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The Carolina Hurricanes are in a rather unique position heading into the 2019 NHL Draft.
The Hurricanes were one of the final four teams left standing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and because of that, they're slated to pick 28th overall in the first round.
That's not the unique aspect, though it is the deepest first-round selection the Hurricanes have owned in 10 years.
What is unique is that the pick is the first of a league-high 10 selections the Hurricanes currently own. Four other teams - the Devils, Kings, Red Wings and Canadiens - also bring 10 picks into this weekend, but none qualified for the playoffs.
"Usually when the big club goes as far as we did and has the success we had, you're usually trading picks at the deadline to acquire players," Director of Player Personnel Darren Yorke said. "We were able to accumulate a lot of draft picks and have a lot of success, which I think bodes well for the future."
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Three of the Hurricanes' 10 picks fall in the second round, including the 36th and 37th overall selections, acquired through trades with Buffalo and the Rangers, respectively. In fact, 40 percent of the Canes' selections will be made in the top 27 percent of the draft (59 picks).
The Hurricanes then own at least one pick in each of the remaining five rounds, including a pair of late picks in the sixth round.
"We like a lot of players that may be there in the middle to late rounds," Yorke said.
Ten picks and a wealth of options for how to use them. The Hurricanes could spend all 10 on draft picks, which would be the most picks the team has made since 1998, when the draft spanned nine rounds. The Canes could package one or a few in a trade, whether it's to move up or down the draft board or acquire a more NHL-ready asset.
"Last year we had the No. 2 pick, so we knew we were going to get a top player," President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "We're going to look to see what's in the draft, but we're also not opposed to, if there's a player for our team right now, making a trade. We're still trying to improve our team. If we can do that via trades using draft picks or whatever assets we have, we're going to look at all those options."
The Hurricanes' scouting staff, then, has to be nimble and prepared for the unexpected.
"The management staff, Tom and Don, will be talking to the NHL GMs and seeing if there may be [trade] appetite ahead of time. For the scouting staff, the exercises we did as a group were to determine which players, if they start slipping, would be guys we would want to trade up for and vice versa," Yorke said. "You've got to be prepared for any different scenario and make sure you're set and prepared in knowing which players may or may not be there."
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That preparation is years in the making. When the Hurricanes' amateur scouting staff convened at PNC Arena in mid-June, they assembled their master draft list, a ranking of eligible players that will continue to be tweaked in the days and hours leading up to the first round and then reassessed in the time between the end of the first round and the beginning of a rapid-fire day two.
"You know when you're selecting second overall, if you're staying at that pick, there's only one other guy who will get selected. When we're selecting 28th overall, there's more variance of the names," Yorke said. "You have to make sure all your bases are covered, especially when you have as many picks as we do and the option of trading up or down is even more apparent."
Mock drafts agreed upon who the Hurricanes were selecting second overall in 2018. Prognostications this year cast a much wider net.
Will the Hurricanes have their pick from a talented forward group that could include Bobby Brink, Nils Hoglander, Connor McMichael or Jakob Pelletier? Perhaps they'll consider the best available defenseman, like Ryan Johnson, Matthew Robertson or Alex Vlasic. Or, maybe Spencer Knight, the consensus No. 1 goalie in the draft, will still be on the board at 28.
"At the top end of the draft, you're looking for NHL assets. You're looking for skillsets that lead to development," Yorke said. "The player at 28 is going to have x, y and z in terms of NHL dimensions, but maybe one of them just needs a little bit more time to improve upon. From there, the development staff can work with them and get them to become an NHL player."
However the Hurricanes put the 28th pick and their other nine selections to use in Vancouver, it's sure to be an active weekend at the team's draft table.
"I think I've got a little bit of a finger on all of what's happening in the draft, what kind of players we want to draft," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I did a little bit of research on some of these players so you get your opinions in and sit back and just let the guys do their jobs. At the end of the day, we're trying to figure out how to get better."