After making two first-round selections on Friday night, the team made another seven picks over six rounds on Saturday, including three selections in a span of nine picks in the third round alone.
Making multiple picks in such a succinct amount of time requires detailed preparation. Led by Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes were well-equipped heading into the weekend and leave Buffalo with a varied and talented group of prospects.
“We’re very pleased with the way it all turned out,” MacDonald said. “We got a combination of everything – a couple of goaltenders we really like, some skilled forwards, some guys with some speed and some defenders in there to add to the mix. We come out of here with a pretty good day in terms of the depth of the players we took.”
“Our guys are pretty excited,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “Overall we added some size, speed and grit. We’re pleased with it.”
The Hurricanes began Saturday by picking forward Janne Kuokkanen from Karpat of the Finnish junior league. The 6-foot-1 Finn tallied 53 points (22g, 31a) in 47 games in 2015-16. Koukkanen, a self-described playmaking, two-way center, skated in one game with Karpat’s big club and scored twice.
“What I like about him is his elite, elite hockey sense,” Francis said. “Watching him play, especially at the U-18s, he does some things that remind you in some way to Sebastian Aho. For us, it was exciting to be able to get him. He was a guy we were targeting.”
“He’s a very skilled player. There’s a little bit of Sebastian Aho’s game in Janne Kuokkanen’s game,” MacDonald echoed. “He’s a skilled player with good speed. He put up very impressive numbers in the Finnish junior league. We haven’t seen the best of what he has to offer yet. He’s going to develop into a real good prospect.”
The Hurricanes utilized their three third-round picks to stow away a pair of forwards in Matt Filipe and Hudson Elynuik and a goaltender, Jack Lafontaine.
In his rookie season with Cedar Rapids of the USHL, Filipe posted 36 points (19g, 17a) in 56 games and earned USHL All-Rookie Second Team Honors. The Boston-born winger will attend Northeastern University in the fall.
“He plays an honest, 200-foot game. He gives you a little bit of everything. He can score, and he’s got some grit,” MacDonald said. “We’re pretty excited. A lot of our guys really liked him, the guys that follow the USHL closely really liked him a lot.”
“You don’t take size for the sake of taking size, but for us, we’re looking for a lot of things,” Francis explained. “We want guys who can skate, guys who have high-end compete and guys who have skill. We feel we got some players that fit that mold today.”
Armed with a few extra picks and identifying a need to shore up the depth of organizational goaltending, the Canes saw an opportunity to draft multiple netminders, the first time the team has done so in one draft since 2012, when Daniel Altshuller and Collin Olson were selected. After drafting Lafontaine in the third round, Canes added a second goaltender to their prospect stable in the fifth round with the selection of Jeremy Helvig.
“We had intended to look at the goaltending position and take a couple in the right spot,” MacDonald said. “We had a couple of goalies rated in the second round, but we decided we’d rather go with the forwards and defensemen we had there and go for the goaltenders in the middle rounds. It worked out well because we were able to draft the two goalies we thought we could get at that particular spot.”
“We get two big guys, and we think they’re good prospects,” Francis said. “We’re excited to have them.”
Most if not all of this nine-player draft class will now attend Hurricanes Prospects Development Camp, which takes place July 6-9 at PNC Arena. It will be their first hands-on, on-ice time with their new organization.
“You just get to spend some time with the kids and see what they’re all about. It gives them an opportunity to understand where the bar is set to get to the NHL,” Francis said. “As tough as it was getting drafted, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It gives them a chance to be educated in that process. I think just to be around the pro environment is beneficial.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email