We’re taking a look back at the Hurricanes’ 2018 draft class and grading each pick this week. Canes fans voted to see my grades of the 2018 draft class, so I’ll go ahead and give it a whirl. In all honesty, this is a better draft class to grade than some of Carolina’s recent ones for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s the only draft class that has had a full season of play in the past four drafts. The 2019 draft class missed the tail end of the following season, the 2020 draft class had a very shortened season and the 2021 draft class is still too recent to grade. We’re starting to see most of the players from this draft class in the pros as well.
Grades will be your typical A, B, C, D and F grades with explanations of the grade as well as an NHL projection, if any.
2nd Overall - Andrei Svechnikov
Andrei “Gordie Howe in the 919 Area Code” Svechnikov is blossoming into a star for the Hurricanes, and even if he isn’t showing up on the score sheet, he’s still making an impact. Svechnikov is one of the game’s most skilled players and can dazzle with highlight-reel goals as well as some nifty passes. He’s a true triple-threat player and one that will terrify defenses for years to come.
He’s been exactly what we expected he would be when the Hurricanes drafted him second overall. This season, Svechnikov sits second on the Hurricanes in scoring and is nearly a point per game player. Considering the fact that he is only 21-years old, there’s plenty of time for him to grow into an even better player. This was a great pick at the time and continues to look better as the seasons have gone by.
42nd Overall - Jack Drury
Drury turned pro this season after spending two years at Harvard and one year in the SHL with Vaxjo. He won an SHL championship and bronze at the World Championships and is now playing for Chicago in the AHL. I’ve liked Drury ever since the Canes drafted him due to his strong two-way play and ability to create offense close to the net, so it’s nice to see him having success as a pro. Drury has 11 points and seven assists through his first 20 games with Chicago, which is a solid start to his professional career.
His upside is my biggest question, however. Drury plays a pro game and will most likely play in the NHL at some point, although I’m not sure if he can be a top-six forward. I could see him being a perfect candidate for a third-line role with the Hurricanes in the near future. His defensive-zone play suits that line’s play style and his work around the net could make that line an even better offensive force than it is right now. His skating has improved by leaps and bounds since he was drafted, so I’m more confident in his NHL odds now. At this point, I feel that Drury is on the bubble of a full-time NHL role and will get his chance sooner rather than later.
96th Overall - Luke Henman
It’s hard to give a good grade to a player if you never sign him. Henman has potential to make a difference in the pros if he can add some muscle and improve his two-way game, but the Hurricanes were too deep at center to consider signing Henman. He was the first player to sign with the Seattle Kraken and is currently playing for Charlotte in the AHL.
104th Overall - Lenni Killinen
Killinen had potential in his draft year since he tore up the Finnish U20 league and was poised to play in the men’s league the following season. Since then, Killinen’s career has been marred by injuries and inconsistent play. The inconsistent play can be traced back to his draft year, so it’s not just the injuries that are limiting his effectiveness in Finland. Killinen looks like an AHL depth piece right now and not a player worth signing to a contract. It’s a shame because with his speed and shot, he could’ve had a chance. But his hockey sense isn’t where it needs to be and he doesn’t make enough of an impact in the offensive zone.
166th Overall - Jesper Sellgren
Sellgren looks like a pro defenseman. He flies under the radar in a lot of ways because he’s not the flashiest player, but his defensive-zone play and skating make him a modern defenseman capable of playing NHL games. He’s one of the more stable presences on Chicago’s blue line and keeps improving on a game by game basis. Carolina’s defensive depth is a big barrier to jump over, but if Sellgren keeps playing like he has been, I’d expect to see him get a game or two in soon. As for his upside, I’d say that Sellgren is a third pairing defenseman that could see PK time. That’s fantastic value for a sixth round pick.
197th Overall - Jake Kucharski
Kucharski is playing in a bad conference and putting up mediocre results, but I don’t feel like I can write off him just yet. We’ve all seen what Jack LaFontaine was able to do with Minnesota, so perhaps Kucharski turns it around and starts to play like an NHL prospect. As of right now, I’m not overly thrilled about him and I can’t give him any higher of a grade. The Hurricanes have had success with seventh round picks in the past, but I’m not sure that Kucharski will join the list of successful seventh round picks.
Overall, it’s a good draft for the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes drafted a potential superstar with the second overall pick and have gotten 161 points in 227 games out of Svechnikov. That pick will only continue to look better, especially with Svechnikov being in Raleigh for the next eight seasons. I could also see Jack Drury having a long NHL career with the Hurricanes, and Jesper Sellgren should see a handful of games at the very least. The ideal outcome of the 2018 draft at this point is one superstar, one solid bottom-six forward and one third-pairing NHL defenseman. If Drury and Sellgren both play in over 200 games for the Hurricanes, then we’re looking at a 50% success rate and a great draft from the Hurricanes.
I’m giving this draft an A for the Hurricanes. Svechnikov is a fantastic pick and the Hurricanes should see NHL games from two others in this draft class. I would like to have seen a bit more upside from the second-round pick, but Drury is nearly a lock for the NHL, so that’s just as good as drafting a potential top-six player. Sellgren would be a pleasant surprise for a sixth round pick as well. All in all, it’s a good draft that has helped to set up the present and future of the Hurricanes.