2014 NHL Draft: Grades and Analysis for Each Carolina Hurricanes Pick
The 'Canes invested in the future with first-round selection Haydn Fleury; although at least one more season away from being NHL-ready, the defenseman greatly improves the Hurricanes' incoming generation in their weakest unit.
Six additional picks were made on Saturday, adding two Plymouth Whalers players and the son of Glen Wesley, among others, to the team's 2014 draft class.
How effective was the Hurricanes' use of each of their seven choices, and what quality of player was selected with each? A breakdown and grade for each Hurricanes' pick is available on the following slides.
Player rankings, height and weight courtesy of Central Scouting Service (CSS) rankings for North American skaters, European skaters and North American goaltenders. Prospect statistics courtesy of Elite Prospects. Hurricanes' draft history courtesy of HockeyDB.
Round 1, Pick 7: D Haydn Fleury
Size: 6'3", 203 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 70 GP, 8 goals, 38 assists, 46 points
CSS Ranking: 9th (N.A. skaters)
Ron Francis made a bold statement about his willingness to be patient while making a contrastingly safe pick with the Hurricanes' first-round selection.
Defenseman Haydn Fleury was one of only two blueliners taken in the draft's 16 picks (along with No. 1 pick Aaron Ekblad), likely because most draft-eligible defensemen take longer than forwards to develop to NHL caliber. The Saskatchewan native is at least one, and possibly two, more seasons away from making it in the big leagues, but the likelihood he will eventually establish himself as a 'Canes regular is remarkably high.
"We did have our eye on him," said Tony MacDonald, 'Canes head scout, to reporter Michael Smith. "He’s a guy with that kind of size, and he skates extremely well. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck, and he moves the puck.”
Fleury is a remarkably well-rounded rearguard for age 18, garnering roughly equal praise for both his offensive and defensive abilities. Although flashier available players like Nick Ritchie and William Nylander could've made a bigger immediate impact, the selection of Fleury accentuates a newfound dedication to the long-term from Carolina management.
Along with 2011 No. 12 pick Ryan Murphy and 2010 second-round pick Justin Faulk, Fleury now assumes a central role in the Hurricanes defense of the future.
Round 2, Pick 37: G Alex Nedeljkovic
Size: 6'0", 190 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 61 GP, 26-27-7 record, .925 save percentage, 2.88 GAA
CSS Ranking: 4th (N.A. goaltenders)
Mike Vellucci, new Hurricanes assistant general manager and former Plymouth Whalers coach, landed his first of two Whalers players with Alex Nedeljkovic, the 2014 OHL Goaltender of the Year.
Nedeljkovic was the third of four goalies taken in an early second-round rush on the position and certainly boasts the credentials to justify such a high selection.
Behind a Whalers defense that allowed the second-most shots in the OHL, the OHL started a whopping 61 of 68 total regular-season games. His save percentage ranked second in the league and helped Plymouth sneak into the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive year—earning him some personal hardware as a result.
Said then-coach Vellucci to The Canadian Press on March 6: "He's definitely been our (most valuable player). He's seen a lot of shots. He's played very consistent all year long, and he's played a ton of games."
However, one must wonder if Nedeljkovic was fully worth the No. 37 overall selection, as the 'Canes also recently signed fellow star OHL goaltender Daniel Altshuller. Altshuller (2012 third round) ranked fourth and fifth in the league in GAA and save percentage, respectively, in 2013-14.
Redundancy aside, the addition of Nedeljkovic boosts Carolina's cast of goaltending prospects to the strongest it's been in years.
Round 3, Pick 67: LW Warren Foegele
Size: 6'1", 178 lbs.
2013-14 Team: St. Andrews High (Ontario)
2013-14 Stat Line: 52 GP, 58 goals, 49 assists, 107 points
CSS Ranking: 66th (N.A. skaters)
Perhaps the riskiest selection of Ron Francis' otherwise generally safe inaugural draft was third-rounder Warren Foegele, who put up absolutely dominant statistics in 2013-14—for a high school team.
Despite being committed to the University of New Hampshire for next fall, Foegele has never played against competition any stronger than the high school level.
He rose out of the depths of youth hockey into the middle rounds of the NHL draft with breathtaking speed, gaining a whopping six inches and 30 pounds last offseason, averaging over two points per game in 2013-14 and impressing at the NHL combine a month ago.
But Foegele, a native of Jeff Skinner's hometown of Markham, Ontario, is also extremely unproven and will start out well down the list of 'Canes left-wing prospects, which also includes promising youngsters like Brock McGinn and Sergey Tolchinsky.
His CSS ranking is significantly less than that of many other players who were available at the time. Team scouts must've seen something special in the Canadian forward, but he's no more than a long-term project.
Round 4, Pick 96: D Josh Wesley
Size: 6'3", 194 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 68 GP, 2 goals, 7 assists, 9 points
CSS Ranking: 111th (N.A. skaters)
In a 2014 NHL draft so laden with opportunities for the Hurricanes to capitalize on family or teammate connections, it's hardly a surprise that Francis & Co. couldn't pass up a chance to snatch a player with not only one, not only two, but three.
Defensive defenseman Josh Wesley is the son of retired beloved 'Canes blueliner Glen Wesley, the first Raleigh-grown and Junior Hurricanes-produced hockey player to be drafted and also played under Vellucci in Plymouth in 2013-14.
Wesley didn't add much on the box score for the Whalers but, according to Vellucci, grew over the course of the season into a strong, stay-at-home player.
"I am a shutdown defenseman that is nasty to play against," Josh said, somewhat brashly, to Dan Rice of The Hockey Writers earlier this month. "I am an in-your-face type of player with good gaps and have great hockey sense. I can make the first pass and read the ice really well."
One must wonder, though, if Wesley's many connections did perhaps sugarcoat the eyes of Hurricanes management; the 18-year-old seems like a moderate reach for the early fourth round. His upside is, most likely, not much higher than a Nicklas Grossman or Douglas Murray-type defenseman.
Round 4, Pick 97: C Lucas Wallmark
Size: 6'0", 176 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Lolea (SHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 41 GP, 3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points
CSS Ranking: 20th (Euro. skaters)
The third Swedish forward taken by Carolina in the first four rounds of the last four drafts (Victor Rask in 2011, Elias Lindholm in 2013), center Lucas Wallmark could be a solid, stereotypical third-line center prospect.
Wallmark went undrafted last June and wasn't particularly productive in his first season in Swedish professional hockey, although his unremarkable stat line is common for teenagers in the SHL.
Nonetheless, the now-19-year-old forward drew positive reviews for his defensive responsibility. "Already a very consistent two-way forward who understands his role on a team as a capable contributor at both ends," wrote The Scouting Report of Wallmark, describing him as a "polished prospect" also boasting "faceoff prowess."
With time to fill out his frame and to work with NHL trainers on his offensive skills, Wallmark has a relatively good chance of developing into a reliable bottom-six NHL center five years down the road. He's a smart selection for the 'Canes with the potential to become a fourth-round steal.
Round 5, Pick 127: C Clark Bishop
Size: 6'0", 184 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 56 GP, 14 goals, 19 assists, 33 points
CSS Ranking: 104th (N.A. skaters)
Clark Bishop's sunken expression in the above photo is not without reason, as the Canadian center's stock plummeted during the 2013-14 season (and even on draft night) down to Carolina's fifth-round selection.
Bishop was the third overall pick in the 2012 QMJHL draft at age 16 but recorded a mere 22 points in 58 appearances for Cape Breton in 2012-13 and then improved only modestly this past season. He was ranked 48th in the CSS' N.A. Skaters midterm rankings, then fell to 104th by spring and finally to the 127th pick in the draft on Saturday.
Becoming increasingly evident is Bishop's deficit of innate ability, an unfortunate but critical aspect when analyzing the NHL potential of an 18-year-old. Per Eliteprospects.com scouts: "Bishop is all heart and work ethic. Not blessed with the natural talents of others in his draft class, Bishop uses his physicality, grit, work rate, smarts and tremendous skating ability to make things happen."
Andy MacDonald noted to Michael Smith that the 'Canes had Bishop listed "a lot higher" than where he was eventually taken, Bishop is undeniably a prospect trending in the wrong direction.
Round 7, Pick 187: D Kyle Jenkins
Size: 6'0", 166 lbs.
2013-14 Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
2013-14 Stat Line: 63 GP, 7 goals, 18 assists, 25 points
CSS Ranking: 69th (N.A. skaters)
Kyle Jenkins, the Hurricanes' final 2014 draft pick, played alongside a number of recognizable names on the Greyhounds' 2013-14 squad.
The 2013 No. 7 overall-pick Darnell Nurse and 'Canes prospects Sergey Tolchinsky and Tyler Ganly—as well as Jenkins, a lanky, aggressive blueliner with offensive tendencies—helped guide Sault Ste. Marie to a 44-17-7 regular-season record.
Jenkins was ranked highly by the CSS; his fall to the seventh round was unexpected. "Jenkins is a fleet footed two-way blueliner that is showing some poise with the puck and puck-moving ability," writes Hockeyprospects.com, despite noting that Jenkins is prone to "moments of lazy lackadaisical play", as well.
The Ontario native is far from a top-grade prospect, but he has decent upside for a seventh-round flier.