Carolina Hurricanes

With draft complete, Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis turns focus to free agency

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 28, 2014 

  • Canes at the draft

    The Carolina Hurricanes had six selections Saturday on the second day of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft:

    Second round (No. 37 overall)

    Alex Nedeljkovic, G, 6-0, 190, Plymouth Whalers (Ontario Hockey League)

    Backstopped U.S. to gold in 2014 World Under-18 Championship. OHL goaltender of the year in 2013-2014.

    “I never give up on a play. I’m always battling and competing no matter what the score is.” –Nedeljkovivc

    Third round (No. 67)

    Warren Foegele, LW, 6-1, 183, St. Andrews College (Aurora, Ont.)

    Had 58 goals, 49 assists in 52 games as high-schooler last season. Plans to play college hockey for New Hampshire.

    “Not being drafted in my OHL year made me want to compete harder. That’s what my focus is.” –Foegele

    Fourth round (No. 96)

    Josh Wesley, D, 6-2, 194, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

    The son of former Canes defenseman Glen Wesley, Josh is first from Junior Hurricanes program to be NHL draftee.

    “There will be a little bit of pressure … but I am my own guy. I worked really hard and I got to where I am.” –Wesley

    Fourth round (No. 97)

    Lucas Wallmark, RW, 6-0, 176, Lulea (Sweden)

    A good two-way player, he joined Canes forward Elias Lindholm on Sweden’s World Junior team this year in Sweden.

    “He’s a skilled player who’s continuing to develop his game and will play in (Swedish) Elite League.” –Tony MacDonald, Canes director of amateur scouting

    Fifth round (No. 127)

    Clark Bishop, C, 6-0, 182, Cape Breton (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)

    A gritty player, he had 14 goals, 19 assists and 54 penalty minutes in 56 games for Cape Breton.

    “He was a kind of under-the-radar type. He played well for Canada in the Under-18 tournament in Finland.”–Tony MacDonald.

    Sixth round (no pick)

    Seventh round (No. 187)

    Kyle Jenkins, D, 6-0, 175, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

    Needs to add strength but quick on his skates. Once a defensive partner with Canes prospect Tyler Ganly.

    “I’m a two-way D-man who can contribute offensively. I’m looking forward to putting on more weight.” –Jenkins

For the past two days in Philadelphia, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis was immersed in the NHL draft.

The Canes made defenseman Haydn Fleury of Red Deer (Alberta) their first-round pick Friday. They made another six selections on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center, drafting a goalie, three forwards and two more defensemen.

“Everyone seems very pleased with the way the draft went for us,” Francis said Saturday.

One draft pick proved emotional, and was pleasing to many in the organization: Josh Wesley.

Wesley grew up in Raleigh while his father, Glen, was helping to establish the franchise in North Carolina, winning a Stanley Cup in 2006. Josh was a part of the Junior Hurricanes program, and Saturday became a part of history as the first junior player groomed in North Carolina to be drafted by an NHL team.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Josh Wesley said.

Francis and Glen Wesley once were Canes teammates, and Wesley remains the team’s director of defensemen development. Their jerseys – No. 10 for Francis, No. 2 for Wesley – are retired by the Hurricanes and hang in the PNC Arena rafters.

But Francis, after his first draft as GM, must quickly put it behind him. NHL free agency begins Tuesday and there’s still much to be done.

Last week, Francis re-signed defenseman Ron Hainsey and forward Nathan Gerbe. Francis said Saturday that three soon-to-be unrestricted free agents – forward Manny Malhotra, goalie Justin Peters and defenseman Brett Bellemore – would test the market come Tuesday.

Two other players due to become unrestricted free agents, defenseman Mike Komisarek and forward Radek Dvorak, will not return to the Canes, Francis said.

Forward Jiri Tlusty is a restricted free agent and would receive a qualifying offer, Francis said, adding that contract talks with Tlusty were ongoing.

The Canes’ other restricted free agents include such players as forwards Drayson Bowman, Andrei Loktionov and Zach Boychuk, who spent much of last season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Qualifying offers must be out Monday, and Francis said the Canes still were “teetering” on a couple of players.

Francis again said the Canes would likely not make use of a compliance buyout on an existing contract.

Francis, promoted to general manager April 28, has said there will be no major overhaul of the Canes’ roster despite missing the playoffs for five straight years. In assessing the team’s needs heading into free agency, he said the focus would be on fourth-line forwards and adding a depth defenseman.

Some have speculated Francis might look to trade goalie Cam Ward, who has injury issues and a $6.3 million salary-cap hit. But with Peters now headed to free agency, Francis said the “plan for now” was to go into next season with Ward and Anton Khudobin as the two goaltenders.

The Canes made goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League their second-round pick – at No. 37, their highest-drafted goalie since Ward was taken 25th in 2002. Nedeljkovic was a standout for the U.S. Under-18 junior national team that took gold in the 2014 World U18 Championship in Finland and was coached in Plymouth by Mike Vellucci, now an assistant GM with the Hurricanes.

The Canes took winger Warren Foegele in the third round, then made Wesley their first fourth-round selection and the 96th overall pick. Carolina also had the 97th pick, taking forward Lucas Wallmark of Sweden in the fourth.

Center Clark Bishop (fifth round) and defenseman Kyle Jenkins (seventh) were the Canes’ final two selections – Carolina did not have a sixth-round pick.

Francis said Wesley had the “bloodlines of his dad” but also emphasized he had put in the time and effort to make himself a better player.

“We didn’t take him just because he’s Glen Wesley’s son,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ director of amateur scouting. “We took him because we think he’s a prospect, he’s got some size (6-3, 195), he has some skill and we feel he has some upside.”

Josh Wesley said he hoped others with North Carolina ties also would be drafted, but three draft-eligible players – goalie Logan Halladay of Cary, defenseman Trevor Owens of Raleigh and winger Bryan Moore of Indian Trail – were not selected this year.

Foegele plans to play collegiate hockey at New Hampshire and Wallmark could compete next season in the Swedish elite league, MacDonald said. Wallmark and Canes forward Elias Lindholm were teammates on Sweden’s World Junior Championship team this past year.

Canes fans can get their first look at the draft class on the ice during the prospects conditioning camp in July. As for Francis, he’s more concerned about the Canes team he’ll put on the ice in October.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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