Now that the 2016 NHL Draft has come and gone, Hurricanes fans can be done stressing and guessing the players the team was going to draft. Those answers became reality on Friday night, when the Canes held 2 selections in the first round in Buffalo, pick No. 13 and 21. On top of that, the Canes had another 7 selections over the first 5 rounds of Day Two, including 3 picks that came between No. 67 and 75. Safe to say, it was a pretty uplifting draft for the Hurricanes franchise, as they’d stockpiled draft picks via trades and had a good number of high draft slots to make good & safe selections. Let’s address the players added in the draft & examine their potential outlook in the Canes organization.
Round 1, Pick 13: D Jake Bean
I’m not sure you’ll find a single Caniac supporter anywhere who had tabbed Jake Bean as the target for the Canes 13th overall pick. With the young, deep defensive core the team has put together, it didn’t seem like the team would add a defenseman, especially not that high, with the lack of quality goal scorers in the organization. I was skeptical at first, but after watching some highlights and examining Bean further, I was convinced that he was the best player available when the Canes hit the clock, and thats the best way to draft. Bean is an ideal top-4 defenseman, with a great shot, hockey sense, vision and passing ability. Francis stated after the draft that this kid had the ability to quarterback our powerplay – which is what was hoped of 2011 12th overall pick Ryan Murphy – who is both smaller and weaker defensively than Bean and has fell out of favour on the Canes depth chart. Adding Bean to the trios of in-house and up-and-coming defenseman – Slavin-Hanifin-Pesce and Fleury-Carrick-McKeown, along with Justin Faulk, it makes Murphy, and potentially others, expendable as the Canes have more quality defenseman than space on their roster. However, the Canes eventually won’t be able to pay all of them, so great depth is always good to have. Regardless, Bean was a great add for the Canes at #13. Grade: A
Round 1, Pick 21: F Julien Gauthier
On paper, it’s hard not to like Gauthier. A 6’4, 231lb frame accompanied by a 41-goal campaign in the QMJHL, Gauthier’s combination of size and skill fill a huge need for the Hurricanes. With goal-scoring being a premium for the Canes, adding Gauthier should fix that issue after he scored 41 goals in just 54 games – good for 6th in the league – and just 7 goals less than fellow Canes prospect Nicolas Roy who led the QMJHL with 48 goals but played 9 more games than Gauthier. However, after adding just 16 assists some people have questioned Gauthier’s playmaking ability, which isn’t a huge deal considering his teammates feed him the puck. Considering I was hoping the Canes would snag Gauthier at 13, his drop to 21 worked out perfectly as we added the guy I wanted plus Jake Bean, who definitely wouldn’t have been there at #21 if we took Gauthier at 13. Great first round for the Hurricanes. Grade: A+
Round 2, Pick 43: F Janne Kuokkanen
For the second year in a row, the Canes turned to Finland to grab a 2nd round prospect who they took higher than projected. Last year it was Sebastian Aho, who went from being called a reach to arguably the steal of the draft, and Kuokkanen will look to follow his footsteps. Kuokkanen, who played for Karpat U20, scored 22 goals and 53 points in 47 games, and added 2 goals in his lone game for Karpat of SM-Liiga, which is the same team that Sebastian Aho plays for, but he didn’t dress for the game Kuokkanen skated in. Ron Francis compared the two, saying the saw alot of Aho in Kuokkanen. Most outlets ranked him between 50 and 60, but Bob McKenzie had him 43rd – which is where the Canes snagged him. The Canes have done really well in the second round lately, and Kuokkanen will look to add his name to the list of steals by the Canes. He’s currently 6’1, 180lbs and could make the move to the OHL next season after being selected in the first round by the London Knights. Grade: B+
Round 3, Pick 67: F Matt Filipe
Filipe is a kid that I don’t know a whole lot about. He’s 6’2 and about 200lbs, scored 19 goals in the USHL and plays a hard two-way game. He could be a good depth forward for the Canes in the future. However, there was probably better options available at this spot. Grade: C+
Round 3, Pick 74: C Hudson Elynuik
Elynuik was a reach by most mock draft standards, but this kid is 6’5 and 201 lbs. He scored 19 goals and 44 points in 56 games in the WHL last season, and has a long way to go towards making the NHL. Down the road, he can probably be a good 3C, but the Canes are stocked at center with Aleksi Saarela, Lucas Wallmark and Nicolas Roy all on their way to the NHL. It’ll be a tough road for Elynuik but, he seems like he has a chance. Grade: B-
Round 3, Pick 75: G Jack LaFontaine
Jack LaFontaine is a guy the Hurricanes really liked and wanted, but was most likely a massive reach in terms of where he was projected. Ranked the 13th NA goalie by NHL Central Scouting, he was the 6th goalie selected in the draft, while guys like Veini Vehvalainen and Dylan Wells were still available. He was impressive in the NAHL with a 2.16 GAA and a .921 sv%, and is committed to Michigan of the NCAA to continue his development. At 6’2 190, he has ideal size and skill for the net, but is definitey considerable as a project player and not someone who will play for the Hurricanes for a long while. Considering that, it’s hard to give the Canes a high grade on this pick, taking into account they passed on highly touted players like Sean Day, Luke Green, Yegor Rykov and Dmitri Sokolov to make this selection. Grade: C
So in summary, the Canes added some players with decent potential in the long term, while passing up on the more high risk-reward guys and played it safe. Despite that, they added 3 guys who are virtual locks to contribute at the NHL level – Bean, Gauthier and Kuokkanen, while adding some other project guys, as well as Max Zimmer, Jeremy Helvig and Noah Carroll. Although there was some selections that fans might’ve wanted to see go differently, the Canes made smart selections, adding size, grit, speed and skill to their ever-growing prospect pool. Overall draft grade: A very respectable B+, as they added 3 guys who are almost certain to be difference makers at the NHL, and a wealth of other guys to develop and hopefully turn into competant NHL players.
Written by Alex Ohari of weliveforhockey.com