Nicolas Roy (D) – Roy has seen some success with Vegas, which is fantastic news. I’ve always liked him as a player and he has potential on the fourth line. I give this pick a grade of “D” because he only appeared in six games for Carolina before being traded for Erik Haula. Haula had a hot start with the Hurricanes but fell out of favor with Brind’Amour and was subsequently traded for Vincent Trocheck. I’m happy to see Roy succeeding in Vegas, but from a Hurricanes standpoint, it’s not a good pick.

Luke Stevens (F) – Stevens was not signed by the Hurricanes by the August 15 deadline and is now a free agent. Rumors suggest that he’ll be signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, although I’m not entirely sure why. Stevens hasn’t shown me that he has the potential to be a good AHL hockey player, much less a good NHL player. Alas, it didn’t work out for the Canes.

Spencer Smallman (D) – Smallman looked like he was settling into a groove when the AHL season was cancelled, which is unfortunate. He has had some awful luck with injuries throughout his professional career which has prevented him from establishing consistency. I want to see Smallman play a full season in the AHL before I write him off, and I’m cheering for a new contract for Smallman.

Jake Massie (F) – It’s unfair to call this pick a total failure since Massie was only with the organization for a few months. He was involved in the Kris Versteeg trade before he could start his collegiate career. Massie is now in the Florida organization splitting time between the AHL and ECHL.

David Cotton (C+) – Cotton will start his professional career next season after signing a two year entry-level contract with the Hurricanes. Cotton projects to be a third line power forward that could see some time on the second power play unit as well as a shift or two here and there on the penalty kill. I can’t give this pick a higher grade due to the fact that Cotton has yet to play a game of professional hockey, but his future in the organization looks promising.

Steven Lorentz (C+) – Lorentz is looking like an NHL player and could make the Hurricanes’ roster next season and play on the fourth line. He’s everything you want in a player. He works hard, is physical, can chip in offensively, and skates fairly well. Lorentz could be another great addition to the Hurricanes’ bottom six. Going from the ECHL to a top producer on an AHL team is no small feat, and it just goes to show how hard Lorentz has worked to get to this point.

Overall draft grade: B

The fact that the Hurricanes landed a star player in the second round is outstanding. Sebastian Aho is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and is without a doubt one of the Hurricanes’ best forwards in recent memory. What keeps this draft from getting a higher grade is the Hanifin pick. He was picked fifth overall and never changed the franchise like you’d hope a fifth overall pick would. Hanifin was the right pick for the Hurricanes at the time, but in hindsight, it was a bad pick. The draft gets a little underwhelming after that, but Cotton and Lorentz project as NHL players and could play for the Hurricanes in the next year or so. There’s reason for optimism there.

Risers: Cotton, Lorentz

Fallers: Hanifin, Roy

2016

Jake Bean (B-) – Bean needs to play in the NHL, and it needs to happen soon. The reigning defenseman of the year in the AHL has earned the opportunity to spread his wings at the NHL level, but the Hurricanes’ defense currently stands at a whopping NINE players. Bean has a tough hill to climb in order to make the Hurricanes’ roster as things currently stand. Do the Hurricanes make room for Bean on the roster, or do they try and find a different home for him? This is the biggest question facing the Hurricanes with regards to Bean’s future in the organization.

Julien Gauthier (F) – Hot take alert! This is a complete 180 from where I was at in November, but we now know a lot more about Gauthier than we did in March. After all, he was coming off of a great training camp and had appeared in some NHL games at the start of the season. Julien Gauthier was sent to the AHL afterwards and stayed there. The Hurricanes called up other players ahead of him, and it didn’t seem like they felt that Gauthier was ready to make the jump. Then, in a shocking move, Gauthier was traded to the Rangers in exchange for a younger prospect: Joey Keane. The Hurricanes may have given up a little early on Gauthier, but it didn’t seem like Brind’Amour would ever trust him. His defensive play was always shaky and while he made improvements every year, it was always his biggest weakness. Gauthier is an NHL player with the Rangers, but he’s seeing fourth line minutes and isn’t looking like more than a fourth line player. Gauthier was a 21st overall pick for the Hurricanes that appeared in five NHL games with the team and was traded one-for-one for a prospect. Gauthier may never have been an NHL player for the Hurricanes, so it’s good that they got something for him, but it’s still a bad pick. Looks like this was actually a bust for the Hurricanes, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong on this one.

Janne Kuokkanen (F) – Kuokkanen was another deadline casualty of the Hurricanes. He was traded for Sami Vatanen at the deadline and played in one game for the Devils before the season paused. Kuokkanen showed promise in the AHL and couldn’t make it work at the NHL level. The Hurricanes failed once again to get any sort of value out of a high pick (43rd overall). Kuokkanen only played in 11 games for the Hurricanes and had no points.

Matt Filipe (F) – It’s fantastic that Filipe signed an NHL contract, but it sucks that it’s not with the Hurricanes. Filipe has pro potential as a guy that could fit in on your fourth line and be a top penalty killer. Since he doesn’t sign, it’s a bust for the Hurricanes, and the Bruins could reap the rewards of this pick. Filipe is a casualty of the Hurricanes’ prospect depth. When I say that, I mean that he’s good enough to earn an NHL contract, but likely not good enough to have a legitimate opportunity with the Hurricanes. So he doesn’t sign, and Boston scoops him up.

Hudson Elynuik (F) – Elynuik didn’t sign when his rights expired in 2018, and he’s now on an AHL contract with Toronto. That’s two third round picks that didn’t pan out for the Hurricanes, and four out of five picks in the first three rounds that were busts.

Jack LaFontaine (C) – The jury is still out on LaFontaine, but I’m giving him an outside shot at earning an NHL contract if he’s able to play in the NCAA this year. I’d bet on LaFontaine. He’s turned his career around and has been a great goaltender for the past two seasons. Goalies are weird and take longer to develop, so it looks like Jack has found his place. It’s too early to give this a better grade, but I’m liking his odds.

Max Zimmer (F) – Zimmer’s rights expired on August 15, and while he was on an ATO with the Checkers when the season was cancelled, I don’t think he gets above that level. He has the speed and work ethic to succeed, but I never saw him put everything together in the offensive zone. Maybe he works his way up from the AHL to the NHL?

Jeremy Helvig (F) – Helvig was arrested on a battery charge earlier in the year. I can’t see him returning to the organization after that.

Noah Carroll (F) – Carroll didn’t sign after his rights expired in 2018 and I don’t blame the Hurricanes for not signing him. Carroll didn’t have much promise as an offensive defenseman and was awful in his own end. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t work out, but oh well.

Overall draft grade: F

You have one possible NHL player and one “maybe” out of nine total draft picks in this draft. Even if Bean makes it to the NHL, does that redeem the rest of the draft? Nope. The 2016 draft was easily Ron Francis’ worst draft as the GM of the Hurricanes, and it’s not particularly close. Four of your nine picks weren’t signed. One hasn’t signed yet. One was arrested. Two were traded. One is looking like an NHL player, but has a tough road ahead given the team’s depth on defense. How disappointing is that?

Risers: LaFontaine, Bean

Fallers: Literally everyone else

2017

Martin Necas (B+) – Necas is looking like an “A” grade player, but I’m not going to give him that after one season in the NHL. His speed, hockey sense, and playmaking abilities make him a fantastic top six forward and he’s emerging as one of the Hurricanes’ most electrifying forwards. This pick will only continue to look better if Necas continues on this track.

Eetu Luostarinen (F) – Ah Eetu, your time with the Hurricanes was short. He saw some NHL games in his rookie year and looked to have a promising future on the bottom six, but the Canes had other plans. Luostarinen was a part of the Trocheck trade and left the organization less than a season into his professional career. Not a great pick considering it’s a top-50 pick that played in less than ten games for your team.

Luke Martin (F) – Martin’s rights also expired on the 15th, to the surprise of no one. It had been confirmed by a few people early on during the pause that the Hurricanes would not be signing Luke Martin. It’s great that Luke Martin was good in his own end, but that’s about it. Martin wasn’t that good of a skater and couldn’t contribute much in the offensive zone. Another frustrating second round pick for the Hurricanes.

Morgan Geekie (B) – I’m fully on the Geekie Hype Train but don’t want to give him a higher grade based on two regular season games and a few playoff games. Even when he’s not scoring, Geekie is a threat. He’s a grinder, strong on the puck, and he has a great shot. He’ll wreak havoc in all three zones and will be a full-time NHL player next season. It’s too early to dub this pick as “good,” but as of right now, it’s looking like a slam dunk for Carolina.

Stelio Mattheos (B) – This pick looks good so far, and once Mattheos gets a full AHL season under his belt, we’ll see why he put up the numbers he did in juniors. It’s way too early to tell if Mattheos will be a contributor at the NHL level, but his style of play matches up well with what Rod Brind’Amour is trying to build here.

Eetu Makiniemi (C) – Makiniemi had a great season and was named the top goaltender in Finland’s second league. He was good in a small sample size in the top league and seems to be picking up where he left off there, with just two goals allowed in a preseason game on August 19. Makiniemi has one season left to prove that he has earned an NHL contract, and I’m fairly confident that he’ll do that. This pick is a C right now since he hasn’t turned pro with the Hurricanes yet. There’s potential for Makiniemi at the NHL level, though.

Brendan De Jong (F) – De Jong was a late round gamble that you never have an issue with. He was a decent defensive defenseman with great size and decent skating, so that’s enough to garner some NHL attention. De Jong had a brief stint in the ECHL and is now at the University of Calgary. You can’t really fault the Hurricanes here. They took a chance on an overage player in the sixth round and it didn’t pay off. Oh well.

Ville Rasanen (F) – This pick has always confused me. I get that it’s a seventh round pick, but Rasanen hasn’t looked like an NHL prospect at any point since being drafted. The Hurricanes still hold his rights for another year, but I wrote him off as a prospect about two years ago.

Risers: Necas, Geekie, Makiniemi

Fallers: Luostarinen, Martin

Overall draft grade: C+

The Hurricanes managed to draft a top six center, an ideal third line center, a possible middle six forward, and a possible NHL goaltender in this draft. Those are all successes. Your two second round picks turning into busts for your organization hurts a lot, though. Geekie’s emergence makes up for a lot of that. I’m not going to give this draft a higher grade just yet because the Hurricanes have 72 regular seasons of Martin Necas to go off of in addition to Morgan Geekie’s two NHL games. The good news is that with two players likely to be NHL players for a long time, this draft can only look better for the Hurricanes.

2018

Andrei Svechnikov (A+) – The only complaint that I have about the Svechnikov pick is that he didn’t get an all-star nomination this past year. Andrei Svechnikov is a 20-year-old forward that can dominate NHL games and turn the tables any time he’s on the ice. Svechnikov is already an elite player and is emerging as a true star in this league. Anyone telling you that Svech isn’t a star either hasn’t watched the Hurricanes or has and just has brain worms. Andrei Svechnikov is a damn treat and we’re so lucky to have him on our team.

Jack Drury (B) – We’re getting to the part where I have to start thinking about projections, upside, and more when it comes to certain players. It’s way too early to label some of the picks from the 2018 and 2019 drafts as gems or busts, in my opinion. Drury looks to be a good prospect but not a gem, if that makes sense. He has the attitude you want in a player, he’s great in his own end, he’s great in front of the net, and he’s the type of player you can put into any situation. Drury playing in the SHL is an exciting development. He gets the chance to play in one of the best leagues in the world a year earlier than he probably would have, which will speed up his development. I’m still not convinced that he has second line upside, but his floor seems pretty high.

Luke Henman (F) – Henman didn’t sign by the June 1 deadline, so he’s now a free agent. Henman is another casualty of the Hurricanes’ prospect depth, especially at center. If he was a prospect of a team such as Boston or Tampa, there’s a good chance that he would have signed an NHL contract due to his great hockey sense and skating. I do believe that he’ll sign a professional contract after his overage season in the QMJHL.

Lenni Killinen (C) – Killinen has a few NHL qualities that stand out when you watch him play. He’s a good skater with a pretty good shot and a strong presence in front of the net. His hockey sense is poor and he sometimes struggles to keep up with the mental side of the game. I’m not 100% convinced of Killinen’s NHL future but he has two more years left to develop before the Hurricanes have to sign him.

Jesper Sellgren (B) – Sellgren has a promising future with this organization and should find his way to the NHL in a few years. His skating is great, he’s willing to jump in offensively, and his defensive game has developed nicely over the past two years. Sellgren projects as a solid third pairing defenseman that could play on a team’s power play if he continues to improve offensively.

Jake Kucharski (D) – It’s unfair to blame Kucharski for his lack of starts. I mean, he started in ZERO games this season. He’s finally transferring to a school that will give him an opportunity, and while American International College doesn’t play in a good conference, it gives Kucharski the chance to start. This could be a turning point in his development as a player.

Risers: Drury, Sellgren

Fallers: Henman

Overall draft grade: A

The Hurricanes drafted a franchise cornerstone in Andrei Svechnikov, which makes the whole draft look great no matter how you spin it. Jack Drury projects to be a solid NHL center and Jesper Sellgren might have a good career as a third pairing defenseman. So even without the addition of Svechnikov, the Hurricanes drafted two players with NHL ceilings. That’s phenomenal for the Hurricanes. It’s nice knowing that this draft won’t ever be looked at as disappointing because of how damn good Andrei Svechnikov is. Any other NHL players the Hurricanes get out of the 2018 draft is just a bonus.

2019

Ryan Suzuki (B) – Suzuki was the best player not named Nick Robertson available when the Hurricanes selected him 28th overall. An eye injury and midseason trade definitely hurt his development this season, but the good news is that he’s finally on a top team in the OHL and could be one of the top point producers in the OHL next season. Suzuki has a chance to have another deep run in training camp and could see a game or two of NHL action before returning to the OHL. That’s exciting news for the Hurricanes.

Pyotr Kochetkov (B) – Part of me wants to be concerned about Kochetkov’s lack of starts this past season, but part of me also knows that the KHL is the absolute worst when it comes to giving young players an opportunity. The good news is that Kochetkov seems to be splitting starts with Vityaz’s other goalie in the KHL preseason. Even if Kochetkov gets 30-40% of his team’s starts, that’s better than what was the case last season. Kochetkov may take a year or two longer to develop than we initially thought, but that’s perfectly fine. The Hurricanes have a fine goalie tandem right now. It’s not great, but they get the job done.

Jamieson Rees (B) – Rees had a great season on a terrible team, all while fighting injuries and suspensions. It’s great seeing Rees dominate the OHL on a consistent basis, to be honest. Now all we need is for him to stop getting suspended. Rees has top six potential and is able to change the game in an instant with his slick hands and physical play. Rees plays a similar game to Travis Konecny, and if you haven’t watched the Flyers too much, think of what Chad LaRose could have been if he was actually good offensively. This is the type of player that is 100% built for Rod Brind’Amour’s system.

Patrik Puistola (B+) – Puistola is looking pretty good for a third round pick, in my opinion. His skating is noticeably better than it was in his draft year and we’re seeing Puistola make an impact every time he’s on the ice. Let’s take a look at two plays from JYP’s 6-2 loss to Ilves.

This is where Puistola excelled during the World Juniors: right in front of the net. He takes advantage of an awful turnover and then cuts to the net for a shot attempt. The shot doesn’t work, but luckily, the rebound goes right to a teammate for an easy goal. It’s a nice example of Puistola’s awareness in the offensive zone and his willingness to drive the net. Not a lot of U20 skaters are this willing to drive the net.

This is why I say that Puistola’s skating has improved. He’s not only faster, but he can get to that top speed faster and with less bumps along the way. It would be fantastic if Puistola’s first couple of steps were less wonky, but his skating has improved nonetheless. The pass Puistola makes is also a thing of beauty. The Hurricanes could reap the rewards of this pick for a long time, especially if Puistola reaches his ceiling of a top six finisher. Here’s another good summary of Puistola from Jokke.

Anttoni Honka (B) – Guess what? Honka might actually be good! The most polarizing pick of the 2019 draft still has his doubters but I like Honka’s odds. He showed some more confidence in the Liiga this season and made huge strides defensively. He still carries the “defensive liability” label but he’s improving at a high rate. That’s not surprising given how smart Honka is and how well he processes the game of hockey. I don’t believe that Honka is going to be a top pairing defenseman for the Hurricanes in the future, but I believe that he could turn into a player with a similar upside to Sami Vatanen without all of the injuries. There’s obviously a lot of development to do between now and then, but I’d put my money on Honka. He was getting top pairing minutes with JYP in one of their preseason games earlier this week.

Domenick Fensore (B-) – I gave the Fensore pick a C+ back in November, which was before I got to see him play a couple of times for Boston University. After seeing Fensore play a few times, I’m more convinced about his NHL upside. This is a type of player that has no quit in him whatsoever. Scouts harped on Fensore for his size and defensive play, but I didn’t see that as a glaring issue with Fensore in a much more physical league. Fensore will bother the hell out of you in the defensive zone, stay on you until you either dump the puck in or get forced into a careless turnover. His elite speed allows for him to keep pace with almost any player in the NCAA, too. Fensore will only continue to improve, and while he’s not a lock for the NHL, I’d bet on him as well.

Cade Webber (C) – I can’t change my grade on Webber since he missed the majority of last season due to a lower body injury. If you don’t remember anything about Webber, here’s a summary. He’s a defenseman pushing 6’6″ or 6’7″, depending on who you ask. He’s fast, a fluid skater, and a great defender. His offensive game leaves much to be desired but there’s potential for a defenseman that can be a threat in transition if his offensive hockey sense improves.

Tuukka Tieksola (B) – Tieksola was a player that I had as a steal before the 2019 draft due to his hockey sense and elite playmaking ability. The fact that he was in Karpat’s system didn’t hurt, either. I can’t stress enough how much I want to see Tieksola in the Liiga this season as opposed to another year in U20 hockey. He has clearly outgrown that league and needs a bigger challenge. There’s high upside when you look at Tieksola, but also a fairly low floor considering his size and strength. There are some valid concerns about his ability to compete at the men’s level. But if he reaches his ceiling, we’re talking about a player that could turn into the next Teuvo Teravainen.

Kirill Slepets (C) – Slepets played for one of the KHL’s worst teams this past year and was never given consistent ice time. The good news is that he’s back with Lokomotiv and could be a regular in the lineup this year. I never got the chance to watch Slepets this past season, so I can’t really talk about his development. In his draft year, scouts praised Slepets’ speed and nose for the net. There’s value here if the Canes are willing to wait a long time.

Kevin Wall (C) – I almost gave this pick a C+, but I felt that I needed to see Wall play in one or two more games before I made any changes. I loved Wall in development camp and I thought that he looked confident with Penn State when he was in the lineup. If there is an NCAA season this year, I’d expect for Wall to make more of an impact with the Nittany Lions. His shot is his best quality but there are a lot of other things that make Wall stand out. He’s a smooth skater with decent hockey sense and solid two way play. There’s bottom six potential here in the long term.

Blake Murray (B) – Murray was a good gamble for the Hurricanes in the sixth round. He had some moments that made me want to rip my hair out in his draft year, but those moments were few and far between this season. Not only was Murray a top scorer on his team this year, he was a consistent threat any time he was on the ice. Murray’s consistency, or lack thereof, was the biggest reason as to why he fell in the draft. When he’s on his game, Murray is a good skater with a fantastic shot and the ability to make your team pay for a mistake. When he’s off of his game, it’s hard to notice Murray. Luckily, I didn’t have any issue with Murray this season when I watched him play. There are some things that could take Murray’s game to the next level, though. He could get a touch faster, improve his vision and hockey sense with the puck on his stick, and he could improve his defensive positioning. Murray has the size, strength, and shooting ability already. If he can continue to round out his game, my gosh.

Massimo Rizzo (C) – It never hurts to take a chance at someone with an NCAA committment in the seventh round since they have at least four years to develop. Rizzo has some slick hands and is a good playmaker, but I don’t see elite offensive talent in his game just yet. The pieces are there, so if he can bump his game up a level, perhaps he could make it to the NHL in the long term. Rizzo is no longer committed to the University of North Dakota, so it’s unclear where he’ll be playing next season. His CHL rights are owned by Kamloops, which would be a great fit for him.

Risers: Puistola, Honka, Fensore, Wall

Fallers: None

Overall draft grade: A

There aren’t any players from the Hurricanes’ 2019 draft class that have seen NHL action yet, which makes sense considering the fact that we’re a little over one year removed from the draft. Carolina had an impressive draft class that may yield quite a few NHL players, which is why I decided to give them an A. Sure, there may not be any superstars coming out of the Canes’ draft class as of right now. Sure, we’re still two or three years from seeing some of these guys in the NHL. The fact that the Hurricanes were able to grab so many quality prospects in this draft means that the Hurricanes will be a competitive team for a long time.

In addition to the prospects listed here that are still in the system, the Hurricanes have the 13th overall pick, two second round picks, a third overall pick, and three picks in rounds 4-7. The upcoming draft will give the Hurricanes another opportunity to add to a pipeline that could still be a top five pipeline in the league. The Hurricanes are a young team that will only continue to improve as the years go by. How could you not be excited for the future of this team?

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