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Draft Preview: Canes Hold Six Picks in First Three Rounds

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
UPDATE: After the publishing of this article, the Hurricanes traded a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to Chicago. The headline and table of picks have been updated to reflect this change.

When Tony MacDonald, the Carolina Hurricanes’ head of amateur scouting, was in town during the first full week of June for the team’s annual pre-draft scouting meetings, he was carrying some extra weight on his right hand.

It was the Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup Championship ring, not something that MacDonald regularly wears. Usually, he said, it’s locked away in a safe deposit box.

But this year – the 10th anniversary of the franchise’s first and only championship – is different.

“Just as a reminder to all the guys that are here that this is where we want to be again. Let’s get back to that so we can get another one of these,” MacDonald said during a break in meetings. “It would be great with the fans and great for everyone associated with the organization.”

That inspiration was ever-present as the Canes’ front office and amateur scouts convened to discuss and analyze draft-eligible players, formulate strategy and finalize their draft board ahead of this year’s event in Buffalo.

The focus and strategy is a bit different this year, too. The Hurricanes hold two first-round picks (13th and 21st) and eight more on day two.

“It’s a good year to have the extra picks because it’s a little deeper at the top,” MacDonald said. “As you get down into the draft, it’s not one of the deeper drafts we’ve ever had, but in terms of where we are and where we’re picking, it’s going to be helpful.

It’s not just that the Hurricanes are prepared to make the most picks in the draft since 1998, when the proceedings spanned nine rounds. It’s that a vast majority of those 10 selections will be made in the first three rounds; in fact, the Canes will currently make seven of the first 75 picks in this year’s draft.

“Everybody spends so much time out there on the road all year long. It’s a long, long season. There’s a lot of work, time and travel before you arrive here to have these meetings,” MacDonald said. “When you have some extra picks to work with, it’s exciting.”

With the stockpile of picks the Hurricanes have, there also exists the possibility of trading one or more. Last year, the Canes took 10 picks to South Florida and made nine, sending one to Vancouver in a trade for Eddie Lack. Could the Hurricanes package picks to move up into the top 10? Could picks be moved in a player trade? Options exist, and conversations have been and will continue to be had.

“There have been a lot of phone conversations exploring what’s available as far as moving up or even if we get in a jam and we want to move back a little bit if we think there are players available. We’ve had a lot of those conversations, and we’ll continue to have them I’m sure right up until the table that night,” explained Hurricanes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “I don’t know if you can ever have enough good prospects. If you have those good prospects in your system, you now have tools to go and get players if you want to, as well.”

In this year’s pool of draft prospects, there seems to be a consensus 1-2-3 trio: Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. Beyond that, the projections become more varied.

At 13 and especially 21, it’s wide open. It’s anyone’s best guess as to who might be available, though the Hurricanes certainly have narrowed it down to a short list of ideal candidates.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting draft in the sense that I think there seems to be a consensus at the top, and then it spreads from there. It will be interesting to see how things go,” Francis said. “Is there a potential to get that [impact] player at 13? Yes, but until we get into the draft and see how it goes, it’s hard to give you that answer at this point.”

“We have our list going and we’ve talked about a lot of different players. It’s pretty hard for us to pinpoint a player and say that we think we’re going to get this player where we pick, especially in this draft,” MacDonald said. “We hope to get the player we want when we get there, but there’s certainly no guarantees that will happen. We’ll have probably four players that we think we might have a shot at there, and we’ll hope that we get one of them.”

So, who might be available at 13? Will it be a scoring center like Michael McLeod, Clayton Keller or Tyson Jost? Will it be Logan Brown, a Raleigh native and the son of former Hurricane Jeff Brown? Or, after a run of top defensemen in Haydn Fleury and Noah Hanifin, could the Canes again look to the blue line with someone like Jakob Chychrun, Jake Bean or Olli Juolevi?

When the Hurricanes are on the clock come June 24, the team doesn’t expect to deviate from the drafting mantra they’ve utilized for years.

“Usually our approach has been the best player, regardless of the position he plays,” MacDonald said. “It’s an asset. For example, you can never have too many good defensemen. You can never have too many goalies in your organization who can play in the NHL. Those are good problems to have.”

“It’s not as easy to get the draft right, but we certainly feel that with 10 picks and seven in the first three rounds that it gives us a much better chance to get those players who can be impact players for us moving forward,” Francis said. will, as always, be your source for Canes’ draft coverage. We’ll continue our draft features this week and next with a deeper dive into late-round success, a 2015 NHL Draft retrospective and a look at what the mock drafts are saying this year. Our coverage will culminate with live written, video and social content from Buffalo on June 24-25.

13, 1-13
21, 1-21 Traded Andrej Sekera to Los Angeles Kings for Roland McKeown and 2016 first-round pick on Feb. 25, 2015
43, 2-13
67, 3-6
74, 3-13 Traded Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg Jets for 2015 fifth-round pick (Spencer Smallman) and 2016 third-round pick on Feb. 25, 2015
75, 3-14 Traded John-Michael Liles to Boston Bruins for Anthony Camara, 2016 third-round pick and 2017 fifth-round pick on Feb. 29, 2016
104, 4-13
134, 5-13
164, 6-13
None: Traded 2015 third-round pick and 2016 seventh-round pick to Vancouver Canucks for Eddie Lack on June 27, 2015

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

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