With the 2008 NHL Player Entry Draft upon us, every NHL team is considering which prospects to choose.
The Carolina Hurricanes are in the middle of a “chain of replacement”.
This occurs when a team’s veterans get too old, and the franchise’s younger players already at the NHL level take the place of the declining has-beens.
Players on the next highest bush league squad replace the positions these young players used to hold are mostly assumed by athletes from the club’s highest minor league team and those players who used to be on the top minor league team.
This chain reaction continues until you get down to the draft picks.
Carolina’s declining older veterans will be gone soon.
Then their younger NHL players will move up to take the spots the oldies used to occupy. And the cycle will continue as described above.
Somewhere near or at the end of this cycle will be the 2008 draft picks, selected at this year’s NHL Player Entry Draft, held June 20th and 21st at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Almost all of these draft picks need to be offensive players.
Carolina has lots of excellent depth at defenseman, and the goaltender situation is set for years to come. But some of their current top offensive players are getting old, and there aren’t many younger bodies to back them up.
Center Joshua Bailey, at 6’1”, 190 lbs., should be the Hurricanes’ first-round selection.
Bailey is a naturally talented player with excellent speed and incredible vision on the ice. He scored 29 goals and had 67 assists, during 67 games in 2007-08 playing in the WHL.
His physique gives him a powerful body to use to his advantage when screening the goalie on shots. However, his coach, Bob Boughner, praises him most for his work ethic and determination.
Bailey’s work ethic and his potent skills should put him on the fast track to the NHL.
Boughner says, “He’s got the talent to be a top-six forward for [an NHL] team.”
The Hurricanes should choose Nick Larson, a left wing out of the USHL, with their second-round pick.
His 6’1”, 182 lbs. frame allows him to be aggressive and physical in front of the net.
Larson can also score at times— he totaled 38 points on 19 goals and 19 assists in 66 games last year. But his most telling stat is his penalty infraction minutes: 66.
That indicates his role as an enforcer.
Larson has versatility— he can play on the power play, penalty kill and in even-strength situations.
Nick Larson is a versatile left wing who can score when necessary and isn’t afraid to get mean.
With their fourth-round choice, Carolina ought to take right wing Gary Nunn out of the WHL.
Nunn is 5’9”, 175 lbs., and he scored 29 points, which earned him a +17 point’s differential in 35 games last year.
Nunn’s small body could help with his speed, and he has shown scoring ability.
In addition, Nunn only sat six minutes in the penalty box last year in 43 games over the regular season and playoffs, which indicate that he is a smart, disciplined player who won’t take many penalties.
Right wing, Gary Nunn, would be a good fourth-round pick due to his scoring ability, light frame, and self-control.
After this pick the ‘Canes will have all of their immediate and near-future needs satisfied.
With all gaps bridged for at least a few years, the Hurricanes can go with the best available players from this point on.
With that said, Carolina could draft Kurtis Bartliff, a left wing, in the sixth round.
Bartliff is 6’1”, 190 lbs., sizable for a NHL wing.
He compiled 62 points in 48 games last year in the Midwestern Junior Hockey League with 36 goals and 26 assists, which proves his offensive versatility. But his penalty minutes give way to uncertainty— he sat in the sin bin for 20 minutes last season.
That likely means that he either provided the spark when his team went flat, or that he needs more discipline.
Kurtis Bartliffcould might be a late steal in the draft with his offensive ability and size.
The question is whether his penalty minutes are due to lack of discipline or leadership.
The best player available when Carolina’s seventh round pick comes around may be defenseman Austin Handley.
Handley, at 6’1” and 205 lbs.
His scoring ability is poor, but his role seems to be the defensive enforcer, shown by his 73 penalty minutes.
Three of his four goals were scored on the power play, so he could prove valuable on the second or third power-play unit.
Austin Handley is a powerful defensive enforcer who could contribute here and there on the power play.
A factor that directly coincides with the speed of a player’s progress to the NHL is the ability of the franchise’s coaches to help a player quickly realize his maximum potential.
In the second half of last season, many of the Hurricanes’ NHL regulars got hurt, and some of these injured ‘Canes had to sit out in games.
This opened the door for many of the better AHL players to get a good taste of the NHL— an opportunity they all took advantage of.
If the talent and skills that these minor leaguers displayed in the NHL was any indication of the quality of the job the club’s minor league coaches did in helping these athletes along, it shouldn’t take this year’s draft picks too long to reach NHL.
Think back to the top prospects from the 2003 draft class.
Marc-Andre Fleury. Eric Staal. Nathan Horton. Nikolai Zherdev. Thomas Vanek.
Now think about the top talents in this year’s draft class.
Steven Stamkos. Zach Bogosian. Drew Doughty. Tyler Myers. Luke Schenn.
The most striking similarity between the two classes is the abundance of foreign talent.
Each of the top five draft choices from ’03 is from another country.
Two even came from overseas.
In this year’s draft class three of the top five prospects are foreign; each of the three hails from Canada.
The Hurricanes will be in the thick of a chain of replacements within a few seasons.
They will need quality draft picks to fill in the cracks on offense— and Joshua Bailey, Nick Larson, Gary Nunn, Kurtis Bartliff, and Austin Handley are the remedies.