Assuming the Carolina Hurricanes stand pat and select in their assigned position at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on June 26, it will be the first time the franchise — as the Hurricanes or Whalers — will select the 27th player. When Nashville became the NHL's 27th team prior to the 1998-99 season, the pick became a first-rounder. The selection that year — made by New Jersey — is arguably the best taken at No. 27 since pick became part of Round 1.
Here's a look at the players who have gone 27th since the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, plus Carolina's first-round pick that year.
New Jersey Devils: Scott Gomez, C, Tri-City (WHL) — With their second straight pick at the end of Round 1, the Devils selected Gomez. One could argue that outside of No. 1 overall pick Vincent Lecavalier, Gomez was the best player taken in the first — and perhaps the entire draft. With 706 games, 148 goals, 430 assists and 578 points, Gomez's numbers are impressive. So are his two Stanley Cups. Grade: A+
Canes took at No. 11: Jeff Heerema, RW, Sarnia (OHL) — Heerema only played 10 games for Carolina and just 32 total games in the NHL. He now plays professionally in Germany. Grade: F
New Jersey Devils: Ari Ahonen, G, JyP HT Jyvaskyla (FNL) — The Devils weren't so lucky the following year. Ahonen was the second-to-last pick in the first round (expansion to Atlanta made for 28 teams) but never made it to the NHL. He had five unspectacular seasons in the AHL before heading back to Europe. The Finn now plays in the Swedish Elite League. Grade: F
Canes took at No. 16: David Tanabe, D, Wisconsin (NCAA) — Tanabe was one of the more successful picks the Canes had in the past 10-plus drafts, but that's not saying much. Tanabe played more than 400 games in the NHL before injuries put him on the shelf. Some would argue he was rushed to the NHL and was never fully prepared for the rigors of the pro game. A bonus to the Canes for landing a serviceable player because this draft is arguably one of the worst in the modern era. Grade: B
Boston: Martin Samuelsson, RW, Modo (SEL) — Who? Exactly. He came to North America in 2002-03 and spent the majority of the season with the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence, plus eight games in Boston. The next season was more of the same — 56 games with the Baby B's, six in Beantown. But Samuelsson never made it back to the NHL. After two more years in the A, he returned to Sweden and is currently playing the in the second league of the SEL. Grade: D-
The Canes did not have a first round pick.
Philadelphia: Jeff Woywitka, D, Red Deer (WHL) — Woywitka, now with the St. Louis Blues, finally got a prolonged shot at playing in the NHL this season. The Blues are his third team. He went to Edmonton as part of the Flyers' acquisition of Mike Comrie in 2003, then was dealt to St. Louis in a package that brought Chris Pronger to Edmonton in 2005. He played 64 games with the injury-riddled Blues this year, but will need to fight for a roster spot next year. Grade: B-
Canes took at No. 15: Igor Knyazev, D, Moscow Spartak (Russia) — Kyyazev is the definition of bust. The only good that came out of Knyazev's selection was his trade to Phoenix (along with Tanabe) for gritty d-man Daniil Markov and a fourth-rounder. After playing well for Carolina, Markov was traded for Justin Williams, a key part of the 2006 Stanley Cup champions. Knyazev played eight games in the KHL this year with HC MVD. Grade: F
San Jose: Mike Morris, F, St. Sebastian's High School (Mass.) — After four years at Northeastern, Morris moved on to the Sharks' affiliate in Worcester. He's played two abbreviated seasons there, dressing for just 26 games due to injuries. Surely the Sharks can't be faulted for unfortunate injuries, but Morris was considered a surprise pick and doesn't look like he'll pan out. Grade: D
Canes took at No. 25: Cam Ward, G, Red Deer (WHL) — Carolina fans know who this guy is. Anytime you land a Conn Smythe winner and franchise goalie in the first round, it's a great pick. Grade: A+
Los Angeles: Jeff Tambellini, LW, Michigan (NCAA) — Tambellini has been a dominant AHL scorer but has been unable to translate that to the NHL with the Islanders, who acquired him from the Kings in a four-player trade in 2006. Tambellini is still just 25, but given the players selected right before and after him (Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves) he has been a disappointment. Grade: C
Canes took at No. 2: Eric Staal, C, Peterborough (OHL) — Like Ward, Staal has been a home run selection. It's easy to say you can't miss at No. 2, but Carolina could've taken Nathan Horton or Nikolai Zherdev instead. Grade: A
Washington: Jeff Schultz, D, Calgary (WHL) — Schultz has developed into a reasonable NHLer, but he's not much more than a bottom pairing defenseman. Luckily for the Caps, they took another blueliner four picks later and ended up with Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green. It would be a lot tougher to accept Schultz at No. 27 if Green had wound up elsewhere. Grade: B
Canes took at No. 4: Andrew Ladd, LW, Calgary (WHL) — Ladd wound up being a good selection in an otherwise thin first round. He was a contributor to the '06 Cup-winning team, but later struggled with consistency and injuries. He was dealt to Chicago straight up for Tuomo Ruutu at the 2008 trade deadline, a deal that looks like it will benefit both squads. Grade: B+
We now reach the territory where it becomes a lot tougher to grade players because they're still in the early stages of their development.
Washington: Joe Finley, D, Sioux Falls (USHL) — Finley just completed his fourth season at North Dakota, and the monstrous 6-7 d-man will likely spend time in Hershey with the Caps' AHL affiliate starting next year. But the fact Matt Niskanen was chosen with the next pick — and already has 158 regular-season games under his belt — hurts the grade. Grade: C
Canes took at No. 3: Jack Johnson, D, Michigan (NCAA) — There might not be a tougher analysis out there. Johnson is immensely talented and shows signs of promise with Los Angeles, but he's earned a bit of a reputation as a difficult player to deal with. The Canes grew tired of trying to sign him and dealt him to the Kings in a package that included Tim Gleason. Now there are rumors L.A. would be willing to move him for the right return. The Canes had to take Johnson after he fell in their lap, and the trade to get Gleason looks good now, but could they have gotten more? Grade: B
Dallas: Ivan Vishnevskiy, D, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) — Vishnevskiy had a good first pro season this year, registering 19 points in 67 games with Peoria (the Stars were without their own AHL affiliate this year) and getting two assists in three games with the Stars. Pegged as an offensive d-man, Vishnevskiy could find significant time with Dallas next season. Grade: B+
The Canes did not have a first round pick.
Detroit: Brendan Smith, D, St. Michael's (OPJHL) — Smith has moved on to Wisconsin where he was the team's No. 2 blueline scorer behind Canes prospect Jamie McBain. Smith has the size, toughness and skills to become an all-around defenseman in the future. Detroit's history of being patient with their prospects can only help. Grade: B+
Canes took at No. 11: Brandon Sutter, C, Red Deer (WHL) — Chances are Sutter will never wow anyone with his skill, but one can't deny that he has the look of a long-time NHL role player at worst. Wise beyond his years and still filling in, Sutter showed flashes of what's to come this season with Carolina. One could argue the Canes could've upgraded by taking Colton Gillies (who was chosen 16th by Minnesota) instead, but I wouldn't underestimate Sutter. Grade: B+
Washington: John Carlson, D, Indiana (USHL) — The big defenseman was a top-notch point producer for the OHL's London Knights this year, scoring 16 goals and adding 60 assists in just 59 games. But his numbers might be a bit inflated seeing that he played with likely first-rounder Nazem Kadri and possible No. 1 overall pick John Tavares (24 regular season games with London following a trade). Still, Carlson's combination of size and skill is intriguing, and he's the Caps' No. 2 defensive prospect behind Karl Alzner. Grade: A-
Canes took at No. 14: Zach Boychuk, C, Lethbridge (WHL) — Boychuk's speed and skill should have Carolina fans drooling in anticipation. Despite battling through injuries this year, Boychuk scored 28 goals in 43 regular-season games and was clutch at the World Juniors for gold medal-winning Canada even though he was playing hurt. He will get a long look at Carolina's training camp this year and could be in the starting lineup in Raleigh come October. Grade: A-