Well the NHL Draft Lottery has come and gone. While lady luck was not on the Carolina Hurricanes side, at least she didn't knock them down and rub their face in the mud. The Colorado Avalanche, the 2nd best chance, got the #1 overall selection and the Canes stood firm with the 5th pick. The potential problem with the 5th pick is that there are four players that are projected to immediately play in the NHL and Carolina is a team in need of immediate help. There are still a NUMBER of quality prospects that should turn into quality players, but they will probably take a little time before reaching the highest level of hockey. But with the NHL Draft brings hope and a small, sort of off-the-radar kid picked at #7 can turn into a Calder Trophy winner. So initial thought, what should the Hurricanes do with this year's 5th pick?
Draft the Best Player Available
Some people lean more to draft for need while others lean toward draft the best available. With Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov all expected to be gone, the consensus best available player is Valeri Nichushkin. Some scouts believe that he is just as, if not more talented than any forward in this draft. But he is Russian, which often causes concern and is signed in the KHL through the 2014/2015 season. So while he is listed as a top 5 player in this draft, it doesn't mean all teams would take the chance on him. He could probably come over and play right away in the NHL, but that likely won't happen with his KHL contract. And it is always a possibility that he may never come to the NHL. A NHL entry-level contract has limited terms of money, while the KHL doesn't and is non-taxed. The question is what type of person is he? Is he the type that wants to play against the best players in the world or is he the type of person that is all about money?
Draft a Team Need at Defense
The Canes could always try to address the team's biggest weakness and take a defenseman with the 5th pick. Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov are the next highest rated defensemen behind Jones. All of these defensemen are big guys that can play with physicality. But none appear to be quite ready for NHL action and given how long it takes defensemen to develop, it might be two or three years from now until they are regulars in the NHL. Nurse is a tall guy that has some offense and also shutdown ability, but he will need to fill out a little more to handle the stronger NHL players. Ristolainen is a complete two-way defenseman that also plays with some physicality. But he is still developing and might need some time to adjust from European ice to North American ice. Zadorov is the biggest of the three and would be the biggest Cane defender, both height and weight, right off the bat. He has a man's body and played in the OHL this past season, showing his desire to play in the NHL. But he is still a little raw and will take some time to put everything together. Any of these three would be excellent picks, but non address the Canes immediate need on defense.
Draft a Team Need at 3rd Line Center
Another need for the Hurricanes is getting a 3rd line center with some size. They have players that could possibly fill that role, but none really seem ideal. Jeff Skinner played a few games there, but he would change the dynamic of a typical 3rd line. Victor Rask is progressing nicely, but he might not be quite ready for the NHL and he projects more as a top 6 center. Riley Nash played that role some this past season, but is he the answer or more of a 4th line center that can fill in? Two prospects that would appear to be good options would be Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan. Lindholm is a bit smaller than Monahan, but is every bit at talented. He has a high hockey IQ, works hard and plays a solid two-way game. He played this past season in the SEL and was pretty effective, but he probably would be a year or two away from bringing his game to the NHL. Monahan is a complete package. He has size, scoring ability and plays in all zones. He probably doesn't step in right away, but he might be able to play in 2014/2015. It's still early, but projection are he doesn't get past Edmonton at #7. If the Canes did go this route in the draft, it probably makes Rask a little more expendable.
Trade Down and Get Another Asset or Pick
The Canes farm system isn't exactly stocked with good prospects and this draft is considered very deep. If the Canes can't get an immediate player, should they mortgage the pick and try to pick up something else? They could maybe get a later pick and either a NHL-ready prospect or average NHL player or they might be able to get two later 1st round picks for their #5. If they could maybe trade down with Buffalo and pick up their two 1st round picks, the Canes could possibly address two needs that need a little time instead of just one. Buffalo's 9th and 16th(?) pick should be good players that would be ready in 2 or 3 years. The Canes could probably get whichever big defenseman is left and maybe at a sizable forward mid-round. This option obviously comes with some risk and you would need to be confident in your scouting department, but it could be useful.
Trade Up and Get a Better Pick
This is probably the most unlikely thing that will happen, but it is always possible. The top 4 in this draft are most likely immediate help, so the price would have to be right to move up. But I could see Florida, Tampa or Nashville at least listening to offers for their pick. The big question is what would have to be given up to get there? If one of these teams falls in love with a certain player outside of the top 4, then the price might not have to be huge. For example, would Nashville move down one spot if the Canes offered Zac Dalpe or Jay Harrison or Victor Rask? I can't answer that question, but it is something that Jim Rutherford should at least explore.
So the NHL Draft is still about two months away and many things could change between now and then. But what is your initial thought on what the Carolina Hurricanes should do with their 5th overall pick?