We knew that the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was going to be a busy one for the Carolina Hurricanes, who held a league-high 11 draft picks going in.
General Manager Jim Rutherford had a busy weekend, as the Hurricanes were the seventh team up in the first round Friday night and then continued to have selections all through Saturday as well.
Despite having the option of going with Cam Fowler or Brandon Gormley, both of whom were expected to go earlier and both of whom could be a great addition to the 'Canes' needy defensive unit, the Hurricanes decided to go with center Jeff Skinner with the seventh pick.
Center is another position of need for Carolina, and Skinner will also provide an incredible goal-scoring threat. The 19-year-old had 50 goals (along with 40 assists) this past season with the Kitchener Rangers and then added 20 more in the playoffs, even though his opponents included players like Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall (ever heard of them?).
Skinner plans to spend one more season with Kitchener before coming into the Hurricanes organization.
Directly following Skinner's selection, Rutherford claims to have offered the deal of all three second-round picks to several teams to try to get ahold of Fowler or Gormley, but no team agreed before the two were finally taken with the 12th and 13th picks.
After a not-very-long night's sleep, Carolina was back at it the next day. With the 37th overall choice, the 'Canes added their first of many defenseman to be drafted throughout the day, Justin Faulk.
The American blue liner developed into a premiere powerplay defenseman with the U.S. U-18 National Development Program this season, scoring 14 man-advantage goals in 60 games this year (along with seven more even strength tallies). Faulk has decent size at 6'0", 196 lbs., and should continue to grow and learn as he attends Minnesota-Duluth next year.
Soon after, Carolina made their first trade of the day, sending the 19th pick of the second round to Edmonton in exchange for Riley Nash. Nash, another center, has recorded a whopping 102 points in just 102 games the past three seasons at Cornell. However, hopefully for the Hurricanes, he is considering leaving to play in the 'Canes organization this next season.
Soon after, once again, the Hurricanes finished up a crazy opening hour by picking defender Mark Alt with the 53rd overall choice.
Alt may have been a bit of a steal with a final prospect rank of 37th, but it could be a long time before we see him again as he's just entering his freshman year of college. However, Alt has shown a lot of dedication to hockey, including turning down a football scholarship at Iowa to play hockey at the University of Minnesota.
Fourteen selections later, another defenseman came off the board in Danny Biega. Biega, a freshman, along with his two brothers, played hockey at Harvard last season and may be able to join the Hurricanes in as little as two years.
Late in the third round, Carolina went with yet another blue liner, Austin Levi. Levi may have been a bit of a reach (ranked 156th), but apparently the Hurricanes must see something in him that says he'll develop quickly playing with talent the caliber that there is in the OHL (although Levi only recorded 12 points in 60 games last season).
In the mid-fourth round, the 'Canes may have gotten away with their biggest steal of the day in left winger Justin Shugg. Shugg was a projected second round pick, but he fell quite a distance despite finishing up the '09-'10 year second in points on the Windsor Spitfires (behind Taylor Hall).
Shugg showed off a lot of his potential this season, netting 39 goals along with 40 assists in just 67 appearances, and should be able to join Carolina soon.
Carolina continued a streak of smart moves by dealing the 157th overall choice along with Washington's 2011 second round choice to the New York Rangers for 22-year-old defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti.
Sanguinetti, entering the last year of a two-way contract, made his five-game NHL debut last season, in addition to finishing his second consecutive almost-full season with the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack. The American should be able to provide some more experienced depth to the Charlotte Checkers as well as have the talent to be a useful injury fill-in on the Hurricanes squad.
Moments later, Carolina added their sixth and final defenseman of the day (about time!), Tyler Stahl, at 167th overall. Stahl, ranked 116th, uses his 6'1" size to crush, crumble, and cream opponents, but his offensive production could use some consistency, as his point total fell from 40 to just six over the past two years.
In the seventh round, Carolina made their last actual selection of a long and exciting day, taking massive Danish goalie Fredrik Anderson. The intimidating 6'4", 210 lb. netminder was the starting goalkeeper for Denmark in the 2010 World Junior Championships, and is moving on to a more challenging Swedish Elite League for the upcoming year.
Lastly, the Hurricanes closed out the day with yet another transaction, sending the nearly-worthless 206th overall choice to Philadelphia for relatively-productive 23-year-old center Jonathan Matsumoto. Matsumoto has improved his goal total with the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms dramatically over the past four seasons, from two tallies in 2006 to 20 in 2007 to 29 in 2008 to a creditable 30 this past year.
Expect Matsumoto to make his career NHL debut this season, but to also play a role on both the NHL and AHL squads as the Hurricanes try to develop him into a solid fourth- or third-line center acquired for almost nothing.
All in all, with players the caliber of Skinner, Faulk, Nash, Alt, Biega, Levi, Shugg, Sanguinetti, Stahl, Anderson, and Matsumoto added to the organization in just the time period of two days, you could say it was a hectic, eventful, and tiring weekend.
But it was also a productive one. Rutherford made away with several players who should've been taken rounds sooner, and also grabbed a few who had been picked out of a mediocre crowd as a player with some potential that few others saw.
Really, only time can tell how the draft class of 2010 will change the Carolina Hurricanes' future. For now, though, here is a first-impression glanceover of the 'Canes 11 new additions.
Best Player - C Jeff Skinner (7th)
When a team only has one first round pick, it's usually almost certain that whoever they choose will be the most talented player they took that draft. However, for Carolina, that's even more true.
Skinner, as described, is a natural goal-scorer, not a playmaker (although he can most certainly do that, as well). The 'Canes need these types more than ever, actually, as only three players out of the 21 players who played more than 20 games this year tallied more goals than assists (Brandon Sutter 21-19, Erik Cole 11-5, Patrick Dwyer 7-5).
Skinner also fits Rutherford's usual strategy of picking faster-developing players, namely forwards, in the first round, as he expects to be able to play at the NHL level as early as 2011-2012. Center is also a needy spot that could use someone like Skinner soon, as only Staal and Sutter have secured spots at that position so far.
While Skinner's choice over several other plays definitely stirred up controversy, in the end, it looks like he truly was the right way to go.
This is a unanimous decision, at least from my point of view. The Philadelphia Flyers put up a horrendous draft...why not just make it worse for them in the seventh round?
Carolina pulled a brilliant deal off to get Matsumoto. A young 30-goal scorer (albeit in the AHL) for the 206th overall pick (i.e. Ricard Blidstrand)?! Rutherford will jump all over that any day...or, as much as he can jump at age 61!
In fact, Matsumoto himself was the 79th overall choice in the third round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, making that trade alone a 127-pick upgrade for Carolina. Not to mention, Matsumoto is already nearly ready for the NHL.
Even if Matsumoto makes only 20 or so appearances this year, this deal will still end up being quite a rip-off in Carolina's favor.
Worst Choice - D Austin Levi (85th)
Although Rutherford makes very few mistakes, the selection of Whalers defenseman Austin Levi with the 85th overall choice may have been one.
First of all, Levi was a 71-spot reach, as he was ranked well lower than his 85th overall selection spot at 156th. Levi also won't end up being a crucial hole-filler, either, with five other newly-drafted defenders also in the draft class along with him.
Levi also has yet to show signs of potential to become a strong powerplay defenseman, nor has he shown signs of knowing how to fulfill the advantages that having a height of 6'3" gives a player. Levi may have been partially a partnership choice, given that he's currently playing for a team owned by Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, but his selection is still not a smart one in many eyes.
Most Potential - LW Justin Shugg (105th)
Winger Justin Shugg, when he's ready, will come to Carolina with the experience of playing with other talented, NHL-ready prospects...and will soon discover that he's one of them, too.
Shugg's choice at 105th made him a low-risk, high-potential pick from the beginning, and may show that during his last one or two seasons with the Spitfires. Shugg (hopefully) will find a niche as a premiere winger ready to take the spots left by aging left wingers Ray Whitney and Sergei Samsonov, two holes that may need to be filled by the 'Canes deep left winger prospect reserves.
Expect Shugg's two-round fall in the draft to end up being a gift to Carolina that just keeps on giving.
Biggest Issue Solved - Holes at Center and Defense
The gaping holes at defenseman and center weren't just solved...they were completely revitalized!
Of the Hurricanes' 11 new players, six were defensemen and three more were centers, giving Carolina suddenly plenty of options for those two units.
With the promotion of defensive prospects like Jamie McBain, Brett Carson, Jay Harrison, and Bryan Rodney to contend for NHL jobs, Carolina was in desperate need of replacements to keep the flow of youthful defensemen steady.
Issue solved, as the selections of Justin Faulk, Mark Alt, Danny Biega, Austin Levi, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Tyler Stahl will soon start filling in those gaps.
With Rod Brind'Amour's likely retirement or buyout and the instability of growing-older "prospects" such as Patrick Dwyer and Michael Ryan, center was also an area parched of choices.
Issue solved, as Matsumoto's immediate help and then Skinner and Nash's soon-to-come skill set will easily provide enough options to fill in the gaps in the lower portion of the depth chart.
Biggest Question: What will the 'Canes do with so many prospect goalies?
With the naming of Fredrik Anderson in the seventh round, the Hurricanes pool of backup goalies grew from four (Justin Peters, Manny Legace, Justin Pogge, and Mike Murphy) to five.
Rutherford and coach Paul Maurice have long been contemplating whether Legace (age 39) or Peters (age 24) will be the backup for franchise cornerstone Cam Ward next season. However, with so many others still at the AHL level, there are more questions than just that.
Rotating them is certainly an option, but a trade would also perhaps get more return in a more needy position. However, we do know that this summer is going to require some tough choices regarding the Hurricanes increasingly-large goaltending corps.
Now, with the Hurricanes staff returning to Raleigh, they can feel confident about a strong weekend at the NHL Draft. But questions still remain, and several will need answering before the July 1st free agent market opening.
Will Rod Brind'Amour's or Sergei Samsanov's contracts be bought out?
Will we re-sign RFA prospects like Alexander Picard, Brett Carson, and Justin Peters? What about UFA veterans like Brian Pothier and Ray Whitney?
How will the goaltender situation work out? How active will the 'Canes be in landing a few free agents?
And, last but not least, when will we get these answers?
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes . In his 21 months so far with the site, he has written over 205 articles and received over 150,000 total reads.
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