Canes take Ryan Suzuki with 28th pick in NHL Draft

The Carolina Hurricanes had to wait a long time Friday before making center Ryan Suzuki their first-round draft pick.

The Canes had the 28th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, which was not a bad thing in that it was a byproduct of reaching the Eastern Conference finals in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They also got a player they wanted.

A year ago, with the No. 2 overall pick, the Canes took forward Andrei Svechnikov from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. In Suzuki, they drafted one of Svechnikov’s former Barrie teammates -- Svechnikov later tweeted “Welcome to the family!”

Suzuki is the younger brother of Nick Suzuki, a first-round draft pick in 2017 who is now in the Montreal Canadiens organization. The 6-1, 180-pound forward had 25 goals and 50 assists in 65 games for Barrie this past season and was ranked 18th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

“I’d say I’m a playmaking centerman,” Suzuki said of his style of play. “I like to be electric and make plays all around the ice. I think I’m a just super smart player with a good hockey IQ.”

Suzuki, in the media scrum in Vancouver, also said he learned a lot in Barrie from Svechnikov, calling him a “true professional” and saying the Russian was in the gym working all the time, “being a pro on and off the ice.”

For the first time in a decade, the Canes had to wait through most of the first round -- marking names off their draft wish list -- until the 28th pick.

Jack Hughes, a center in the U.S. National Team Development Program, was the No. 1 overall choice by the New Jersey Devils, who won the NHL lottery draft this year. The New York Rangers quickly took Finnish forward Kaapo Kakko.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, right, welcomes Carolina Hurricanes pick Ryan Suzuki during the first round of the NHL hockey draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, June, 21, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) Jonathan Hayward AP

The final six rounds will be held Saturday at Rogers Arena and the Canes have nine draft picks -- three in the second round. Canes general manager Don Waddell said before the draft that he would not rule out trading some of the picks. He mentioned a top-nine forward as a priority and went to Vancouver ready to negotiate and with the reputation of being one to pull the trigger.

A year ago, the Canes were the talk of the draft in Dallas, which had to please team owner Tom Dundon, the Dallas billionaire who bought the majority ownership share of the team in January 2018.

The Canes, who had won the No. 2 overall pick in the NHL lottery draft, took Svechnikov in the first round. That surprised no one. But a day later they had everyone buzzing after trading forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin to the Calgary Flames for forward Micheal Ferland, defenseman Dougie Hamilton and defensive prospect Adam Fox.

With Ferland due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Canes apparently not re-signing him, Waddell is looking for a forward. But does he have another surprise trade in the works?

Waddell has a full plate in Vancouver. He has been meeting with agents for center Sebastian Aho and defenseman Justin Faulk, proposing contract extensions for both.

Faulk’s name again popped up in trade speculation Friday. He joked last month that “I think I’ve been traded 100 times,” and with defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Calvin de Haan coming off offseason shoulder surgeries, the Canes may not be in the position of dealing him away -- Faulk has one year left on his contract before reaching UFA status next year.

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.