Los Angeles, CA. The Carolina Hurricanes got their man in Jeff Skinner, who has already been compared to Zach Parise in some circles. Not only does he have the skill to score, he has the relentless desire to succeed which should bode well for his future in the NHL.
While he is a bit short of stature at 5'10, he is already built well at 190 pounds and has excellent lower body strength. No matter his size, it's not easy these days to score 50 goals in the regular season in the OHL, then another 20 goals in 20 playoff games in the postseason. That's right, he scored 70 goals in total this year, something even Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin did not do.
The night almost turned into a bonanza for the Canes as two defensemen they coveted, Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley, were left unclaimed after the Hurricanes made their pick at seven. Jim Rutherford said that he attempted to trade all three of the team's second round picks so he could grab one of those talented blueliners, but he was unable to make a deal.
What a sweet first round that would have been, Jeff Skinner and say, Brandon Gormley in the same draft? But it was not meant to be. Instead, the Canes will stick to the plan and use all three second rounders, two third rounders, and their remaining picks on Saturday, to try to find a gem. And make no bones about it, there are still gems available.
Who is left that could be good? Take a gander after the jump:
Rutherford said that he would like to grab a couple of defensemen in the second round. On the top of his list should be Jonathan Merrill, a USHL product who was ranked 11th overall by the ISS. That placed him higher than other previously picked defensemen, Mark Pysyk, Jarred Tinordi, and Dylan McIlrath. The ISS says that Merrill, who is 6'3, is good enough to play in the NHL with "minor development" and has potential to be Norris Trophy candidate material.
The best of the rest on defense?
- Matt McKenzie 6'1 Calgary Hitmen, consistent, solid, compared to Marc Staal
- Patrik Nemeth 6'3 Sweden, strong on skates, physical defender who dominates the wall
- Stephen Johns 6'3 USHL, Big, hulking defensemen who can move the puck. Good character guy who should have top four potential in NHL. Compares to Keith Seabrook.
- Alex Petrovic 6'4 Red Deer Rebels, Dynamic, aggressive, raw offensive minded defender who is compared to Dion Phaneuf. Always finishes his checks but sometimes over-commits.
There are also some great possibilities at forward if the Canes want to stack up even more on offense. Tyler Pitlick, who the ISS has at 20th overall, is still available. He is listed as a power forward with a lot of upside. Also, the Canes might want to consider Brad Ross, the left winger who was the grit behind the Niedereitter and Johansen line. The ISS has him at #35. Other notable forwards include:
- Jason Zucker, 5'10 LW from the USHL is described as one of the most complete two-way players in the draft. He's a highly skilled forward who works hard and is an "ultra competitive winner".
- Ludvig Rensfeldt, 6'3 Swede who has a great shot and has been compared to Johan Franzen
- Tyler Toffoli, 6'0 good goal scorer but needs work on skating
- Teemu Pulkkinen 5'11, Sharp-shooting Finn who has passion for game and creativity on offense, but needs work in his own end. One scout says, "not only can he score, he can also hit". Sound like anyone else you know?
Don't forget, there are also a couple of wild card players out there who have enough talent to be superstars, but they have lacked maturity up to this point. Loose cannon Kirill Kabanov, a Russian who has burned bridges on both sides of the Atlantic, is a talent that could be the a team's "offensive centerpiece".
John McFarland was once considered a top Canadian prospect. His skill level and skating ability is top notch, but his commitment and character is in question.
There are plenty of great players still out there, it's just a matter of finding them. Saturday's selections might be more important than opening day's and could make or break the future success of a franchise. We will be watching how the Hurricanes do.