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Draft Preview: Scouts Preparing for Busy Weekend in Chicago

Canes hold six draft picks in the top 73

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

Visit for the latest news, videos and pick-by-pick information in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Within the walls of a fourth-floor conference room at 1400 Edwards Mill Rd., discussions are being had to help shape decisions that will be made just two short weeks from now in Chicago at the 2017 NHL Draft.

PNC Arena is the site of the Carolina Hurricanes' annual pre-draft meetings, during which the team, led by Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis and Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald, assembles its ranking of players heading into the two-day draft event at United Center, slated for June 23-24.

"These guys have watched these guys for over two years, a lot of them if not all of them. It's having the conversations, seeing what they like about players and what they don't like about players," Francis explained. "My staff has been able to put their eyes on a lot of those guys as well, so it's being able to ask the right questions and working together as a group to get what we think is the list in the right order for the best players available for us to choose when we get to Chicago."

The Hurricanes currently hold 10 picks in this year's draft, including six picks amongst the top 73; 10 picks would be the most the team has made since 1998, when the draft spanned nine rounds.

"[Having 10 picks] certainly makes for a more interesting process in terms of the meetings. More picks means you've got more players to deal with," MacDonald said. "You also come in here knowing that some of those picks are currency that could be exchanged for something else, and that's fine too. But you try to approach it as we've got 10, so if we use all 10 we better be ready for that. It's more options and more interesting for everyone involved."

In kicking off the week of meetings with his amateur scouting staff, Francis mentioned the possibility of flipping draft picks for assets. The Hurricanes already made one such move in acquiring the rights to goaltender Scott Darling, who they then inked to a four-year contract.

"To be honest with you, I'm hoping we don't use all 10 when it comes to the draft," Francis told the room. "We have had contact with other teams and told them we are willing to make some deals and give up some of the picks to get players."

Video: Hurricanes Amateur Scouts Meetings Get Underway

As MacDonald said, the scouting staff is preparing as if the Canes will make all 10 picks. First up: the 12th overall selection.

"The first order of business is to make sure we've got that first round straight so we get that right, that first pick," MacDonald said. "We're going to be able to get somebody that we like and that we think has a very, very good chance to be a solid NHL player. At that pick and that point in the draft, you're looking for a first line-type forward or a top pairing defenseman if you can get one there."

Who will be anxiously awaiting to hear his name called when the Hurricanes are on the clock on June 23? Will it be any one of forwards Elias Petersson, Nick Suzuki, Lias Andersson or Michael Rasmussen? Or, for the fourth year in a row, will the Canes look to the blue line with Timothy Liljegren, Juuso Valimaki or Cale Makar?

"I think there's going to be a mix of talent there available for us, both up front and on defense," MacDonald said, without tipping his hand.

Beyond the first round, the Hurricanes are slated to make three picks in the second round, a round that, over the last seven years, has delivered names like Justin Faulk, Sebastian Aho, Victor Rask, Phil Di Giuseppe and Brock McGinn.

"You've got three shots there to come up with a hockey player," MacDonald said. "Looking at the board now and the players we're looking at, I think we kind of like the potential and possibilities that exist for the players that might be there."

Video: Tony MacDonald discusses scouting and upcoming Draft

Though this year's draft lacks the elite, high-end talent that the last two years have produced - but how often are you going to get generational talents like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews in back-to-back years? - the Canes are confident in the depth of the pool.

"We have found going through this process that it's a surprising number of players that we like as we get deeper and deeper into it in what is supposed to be a weak draft," MacDonald said. "It's alleged to be a weak draft, a draft without depth, but there's more players that we like than maybe we even realized as we go."

As discussions continue throughout the week, the Canes' rankings list comes together from pick one to 217 and even beyond. It's a ranking of not only skill and potential but also of who they feel is the right fit for the Carolina Hurricanes.

"We look at a lot of different facets, and we do a lot of different types of homework on players," Francis said. "At the end of the day, we take all of the information we have, go through it and make a decision on whether we think they're right for us."

This list isn't necessarily final - it will be tweaked and tinkered with in the days leading up to the proceedings in Chicago, and then re-assessed after the completion of the first round - but years of preparation, research and analysis has been poured into this week and will culminate with the formal selection of players.

"I think there are a lot of good players in this draft. I think you look at every draft, whether it was rated good or poor, there are always good players that come out of it," Francis said. "The risk is, with any draft, that you're looking at kids who are very young, 17 turning 18, and you're trying to assess where they are, what their talents are and where they could be moving forward. That's a big challenge for any staff in projecting the future; it's not easy to do. You do your homework, try to get it right and hope you get lucky."

"We look to come up with a group of players that covers the spectrum of a lot of different elements. You want speed and skill. You also need some players who can play a heavy game and give you that physical dimension," MacDonald said. "You look at the way we play now, our lineup now, the way we play the game and, in general, the way the game is played today in the NHL. There's a certain type of player that fits."

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