Last week, the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed eight new members to the organization through the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Of the eight draftees, Carolina selected six forwards and two defenseman, deciding not to add to their goaltending pipeline for the first time since 2013. Three players from the CHL were drafted, four players from Europe and one from US High School hockey. With three selections in the top 53 picks, Carolina again went the best player available route as has been their philosophy in recent drafts. Let’s take a look at what the organization added.
First Round, 13th overall - Seth Jarvis - Center/Wing - Portland Winterhawks - 2/2/2002 - 5-foot-10, 175 pounds
I profiled Jarvis here prior to the draft and he was a player who I thought fit Carolina’s system best of the forwards likely to be available in the the range where the Hurricanes were picking. Once Nashville selected Yaroslav Askarov 11th overall, it was obvious that Carolina would have multiple forwards to choose from at 13.
Jarvis joins Ryan Suzuki and Dominic Bokk in Carolina’s prospect pipeline as another potential top-six forward with a high offensive ceiling. He will return to Portland this season and likely push for the scoring title in the Western Hockey League, and a spot on Canada’s World Junior roster in December.
Second Round, 41st overall - Noah Gunler - Right Wing - Lulea (SHL) - 10/7/2001 - 6-foot-0, 170 pounds
Gunler was rated by many outlets as a potential first-round pick, so being able to grab him in the middle of the second round holds a lot of value. Gunler is a classic high-upside scorer whose consistency night in and night out may have caused a bit of a slip. Carolina’s strategy is to typically draft prospects with high ceilings, especially with their mid-round selections. The young forward certainly fits that philosophy.
In 45 SHL games as an 18-year-old, Gunler posted 13 points and chipped in with an additional six points in 11 games in the Champions League. His biggest assets are his skating ability and his release. With good acceleration, top-end speed and agility, Gunler has a solid base in which to add as he continues to gain strength.
He has the ability to get to high-danger areas and finish off plays by creating angles to get off his shot. I wouldn’t call him a pure sniper, but he can pick corners with ease. The knock against Gunler is how often he is engaged in the play from shift to shift. As he continues to develop, he will need to learn to be more consistently involved. If he can show improvement in that area, 41st overall will be a steal down the road.
Second Round, 53rd overall - Vasily Ponomarev - Center - Shawinigan (QMJHL) - 03/13/2002 - 6-foot-0, 180 pounds
Ponomarev will be a player for the Hurricanes who will be able slot in up and down the lineup. He’s a responsible two-way player with goal-scoring upside who can beat you on the rush or play the possession game once gaining the offensive zone.
A strong skater with good balance, Ponomarev is at his best when he draws defenders and controls the puck in the cycle. Routinely, you will see the center with a player on his back in a puck control battle, creating space and finding the open man for a scoring opportunity. As he continues to increase competition levels, it will be interesting to watch how his production is impacted. Ponomarev projects as a bottom-nine forward who can fill in a scoring role in a pinch. A strong complimentary player and one of my favorite selections of the year.
Third Round, 69th overall - Alexander Nikishin - Defensemen - Spartak Moscow (KHL) - 10/2/2001 - 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
Nikishin was Carolina’s first defenseman drafted in 2020, and fills a role that the Hurricanes prospect pipeline doesn’t have a lot of. The Russian blueliner is a physical presence, and projects as a bottom-four “stay at home” style defenseman. Nikishin is a punishing player, who can impact any game with his physicality. Although his focus is on the defensive side of the puck, it doesn’t mean that Nikishin does not possess any offensive ability. He’s an adequate skater who can shoot it, with his slap shot as his weapon of choice.
Carolina’s system is stocked on the defensive end with players who can move the puck and create offense. Spending a third-round pick on a player who can defend in one-on-one situations, likes to engage physically and can clear the front of the net fills a need that the Hurricanes have the luxury of being able to tackle with their fourth pick of the 2020 Entry Draft.
DobberProspects Writer Tony Ferrari has a shift by shift evaluation of Nikishin that can be found here: Shift Work: Alexander Nikishin – DobberProspectsdobberprospects.com › shift-work-alexander-nikishin
Fourth Round, 115th overall - Zion Nybeck - Left Wing - HV71 (SHL) - 05/12/2002 - 5-foot-7, 180 pounds
Nybeck is another high-upside candidate who is undersized, but who is dangerous with, and away from the puck. Although his ceiling is high, so is the chance that as he continues to jump levels, that his offensive production may not translate. He dominated the Swedish Under-20 league with 66 points in 42 games, but so far has produced just one point in 22 games in the SHL. Much of this has to do with opportunity, but as he develops, you want to see the scoring follow.
Although he is small, Nybeck is strong in possession, and has the skating ability to beat defenders one on one with his excellent hands. The winger can score in a myriad of ways, both on the rush and in tight, and isn’t afraid to go to battle to high danger areas. Spending a fourth round pick on Nybeck has everything to do with his offensive upside, and his ability to flourish with an increased role in the SHL in the next couple of seasons.
Sixth Round, 159th overall - Lucas Mercuri- Center - Salisbury (US-HS) - 03/07/2002 - 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Carolina periodically looks to the US High School ranks for players in the later rounds of drafts, with Cade Webber, David Cotton and Luke Stevens all drafted in the fourth round or later since 2015. Mercuri is the latest in that line of toolsy, raw prospects who will be given time to develop while playing college hockey.
Mercuri is a big, lanky center who will play for UMass starting in 2021-22 and will ply his trade with Des Moines in the USHL this season. As his skating continues to develop, he could become a strong, two-way net front and possession player with the ability to show up on the score sheet from time to time.
Seventh Round, 199th overall - Alexander Pashin - Right Wing - Ufa (Russia) - 07/28/2002 - 5-foot-8, 155 pounds
Seventh Round, 208th overall - Ronan Seeley - Defenseman - Everett (WHL) - 08/02/2002 - 6-foot-0, 175 pounds
When selecting in the final round of the draft, teams are typically looking for one projectable skill that could allow for a player to reach the highest level.
For Pashin, its all about electricity. He’s quite undersized and will need to gain strength in order to make it moving forward professionally, but his skating is high-level. He has the ability to both create for his teammates, and provide his own offense in one-on-one scenarios.
For Seeley, it’s his puck moving ability and overall hockey sense. He is also a strong skater, using that strength to make both zone exits and entries on his own. Seeley can make a good first pass, transitioning the puck well through the neutral zone. He’s more of a facilitator on the power play than a shooter, setting the table for his linemates while creating angles by walking the line. As one of the younger players in the draft, there is room for huge improvement in the 2020-21 season.