Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. It's finally draft day and here at the Hilton in Minneapolis, the lobby is a buzz as fans, media types, NHL staff, and draft prospects, as well as their families, nervously wait for what is always an exciting first round on the draft floor.
Of course, there is talk of possible trading, especially after the blockbusters that the Flyers pulled yesterday. In the local paper, it's even rumored that the Wild could make a move. They currently sit at 10, but don't have another pick until the third round.
Now that the Flyers own the 8th spot, who are they interested in? No one seems to know.
Nathan Beaulieu is moving on up
One particular player that seems to be getting a lot of interest, who is not already in the top five, is Nathan Beaulieu. I spoke with him at the "Meet the Prospects" event yesterday and he said that 27 teams met with him at the combine and a few more interviewed him again afterward.
"Boston, Buffalo, Toronto, Minnesota, and Carolina met with me twice," said the defenseman. "As a matter of fact, I just met with Carolina again today, (6/23)."
At least one member of the family would not be disappointed if his son was selected by the Hurricanes.
"My dad golfs down in Carolina all the time," chuckled Beaulieu. "It's a good team and I thought the interview went well."
Some scouts have told the blueliner that he is ready to play in the NHL now, some have said that he still needs work.
"I know I need to work out and build myself up more and I'm willing to do what it takes to get bigger and stronger."
He led his junior team, the Memorial Cup winning Saint John Sea Dogs in plus/minus, (+44), but is considered an offensive first player. The Canes seem very interested in him, but will he still be available at #12?
The Red Line Report has him at #18, the ISS at #14, and the CSS as the 5th best skater in North America.
Jeff Skinner plugs his former teammates
While in Las Vegas, I asked Jeff Skinner about his former teammates, Ryan Murphy and Gabriel Landeskog, and if he put in a good word for them to the Canes staff.
"I think we would have to move up to get them and I'm not sure about that," smiled Skinner. "We have excellent people in charge of that and I think they do a pretty good job of it."
You can't argue with that point, especially after they picked the most recent Calder Trophy winner.
Skinner gave a brief rundown of what each player brings to the table.
"Landeskog has been talked about a lot and I think he deserves every bit of it. He's a special player and a special person. He brings a lot of leadership to the team, other than the obvious things, like his skill and strength."
"With Murphy, the tools he has are unique to anyone that I remember playing against in the OHL. He's so quick on his skates, quick and shifty. There's a knock on him that he's too small, but then he always seems to beat the guy out of the corner, or somehow comes out with the puck, he's a talented, talented guy."
"I'm excited for both of them and I look forward to seeing where they end up."
Landeskog and Murphy returned the compliments about their former 'mate.
"Jeff was one of those guys who was not ranked very high in the rankings at first, but he worked hard and proved that those rankings really don't matter," said Murphy. "He always seemed to make a goal when we needed it the most, he would challenge guys to fights, he did it all for us in Kitchener. He's a great hockey player and he's going to have a very long and successful career in the NHL."
"I'm very happy for Jeff and very proud of him," said Landeskog. "He played very, very well this past season. If it happens that somehow Carolina drafts me, then it happens. And anything can happen with the trading and such, but I'll be happy no matter where I go."
Carolina should fare well at 12
There seems to be three groups of players in this draft, an elite top 5 or 6, then a sub-elite in the next 10 or so, then a broad mix of very good players who round out the next two to three rounds. Carolina is fortunate that they should get a very good player in the 'sub-elite" category.
But sometimes, those players turn out better than the "elite" ones.
And as we've seen in past drafts, you never know what might happen. While some players jump up, some drop down for whatever reason, and the Canes could end up with a Ryan Murphy, a Nathan Beaulieu, or even a Ryan Strome at number 12.
Mark Scheifele's name is getting tossed around now. He's another player who finished up strong and many feel is under-rated because he played on a bad Barrie team. He's ranked number 12 by the Red Line Report. The center had 75 points in 66 games, but he really excelled while playing for Team Canada with better linemates.
The RLR also has JT Miller in the top ten at number 9. They compare the US winger to Erik Cole.
But if these players and others move up, others will move down and that could create a great opportunity for the Hurricanes.
I'll be arriving at the draft early and will be covering the event from the media section of the draft floor. We will have an open thread going here starting at 6 and I'll report any updates in that. Cory will be at the RBC with the Hurricanes staff and will be providing his insight from the "war room".
We will have interviews, reactions from the Hurricanes staff, and all the news as it happens right here at Canes Country. Can Tony MacDonald and company find another Calder winner and will that player drop to 12? We will see.
(meet a few of the prospects for yourselves)