Just three defensemen were selected with the first 10 picks of the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft. In 2010, just two, and in 2009, three.
This summer, blueliners could comprise half of the top 10 in what is seen as the most defensively deep pool since 2008, when four defensemen were selected sequentially with the second through fifth picks.
Despite this, when the Carolina Hurricanes approach the podium with the eight selection on June 22 at CONSOL Energy Center, they might be thinking forward.
“It would be nice if we could get a forward that we feel is a good enough player to have an impact down the road or in the immediate future. I think we’d maybe lean in that direction a little bit more,” said Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald. “But, we’re not going to go by a defenseman we feel is a top-end player.”
This strategy speaks to what has been and will likely continue to be the organization’s draft approach: pick the best player available.
“The thinking is that you take the best player, and the best player is an asset whether you need a player at that position or not. When you’re drafting players at this stage, you’re projecting long-term development more than you are looking at guys who are going to jump into your lineup right away,” MacDonald said.” If you’ve got an overload at that position, then it works out where you’re always going to be able to trade an asset to someone else.”
It will be a busy weekend for the Hurricanes, who will make nine additional picks in the six-round second day alone. The Canes have seven picks in the first four rounds, the most the franchise has had in that window since relocating to North Carolina. Their total of 10 picks in seven rounds is the most they’ve had since 1998.
So, when scouts and front office executives gathered this week in Raleigh for their annual meetings, they’ve had a lot to discuss, including player backgrounds, injuries and projections.
A number of top-ranked forwards – Alex Galchenyuk and Radek Faksa to name a couple potential future Hurricanes – have European backgrounds but played in North America last season.
“I think it’s important in some cases because it provides the player with an opportunity to acclimate himself to the North American way of life and playing in smaller rinks and making that adjustment living in a different culture,” MacDonald said. “That said, there are players playing in professional leagues in Europe, and that’s an advantage, too, for them.”
One of those players is Teuvo Teravainen, a 17-year-old boy among men in SM-Liiga, Finland’s top professional hockey league.
Injuries also played a factor in some of the Central Scouting rankings. Galchenyuk missed the 2011-12 regular season with a knee injury, forcing many to evaluate him based on his previous season and summer tournament play.
“There have been several top players that sat out a large chunk of the season due to injury, and that’s been a concern. In some cases, it’s affected their draft status a little bit,” MacDonald said. “Ultimately, hopefully we’ll have enough information to provide us with enough insight into whether everyone is healthy.”
Scouts got a final look at players at last week’s annual combine, where a number of top prospects went through various physical tests – some notoriously rigorous – and questioning. The week is an opportunity for organizations to evaluate potential picks in a more formal setting, though MacDonald said sometimes that isn’t always best.
“It’s a process that’s interesting and informative, although it’s reached a point in time where the players are pretty well-prepared for our questions.
“It’s a more sophisticated process than it once was. That’s why it’s helpful when you can catch a kid after a game or after a practice where he’s not in that mode where he’s geared up for an interview,” he said. “You can talk to him in a more informal fashion and a different environment where he’s more comfortable.”
Though the Draft, especially in its later rounds, is largely a chance for teams to invest in long-term prospects, the Canes have seen recent success with players that have been able to make an impact as early as the following season.
Jeff Skinner, of course, jumped right in just months after being drafted, going on to become the franchise’s first player and youngest player in League history to win the Calder Trophy. After winning a national championship in his freshman year of college hockey, Justin Faulk made the leap to the NHL, two years removed from his draft day. Ryan Murphy made a push to make the team out of camp this past season and will do the same this September.
“I think the key was that those players, when we drafted them, were coming off strong seasons. They knew how to win,” MacDonald said. “I think a lot has to do with the individuals. Those players came into camp prepared mentally and physically to compete for a job in the NHL. That’s the key. So many young players aren’t prepared or aren’t quite ready to make that jump because they haven’t done enough work in the offseason to properly prepare for it.”
Each weekday from now leading up to the Draft, CarolinaHurricanes.com will be profiling 11 players we believe will be available in the eight slot. Whether forward or defenseman, MacDonald and the Canes are confident with where they sit.
“In this Draft, if you’re picking in the top 10, you should come out of it with a pretty good player,” MacDonald said, “a player that should be able to play in the NHL either next year or in the next couple of years.”
|PICK ||NOTES |
|ROUND 1 |
|8, 1-8 || |
|ROUND 2 |
|38, 2-8 || |
|47, 2-17 ||Traded Ian White to San Jose Sharks for 2012 second-round pick on Feb. 18, 2011 |
|ROUND 3 |
|69, 3-8 || |
|ROUND 4 |
|99, 4-8 || |
|115, 4-24 ||Traded Joe Corvo to Boston Bruins for 2012 fourth-round pick on July 7, 2011 |
|120, 4-29 ||Traded Alexei Ponikarovsky to New Jersey Devils for Joe Sova, 2012 fourth-round pick on Jan. 20, 2012 |
|ROUND 5 |
|129, 5-8 || |
|ROUND 6 |
|159, 6-8 || |
|ROUND 7 |
|189, 7-8 || |