Hurricanes hope for instant impact with 5th pick in NHL draft

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 3, 2013 

  • Seeking an impact player

    The Carolina Hurricanes have the No. 5 pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Among the prospects could be:

    PlayerPosCurrent teamComment
    Aleksander BarkovCTappara (Finland)Played against the men in Finnish league and held his own
    Jonathan DrouinLWHalifax (QMJHL)Skilled winger coming off 41-goal, 105-point season
    Elias LindholmCBrynas (Sweden)Skating and playmaking are the Swedish center’s strengths
    Sean MonahanCOttawa (OHL)Tall, has toughness and plays a strong two-way game
    Valeri Nichushkin RWChelyabinsk (Russia) Has the size (6-4, 203) and skills NHL teams want
    Darnell NurseDSault Ste. Marie (OHL)Rugged blueliner whose uncle is Donavan McNabb
    Hunter ShinkarukC/LW Medicine Hat (WHL)Skilled, swift forward brings versatility

    Guide -- OHL: Ontario Hockey League; WHL: Western Hockey League; QMJHL: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

— With an 8.1 percent chance of winning the 2013 NHL draft lottery, the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t expect to land the No. 1 overall pick.

They do expect to land a very good player at No. 5.

The Canes’ big skid late in the season kept them out of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That stung everyone in the organization.

But a high pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft could provide some immediate help next season. That’s what the Canes are banking on – instant impact.

“There are going to be some star players taken,” general manager Jim Rutherford said of the draft, which will be held June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. “I’ve been told this could be like the Eric Staal draft.”

That was in 2003. The Hurricanes made Staal the second overall pick after the Pittsburgh Penguins took goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Others taken in the first round in 2003 include forwards Zach Parise, Nathan Horton, Ryan Getzlaf, Thomas Vanek, Jeff Carter and Corey Perry. Among the defensemen were Ryan Suter and Dion Phaneuf.

Vanek, taken by the Buffalo Sabres, was the No. 5 selection.

“A lot of people are comparing this year’s draft to 2003,” Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ director of amateur scouting, said this week. “The comparisons are being made based on the depth and the strength of the draft, and this is a very strong draft with a lot of quality prospects. And not just the first round but through the second round.

“While you’d always like to be higher, the fifth spot is a good spot for us to get a player we will be very happy with.”

The Hurricanes’ pick is their highest since 2005 when they took defenseman Jack Johnson at No. 3. That was the year everyone in the organization was sweating out the lottery, hoping for the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft Sidney Crosby.

The Pens got the No. 1 pick and got Crosby. Things were messier for the Canes. Johnson strained his relationship with management by deciding to play two years of college hockey at Michigan rather than turn pro.

After failing to sign Johnson after his freshman year, the Canes traded his rights to the Los Angeles Kings along with Oleg Tverdovsky for defenseman Tim Gleason and forward Eric Belanger. Johnson, who now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, made the U.S. Olympic team in 2010.

Things turned out a lot better for Carolina in 2010. With the No. 7 pick, the Canes took forward Jeff Skinner, who made the jump to the NHL at 18 and won the league’s Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

“We have a chance to get another outstanding player like a Jeff Skinner this year,” Rutherford said. “What I’m told by our amateur scouting staff is the top six players are the elite players and the guy we pick at five could be as good as the guy picked at one.”

Like their NHL brethren, the Hurricanes are mum on potential targets. Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones of the Western Hockey League appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick and may be taken by the Colorado Avalanche, which won the lottery Monday in Toronto.

Two of the mock drafts on NHL.com have the Canes taking forward Valeri Nichushkin of Chelyabinsk, Russia. He’s a big winger at 6-4 and 200 pounds and bullishly strong around the net.

There could be a snag, however. Nichushkin is signed to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the next two seasons.

“If might affect his ranking but it might be OK with some (NHL) teams,” MacDonald said. “Some might be willing to wait or decide to negotiate with the (Russian) federation.”

Other names likely to be mentioned leading up to the draft will be Swedish center Elias Lindholm, Finnish center Aleksander Barkov and center Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. And there will be others.

“I don’t want to make any rash predictions but there are probably six or seven players in the draft who may be NHL ready,” MacDonald said.

A year ago, the Canes had the No. 8 pick and never used it on draft day. The pick was included in the trade package to obtain Jordan Staal from the Penguins.

“A lot of things can happen between now and draft day,” MacDonald said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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