While teams continue their quest for the Stanley Cup, the Canes find themselves in a firmilar position – trying to figure out what went wrong for the 7th consecutive offseason. This offseason should bring hope to the Canes organization however, as they have 7 picks in the top-90 of the 2016 draft, as well as the 13th overall pick, and also the LA Kings first round selection, who were just eliminated in the first round. Their pick will likelu fall somewhere between 20 and 22nd overall. Not too shabby.
Having that many picks is great from a viewers perspective, but the real task will be putting those picks to good use – whether that use is drafting players who’ll hopefully contribute for us in the future, or packaging some of those picks to either move up in the draft, or make a trade to bring in someone who can contribute immediately. The Canes will have plenty of options, but realistically, I think its safe to say they won’t trade either of their picks in the first round – considering their need for offense and the abundance of skilled forwards that will be available in the top round of the draft this year. That said, let’s look at some of the options the Canes will have on draft night.
With the Canes’ 13th overall pick:
F Julien Gauthier: Gauthier is exactly what the Hurricanes are in need of. A big bodied forward at 6’4 and 224 pounds, Gauthier is also a very talented goal scorer who scored 38 goals in 68 games last season before jumping up to 41 goals in just 54 games in his draft year. He is also valued for his play in the defensive zone and physically, not afraid to throw some checks and battle for the puck along the boards. Gauthier, ranked #12 by NHL Central Scouting, has been compared to Rick Nash and will likely be available for the Canes at 13. He is a power forward with goal scoring ability, while his style of play has been compared to James Van Riemsdyk. He would be a great add to the growing group of Canes forward prospects.
Other quality choices:
F Logan Brown– Another big bodied forward, 6’6 218-pound Logan Brown has a lot to offer the Hurricanes organization. First off, he is a local kid, born in Raleigh, NC. Selecting him would bring hype to the Canes fanbase because local kids tend to become fan favourites. His skillset is also very enticing for the Canes. A great 2-way player, Brown scored 74 points in 59 games this year for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL and 6 points in 5 playoff games. Brown, who’s rated #7 by NHL Central Scouting among NA skaters, is also sound in his defensive zone and while not overly physical for his size, could be a good offensive forward with ability to play the penalty kill. He is very comparable to Jordan Staal.
D Mikhail Sergachev– A defenseman? Bare with me here, but this pick could work out amazingly. Sergachev, a Russian born defenseman, stands 6’2 205-pounds and just put up 57 points (17 goals) in 67 games for Windsor of the OHL. He’s a very solid 2-way defenseman who’s tenacity and will to drive the pace of play makes him a game-changing player. Some analysts peg him as the top defenseman of the draft class, while others have him ranked behind Jacob Chychrun, Olli Juelovi, Jake Bean and Dante Fabbro. Despite the abundance of young D in the Hurricanes organization, Sergachev has the potential to be a stud in the NHL, and would fit very well with the influx of youth on the Canes blueline. The prospects of him being selected before #13 and the Canes need for offense makes this pick more of a longshot, but Sergachev might be too good to pass up if available when the Canes hit the clock.
With LA’s pick (likely 20-22nd overall):
F Vitaly Abramov – Abramov, long touted for his offensive instincts, is an undersized Russian forward who’s currently with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. At 5’9, 170 pounds, Abramov isn’t going to be dominating anyone physically, but more than makes up for it with his offensive talent. Abramov, still just 17 years old, scored 38 goals and 93 points in his rookie season in North America and added 7 goals and 6 assists in 10 playoff games. He is an elite skater and his hands and vision of the ice are unquestioned. With a skillset amd game style comparable to Vladislav Namestnikov, Abramov has the potential to be a dynamic offensive winger in the NHL.
Other quality choices:
Rasmus Asplund– Asplund is a very quality player, he was the top ranked Swede in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings (excluding Canadian-born Alexander Nylander) and has the chance to be a difference maker at the NHL level. Just 18 years old, Asplund is already in his second season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League. He had just 3 points in his rookie year but improved that total to 12 in 46 games in his draft year. He also showed a glimpse of his potential at the 2016 WJC, where he was one of Sweden’s top players and scored 3 goals with 2 assists in 7 games. A versatile player, 5’11 180-pound Asplund can play anywhere in the lineup due to his strong skating ability and ability to shield defenders off the puck. He’ll need to add weight to play his style in the NHL, but his strong forechecking, hockey sense and ability to create off turnovers gives Asplund the chance to be a dangerous player in the NHL. He’s a bit of a project pick, but his potential has the chance to far outweigh the risk of the selection. He would also fit in well with the abundance of highly-regarded Swedes in the Canes organization.
Tage Thompson– Thompson is a 6’5, 185-pound forward who just wrapped up his first season at UCONN. Thompson is billed as a power forward who plays a very physical game, but he also showed his offensive ability scoring 14 goals and 18 assists in 36 games, finishing 2nd on his team in points, behind only 2014 2nd-round pick Maxim Letunov. Thompson, more of a project forward, can be a quality player for the Canes in a few years, likely a mid-line player who has a physical edge and depth scoring.
German Rubtsov – Rubtsov might be the best pick for the Canes if he’s still available. Long been compared to Pavel Datsyuk, Rubtsov, 6’1 175-pounds is currently playing in the Russian junior league. He is a dedicated 2-way player and according to scouts has some of the highest hockey IQ in the entire draft. A distributer, Rubtsov uses patience and his great stick-handling ability to create for his teammates. After posting 26 points in 28 games with Team Russia U18, Rubtsov has been heralded as the top two-way player in the draft and has seen his stock rise dramatically to the mid-first round. If he’s still there when the Canes brass walks to the podium for their 2nd time, he will definitely be a player in consideration to wear Canes red.
Its tough to judge exactly what Canes management is looking for in the draft, but comments from Ron Francis that heavily emphasize adding offensive talent to produce more goals is a glaring need this offseason. Therefore, the players analyzed above all stand as suitable options in an attempt to bring more offense to the Canes forward group. Though the Canes aren’t in a position to draft an immediate difference maker, theres lots of players in the draft that have the potential to help the Canes and hopefully be contributing factors to lead the them back to the promised land.