It's been more than two months now since we last saw the Carolina Hurricanes take the ice, and while they won't be hitting the rink this weekend either, it's finally back to business for at least a few 'Canes.
Those 'Canes would primarily be GM Jim Rutherford, owner Peter Karmanos, and director of amateur scouting Tony McDonald. They'll have the task of making ten—and perhaps more—selections in Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
In truth, Carolina could be one of the league's busiest franchises this weekend.
Only one team—the Washington Capitals, with 11 choices—will enter this weekend with more draft picks than the Hurricanes. Moreover, only one other team—the Buffalo Sabres, with four picks—will make more selections than the 'Canes in the draft's first 50 slots, in which Carolina will pick three times.
The Hurricanes' over-sized portfolio of draft picks will certainly be beneficial in the long run, but, for now, it only leaves more questions left to be answered this weekend.
When the club comes up for the eighth overall pick Friday night, will they stick with their typical pick-the-best-player-available strategy—one that could easily equate to a 'D'-man in this year's defensively-heavy class—or target the team's more needy position, forward?
Further, given the abundance of mid-round picks Rutherford currently has up his sleeve, how will the 'Canes increasingly shallow prospect pool be filled out? Will the team look for entry level contract-ready players, who could be sent to nearby AHL affiliate Charlotte, or for European-trained prospects who will eventually take a direct route to the NHL?
And lastly, what will the role of trades be in the 'Canes Friday and Saturday activities? After Rutherford told Chip Alexander "We're trying to...get in on [this week's] early trades", trade rumors have swirled all around Raleigh—but the 'Canes still haven't traded a first-round pick since 2004.
How will the 2012 NHL Entry Draft play out for the Hurricanes? Our full mock draft and weekend preview falls on the coming slides.
Selection: RW Teuvo Teravainen
Finnish winger Teuvo Teravainen has been connected with the Hurricanes for months now, and it's no surprise to see him still highlighting the list of possible 'Canes first-round choices as the draft approaches.
The 17-year-old didn't stand out much in 40 games this past season in Finnish professional league SM-liiga, scoring only 11 goals and 18 points, but no wonder—he was up against players 10 or even 20 years older!
Conversely, against competitors of roughly the same age, Teravainen has proven to be a brilliant shooter, passer and playmaker in the offensive zone.
In 2011-2012, the sneaky 5'11", 165 lb. forward scored 20 points in 11 games with Jokerit's U20 team, 18 points in nine games with Finland's Under-18 squad during the International Junior Championship, and eight points in six games with Finland's team in the Under-18 World Championships.
And if those stats aren't impressive enough, 'Canes scout Tony MacDonald raved about his offensive awareness and decision-making in an interview with the News & Observer last week:
"[Teravainen is a] deadly one-on-one player. He's very good with the puck. He does things with the puck beyond the skill level of many players. He can distribute the puck both ways—he can pass the on the backhand better than most people can on their forehand.
He's probably as skilled a player as there is in the draft. He's very smart, very creative."
Selection: C Scott Laughton
The Hurricanes continue to fortify their ranks of prospect forwards with Scott Laughton, a physical center from Oshawa of the OHL.
Laughton's stock has risen significantly from mid-season, climbing from 40th to 28th in the ISS's North American Skater rankings, as the Ontario native tallied 21 goals, 32 assists and 101 penalty minutes in 64 appearances.
Futher, while his 6'0", 177 lb. size won't cause any jaws to drop, Laughton is still a solid, rough-and-tumble player with a hitting ability similar to Tuomo Ruutu's, and a low center of gravity rivaling Jeff Skinner's. NHLMockDraft.org's Bob Mand reiterates that with his scouting report:
"Feisty almost to a fault, the undersized Laughton has never met a puck battle he hasn’t liked. He’ll plough in, digging against opponents far bigger and stronger than himself, and more often than not come away with the puck. He’s just got that extra will to compete – the rare fire – that just never dies.
He excels at the puck-possession game – creating turnovers and retaining control under duress. His read-and-react is borderline elite and even in tight spaces, he seems to make the correct decision nine times in ten."
Selection: D Patrick Sieloff
The Hurricanes turn their attention towards defense in the late second round, drafting USHL product Patrick Sieloff.
Sieloff has decent size—6'0", 198 lbs.—and a physical, fight-happy style of play,as he compiled 115 penalty minutes in 56 games for the US NTDP's U-18 squad this past season. He'll help to add another dimension to the 'Canes prospect pool of defensemen, which are currently a bit lacking in grit.
Next year, he'll be headed to the OHL, where the Hurricanes can get a better look at how this rearguard's career will pan out. Right now, however, Sieloff is just excited about the opportunities ahead, as he told Yahoo!'s Neate Sager last month:
"I love how the OHL is an offensive kind of league but at the same time they need some guys who can be stay-at-home defencemen and rush up once in a while. I love the challenge of facing high-end offensive guys every night so when I go to the next level, I'll know how to handle it."
Selection: G Jon Gillies
With former goalie prospects Mike Murphy (heading to Russia), Justin Peters (entering the free agent market) and Frederik Anderson (staying in Sweden) all seemingly off the books, the 'Canes are suddenly very short at goaltender.
Jon Gillies can fix that.
The enormous 6'5" netminder covers most of the goal by just being there, and his .915 save percentage and 2.77 GAA with USHL Indiana reflect that well. The Hockey Writers' Anatoliy Metter offers some insight on Gillies' fantastic '11-'12 campaign:
At 6’5″, Gillies definitely stands out in the crease and on the ice. Gillies made apparent improvements statistically as he led the USHL in terms of wins (31), minutes played, and shots faced (over 1600) during the 2011-2012 USHL season, but the goalie saved some of his best play for the playoffs as he took the Indiana Ice to the USHL Eastern Conference Finals ... The goalie was solid through six games played as he posted a 2.84 GAA and .911 Save Percentage for the duration of the Ice’s playoff run.
Gillies will attend Providence College next year, but could sign an entry-level contract as soon as summer 2013.
Pick No. 99: LW Coda Gordon
Winger's ISS ranking (among N. American skaters) dropped from 38th to 61st over the latter part of the season, but Gordon is a flashy sniper with 30 goals and 53 points this past season to his name. The 6'0", 175 lb. winger will likely stay with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos for at least next season.
Pick No. 115: D Calle Andersson
Swedish blueliner Calle Andersson enters the draft as the sixth-ranked European defenseman, and his versatility could be beneficial to the 'Canes. Andersson tore up the Swedish Junior League with 36 points in 49 games from the blue line, but also packs a big hip-check at 6'2", 208 lbs.
Pick No. 120: LW Charles Hudon
Elusive winger Charles Hudon is coming off of two strong seasons in the QMJHL, with 60 points in 63 games in '10-'11 and 66 points in 59 games this past season. The youngster could be overpowered in the NHL, but has excellent hands and offensive vision to make up for it.
Pick No. 129: G Frank Palazzese
The Hurricanes add their second goalie of the draft in Frank Palazzese from the OHL's Kitchener, the same junior team of Jeff Skinner and Ryan Murphy. The mere 160 lb. netminder had a .927 save percentage and 2.93 GAA in 36 appearances this past season. Palazzese could sign an entry-level contract as early as this summer.
Pick No. 159: C Michael Clarke
Clarke plummeted down the ISS's North American Skaters rankings this past season, dropping from 63rd to 118th over the last six months, but has strong upside as a well-rounded, mid-line forward. The 5'11" center had 36 points and 81 penalty minutes in 68 games with Windsor of the OHL.
Pick No. 189: D Jaynen Rissling
Questions linger about Rissling's ability to succeed in the big leagues, but the 'Canes are willing to take a risk on the defenseman based on his size alone—6'4", 223 lbs. The nephew of former NHL forward Gary Rissling has totaled 52 points and 238 PIM in 158 games over the last three seasons with Calgary of the WHL, and, with a fair amount of junior league experience under his belt, he could be AHL-bound next season.