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Draft Preview: 7th Heaven

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

Michael Smith
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Four years ago, the Carolina Hurricanes held the seventh overall pick in the NHL Draft. That turned into Jeff Skinner, who won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in the subsequent season and is already a two-time 30-goal scorer.

Suffice it to say, if the Hurricanes struck that sort of first-round success with their seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, which will be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, they’d be pretty pleased.

“If we come up with another guy like that, we’ll be OK,” Tony MacDonald, the Canes director of amateur scouting, said with a smile. “Jeff Skinner is a pure goal scorer. There are a few kids in this draft that fall into that category of natural goal scorers. That was the greatest asset he brought to the table.”

Who is available when recently-named general manager Ron Francis and the Canes approach the podium with the seventh pick remains guesswork at this point, and there seems to be a sense of unpredictability with how the top picks might shake out come June 27.

“In terms of who may go first, there are probably two or three players – maybe even four – that could fall in there,” MacDonald said, referencing names including forwards Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart and defenseman Aaron Ekblad. “And if Florida is shopping the first pick, and there could be a lot of movement in this year’s draft. We’ll be prepared for anything.”

In comparison to last year’s draft class, which was arguably the deepest the league had seen in 10 years, this year’s crop doesn’t quite stack up, especially at the top end. But that isn’t to say it’s a weak class – it’s not, necessarily, despite the lack of sure-fire instant superstar talent.

“This year’s draft class turns out to be a much deeper draft than we expected it to be. It’s a more difficult process this time because it’s tougher to reach a consensus. They’re a lot of guys that are very close together [ranking-wise],” MacDonald said. “In year’s past, you’d have several guys clearly at the top, and they fell into place after that. Right now, there are probably 20 players in that first round that are we could give them consideration for our pick.”

Operating on the best-player-available mantra, could the Canes get their hands on power forward Nick Ritchie, defenseman Haydn Fleury or winger and top-ranked European skater Kasperi Kapanen, the son of former Hurricane Sami Kapanen?

Those three names were among many, many others that were discussed inside the Ash Ballroom at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort during the first week of June, in which scouts gathered for annual spring meetings in advance of the NHL Draft.

“With our meetings, we’re trying to determine who the top players are. We run our list right from one through probably 200 players,” MacDonald said. “There’s a lot of discussion where everyone on the staff has input into the players that are on the list and they have evaluated over the course of the season. We try to come to some kind of consensus so that at the end of the day, when the final list is done, we have an order we’re comfortable with.”

With the glut of available prospects the Canes could consider for their seventh pick, Francis said he’s willing to listen to offers to move in either direction on the big board.

“I think we’re comfortable with where we are, but certainly if there was something that made sense in either direction, I would consider it, whether it’s moving up or moving back,” he said. “I’m open to discussions at this point.”

Should the Canes ultimately stand pat at seventh overall, it will mark the team’s second consecutive top-10 draft pick after selecting Elias Lindholm fifth overall last year. Following the first round, the Canes are slated to make six additional picks on the second day of the Draft, including back-to-back selections in the fourth round.

Each weekday leading up to the Draft, will profile 10 prospects in alphabetical order who we believe could be available in the seventh slot.

“Someone is going to go one and somebody’s going to go seven,” MacDonald said, “and if one of those [top] guys fell to there, we’d be more than happy.”

7, 1-7
37, 2-7
67, 3-7
96, 4-6 Traded Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh to Vancouver Canucks for Kellan Tochkin and 2014 fourth-round pick on Sept. 29, 2013
97, 4-7
127, 5-7
None: Traded Anthony Stewart, 2013 fourth-round pick and 2014 sixth-round pick to Los Angeles Kings for Kevin Westgarth on Jan. 13, 2013
187, 7-7

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