DeCock

Canes could move up in NHL draft, but will they?

Staff WriterJune 6, 2010 

— The men who spend their hockey seasons trying to figure out which 17-year-olds have the promise and potential to become 24-year-old NHL players met this week at the RBC Center, sketching out the draft-day priorities for the Carolina Hurricanes.

You didn't have to be in the room to know who was 1-2 on that list: center Tyler Seguin, who plays for Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos' junior team, the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League; and Taylor Hall, a left wing who plays just across the border for the Windsor Spitfires.

Neither player is expected to last past the first two picks in Los Angeles on June 25, positions held at this moment by the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is listening to offers and has talked about swapping with Edmonton, so those picks could be on the move. Would Carolina be interested?

The Hurricanes are avowed admirers of Seguin, in part because they know him so well. (The Hurricanes have drafted 14 Plymouth players in the past 16 years.) He would also give them a 1-2-3 punch at center with Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter as strong as any in the NHL. And with four picks in the top 60 and 11 picks in the draft, the Hurricanes should have enough draft assets to try to move up from No. 7 to get him.

Consider: In 1999, the Vancouver Canucks gave up Bryan McCabe, a future first-round pick and a third-round pick in a series of trades to add the No. 2 pick to the No. 3 pick they already held so then-GM Brian Burke could land both of the Sedin twins.

Closer to home, Carolina gave up a second-round pick to move up from No. 8 to No. 4 in 2004 and take Andrew Ladd in front of the home fans. And in 2003, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up a second-round pick and Mikael Samuelsson and got back a third-round pick to move from No. 3 to No. 1, taking goalie Marc-Andre Fleury first overall and leaving Staal for the Hurricanes with the next pick.

With the Bruins' salary-cap problems, adding a bonus-heavy rookie contract may not be the best idea. Moving down a few picks to take a player who isn't immediately NHL-ready would delay the financial impact. The Hurricanes might be able to offer them a second-round pick or two and a player with a reasonable salary - Chad LaRose? - to switch places.

From there, a second-round pick could entice the Oilers to swap places, unless they have their hearts set on Seguin, in which case it might take a future first-rounder.

The opportunity is probably out there to move up and get Seguin, if the Hurricanes want to pursue it. It won't be at the owner's behest: Karmanos scoffed at that idea this week.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford says he will get a good player at No. 7. He even left the door open to taking a defenseman, which the Hurricanes haven't done in the first round since the 2005 Jack Johnson Debacle, and which Rutherford has said is a waste of money because by the time defensemen develop into NHL players, they're already free agents.

On the other hand, the Hurricanes have a commendable surplus of young forwards and are in desperate need of young defensemen, thanks in large part to that first-round philosophy. Given the state of Carolina's blue line at the moment, the right defenseman could walk straight into the Hurricanes' second pairing - a once-rare transition that has become more commonplace in the NHL of late.

Still, they would probably be better off taking a forward from the OHL or Western Hockey League, where they seem to have the best handle on things. The past three times they've veered away from that comfort zone - Russian defenseman Igor Knyazev in 2001, Johnson in 2005, Quebec league forward Phillipe Paradis last year - they have come to regret it in less than a year.

The forwards from the OHL and WHL, since 2003: Staal, Ladd, Sutter and Zach Boychuk, not to mention goalie Cam Ward out of the WHL in 2002. There's something to be said for knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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