During Jim Rutherford's "state of the team" press conference a couple of weeks ago, the general manager mentioned that the Hurricanes scouting staff really liked a few of the defensemen available in the upcoming draft. Normally, the team shies away from blueliners in the first round, for a number of reasons, but this year they might just make an exception.
The draft combines start this week and many scouts won't make their final rankings until after the physical testing and interview processes are complete. But the ISS and CSS have already completed their rankings, so let's take an early look at some of the higher rated defensemen out there and perhaps speculate a bit on who might fall to the Canes at number 12.
Adam Larsson - Sweden - 6'3 200. Both the ISS and CSS have the big Swede ranked as the draft's top defenseman, meaning that he will most likely be gone by time the Canes pick at number 12. Not surprisingly, he draws comparisons to Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.
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Doug Hamilton - Niagara - 6'4 187. Hamilton's stock has really risen in recent weeks and now it looks like he will be a top 10 pick. The ISS has him at 6th overall while the CSS has him as the 4rth best skater in North America. But TSN's Craig Button ranked him at number 11 overall, so you never know. One scout had the following to say:
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards
"He moves the puck well and makes good outlet passes, he does make good decisions with the puck, moves it very well out of his zone. He's a big guy, he'll take the body. … He uses his size well. He can muscle people off the puck."
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- Ryan Murphy - Kitchener - 5'10 166. Here's a kid who can score points like a forward from the blueline. The former teammate of Jeff Skinner is ranked 8th overall by the ISS and 9th in North America by the CSS. Button has him as the top defenseman of the draft, at 4rth overall. His head coach certainly spoke very highly of him:
Kitchener Rangers head coach Steve Spott
"He’s like no one else in this league. You can’t get to him, you can’t hit him. He’s a kid that’s slippery, his vision is second to none, his hockey sense is second to none. He can skate and he’s got a rocket. He’s got all the intangibles to be an all-star not only in this league, but the National Hockey League."
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Nathan Beaulieu - Saint John - 6'2 174. Beaulieu looked very good while helping his team to the Memorial Cup Championship and could have worked his way up in the draft, meaning that some above him could slip down. He's looked at as an offense first guy, but his coach said he is improving in his own end. Button has him 8th overall while the CSS has him 5th in North America and the ISS has him at 14 overall.
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau
"He'll be an offensive-defenseman … he's a good skater, good puck-mover. He has a good shot and is very poised with the puck. He's a veteran who has a lot of responsibilities for Saint John."
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- Oscar Klefbom - Sweden - 6'4 200. I don't have much information on Klefbom except that the ISS has him ranked as the 10th overall pick. CSS has him as the 6th best European skater. Button had him at 22.
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- Jamieson Oleksiak - Northeastern U - 6'7 244. Here's another kid whose stock is rising fast. At 6'7 he's a great skater and someone is likely to take a gamble that he'll turn into another Chara. Button has him at number 10 overall while the CSS has him at 13 in North America and the ISS at 16 overall.
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- Duncan Siemens - Saskatoon - 6'2 192. This kid might be a sleeper and could very well fall to the Canes at 12. He's big, physical, and can move the puck. Button does not have him in his top 30 at all, but the CSS has him as the 10th best skater in North America and the ISS has him at 12th overall. He had 43 points and was plus +40 in 72 games this past season.
NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan
"He's a guy that is really tough to play against. Sometimes I think he over-does it, tries to do too much, but he's got all the potential. He can carry the puck, he's a tough kid -- he can fight. He's tough to play against. He can work both ends; he plays both the power play and penalty kill. He's just a solid, all-round defenseman."
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As we learned in last year's draft, highly rated defensemen can fall to later picks. Also, the ISS and CSS can be off with their rankings, compared to what the team scouts think. In any event, there are interesting options on the blueline this year.
Next up we'll take a look at some of the top rated forwards.