The Canes have the No. 7 selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday. Each day this week, CanesNow is taking a look at a potential pick.
Today: Haydn Fleury.
With two notable exceptions -- Jack Johnson and Ryan Murphy -- the Canes have been loath to pick a defenseman in the first round since 2001.
In 2010, they had their sights set on forward Jeff Skinner and took him with the seventh pick, even with defenseman Cam Fowler dropping down and enticingly available. Had the Nashville Predators not taken Seth Jones fourth a year ago, it could have made for a difficult decision for the Canes, next up at five -- Jones or forward Elias Lindholm.
"Aaron Ekblad will probably go 1 or 2 this year and is an NHL-ready defenseman," said Tony MacDonald, the Canes' director of amateur scouting. "But with a lot of top-end defensemen they seem to play better on their second or third NHL contracts. It's a very steep learning curve for defensemen in the NHL. They can get eaten up."
But with that said, MacDonald and many others have a lot of good things to say about Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.
"He's the next best defenseman in the draft after Ekblad," MacDonald said. "He's a safe pick."
Fleury has good size at 6-2 and 202, with a frame that will fill out. Effective in the defensive end, he's a solid two-way player -- he was plus-15 for the season -- who can help out offensively, scoring eight goals and adding 38 assists in 70 games.
"He's not overly physical but he's a very good skater," MacDonald said. "He can go back and get the puck and make the good first pass, and he had 46 points. His offensive game is evolving.
"He was chosen the best defenseman in the Under-18 World Championship in Finland after a very strong tournament for Canada."
The Canes took Murphy with the 12th pick in 2011. The selection of Johnson, No. 3 overall in 2005, caused a lot of angst for the organization and eventually Johnson's trade. And no one will forget the Igor Knyazev pick in 2001, which was a bust.
Odds are, the Canes won't take a defenseman this year. But if there's a flurry of trades Friday, which seems possible, Fleury can't be ruled out.