Here is my take on who the Canes should draft and in what order (if they are available). This is based on what I feel are the Canes biggest needs and my limited knowledge of the prospects listed. I think the most pressing need for the Canes is a 3rd line center. Someone that could win a faceoff, play a solid two-way game, and take some of the pressure off Staal and Sutter. The next most pressing need IMO is a legitimate winger for Staal. Someone that is a scorer or playmaker; taking the opposing team's almost sole focus off Staal. The third most pressing need would be a top 4 defenseman. I think we have a solid 1 through 3 and plenty of last pairing/7th defenseman guys. We need someone that can be a good to very good all-around defenseman.
1. Tyler Seguin- This might surprise some that I would have him listed #1 over Taylor Hall, but I think he is the best overall player in the draft. I consider him more of a playmaker than a scorer, but the kid really can do it all. He is solid in his own zone, plays on both special teams, and can take the pressure of carrying his team. I believe he could come in and immediately fill the Canes biggest hole, a 3rd line center. This would allow him to ease his way into the NHL while still getting quality minutes. Once he progresses, he could switch roles with Sutter and move to the 2nd line center spot or they could move Staal to RW and have Seguin centering him and Jussi. He's not overly big and would need to add some weight, but he should become an All-Star one day.
2. Taylor Hall- Hall should be able to jump on the ice and make an impact right away. He is a proven winner, with a lot of experience for a guy his age, he's fast, and he knows how to put the puck in the net. This guy would make Staal and Jussi that much more dangerous! Other teams wouldn't be able to focus on just one, because the other two could hurt them also. With comparisons to Pavel Bure, you can imagine the type of dangerous/exciting player that could slip on the Canes sweater. He does have defensive limitations, but the old saying goes; "the best defense is a good offense," and Hall can provide some offense. Drafting Hall would present a problem, he would add to a growing list of young left wingers. It would probably indicate that one of the prospects would be packing their bags.
3. Cam Fowler - I know Fowler has dropped on some draft boards, but I think he would fit perfectly in the Canes organization. He is more offensive than defensive, but play a very good all-around game. He skates well, has a big shot, and does a good job in the defensive zone. I think he is the best overall defenseman in the draft. If the Canes select Fowler, could that spell the end for Pitkanen in Carolina? After a year of learning, the Canes would have more leverage in Pitkanen's contract negotiations or they could trade him at the trade deadline for a high return. Having a top 4 of Gleason, McBain, Fowler, and Dumoulin in a couple of years should be a very exciting.
4. Brett Connolly - Connolly has as much talent as anybody in the draft, but injuries could hurt his draft position slightly. That might be good news for the Canes. He has size, skates well, will drive the net, and knows how to score. IMO, he would be the best choice for Staal's line. He would be a younger, better version of Erik Cole. And how many times have we all talked about getting someone at the net? Because of his limited playing time, he might be better served with another year in juniors, but that's not a bad thing. His contract then wouldn't start until the 2011/2012 season and he should be even more developed than he is now. His hip is a concern, but the Canes can't pass up a chance to get someone this talented.
5. Erik Gudbranson - Gudbranson is a beast! He is definitely more of a Tim Gleason type than a Joni Pitkanen type, but he has improved his offensive abilities. This is a man-boy that could come in right away and play top 4 mintues. He skates well, has a big shot, and what the old saying; "you can't teach size?" I think he would be a perfect compliment to Pitkanen, someone that he could pass to for a booming shot and also someone that could cover up his "freelance" play. My only problem with drafting him is that we could have a similar guy in a couple of season named Dumoulin. I would like to see a balance on the backend of offensive and defensive D-Men.
6. Nino Niederreiter - Many here don't believe Nino is good enough for a top 8 selection, I somewhat disagree. I think Nino is a solid all-around player. He skates well, has very good size, can score, and plays with some grit. He reminds me a little of Tuomo Ruutu, just a little less physical. I'm not sure if he'll ever be a true 1st line player, but he should at least find a home on the 2nd line. Nino is a guy that could come in immediately and play a checking role for the Canes and in a year or two play a scoring role. I really like the kids versatility! While I think Connolly has a higher ceiling than Nino, I think Nino the less risky pick. What I mean by that is that Nino will find a place in the NHL for many years to come. And Nino seems to be a high character guy; he seems to be a Canes type of person/player.
7. Brandon Gormley - I think Gormley could become the best defenseman in this draft. He is very good offensively, but he's not a liability in his own zone. I think he's sort of a Mike Green with a little less offense, but more defense. He is a pretty good skater, but his size is somewhat an issue. If the Canes selected him, he could also signal the end of the Pumpkinhead Era, but he may take a little more time to develop than Fowler. Gormley should be able to help out PP, he is probably the best offensive D-Man in the draft. But we gave up a lot of goals this season and defensive help is more of a priority to me.
8. Nick Bjugstad - If you want size, this kid has plenty to spare. Imagine a 6-5 or 6-7 (he might still be growing) center staring you down in the faceoff circle. That might be a little itimidating! But this guy doesn't just have size; he has scoring ability, maturity, and the ever important NHL heritage. He would not be an instant impact; he is going to college and it might take a couple of seasons before he is NHL ready. But this kid has some talent and depending on who is available, he might be a project worth the wait. If we are targeting Bjugstad, I hope JR trades our pick to Anaheim for both of theirs. Then we could select Bjugstad, give him a couple of years in college, and then select someone that should help out in a year.
9. Emerson Etem - For everyone that talks about speed, this guy has some wheels. He's not overly big, but he's got a solid frame. He controls the puck very well and he is all about putting the puck past goalies. I actually think he might be a very good winger for Sutter. Think of those two speeding up and down the ice with Ruutu laying into everything that moves. That would be an impressive 2nd line! Part of his downside is that he is more finesse than physical, but that is something that could be taught. It would be quite a change going from Brindy creeping up the ice to Etem getting pulled over for speeding.
10. Ryan Johansen - I really found it hard to round out my top 10. So I decided to go after a position of need, center. Johansen isn't a dyanmic player, but he is very solid. He is definitely more of a playmaker than scorer. He can play a well-rounded game and has a very good work ethic. He would not be ready for the NHL next season, but could come in and play the 3rd line center role for 2011/2012. That would allow Dalpe to move to a wing position and possibly contribute more offensively with Staal or Sutter. I know its not a glamour pick, but you need certain players filling every role for the team to be successful. Johansen would be a quality 3rd line center and allow the Canes to focus on other areas.