We’ve moved beyond the worst of the bad and are now getting ourselves into solid-passing territory in our project to grade the Carolina Hurricanes’ drafts over the past 15 seasons. Today, we hand out our first A-plus of this project, and in fact quite a few high grades. Which, of course, means that there are plenty of misses as well.
Miss the first installment, or need a refresher on how we’re doing this? Head right this way.
2006: 2.000 GPA
The draft following the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup win was a relatively quiet one. The Canes were without their first-round pick, sent to the Blues in the trade for Doug Weight, and they just went about their business every 30 picks, never making a trade to move up or down. In a way it’s fitting that this draft has a GPA that’s exactly a C.
Round 2 #63: Jamie McBain - Grade: B+
No one is going to consider McBain an unqualified NHL success, but he served a role and did it pretty well: a top-four defenseman on bad teams (including three seasons with Carolina in the early years of the playoff drought), and a seventh defenseman on good ones. He missed a Stanley Cup ring by one year with the Kings, but the fact that the defending champs signed him in the first place indicates how he was regarded around the league. A solid pick here at the tail end of the second round.
Round 3 #93: Harrison Reed - Grade: D
There was a brief time when Reed was the next big thing. He was dazzling in the 2006 training camp, and when he followed it up with an 81-point season in the OHL the next season it was only a matter of time before he was a regular fixture in the lineup. Alas, it wasn’t to be; Reed never played an NHL game, was traded to Colorado for the immortal Stephane Yelle and retired in 2019 after spending six seasons bouncing around various second-division European leagues.
Round 4 #123: Bobby Hughes - Grade: D
Hughes signed an NHL contract, but that was the high-water mark. Often injured, Hughes never saw the NHL, spending most of his time in the ECHL. After he was traded to the Islanders in 2009, he was arrested on charges of sexual assault, for which he was later found not guilty.
Round 5 #153: Stephane Chaput - Grade: C
Another AHL depth player, Chaput only had one breakout season (relatively speaking) in the second tier, when he notched 10 goals and 38 points for Albany in 2009-10. He was otherwise AHL roster filler, and spent a few seasons in the German second division before returning back to North America to play Quebec senior league hockey. Among his teammates? None other than Philippe Paradis.
Round 6 #183: Nick Dodge - Grade: C+
Hockey’s Future once called Dodge “a logical replacement for the recently-retired Rod Brind’Amour.” How’d that turn out, you ask? Well, although he did sign an ELC with the Hurricanes, Dodge played one more season in the AHL and then retired himself. His life after hockey hasn’t been too bad, though: he’s the assistant director of the Engineering Management Program at Clarkson University, his alma mater, where he once captained the hockey team.
Round 7 #213: Justin Krueger - Grade: C+
The son of Sabres coach Ralph Krueger signed an ELC with the Hurricanes after four seasons at Cornell, although the Canes actually lost his rights because he didn’t sign straight out of college. He spent a year in Switzerland before coming over and spending two years with the Checkers. After a pair of successive one-year contracts, he decided to head back to Europe, and he’s now in his ninth season in the Swiss league.
2011: 2.056 GPA
There were a few hits here, but nothing too big. It’s a draft class that had one NHL regular, a couple of fill-ins and not much else. In other words, it’s mediocre in every way - just like the Hurricanes themselves were for many years around the time this class was drafted.
Round 1 #12: Ryan Murphy - Grade: C-
Taking a look at the HockeyDB page for Murphy will give you whiplash. Every year, he would play a handful of NHL games and a handful of AHL games. After leaving the Hurricanes, when he signed elsewhere, he was much more of an AHL fixture, presumably because his new teams did not have the same attachment to Murphy as a first-round pick. He finally got off the carousel and headed to the KHL last season.
Round 2 #42: Victor Rask - Grade: B
This had the hallmarks of being another under-the-radar gem, a year after the Hurricanes took Justin Faulk at around the same point in the draft. Two solid years earned him a six-year deal, one the Hurricanes came to regret nearly immediately. At the time, this would have been an easy A. Now, with the momentum lagging and Rask frequently a healthy scratch, this grade could really tank in the next few years.
Round 3 #73: Keegan Lowe - Grade: C
While he never became an NHL contributor, only playing four games, Lowe is an AHL mainstay that’s carved out a solid living in the second tier. It’s not great, to be sure, but as far as drafting a depth piece, Lowe fits the bill.
Round 4 #103: Gregory Hofmann - Grade: D
Hofmann is in a unique situation. He never signed an NHL contract, but because he was drafted out of Switzerland - a country with no transfer agreement with the NHL - Hofmann’s rights remain with the Hurricanes indefinitely. He’s now in his 12th season in the Swiss league.
Round 6 #163: Matt Mahalak - Grade: C-
The requisite Plymouth Whalers pick for the year, Mahalak never signed an ELC and never played professionally, going to Canadian university hockey after his OHL eligibility ended.
Round 7 #193: Brody Sutter - Grade: B
It’s not much of an NHL career, but for a seventh-rounder even 12 games counts for something. Sutter was an AHL regular for many years before making the jump to Europe, spending a year in Finland and most recently with the gloriously-named Iserlohn Roosters in the German league.
2010: 2.167 GPA
Two As and an A+ headline this class, so what’s it doing mired in the murky middle of the ranks? Simple: the Hurricanes either hit paydirt in this draft, or they whiffed badly. And there was plenty of the latter to go around.
Round 1 #7: Jeff Skinner - Grade: A
The Calder Trophy and All-Star Game nod in his rookie season made it look like this would be a no-brainer A+ after one year, but injuries and inconsistent play knock Skinner down a notch. Still, there’s no reason to fault this pick, which was far and away the Canes’ best first-round pick for years in either direction.
Round 2 #35: Justin Faulk - Grade: A
For many years, Faulk was the de facto number-one defenseman on the Hurricanes’ roster. Whether that’s a compliment or an indictment is up to you, dear reader, but as far as the draft is concerned that is about as good as you can hope for from a second-round pick.
Round 2 #53: Mark Alt - Grade: D
And this is about as bad as you can hope for. That might be a bit harsh, but you’d expect more than 18 games from a second-round pick, no matter who it’s with. Alt was traded to the Flyers during his junior season at Minnesota, and signed his ELC with the Flyers after that. But outside of occasional callups in four seasons, Alt has been an AHL regular. That’s fine if you’re a sixth-rounder; not so much for a second-rounder.
Round 3 #67: Danny Biega - Grade: D+
This might be a little low, given that Biega actually made the NHL for 10 games, but there wasn’t much there in terms of a professional career. Biega had two very good seasons for Charlotte, then went through an injury-riddled third season that ended with him being non-tendered - and that was that.
Round 3 #85: Austin Levi - Grade: D
Basically an ECHL version of Biega, Levi made a pair of cameos in the AHL but largely spent time in the third tier before calling time on his professional career and heading to Canadian university hockey.
Round 4 #105: Justin Shugg - Grade: C-
It seemed for a few years that Shugg was always on the short list for a callup that never came. He made a solid career for himself in the AHL, but realizing that his path to an NHL job was never going to become any clearer, he jumped to the KHL in 2016, where he’s been ever since.
Round 6 #167: Tyler Stahl - Grade: C-
Never signed an ELC, and never advanced past junior hockey.
Round 7 #187: Frederik Andersen - Grade: A+
OK, let’s talk about one of the more infamous Hurricanes draft picks. Is it a knock on the Hurricanes that they couldn’t sign Andersen, who didn’t see a path to a starting job with Cam Ward ensconced in the team’s crease? Yes, but that’s not the scouts’ problem. The plain fact is that they found a diamond in the rough, took him with a pick in the final round of the draft, and not only has he made the NHL but has 367 games of experience. That’s impressive, no matter where his career led.