It wasnt too long ago the Carolina Hurricanes had a long line of forward prospects knocking on the door of the NHL. Two years later, theyre still knocking.
At one point, it was fair to wonder if all of Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman or Riley Nash would become NHL regulars. Now, its fair to wonder if any of them will.
With the latest edition of the NHL draft fast approaching, the failure of those forwards to progress calls for a reassessment of the Hurricanes draft results over the past few years. The period since the lockout has been generally perceived as successful, but on the assumption that some of those prospects would take a step forward. So far, few have.
The Hurricanes struck gold in 2010 with Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, and both are absolutely essential to the team. But for the period 2005-08, players who should be moving along to the NHL now if not there already, the Hurricanes ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in both NHL regulars drafted and the percentage of picks turned into NHL regulars.
They did better at the top of the draft, ranking in the top half of the league in the successful selection of first-round and top-100 picks, tying for 11th in both categories. The question is this: For a budget team like Carolina that hasnt added talent via free agency, is that good enough?
Only three players from that time period have established themselves in the NHL, playing in more than 100 games: Jack Johnson, Jamie McBain and Brandon Sutter. Johnson, who went third overall in 2005, was quickly traded when he refused to sign in 2006. McBain was 63rd overall, the last pick of the second round in 2006. Sutter went 11th overall in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes used six top-100 picks on several players who dont, at this point, look like theyre going to pan out: Nate Hagemo, Joe Barnes, Harrison Reed, Bowman, Boychuk and Dalpe. They also traded the 46th pick in 2010 for Nash, the Edmonton Oilers first-round pick in 2007.
The Hurricanes didnt draft a single player in the third round or later who has played more than two NHL games, and used a second-round pick on Hagemo, who already had suffered the shoulder injury that would end his career after only three more games.
Whether some of those players have been given a fair shake is an entirely different debate, and the Hurricanes still have high hopes for Nash in particular, but at this moment, none have made an NHL impact. Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford even criticized their progress at his end-of-season press conference, a rather public shaming in a very public forum.
That period spans the tenure of two different scouting directors, with Tony McDonald taking over for Sheldon Ferguson in 2007, and any number of changes on the scouting staff, so it isnt about one person. Its about the entire organization, from the decisions made on the draft floor to the resources allocated to the scouting operation, and asking whether the results are good enough.
The Hurricanes 2009 draft has yet to produce an NHL player, although defenseman Brian Dumoulin, a second-round pick, looks ready to break through this season, and first-round bust Philippe Paradis was quickly dumped for Jiri Tlusty.
The early returns on 2010 are excellent: Both Skinner and Faulk came out of that draft, with hopes still high for defensemen Mark Alt and Danny Biega. From the 2011 draft, Ryan Murphy, Victor Rask and Keegan Lowe are top prospects, but their future remains unknown.
So theres hope lying in the past few drafts, but thats the way the drafts before them looked for a while, too. Thats not the way they look now.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock