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Hurricanes prepared for unconventional draft

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The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will be a bit different than any year prior as it heads to the digital stage and the Carolina Hurricanes are well prepared for the challenges it might bring.

2018 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded and the 2019-20 season officially comes to a close, the Carolina Hurricanes and the rest of the NHL turn their attention to the entry draft. The first round of the draft will be held on Oct. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. and the subsequent rounds will all occur the next day on Oct. 7.

The draft was originally planned to be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, but due to the pandemic changes, the event has made its way to the digital stage.

Typically the draft is held inside the host city’s arena with all 31 team’s draft tables set up in the center of the arena. However, this year, the draft will be conducted over video conference call with all the teams calling in to make their selections.

While one of the traditional spectacles for the draft is seeing general managers move between other team’s tables hashing out deals, this year’s changes may create a better environment for the team in multiple ways.

In a normal year, we’re together with all of the other 30 teams,” said Director of Player Personnel Darren Yorke to the media via Zoom Thursday afternoon. “The advantage today in what we’re dealing with, is that we’re able to have conversations without worrying about the other teams hearing them. So we’re going to have a war room set up in Raleigh. The good thing is we have a little bit more space, so keeping with guidelines here, we’re able to be socially distanced, we’re able to have conversations as well as ensure safety. So I think we’re going to be able to speak more freely knowing that we don’t have every other team standing right beside us.”

And according to Michael Smith, the Hurricanes’ war room in Raleigh will be right inside Carolina’s locker room.

The pandemic obviously made a lot of things difficult for the team and will continue to do so into the future, but the Hurricanes feel that despite it all, the team is confident with the job scouts did.

“To mitigate some of the missed games, we put a schedule in place for all our scouts from March leading up to June — if the draft was going to be in June,” Yorke said. “We had different phases for each scout and each player to ensure that we were getting cross coverage to ensure that we had as much up-to-date information on the players as possible and then leading into now, where we have the European players already playing. I think from an information standpoint, we’ve been up-to-date and we probably have more information on the players than we would have if it was just a normal season.”

Yorke mentioned that while scouting may have managed to do more work than before, the bigger hit was to players who missed opportunities to showcase their talents in cancelled playoffs or championships.

The draft, in many ways, is just as important to the players being selected as it is to the teams acquiring them.

While much of the pomp and circumstance has been greatly diminished, the NHL is still trying to make the event special for the players whose names will be called, one of the initiatives including sending hats from every team to all potential first-round selections.

The Hurricanes hold eight picks in the draft — one in the first, two in the second, and one in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh — and are set to pick at 13, 41, 53, 69, 115, 140, 199 and 208.

With the 2020 draft set to be a relatively deep one up front, the Hurricanes hold a very strong pick at number 13, and the team doesn’t seem too keen on moving away from it easily

“I think you’re always trying to get better,” Yorke said. “Whether that’s to select a player or to trade. As the draft goes on, a lot of those conversations happen. If a team views that there is more value for them at pick 13 and we view that we can still get a great player and maybe that same player at pick 15 or 18, I think then you’re always looking to get your team better, whether it’s selecting or trading.”

But further comments from Yorke seemed to cement the team’s interest in drafting in the first round.

“I think you look at the depth of the draft and there’s going to be some excellent players regardless of their position,” Yorke said. “Where we’re picking, whether it’s a goalie, forward or defenseman, I think we’re going to be pretty excited about the player that we’re going to get.

As for what the Hurricanes are after, the team has made no inkling in the direction they are heading, although the Canes’ general manager, Don Waddell, mentioned on the same call that the team may be looking for forward depth.

“We emptied the cupboards last year with our young forwards with a couple trades that we made to pick up Joey Keane and to pick up Vincent Trocheck,” Waddell said. “So we’re looking at all positions, but right now I think obviously nobody knows how the draft’s going to go, but forward might be a little bit more of a need.”

While many have speculated that there may be a lot of interest in the young, Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov who has been breaking out in the KHL, Waddell didn’t seem as interested.

“We drafted a goalie last year in the second round [Pyotr Kothcetkov] who’s having a good start to the season this year,” Waddell said. “But I always go back that goalies are a little bit more random. We’ve seen some goalies drafted high that worked out and some that don’t. I think you can say that about all the players. We’re open-minded, but as I look at our depth chart, up front certainly looks like a need.”

While this just may be a facade Waddell is employing to keep other general managers from taking advantage of potential interest, there has always been a stigma around drafting goaltenders early and even then, Askarov may not even be available at 13.

In the past three years, the Hurricanes have drafted a total of 16 forwards — all three of their first round selections having been forwards — seven defensemen and three goaltenders, as well as acquiring forward prospect Dominik Bokk and defensive prospect Joey Keane in trades.

Whatever direction the team decides to go, it is clear that there is talent abound in the 2020 draft and the Hurricanes seem eager to make their first-round selection.