Luke DeCock

Quiet weekend for Canes at mostly quiet draft

Julien Gauthier poses for a portrait after being selected 21st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24.
Julien Gauthier poses for a portrait after being selected 21st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24. Getty Images

A quiet draft weekend around the NHL was even quieter for the Carolina Hurricanes, who still have a lot of work left to do ahead of next season but, like most teams, will wait until the summer.

The weekend ended without a goalie trade, leaving Cam Ward and Eddie Lack in place as the Hurricanes’ tandem. It ended without the Hurricanes picking up Pavel Datsyuk’s contract, the Detroit Red Wings instead dumping the departed forward’s salary-cap hit on the Arizona Coyotes and their 27-year-old general manager for far less than many thought it would cost. And it ended without the Hurricanes making a deal of any kind, instead proceeding through an entirely ordinary weekend.

Most interestingly, two players with local connections were drafted: Raleigh-born Logan Brown, who was born here while his father Jeff played for the Hurricanes but was raised in St. Louis, went 11th to the Ottawa Senators on Friday, while Riley Stillman, an 8-year-old when his father Cory won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and a product of the Junior Hurricanes, went to the Florida Panthers in the fourth round Saturday.

The Hurricanes accumulated seven of the first 75 picks in this draft and 10 picks overall before trading a second-rounder to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Teuvo Teravainen deal. They ended up using the other nine, with Ron Francis going against the grain of his predecessor, Jim Rutherford, by taking a defenseman with his first pick for the third straight year but following in Rutherford’s footsteps by taking two goalies, something Rutherford did three times (and Rutherford’s first pick of this draft with the Pittsburgh Penguins was … a goalie).

While the selection of defenseman Jake Bean with the 13th pick Friday night have rankled some fans who see a young NHL defense and a glaring need for size and scoring up front, it’s important to remember that unlike the NBA or NFL, there are only a handful of immediate-help players in this draft of 18-year-olds. You’re always looking at least two years down the road, by which point veterans Ron Hainsey and James Wisniewski will have presumably moved along.

The Hurricanes did draft for need with their second first-round pick, taking 6-foot-3 goal-scoring winger Julien Gauthier 21st overall, their first first-rounder from the Quebec junior league since uber-bust Phillipe Paradis. (Equal time: Nicolas Roy, a fourth-round pick last year out of the Quebec league, is coming along nicely and had a short stint in the AHL at the end of the season, although he has to go back to juniors next fall.)

Beyond that, the second day of the draft proceeded in an entirely ordinary manner. With these later-round picks, there’s so much gambling and speculation on NHL potential it’s hard for even scouts to make an accurate assessment for a few years. There may be another Erik Cole or Jaccob Slavin in the group, but those players are certainly the exception, which is what makes the NHL Draft a particularly difficult endeavor.

It’s almost certain none of the players taken Saturday will have any impact on the Hurricanes this fall nor the fall after that, although expectations will be ratcheting higher for Bean and Gauthier by then.

In terms of immediate improvement, there wasn’t any of that for the Hurricanes this weekend. That will have to wait for next weekend, when the free-agent market opens. Even if the Hurricanes aren’t big players for big names they would be well served to sniff around the fringes for a few veteran forwards who can provide experience and leadership, the kind of guys who were taken as unknown quantities on the second day of the draft many years ago and made careers out of grit and hustle.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

  Comments