With the seventh overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft on June 27, the Carolina Hurricanes have an excellent chance to make their team better.
The last time the team picked at number seven, back in 2010 they selected Jeff Skinner. As Skinner went on to win the Calder Trophy the following season, that choice was obviously a big win for the scouting staff. But is there another "Jeff Skinner" in this year's draft? We will see.
In the 2014 Draft, there is a general consensus among the experts about the top five players. After that, the field is pretty wide open.
Like Seth Jones last year, Aaron Ekblad is the top defenseman in this class and he is very highly rated. Will he go at number one, two, or three? Will Florida trade the top pick? Of course there are many questions as to who might end up with the top five players, but it is highly unlikely any of them will fall to the Canes.
Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, and Michael DalColle are the top rated forwards. Although some mock drafts have one of them slip to six, it would be a big surprise if any of them slipped to seven.
Then there is a group of forwards who have some size and have scored plenty of points in the juniors. Nick Ritchie, Jake Virtanen, and Brendan Perlini are each over six feet and they each have ample skill with the ability to light the lamp.
William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen are the top rated European skaters. Some mocks have them in the top seven but many do not.
The next highest rated defenseman is Haydn Fleury, who at 6'2 has NHL size. Fleury has improved a lot in this past year and he is rated by some to be in the top 10.
Then there is the wildcard, Nicholaj Ehlers. This speedster is the fastest skater in this draft and reportedly would have been the fastest in last year's draft as well. He scored 49 goals this past season, but he's not the biggest of skaters, as he is reported to be 5'11.
Let's just say for argument sake, that the top five skaters are chosen in the top five places. Next up would be Vancouver, who has the sixth pick. Who will they select?
Many are pushing for the Canucks to choose Virtanen, who is the hometown boy, so to speak. But the forward just had shoulder surgery and will be out until October or so, although it is not supposed to be a serious surgery and he should have a full recovery.
There is not much to dislike like about Virtanen, who was the fastest skater in the prospects competition earlier this year. At 6'1 and 190, he has decent size and uses it well as he is well-noted to be a physical player.
He sounds like the perfect selection for the Canes and if the Canucks do not choose him, Carolina very well might. But if Vancouver does pick him, who's next and what should the Hurricanes do?
Many like Nick Ritchie because of his size, (6'2, 230) and his physical nature. But he's not going to win any races up and down the ice and one concern is his skating. Can the big man keep up with NHL competition?
Brendan Perlini fits the bill with speed and size, but he is not known to be physical. Still, at 6'3 and 205, he is highly rated by many and could be a good fit.
William Nylander should also be in this discussion. At times he has shown the skill of a superstar but then one scout said that he is a "lightweight, under-sized forward who will also have strength issues."
If the Canes wanted to go with defense in this draft, Fleury would be the man. He's projected to be a shut-down guy in the league, plus has some skill to boot.
Finally, there is Ehlers who scored 49 goals and 55 assists this past season. He is absolutely explosive at times, has high-end skill, and has been compared to Pavel Bure, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Kane, all rolled into one. The last time the Canes gambled on a player who scored 50 goals, he went on to win the Calder. They might be willing to give that a try again.
We will be discussing each of these prospects a bit more on the blog, as well as any new information that might come up before the draft.
There is a ton of draft information online, but one of the interesting sites to check is My NHL Draft, who not only provides their own mock draft, but they provide scouting reports from various sources and other mock drafts as well. They also have a combination of the rankings pooled into one, which combines several of the rating gurus out there to come up with their "Consensus Ranking".
This ranking has Perlini at number six, Ehlers number seven, Ritchie at number nine, and Virtanen at number 13.
Will the Canes go for Ehler who provides scoring and speed? Or Ritchie, who is a banger but who does not have the speed? Or Perlini who has size and speed but who is not physical? Or Fleury, the top defenseman after Ekblad? Or Nylander or Kapanen, the top Euros? Or Virtanen, who is injured for now?