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MacDonald Says, "Draft Best Player Available"

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The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Jamie McBain in the 2nd round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The Canes have three 2nd round picks this year. (photo by LTD)

(This is part three and the final edition of a Canes Country exclusive interview with Tony MacDonald, Director of Amateur Scouting for the Carolina Hurricanes.)

As the NHL Entry Draft approaches, fans from every franchise get more and more excited as they speculate about the future as well as the various possibilities of what could happen concerning their respective teams. It's a time of hope and anticipation.

Many fans discussing the draft end up asking each other the age old question, should the team make a pick based upon team needs, or should they choose the best player available? Last week, I asked Tony MacDonald that exact question.

"We usually follow the philosophy that we go after the best player, regardless of position. Drafting to need is something that is sometimes done, but we have a tendency to go a little more in that direction as you go deeper into the draft. But for the first pick, we just try to go for the best player. Good players are good players. They are assets. Any player that is drafted high and can play in the NHL is a valuable commodity."

(MacDonald explained a bit more.)

"If you draft to need, most of the time the players are not ready to step right in and fill that void immediately anyway. If your immediate need is for a defenseman or center, or whatever, you rarely can fill it right away through the draft."

Expect a Goalie to be drafted, but in later rounds

The Hurricanes have only drafted one goalie since the lockout. Mike Murphy was selected in the 2008 entry draft in the 6th round. Since Justin Peters was chosen to back up Cam Ward, it means that Justin Pogge and Murphy are the only remaining goalies in the system, (they will both start off in Charlotte). Perhaps the Carolina organization is a little light in the position?

I asked MacDonald if, under the circumstances, it was a priority to draft a goalie.

"We would like to get a goalie. Typically, if you could draft one every year it would be ideal. Sometimes that opportunity doesn’t present itself. But we would like to draft another goalie and we likely will. I couldn’t say exactly at what point in the draft that might be. It’s not a priority in the sense that we think our goalltending needs to be addressed. We feel like we are in pretty good shape there right now. But it’s certainly something we are looking at and we would like to add another goalie for organizational depth if nothing else."

The 2nd round has been very good to the Canes

The Hurricanes have been pretty fortunate in recent drafts choosing players in the second round. Jamie McBain was a 2nd rounder in 2006, as was Zac Dalpe in 2008, and Brian Dumoulin in 2009. Each of these players look like outstanding prospects.

Does this draft look deep enough so that the trend can continue?

"Yes it does! This draft looks to be a very deep draft and there are certainly players who are going to fall into that second round range that we like a lot. We have three picks in the second round, which is the most we have ever had. We have 11 picks overall and that’s the highest number we have ever had. Having three seconds is a luxury we are not used to and we’re hoping we can make that pay off. We think it will pay off."

Grab Bag Picks From 3 to 10?

After the first two choices of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, scouting services and various draft projections have the next 8 to 10 players ranked all over the map. I asked MacDonald why it was like that? Are the players really that close in skill level or are the services and/or teams looking at different things?

"It’s a combination of those things I think. There are some very good players in the mix and we don’t all see them the same. Some teams might be looking at needs, some teams are looking at best players, some at the best athlete. Some teams might be trying to hit a home run with a player who might be a little bit down the ladder. I think if you were to look at five or six NHL team lists, there would be quite a variation. You would probably be looking at many of the same players, but the order would be different each time. But you are correct, after Hall and Seguin, the next 8 or 9 players, for a variety of reasons, could all be ranked from 3 to 10."

WHL and OHL, Good Places to Find Players

In recent years, the majority of the players selected by the Hurricanes have come out of the WHL or OHL. While the numbers might be skewed a bit because the club has not been shy about drafting players from the Plymouth Whalers, a junior team owned by Carolina owner, Peter Karmanos, they have also drafted several players from the WHL.

The Canes are not alone. This report by Copper and Blue indicates that more players drafted into the NHL come from those two leagues than any other by far. (16% for the WHL and 18% for the OHL). The only other location in double figures was the QMJHL at 11%.

I asked MacDonald if he felt that the OHL and the WHL were the best developmental junior leagues and if the Canes specifically targeted players from those leagues? (Although last year's draft results were different from previous years).

"I guess I wouldn’t say that it just happened that way. We do tend to lean a bit more toward the OHL and WHL players, when all things are equal. But we are always open to the best player, regardless where he is from. Like you mentioned, last year we went in a different direction. If the best players available are from Finland, or Ontario, or Quebec for that matter, we are open to drafting them."