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Tweetmail No. 18: Live from Cherokee

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully, the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.

This week’s Tweetmail segment is coming to you from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, NC, where the Canes are holding their annual spring pre-draft meetings.

Let’s get to it.

How do the scouts rank this draft class? – Doug A. (@dabrams2021)

The 2013 draft class was widely considered to be one of the deepest the league has seen in years with some significant top-end talent. Conversely, some might call this class much weaker – though that’s not necessarily the case.

Sure, there might not be a clear number one pick. In fact, Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ chief of amateur scouting, suggested there could be as many as four players – Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart included – vying to be the first overall selection. In that sense, there is an element of unpredictability, even more so when you factor in Florida perhaps shopping the No. 1 pick.

Ultimately, while this year’s draft crop might lack the pure top-end talent of other classes, it’s better than some may say.

“This year’s draft class turns out to be a much deeper draft than we expected it to be. It’s a more difficult process this time because it’s tougher to reach a consensus. They’re a lot of guys that are very close together [ranking-wise],” MacDonald said. “In year’s past, you’d have several guys clearly at the top, and they fell into place after that. Right now, there are probably 20 players in that first round that are we could give them consideration for our pick.”

Will the Canes’ focus in the draft be on defensemen or forwards? – Ann S. (@AnnSolberg87)

You forgot goaltenders! In all seriousness, it’s going to be on all three positions – forwards, defensemen and goaltenders.

The strategy in the first round – as it has been and likely will continue to be, not only for the Canes but nearly every team, especially those with top picks – is to take the best player available. The Canes sit with the seventh overall pick, which is likely going to land a forward or defensemen.

Beyond that, the Canes are slated to make six additional picks in rounds 2-7, including two in round four. MacDonald said that as the draft progresses, the best-player-available mantra is applied more loosely; that is to say, the team wouldn’t want to pass on a forward it has ranked highly just to take a defenseman. Four years ago, it just so happened that the Canes were looking to add some depth at defense, and Justin Faulk, Mark Alt, Danny Biega and Austin Levi fell in their laps in four consecutive selections.

It’s also not a bad idea to select at least one goaltender in any given draft, MacDonald added, as it’s never a negative to have depth at that position.

Where do the scouts spend their time – professional, junior or college? – Leigh L. (@NCCaniac42)

The basic, straightforward answer is everywhere. Amateur scouts spend their time documenting players who could be the next best thing in the NHL, and the professional scouts scour the league for an asset the organization could add through a trade or free agency.

The scouting departments’ annual spring meetings serve a twofold purpose. For the amateur scouts, the meetings mark the beginning of the end for current year draft preparation. For the pro scouts, the meetings are a chance to discuss various ratings and lists as free agency draws near.

“In terms of the pro meetings, we get a sense of which free agents are out there that could potentially replace a current free agent that we may not be able to get signed,” said Darren Yorke, the team’s video scout and hockey operations assistant. “On the amateur side, you’re building the list. You want to draft the best player available.”

Who is the advanced stats/analytics guru for the Canes? – Doug A. (@dabrams2021)

(Another two-questions-from-Doug week!)

As first mentioned by Ron Francis in an exclusive message to Season Ticket Holders, Darren Yorke, who serves as the team’s video scout and hockey operations assistant, specializes in analytics.

What exactly are advanced stats or analytics? That’s a good question, and we’ll much more on that, including some information on how Yorke and the Canes’ front office employ them, in the very near future. Until then, here’s a quick tease to whet your appetite:

“The main purpose of using quantitative data is to try to get an unbiased view on some things that your eyes don’t necessarily catch,” Yorke said. “We want to use everything. Combined with traditional scouting and video scouting, analytics can give you as much information as possible to find the best players.”


Join me next week for more questions and more answers!

If you have a question you’d like answered or you’d like to discuss this or that, you can reach out to me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes.

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