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Tweetmail No. 244: Draft Bonanza

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / Hurricanes.com

Visit Hurricanes.com/Draft for the latest news, videos and pick-by-pick information in the 2020 NHL Draft.


Hello and welcome to Tweetmail, a regular feature on Hurricanes.com 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.

We're less than a week away from the 2020 NHL Draft, so that's the focus for this week's installment. Let's get to it.

What are the chances of Iaroslav Askarov still being available by the 13th pick? Do you think another team will snap him up considering the great start he's had to his season? - @webbo_26

The prevailing draft questions for the Hurricanes seem to center around two subjects: Russian goaltender Iaroslav Askarov and potential trades.

Askarov is NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked goaltending prospect, considered one of the best available in the draft in quite some time, and many mock drafts have him pegged as the Canes' selection at 13th overall.

Here's the thing, though. Askarov has been heralded as the "best goaltending prospect since Carey Price." Price was a fifth overall pick in 2005, so it's conceivable that Askarov doesn't even make it out of the top 10.

Spencer Knight, the top-ranked goaltending prospect of the 2019 Draft class, was selected by the Florida Panthers where? Yep, you guessed it: 13th overall. Knight was the highest drafted goalie since Jack Campbell was selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in 2010 and the first picked inside the top 20 since Andrei Vasilevskiy was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012.

Askarov, though, seems to project on a higher level. He posted a 2.45 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 18 games in Russia's VHL (second highest league) in 2019-20, and he's had an eye-catching start to his 2020-21 campaign. Askarov was called up to SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL and notched a 2-1-0 record, a 0.74 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in his first three games, earning KHL player of the week honors on Sept. 23.

DRAFT PREVIEW: CANES PREPARED FOR UNIQUE VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE

One benefit of the draft being moved back from June to October is having additional game film to analyze on some European draft-eligible prospects. Askarov is one of those players.

"We've probably had the opportunity to see more video on players than ever before," Canes President and General Manager Don Waddell said.

At the same time, the Canes' scouting staff is cognizant of small sample sizes and recency bias.

"You don't want to bump a player up based off a small sample size, and with North American players not playing, you don't want their spot on the draft list impacted because they can't play," Director of Player Personnel Darren Yorke said. "You're always trying to gather information about these players that you put into your decision-making process. No one game should impact how you view a player, no differently than if a player had one bad game or great game in the middle of a season."

In any case, Askarov appears to be the real deal, a goaltending prospect very close to being NHL-ready. Maybe he's available at 13, but that also may be a bit unlikely.

With that in mind …

Apart from Askarov, which prospects do you see the Canes eying? If they are gone, do you see a decent trade occurring? - @T_Mann30

If Askarov is indeed off the board by the time the Canes are set to pick at 13, there are a number of prospects who could potentially be available. We'll dive deeper into some of these names later in the week, but just to give you an idea of some possibilities …

Up front there are players such as Jack Quinn, Anton Lundell, Dawson Mercer, Seth Jarvis and Hendrix Lapierre, who's rocking one of the best names on the draft board. On defense, there are a couple names in Kaiden Guhle and Braden Schneider who could also be available.

"We all know who is probably going 1-2-3. After that, the next five guys or so. Then you have a group of another seven or eight guys that we didn't think we'd ever be in the mix for. We feel good about it," Waddell said. "We've done our homework on all those players. You don't know who's going to be there, but if we do keep our pick, we know we're going to get a good player."

And then again there is the question of a trade, which is certainly a possibility. Let's dig into that next.

Any chance the Canes try to package picks to either move up in the draft or trade for a current player? - @that_other_kdog

In the case that the Canes opt to move the 13th overall pick, I think it's more likely the team uses it to acquire a player already established in the league rather than trading up to snag a prospect who is a couple seasons away from being able to make an impact.

And, there might be a market to make a move.

"It's the busiest time after a season I've ever had in the history of being a general manager," Waddell said. "There haven't been any days that have gone by where I haven't talked to some GMs. There's a flat cap, and a lot of teams are up against the cap. We've got a little space, but not a lot of space. Then there's the economics. Let's face it. What happened this past year and the unknown going forward, there are a lot of teams looking to move money off their books. It's been an interesting time."

The Canes are in a position to compete now. It was a different landscape five years ago, and maybe the club would have seriously considered moving up if the option was there. Coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, though, the time is now for the Canes. If they so choose, that 13th overall pick could be quite the carrot to dangle on the open market.

When talking about the 13th overall pick, Waddell said it's a "huge asset, whether it's a player we take right now or perhaps even looking at trading the pick." Doing so could help the Canes bolster their roster in the immediate versus a few seasons down the line.

"Draft picks are becoming even more of a big chip because of the cap. It's turned that way the last few years," Waddell explained. "This year, even more so, we all know what the cap is going to be this year, next year and the next few years. Those draft picks become even bigger assets for you."

Even though general managers around the league will have to be pounding the phone lines as opposed to drafts of the past that allowed them to simply wander up to a table, it still could be a busy couple of days for the Canes.

Following the draft there is typically a prospect camp for the new picks to meet with the coaching staff and get on the ice. Given the current environment, is that still the plan? - @CaniacZach

Like most things in 2020, the Canes' annual Prospect Development Camp has been derailed by the global health crisis. There is a laundry list of hurdles making an in-person camp unfeasible, but the three chief issues are: 

  • League guidelines: I'm not even certain an in-person development camp would be permissible at the moment, given workout size restrictions and testing stipulations 
  • International travel: This could be a lasting issue that has ramifications into the 2020-21 NHL season
  • Timing: School is back in session, virtually or otherwise, and some European leagues have already begun their seasons

In lieu of Prospect Development Camp, the Canes plan to link up individually with their draft picks to introduce them to the organization. From a development standpoint, Bill Burniston, the head of strength and conditioning, will connect with each prospect and their strength coaches.

Will the Hurricanes draft any prospects yes or no - @CanesProspects

I worked hard to confirm this and am confident to report that, yes, the Hurricanes will draft some prospects.

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More questions and more answers coming your way soon!

If you have a question you'd like answered or you'd like to say hello at the Yard Sale this weekend, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes, or you can drop me an email.

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