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Draft Preview: Canes to Pick High, Often

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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The Carolina Hurricanes enter the 2015 NHL Draft poised to make their third consecutive top-ten pick and second No. 5 pick in the last three years. And after that, they’ll have an opportunity to stock the cupboard with nine more prospects in what will be the busiest draft for the team in nearly 20 years.

This year’s draft class boasts a robust group of top-end talent, and with the fifth overall pick, the Hurricanes figure to be in a prime slot to land an impact player.

“This year’s top 10 compares favorably to any of these previous drafts. There are some pretty good players there,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ director of amateur scouting. “We’re looking at getting a solid player. We’re looking to get the best player at five.”

The first two picks are essentially a foregone conclusion at this point; Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are the top-ranked prospects, and the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres aren’t parting with their picks. What happens after that, though, is an ever-shifting group of scenarios, all of which could impact the Hurricanes’ pick.

“There’s a lot of speculation about where certain players might go at this point in time, but it’s all just that. It changes from day to day. Every team has different wants and needs, and they’re looking at different players and different situations,” MacDonald said. “There’s size, skill and a mix of forwards and defensemen.”

Could the Canes draft power-forward Lawson Crouse? Will defenseman Noah Hanifin still be on the board at five? Or will it be skilled forward Mitch Marner who joins the organization?

These are a few questions among many with which the Canes will wrestle this week, as the team’s amateur scouts convene to discuss and analyze draft-eligible players, prepare strategy and finalize their draft board.

“[The scouts have] watched these kids for years, multiple times in different situations, different tournaments, regular season, playoffs, you name it. You go in and listen to the discussion,” said Canes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “At the end of the day, you try to put your list together and hope that you’re right. There is a lot of room for error when you’re trying to project out young kids who are 17 turning 18 and what they’re going to be like at 21, 24, 28. It’s not an easy thing.”

“We want to ensure that we’ve done our due diligence on each player, especially in these early rounds so that we feel we have all the information we can possibly get and that it’s all good information,” MacDonald said. “We’ve got more people sitting around the table now than we’ve ever had, and from that, you’ve got more voices, more opinions and more input. You just try to listen to it all and get the players in an order that makes sense for us going forward.”

By the week’s end, the Hurricanes should have a pretty firm grasp on who they project as their fifth overall pick.

“I would say so,” MacDonald said. “Sometimes things keep shifting and changing right up until the final day, and that could conceivably happen again. We’ll have it narrowed down to the players we think fit for us and the guys we’re happiest with. We’ll have them in an order that makes a lot of sense to us and an order we’re comfortable with.”

Beyond the first round, the Hurricanes currently hold nine additional picks for a total of 10, the most since 1998. Half of those 10 are in the top 96, giving the Canes an opportunity to build toward the future.

“It’s alleged to be a real good draft, especially when you look at the top. But it thins out a little bit as you go along, so you have to be more selective and more careful,” MacDonald said. “We’d like to put some players in place to help us.” will, as always, be your source for Canes’ draft coverage. Beginning Wednesday and continuing every other weekday, we will profile seven prospects in alphabetical order who we believe could be available at the fifth pick. Our coverage will culminate with live written, video and social content from Sunrise, Florida, on June 26-27.

5, 1-5
35, 2-5
66, 3-5
93, 4-2 Traded Tim Gleason to Washington Capitals for Jack Hillen and 2015 fourth-round pick on Feb. 28, 2015
96, 4-5
126, 5-5
138, 5-17 Traded Jiri Tlusty to Winnipeg Jets for 2015 fifth-round pick and 2016 third-round pick on Feb. 25, 2015
156, 6-5
169, 6-18 Traded Jay Harrison to Winnipeg Jets for 2015 sixth-round pick on Dec. 18, 2014
186, 7-5

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