ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: 12th overall pick Ryan Murphy by the Carolina Hurricanes looks on during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota. (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been digitally altered.) (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
With the selection of defenseman Ryan Murphy during last week's NHL Entry Draft, the Hurricanes not only gained another prospect for the future, they added another cog in the defensive machine that will someday be a force to be reckoned with.
Quality recent drafts combined with smart trading and free agent signings have led many to believe that Carolina GM Jim Rutherford could be stockpiling one of the most deadly defensive systems this franchise has ever seen. The Hurricanes have mixed in depth at forward with the drafts of Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash, Jerome Samson and even the newly-signed Justin Shugg, but the real threat that NHL teams will realize come from the blueline.
Murphy is an undersized, offensive defenseman who was ranked in just about everybody's top-10 this year. He scored 26 goals for the Kitchener Rangers last season and came close to 80 points. His smooth puck-handling and booming shot will make him dangerous every time he goes over the boards - especially on the power play. He needs a little conditioning and coaching on how to improve his overall defensive game, but those things will come with time.
Drafting Murphy wouldn't have look so impressive to the hockey world had it not been for the supporting cast around him as well.
The most highly-touted defenseman Rutherford has is Justin Faulk. Faulk, like Murphy, is an offensive-minded defenseman. He is extremely comfortable with the puck, something especially valuable among young defenseman, and has the physical appearance to be a beast on the blueline. Faulk can get into the rough stuff and has a big frame (6' 0", 205 lbs.), but is also agile and swift on his skates. Faulk will certainly be a top-4 defenseman who sees time on a power play unit in the future.
Faulk was brought in to help the Charlotte Checkers with their playoff run this past spring and contributed what he could. While he only notched two assists, Faulk played a mature game and looked comfortable on the ice with teammates that he had only known for a matter of weeks. That adaptability will help Faulk earn his way up to the Canes in the coming years.
The Canes might have also found a hidden gem via the draft when they selected Kyle Lawson in the 7th round in 2005. Throughout his career at the University of Notre Dame, Lawson has proven to be a reliable player with a good all-around game. In only his second year of school, Lawson (paired with future first-round pick Ian Cole) helped guide the Fighting Irish to the NCAA National Championship Game, falling to Boston College 4-1. Lawson was named to the All-Tournament Team for his contributions that year. Another good sign for Lawson is that he had a +38 rating throughout his college career.
Lawson stands up well at the blueline, works hard in the corners and boasts solid all-around play in front of the net. Can play a physical game but tends to set the tempo by controlling the puck and angling opponents. Though a bit shorter than ideal for a defensemen at the NHL level, Lawson plays with a lot of poise and provides offensive flair from the back end. --- Hockey's Future
The Hurricanes were also excited when a trade with the NY Rangers landed Bobby Sanguinetti with the organization. Sanguinetti was a first-round pick by the Rangers in 2006 and sources all claim that he has been blessed with the talent of knowing when to jump in on the rush. Another offensive defenseman, Rutherford and certainly coach Paul Maurice were hoping to see what Sanguinetti could do at the NHL level last season, but a hip injury caused him to miss most of his first season with the Checkers. The Canes expect big things out of Sanguinetti in the next coming years and are hoping that he can stay healthy enough to take a shot at sticking in the NHL.
Finally, the Hurricanes had another gem fall into their laps in the 2009 Draft when they took Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin 51st overall. After only one season in college Dumoulin justified himself as he earned a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie team as well as the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team. Not to mention the fact that he helped his Eagles to a National Championship by posting a +40 rating throughout the season and the playoffs. Dumoulin is tall at 6' 3" but can skate with the fluidity of a shorter player. He is dependable in his defensive zone and is also very creative when on the attack. His passing and playmaking skills are second to none at his level. This American seems to have all the goods to be a steady NHL defenseman in the near future.
Combining all of this young talent with current NHL regulars like Derek Joslin (24), Joni Pitkanen (27 - if he re-signs), Tim Gleason (28) and Jamie McBain (23), helps the Hurricanes stay competitive in the present and the future. If his prospects pan out the way that many think they will, then Rutherford has created a monster-in-the-making.