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Canes to Consider Defenseman in First Round

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Although he’s willing to break with recent philosophy and draft a defenseman in the first round, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford still plans to keep his options open.

Paul Branecky
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A number of blueliners, some of whom should be available with the 12th overall pick in the upcoming draft, have intrigued the team’s scouting staff to the point that Rutherford would consider picking one on the draft’s first day for the first time since 2005, when he selected Jack Johnson at No. 3.

However, that doesn’t mean that the team is definitely looking to bring one into the fold.

“There’s a group of five or six defensemen that our guys really like this year,” said Rutherford. “If in fact a defenseman is the best player at 12, we’ll take him, but we’re not going to take a defenseman just to take him and pass on forwards that have a much bigger upside. It will still end up being the best player at 12.”

In the past, Rutherford has preferred forwards in the first round, believing that, historically, they have a much better chance of helping the team that drafts them. Conversely, defensemen, who face a more gradual development curve, often hit their primes around the age of 25 when the drafting team may have already run out of patience or can no longer afford to keep them.

It appears that those core beliefs haven’t changed, but the pool of players has.

“There’s just more of them to pick,” said Rutherford. “There will probably be three of them at 12 for us to consider.”

Depending on what happens with teams in front of them, the Canes could choose between several different types of defensemen. If they’re looking for offense, Ryan Murphy, once Jeff Skinner’s teammate with the Kitchener Rangers, fits the bill. If it’s size, the 6-foot-7, 244-pound Jamieson Oleksiak of Northeastern University certainly stands out. Others, like Saskatoon’s Duncan Siemens, provide more of an all-around game.

That has Rutherford convinced that he would avoid a repeat of previous first-round defensive choices such as Igor Knyazev (15th overall, 2001) and Nikos Tselios (22nd overall, 1997) – picks that simply didn’t pan out.

Regardless of whether he decides to pick a defenseman or use his fifth consecutive first-round pick on a forward, Rutherford clearly stated his intention to hang on to his pick rather than trade it.

“We’ll stay right there,” he said. “Our staff feel very strongly that the top 15 guys are real good players. Unless something really strange happens, we won’t try to move up.”

Even though they Hurricanes have shied away from defensemen in the first, they’ve been pleased with their efforts in the second, landing Jamie McBain (2006), Brian Dumoulin (2009) and Justin Faulk (2010).

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