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Digging Deep

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
With the first round of the NHL Draft comes a fair bit of pomp and circumstance – primetime television, on-stage photo ops with the commissioner and teams’ front offices, interviews aplenty and the like. These are the most highly-regarded prospects, players that theoretically have the best chance of making an impact in the NHL.

Day two, which features a blitzkrieg of picks through six rounds, is more business-like in its proceedings, an efficient call-and-response operation as teams continue to stockpile players they hope will develop into the NHLers of tomorrow.

“The players that get picked in the top five have multiple NHL assets. Those assets they have right now. As you go into those mid-round picks, they may have one or two of those assets at this point in time. You’re saying, well, he’s a smart hockey player, but maybe he has to work on his skating,” Darren Yorke, the Canes’ video scout and assistant to the general manager, explained. “These kids who make it into the NHL from the mid rounds have the internal drive to work on their deficiencies at that time and turn them into assets. It’s really a testament to how hard these kids work and want to become NHL players.”

The Hurricanes and their scouting staff have recently assembled an impressive cast from later-round picks. On this year’s second day of the draft, the team is set to make seven picks, including four in the second and third rounds alone.

“We talk about getting an Erik Cole in the third round or a Joe Vasicek in the fourth round or a (Jaroslav) Svoboda in the eighth round,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ head of amateur scouting, as he recalled the depth of the team’s 1998 draft. “When you have extra picks in more of a priority area, your chances [are higher] of hitting [on] a couple of guys. … It allows you to maybe gamble a little bit on some of those guys; some of them turn out and some of them don’t. We hope to be able to cash in on a couple of these extra picks with guys who would have a better than average chance of playing on our team at some point.”

With that in mind, here’s a brief look at some notable names from rounds two through seven of the NHL Draft.

Second Round

The Hurricanes have made seven second-round picks in the last five drafts. Six players are still with the organization (defenseman Mark Alt was traded to Philadelphia in 2013), and a number of names already stand out as impact players in their young careers.

Justin Faulk (37th overall, 2010): What’s to be said that already hasn’t? Faulk is an Olympian, an All-Star, an alternate captain. Oh, and he’s just 24 years old. He’s the anchor on a very young yet very talented Hurricanes’ blue line. Here’s the story of how the Hurricanes scouted and drafted him.

Victor Rask (42nd overall, 2011): Rask burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014-15, making the big squad after an impressive prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and an equally impressive showing in training camp and preseason play. In 2015-16, Rask surpassed the 20-goal mark and bettered his scoring output by 15 points. He’s a crucial piece of the Canes’ depth down the middle and figures to be the team’s second-line center in the upcoming season.

Alex Nedeljkovic (37th overall, 2014): Arguably the Hurricanes’ top goaltending prospect, Nedeljkovic is set to begin his pro career in 2016-17. In addition to claiming a bronze medal with Team USA in the World Juniors with a 1.66 goals-against average and .943 save percentage, Nedeljkovic back-stopped the Niagara IceDogs to the OHL finals this season.

Sebastian Aho (35th overall, 2015): All signs point to Aho heading to Raleigh for 2016-17 after the season he put together both in the Finnish Elite League and in international play. Aho was a point-per-game player with Karpat, notching 45 points (20g, 25a) in as many games. He won a gold medal at the World Juniors and a silver medal in the World Championship with Team Finland, and he’ll join his countrymen at the World Cup of Hockey in September.

Other notables: Phil Di Giuseppe (38th overall, 2012), Brock McGinn (47th overall, 2012)

Third Round

The Canes’ third-round selections of the last five years have seen a smattering of NHL experience, but one name stands out among the rest.

Brett Pesce (66th overall, 2013): The Hurricanes made just four selections at the 2013 NHL Draft. After selecting Elias Lindholm fifth overall, the team waited 61 picks for their next. Pesce was one of three rookie defensemen who impressed and potentially exceeded expectations in 2015-16. He’s a steady defender, and his NHL career is just getting started.

Other notables: Danny Biega (67th overall, 2010), Keegan Lowe (73rd overall, 2011), Daniel Altshuller (69th overall, 2012)

Fourth Round

The Hurricanes have been especially busy in the fourth round, particularly in the last few years. The team made two fourth-round selections in both the 2015 and 2014 drafts and three in 2012. There’s still a lot of potential among the organization’s crop of fourth-rounders, but one has taken a giant step forward in his career.

Jaccob Slavin (120th overall, 2012): Along with Noah Hanifin and Pesce, Slavin emerged as one of the organization’s top defensemen in 2015-16. He’s filled out his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, and he put together a 20-point campaign (2g, 18a) while playing big, important minutes in his rookie season.

Other notables: Erik Karlsson (99th overall, 2012), Trevor Carrick (115th overall, 2012), Josh Wesley (96th overall, 2014), Lucas Wallmark (97th overall, 2014), Callum Booth (93rd overall, 2015), Nicolas Roy (96th overall, 2015)

Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Rounds

As the draft progresses into its deeper rounds, selections become increasingly hit or miss; some players pan out, but a majority don’t.

Frederik Andersen (187th overall, 2010): He ultimately chose to not sign with the Hurricanes, re-entered the draft and was selected in the third round by Anaheim in 2012, but what a steal he would have been with the 187th pick. Though he’s now a Maple Leaf, it remains a credit to the Hurricanes’ scouting staff for eyeing Andersen in the final round.

Other notables: Brendan Woods (5th round, 129th overall, 2012), Clark Bishop (5th round, 127th overall, 2014), Tyler Ganly (6th round, 156th overall, 2013), Brody Sutter (7th round, 193rd overall, 2011)

Michael Smith
MICHAEL SMITH is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.

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