The Carolina Hurricanes have been part of 23 drafts since moving to North Carolina and have been under the direction of three general managers during that span — Jim Rutherford, Ron Francis and Don Waddell.
The team has drafted 174 players over those 23 years. Let’s break down those players in a few different categories. This won’t be an analysis breakdown, but more so sharing some graphs and data.
The Hurricanes have drafted players from 10 different countries in total. A little over 75% of draftees come from North America with the other quarter coming from Europe. The most common European country that the Hurricanes draft from is Finland.
In terms of the positions that the Hurricanes draft most prevalently, it is what is generally expected, with forwards leading the way followed by defensemen and goaltenders.
Now if we break down the positions by year, we see a more varied pattern.
For instance, the last year that the Hurricanes drafted more defensemen than forwards was in 2010. We also see a lot of strong drops in the amount of selections made by the team, despite missing the playoffs most years.
If we break down the selections by round, we can also see that historically, the Canes trade away their lower value picks more often than they use them, but end up with a lot of fourth-round selections.
(The eighth and ninth rounds of the draft were eliminated in 2005)
It’s hard to judge success in the draft, because prospects can be so hit-or-miss, but one way is to see if they have longevity in the NHL. Of the 174 players the Hurricanes have drafted, 37 — or around 21% — had or have played over 100 games in the NHL.
Carolina presents a generally expected curve in that their higher-round picks tend to be the players that develop into NHL talent. Of their 21 total first-round picks, 12 — or around 57% — had some sort of lasting success in the NHL.
Moving to the next chart, we see that forward talent develops more efficiently than defensive or goaltending talent. Of the 37 players that reached the 100 games mark, 25 were forwards, 10 were defensemen and two were goaltenders. With more available roster spots in a less scrutinized position, it makes logical sense that more forwards carve out a longer role.
The Canes have never had a full bust year, with at least one player having some sort of NHL success in each season up until 2016, and have even seen two seasons — 1998 and 2007 — where four players all managed to pass the 100 games mark.
While these charts are interesting, they don’t help us see many trends in drafting, because many of the personnel who make decisions have been cycled out. Therefore, to see a bit more of trends we need to take a look at different sections of draft history.
Rutherford Era (1997-2013)
Jim Rutherford was the general manager of the Hurricanes right from relocation as he also managed the Hartford Whalers for a few years prior. He had by far the longest tenure with the team and was in charge of the draft through 2013.
Due to his long tenure, I will include overarching charts, but I will also split this time between pre-cup (1997-2006) and post-cup (2007-2013).
During his time, he drafted 123 players — 80 pre-cup, 43 post-cup.
As expected, Rutherford follows the general trend. You know the thing with averages following the majority of the data, but with a 78% favor for North America, it is slightly higher than the average. What is interesting was that Rutherford’s preferred European teams were Sweden and the Czech Republic, a trend not followed by his successors.
The two charts show little sway in the general trend of where Rutherford was drafting from between the pre and post-cup other than a fall in the percentage of Czechs drafted.
Again, Rutherford was extremely rigid in his selection by position. Almost a near perfect breakdown of forwards around 50%, defensemen around 37% and goaltenders around 13% between the two splits.
If we move into more of a breakdown by year though, we see that pattern deviate.
It is remarkable that despite generally having fewer picks in the years following winning the cup, that Rutherford somehow kept the same breakdown of positions selected throughout his tenure.
It is also interesting that we see the amount of forwards and defensemen selected in the first through third rounds was nearly identical at the end of his run.
Francis Era (2014-2017)
Franchise legend Ron Francis was given control of the team after Rutherford was fired following four years without a playoff appearance. Under Francis, the Hurricanes selected 33 total players from 2014 to 2017.
Francis followed a similar trend as Rutherford in terms of percentages between North America and Europe.
Francis showed more affinity for Finland, however, as his preferred European country.
In terms of percentages, Francis drafted slightly more forwards and netminders on average than Rutherford.
The sample is small, but Francis only went heavier on defense in his first year with the team and at that time there was a real lack of depth on the blueline.
In hindsight, Francis’ emphasis on first-round blueliners missed a few strong forward candidates, but there was a lot of value acquired in the second to fourth rounds in terms of forwards — Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark, Morgan Geekie, Nicolas Roy.
Waddell Era (2018-Present)
After new owner Tom Dundon came in and decided to shake things up, Francis was moved out and Waddell was promoted to general manager.
Under Waddell, the Hurricanes have selected 18 players over two drafts. To keep in mind, the sample size is small, so trends are harder to predict. This era will be more insightful given another two to three seasons.
Although the sample is small, what we have seen so far in the Waddell era is a team much more open to looking towards Europe for talent. The North American preference is nearly null in this chart being only 6% above an even split.
Finland is still the preferred European country to draft from, but now the team has elected to draft Russian players again. The last time before 2018 that the team had drafted a Russian was 2001 and now in just two seasons, the team has drafted more than all the drafts prior.
Right away, Dundon made it quite clear that the Hurricanes would not be selecting a defenseman in the first round while he was owner, but that determination seems to have bled over to further rounds as the Hurricanes have drafted defensemen with only 22% of their picks during Waddell’s tenure.
There is a defensive logjam currently, but in time, the team will need defensive prospects to refill the pipeline as players rights expire.
The 2019 draft saw the team make the most selections in its history, and with the influx of forward talent currently coming into the system, it will be interesting how these trends may affect the 2020 draft and how much value these prospects may hold as the Canes try to win now.