2014 NHL Draft: Prospects the Carolina Hurricanes Could Draft in the 1st Round
He'll be choosing with the same pick that brought Jeff Skinner to the 'Canes four years prior, and he'll certainly hope to make a choice of equal success. However, while the options will be plentiful, the selection will be far from a simple one.
Should Francis address the Hurricanes' lack of forward size with one of two highly rated 6'2" Canadian forwards (Brendan Perlini and Nick Ritchie)? Should Francis focus on the team's lack of right wing prospects by drafting Kasperi Kapanen or William Nylander? Should Francis take the safe road and go with well-rounded defenseman Haydn Fleury?
Questions abound entering the the final weeks before the draft opening on June 27. Which player should Carolina draft with its lone first-round pick? A closer look at the five most likely selections falls on the coming slides.
LW Brendan Perlini
Size: 6"2", 205 lbs
2013-14 Team: Niagara (OHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 58 GP, 34 G, 37 A, 71 P
Scouting Report: from NHL.com's Mike Morreale
[Perlini] has good acceleration, speed and quickness. Voted the most improved player in the OHL Eastern Conference; has high-end puck skills and NHL-caliber shot.
ISS Rank: 7th
On a Niagara team that went 24-44, Perlini averaged well over a point-per-game pace and led the team in scoring. He experienced such success because of a unique combination of height and finesse.
But Perlini cooled off as the season went on, scoring just 30 points in the second half of his campaign, and there's reason to believe his unbelievable 2013 autumn was a bit of a fluke—the Sault Ste. Marie native scored just 10 points in 27 appearances in 2012-13.
The 'Canes are also quite deep in prospects at the LW position, boasting Brock McGinn, Sergey Tolchinsky, Phil Di Giuseppe and Brent Pederson, among others.
Although Perlini has the power forward capabilities that Carolina's forwards corps lack—the 2013-14 roster had just two players (Eric and Jordan Staal) taller than 6'2"—he's not the safest choice in the top 10.
RW Kasperi Kapanen
Size: 5'11", 180 lbs
2013-14 Team: Kalpa (Finland)
2013-14 Stat Line: 47 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 P
Scouting Report: from Goran Stubb, Director of European Scouting
He’s a good-skating wing and can also play center. He has a smooth and surprisingly fast style that has surprised many unsuspecting defensemen. His tricky puck skills and quick release have paid off in many games and he has good hand-eye coordination. He’s not overly physical, but does not shy away from rough situations.
ISS Rank: 13th
Kasperi is the son of former NHL star and 'Canes player Sami Kapanen, but the possibility that the 'Canes would draft him based on that connection likely disappeared when Jim Rutherford stepped down.
He, like most Scandinavian draft prospects, played in the Finnish professional league this past season. Thus, his 2013-14 stats aren't too impressive, but Kapanen excelled against equal competition—he ranked second in the 2013 U-18 World Championships with five goals.
The 'Canes may be wary to use a second consecutive top-10 selection on a Scandinavian forward, however, after Elias Lindholm's mediocre rookie campaign proved he may not have been completely NHL-ready. Kapanen, like Lindholm, isn't the most physically well-rounded player either.
D Haydn Fleury
Size: 6"2", 202 lbs
2013-14 Team: Red Deer (WHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 70 GP, 8 G, 38 A, 46 P
Scouting Report: from Andy Levangie, McKeen's Hockey
Rarely found out of position, constantly shifting small distances to cut down angles and disrupt passing plays, especially close to the crease... Intelligent instincts clearly evident... Possesses the physical ability to lean on opposing players and a long reach to protect the puck allowing him to create turnovers and disrupt the oppositions forecheck.
ISS Rank: 12th
Fleury is the outright second-best defenseman in this year's draft class and models some likenesses to Shea Weber, who also came out of the WHL in 2003.
It's an enticing package: Fleury is probably best labeled as a defensive defenseman, but he displays strong puck-moving and playmaking skills as well (as evidenced by his 38 assists).
The graduations of Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore have left the 'Canes woefully undermanned in defensive youth, with players like Trevor Carrick, Brett Pesce and Michal Jordan now the club's "top" prospects at the position. Fleury, while not immediately NHL-ready (like almost all drafted blueliners), would instantly jump to the top of the list.
RW William Nylander
Size: 5'9", 169 lbs
2013-14 Teams: Modo (Sweden); Rogle (Sweden-2); Sodertalje (Sweden-2)
2013-14 Stat Line: 47 GP, 16 G, 18 A, 34 P
Scouting Report: from EliteProspects.com
Nylander skates very well, has impressive hands and is excellent at handling the puck at high speeds. Hockey sense is very impressive and he likes to shoot the puck a lot, but is also capable of delivering perfect passes... On the other hand, his defensive game needs some work...at times he tends to hang onto the puck for too long...
ISS Rank: 5th
Arguably the most intriguing prospect in the 2014 draft and another son of a former NHL star, William Nylander is also perhaps the hardest to predict. He's ranked in the top five by ISS but not even in the top 13 by TSN's Craig Button.
Nylander played at a variety of levels in 2013-14; he tallied just seven points in 22 games with Swedish professional team Modo, 27 points in 35 games with Swedish second-tier clubs Rogle and Sodertalje and 16 points in seven games for Team Sweden at the 2013 U-18 World Championships.
The 'Canes are in need of right wingers, as they really have no noteworthy prospects at the position. Nylander is also a top-three pick in sheer offensive ability. But will his lack of well-roundedness dispel the Hurricanes' interest?
LW Nick Ritchie
Size: 6"2", 226 lbs
2013-14 Team: Peterborough (OHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 61 GP, 39 G, 35 A, 74 P
Scouting Report: from Chris Edwards, Central Scouting
He's a big, physical, tough guy. When he's playing and using his size and strength he's tough to knock off the puck. He goes to the net hard and has that power-forward mentality that's tough for people to handle. He protects the puck and has an excellent shot off the rush.
ISS Rank: 9th
NHL.com's Steven Hoffner projected the 'Canes to nab Ritchie in his 2014 mock draft, writing that "Carolina could use a grinder-type player who can lead by example."
Ritchie may be the most physically intimidating prospect in this year's draft, tall at 6'2" but far from lanky at 226 pounds. He's a Tuomo Ruutu-esque, hit-everything-in-sight player, yet he's also willing to take that checking to the crease, where he shows Jiri Tlusty-like opportunism.
Led by Ritchie, Peterborough went just 32-36 but ranked third in the OHL Eastern Conference in offense. He led the Petes with 74 points, five points more than second-place Hunter Garlent—a 2013 Hurricanes development camp invitee.
Ritchie may well be my favorite potential pick with Carolina's No. 7 selection.