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Hurricanes 2007 Draft Preview

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
Draft Schedule

Round 1
Friday, June 22, 7-10 p.m. *VERSUS

Rounds 2-7
Saturday, June 23, 10 a.m. *

Prior to the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, which begins next Friday night in Columbus, Hurricanes Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos sat down with to discuss this year’s event and which direction the team might go with the 11th overall pick.

The 2007 draft is a bit different from past years due to the absence of a clear superstar in the making who is expected to go first overall. Instead, there is a small group of players who are believed to be the best of the bunch, but even among them there is no league-wide consensus of who should go first. Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane and James van Riemsdyk highlight this group.

While the absence of a can’t-miss franchise player has caused some to label this a weak draft, Karmanos still believes there are plenty of good players to go around.

“It’s one of those years that there seems to be a pack of five or six players at the top, but beyond that it’s a year where there are probably 30 different opinions among the 30 different teams as to where the draft should go from there,” he said “There hasn’t been as much talk about the guys at the top this year, and I think that has taken the luster somewhat off of this draft. But there are always good players available, and at 11 we feel we’ll get a good player for sure.”

Read on for a categorical breakdown of how the Hurricanes have prepared for the draft, what they look for when interviewing prospects, what their strategy is for this draft and which specific players they will consider drafting.
The Preparation
Preparation for the draft begins almost an entire year before the event itself.  Beginning in August of each year, the Hurricanes amateur scouting staff, led by its director, Sheldon Ferguson, goes to see countless draft-eligible players throughout North America and Europe.  Given that NHL draft picks (typically 17 or 18 years old) are younger than those of most other professional sports, amateur scouting departments have a big challenge ahead of them.

“There are so many ups and downs for a player at that age, and even over the course of one season they can develop physically or mentally,” explained Karamanos.  “So from the beginning of one year to the end, you can see a drastically different type of player, for better or for worse.  We rely on our guys who are traveling an absolute ton over the course of a season to see as many guys as they possibly can.”

After seeing countless young players with their junior teams, the scouts then organize the players they have seen into lists.  Each scout makes separate rankings, which the staff as a whole consolidates into a master list that the team will use when making its picks.

“It’s a work of a group of people and it’s a collaboration in terms of all the viewings that they’ve had collectively of the draft-eligible players,” said Karmanos.  “There are some arguments among the staff, because there are certain favorites that certain guys have over the course of the season, but at the end of the day Sheldon tries to reconcile those differences and put them together in a meaningful list that serves as our consensus opinion among our staff.”

This master list is crucial to the draft process, as the unpredictable nature of the draft makes it difficult to tell who will be available when it comes time to make a choice.  If circumstances should catch the team by surprise, a definitive list can help the team make the best possible choice in a short amount of time.

“Even though the first round takes a while, that clock starts and it ticks fast,” said Karmanos.  “I think that’s why you have to have a list that you believe in.  It may just seem like a list, but as you chip away you have to make sure that the next player available on your list is really the one that you want to take.  You need to go to the list based on what your staff really believes and stick to it, otherwise you can create some confusion.”

While other organizations such as the NHL’s Central Scouting Service come up with periodic rankings of prospects, the Hurricanes and other NHL teams typically rely on their own evaluations and are not influenced by outside reports.  The only list that matters is the one that is produced in-house.

“It’s really just another opinion,” said Karmanos of such ranking services.  “There’s lots of lists that are produced these days, whether it’s the Red Line Report or ISS or Central Scouting.  Really they’re all independent opinions in terms of the draft-eligible kids and where they fall.  Our staff relies on what they’ve seen and their own reports, as they should, and they’re not swayed by independent lists out there that may be different or may be similar to theirs.”

The Interviews
Even with the most well-prepared list, projecting how players at such a young age will develop can be extremely difficult.  That’s why, in the days leading up to the draft, the scouting staff, along with Karmanos and General Manager Jim Rutherford, will meet certain players for private interviews.  This gives the team a chance to see whether a player’s mental make-up and attitude will help or hinder his development.

“They’re hard sometimes because the top-end kids have been coached as to what they should say,” said Karmanos with a laugh.  “In my opinion, you look for a positive general impression.  You could tell that some players want to accomplish big goals, whereas you talk to certain other kids, and they’re very talented but they’re just going along with the flow.”

The interview process ended up being very important in 2003, when the Hurricanes held the second overall choice and were in a position to take a number of players who have since made big impacts in the NHL.  However, one candidate stood out from the rest.

Eric Staal was an impressive kid,” recalled Karmanos.  “I think coming in physically he wasn’t even close to being developed, and that was a scary thing when you’re drafting a kid for the National Hockey League and there’s not much strength to his body.  But in talking to him, you got the feeling that it was going to happen for him, and I think that pushed us over the edge and made it clear that he was our guy.”

The Strategy
There are a few different schools of thought for how a team should draft.  Some feel that a team should draft players that would fill the most glaring weaknesses on a team, while others are content with picking the best player available no matter what the other circumstances may be.

With their first-round pick, the Hurricanes fall somewhere in between those philosophies.  With starting goaltender Cam Ward still only 23 and 20-year-old Justin Peters playing for the team’s minor league affiliate in Albany, Karmanos says the team will certainly not draft a goaltender in the first round.  However, he says the team will not discriminate between forwards and defensemen.

If we’re light in a certain position in terms of our system it’s a factor, but if there isn’t a defenseman, for example, within 20 spots of our list, and even though we may be light on defensemen we’ll still probably lean towards our list instead of jumping too far back,” he said.

“Right now we feel OK about our system in terms of balances, as far as guys coming up and guys we currently have under contract, and then guys that are either playing college or junior.  I don’t think that there’s one particular area that we’re concerned about right now.”

Besides considering what positions to draft, teams can also be influenced by a prospect’s playing background.  Some teams may prefer prospects who play in the Canadian junior leagues as opposed to those who plan on playing for U.S. colleges or those based in Europe.  According to Karmanos, the Hurricanes don’t take such factors into heavy consideration when evaluating prospects.

“I think we’ve had a lot of North Americans in our system in recent years, but I think it’s just pretty much a coincidence that it’s gone that way.  It’s certainly not something that we hold against players if they’re European as opposed to North American.  Obviously there are a lot of great European players in the league.”

Another choice teams sometimes have to make is between players with great raw talent who could be difficult to develop and those who are less of a risk but may not have as much of an impact in the NHL.

“I think that’s the hardest part of the draft,” said Karmanos.  “There are safe picks and there are picks more based on projection.  It’s difficult sometimes, because you want the best players three, four years from the time you drat them and not necessarily the guys that can play the earliest. It’s difficult, and it’s a crapshoot to a certain degree on that front.”

Finally, there is the choice about whether or not to use the pick at all.  Since the Hurricanes feel comfortable with several different players and do not have a second round choice this year, Karmanos said they may consider trading the 11th overall choice for multiple lower picks if the right deal came around.

“If there’s a situation like this year where we don’t see a huge separation between a chunk of guys, If a deal like that came along, I think we’d have to consider something like that, especially in a year where there’s a whole group of guys that we feel comfortable with,” he said.

However, don’t expect the team to pass on a player they rate very highly if they get the chance to take him with their original pick, said Karmanos.

“If for some reason somebody pops up in the top of our radar screen and our pick comes up at 11 and there’s a kid that’s way up on our list that’s still available, obviously in that situation you’d just take the kid and feel very good about it,” he said.

The Players
The culmination of all the scouting and planning will come on Friday night when the Hurricanes are finally on the clock for their first pick.  As to which player the Hurricanes will take, Karmanos said that if the team does hold on to the number 11 pick, they will draft one of the following players.

Here they are, in no particular order, with video footage and commentary from Karmanos.

  • Angelo Esposito
    C  - 6’1 - 180 - Game footage Draft feature
    CSS Ranking: #8 North American skater

    Team League GP G A PTS PIM
    Quebec QMJHL 60 27 52 79 63

    KARMANOS: He’s a kid coming into the year that was the consensus number one.  He had a ton of pressure on him this year, and with that title coming in, had what most people would describe as an off season, but still produced well over a point a game.  He’s one of the best skaters in the draft and one of the most skilled players in the draft, he just didn’t progress the way most people wanted him to this year.  Part of the reason may be because he lost his line mate from the previous year, Alexander Radulov, who played most of the year in Nashville.  There’s some concern there that maybe he’s not as good of a player without Radulov, but I think that’s natural.  There’s no question that he’s a talented player though, and he most likely won’t be there at 11, but if he’s there I’m sure he’s a player that we’ll consider.

    Character-wise he’s supposed to be a good kid.  Jim and I are going to meet him in Columbus.  It’s not a character issue with him; he just didn’t progress as well as he should.  To some degree he may be a victim of his early success.  A lot of lists have him going well ahead of our pick at 11, so it may not be a consideration for us.

  • David Perron
    LW - 6’0 - 180 - Video
    CSS Ranking: #10 North American skater

    Team League GP G A PTS PIM
    Lewiston QMJHL 70 39 44 83 75

    KARMANOS: He’s another highly-skilled player who really progressed at the end of the year and took off during the playoffs and had a good Memorial Cup for Lewiston.  He’s a kid that moved up the charts more than any other this year, coming form the prior year where he didn’t even play at the major junior level.  He’s maybe got some of the best hands in the draft, he’s a really a creative offensive player and his skating has come along over the course of the year to where you can now say he’s a good skater.  Not a real big kid, but offensively he’s very talented.

  • Kevin Shattenkirk
    D - 5’11 - 193 - Video
    CSS Ranking: #34 North American skater

    U.S. U-18 USDP 48 12 22 34 60

    KARMANOS: He’s a two-way defenseman for the US under-18 program who is going to Boston University next year.  He’s an all-around talented player and solidly-built kid.  He is probably going to be an impact player at the collegiate level.  He’s not a real high-risk guy even though he’s got a lot of offensive ability.  He was the captain of the under-18 team, so he’s shown some leadership qualities.  He’s a kid I think that has moved up over the course of the year to where he’s a potential kid at our pick.

  • Thomas Hickey
    D - 5’11 - 182 - Video
    CSS Ranking: #26 North American skater

    Seattle WHL 68 9 41 50 70

    KARMANOS: He’s an offensive defenseman who played out west in Seattle.  He’s a real smart player and excellent skater who is very good with the puck.  He’s a mature kid, smart kid off the ice, great character, but he’s got a size limitation – not very big, not very strong at this point in time.  He’s got some comparisons to Wade Redden as a young kid, Redden is not a real big guy either, but they have the same ability at this age to run a power play, even though you can’t put him in the NHL right away because he’s a smaller kid and he needs to build up his strength, you can certainly see that that would be a helpful need for our team as far as where we’re at right now.

  • Max Pacioretty
    LW - 6’2 - 203 - Video
    CSS Ranking: #16 North American skater

    Sioux City USHL 60 21 42 63 119

    KARMANOS: He’s a big kid that played in the USHL for Sioux City who’s signed to go to Michigan next year.  He’s a big strong kid with offensive skills who plays the game hard.  He’s had a solid year in Sioux City, which is the same league that Erik Cole played in before he went to school, and before that he played prep school.  In terms of his development, he’s really made a big jump this year in going to the USHL and handled it well, scoring over a point per game.  He looks like a kid who will be able to be an impact kid in college and he’s certainly in the mix there at 11.

  • Brett MacLean
    LW - 6’1 - 196 - Video
    CSS Ranking: #14 North American skater

    Oshawa OHL 68 47 53 100 43

    KARMANOS: He’s a big winger for the Oshawa Generals who played alongside John Tavares, who is a huge point producer at a very young age, so he obviously gets the benefit of playing with a great player.  He can put the puck in the net - he had 47 goals this past year.  If you want to put an image in your mind, he might be a Glen Murray type player, a finisher around the net.  He’s got a good shot, and has really improved over the course of the year.  He’s a smart player with good size, and he’s in that mix as well.

  • Alexei Cherapanov
    RW - 6’1 - 183
    CSS Ranking: #1 European skater

    Omsk Russia 46 18 11 29 45

    KARMANOS: I think he’ll be gone for sure, but some of our scouts don’t think he will be.  Most lists have him in the top five, but you never know.  With the Russian players there are some concerns because they’re not part of the International Ice Hockey Federation deal, and there are some contractual issues that could potentially come out of that.  On top of that, the kid is very talented but he’s extremely inconsistent.  If he’s there, I think we’d have a tough time passing a player like that up at 11, because he does have extreme ability.  He broke a scoring record that Alexander Ovechkin and Pavel Bure had in terms of rookie goal scoring in the Russian league.  Obviously he’s got offensive ability, and at 11 he would be a difficult player to pass up.

  • Brandon Sutter - New 6/21
    C/RW - 6'3 - 170
    Video: Game footage Draft feature Combine VO2 test
    CSS Ranking: #28 North American skater

    Team League GP G A PTS PIM
    Red Deer WHL 71 20 37 57 54

    KARMANOS: Brandon Sutter comes from the famous Sutter hockey family, son of Brent.  Has the same work ethic they are famous for but this is a talented player in his own right who may be one of the smartest players in this year's draft.  Knows the game and he will be a player, but needs to continue to fill out his large frame and add strength.  Plays all forward positions, a very versatile, well-rounded player.
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