We’re here to talk about the rest of the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class. Rounds 4-7 were a mixed bag for me, as the Hurricanes picked an OHL defenseman who didn’t play this past season, a Russian goalie with fewer than 10 appearances and a German goalie that I hadn’t heard of. Still, the Hurricanes managed to grab a handful of players that I really liked. They stayed consistent with their strategy of drafting the high upside players that teams tend to avoid. Let’s dive into the selections.
Jackson Blake, 109th overall
Jackson Blake is a true boom or bust prospect. The skill that Blake possesses is off the charts and he was one of, if not, the best high school prospects in Minnesota this past year. He’s incredibly smart and is a gifted playmaker, which is what I see him being if he reaches the NHL level. Blake was one of the younger players in this draft class and comes in at a whopping 148 pounds. Someone give this kid a sandwich. Once he fills out and maybe hits another growth spurt, his game could really take off. He’s in a perfect situation to do just that. He’ll be playing full-time with the USHL’s Chicago Steel next season, which has proven to be the best program in the USHL when it comes to developing NHL-caliber prospects.
The Steel have been an absolute powerhouse in recent years and will be the perfect place for Blake to develop as a player before heading to the University of North Dakota. Once again, this is a player with high end upside and a low floor, meaning that there’s as good of a chance that he works out as there is for him to be a bust. As I stated earlier, that’s the nature of this draft. The Hurricanes have built both a great NHL team and a great pipeline in recent years, so they can afford to take risks that other teams may not feel as comfortable taking. Blake is one of those players. He is the son of former NHLer Jason Blake, who played in 871 NHL games over the course of his career.
Darren Yorke on Blake: “Very similar in that we keep talking about common themes with our players - it’s hockey sense. Jackson is incredibly smart, probably didn’t get the opportunity that he might have expected in Chicago, it’s one of the best teams in the USHL. His 5-on-5 play was what really impressed us. The ability to use his size to protect the puck and make plays in transition from the neutral zone to the offensive zone. He has the problem-solving ability to buy time and hit the weak side. To do all this when he isn’t fully developed in a hard league is what really gravitated to us. Probably nothing that shocks anyone here is that we’re going for smart players and that kid fits that build.”
Robert Orr, 136th overall
I want Orr to work out just so he can upset every old hockey man with his name. I do like what Orr brings to the table, however. He was a rookie in the QMJHL this past season and held his own on a good team. Orr could be one of those players that blossoms into a top player in the QMJHL, especially with a full, uninterrupted season under his belt. Yorke was right, the fact that Orr was able to look this good in his rookie year given the circumstances is nothing short of impressive. As a younger player, Orr is just getting started and coming into his own as a player. He has a good mix of speed, defensive skill, and playmaking skill that warranted a selection in this draft. His upside is likely that of a two-way third line winger, and even though that might not be as high as some of the other picks, that’s still incredibly valuable in this draft. Orr could surprise a lot of people this coming season and it seems like the Hurricanes like his versatility as a forward.
Justin Robidas, 147th overall
Remember when Alex DeBrincat fell in the 2016 draft because he was too small? Enter Justin Robidas. He has muscle but stands at 5-foot-7, maybe 5-foot-8 on a good day. That said, he’s lightning fast and one of the better shooters in the draft, so the Hurricanes grab a steal once again. The odds are against Robidas due to his size, but the overall amount of skill in his game is too good to pass up on. I love this pick for the Hurricanes and I’m excited to see what Robidas can do.
Doing my Justin Robidas article and thought I’d share this clip quickly with you all. pic.twitter.com/7Ixe3tpEPD— Gavin Chiasson (@HockeyScoutCA) March 8, 2021
Of course its the @Canes to grab @ForeursVD center Justin Robidas at 147th.— Brayden Olafson (@olaf1393) July 24, 2021
Diminutive, but stalky & more engaged than anyone on the ice. Robidas is very skilled with the puck & understands as well as leverages the need to earn his offense by playing reliable defense first. pic.twitter.com/tfj7rjXNB3
Hurricanes Assistant GM Darren Yorke on Robidas: “Similar to Blake in how they play the game and how they see the game. Incredibly competitive. He has the background with his dad to understand what it takes to be a pro. This kid uses his speed, uses his compete, can be a lot harder to play against and can play bigger than his size without sacrificing offense. He has one of the hardest shots in the QMJHL.”
Bryce Montgomery, 170th overall
Unfortunately, Montgomery did not play this past season due to the OHL cancelling its season. The Hurricanes were able to see him play at the Erie Showcase and decided that he was worth a draft pick. He’s a 6-foot-5 defenseman that can skate, after all.
Bryce Montgomery to the #Canes at 170. This kid has bigtime tools - he’s huge and has some skill. Was excited to watch him this season but that didn’t turn out well. Hockey sense was the weakness for us. 83rd on our list with a C (4th to 7th )grade. #NHLDraft— Mark Edwards (@MarkEdwardsHP) July 24, 2021
Yorke on Montgomery: “This was the first player that we selected this year that really didn’t play. We talked about this situation going back to last year and how we’d utilize this and it was something that didn’t really scare us. The way our list fell, this was the first one that got to us. Big right-handed defenseman that can skate. You look at how hard it is to find these types of defensemen, especially guys that are as big as him and can skate as well. It’s going to be great for us to see him next year in the OHL and get another full year. We were impressed with how he had to go a full year off and getting to the Erie Showcase tournament, just seeing the raw talent he has.”
Nikita Quapp, 187th overall
Quapp is an unknown for me, but after seeing scouts talk about him on Twitter, I’m fine with the pick. It seems like he played on a terrible team this year, so don’t read too much into his stats. Here are some thoughts on him from people that have watched him play.
Another goalie selected. #LetsGoCanes take Nikita Quapp out of the German DEL. Big framed guy with a blocking style. Lots to work with but lots of development required. Let’s see what the Canes can do with him. Check out my report at @FCHockey— Shaun Richardson (@SDRscouting) July 24, 2021
He assesses situations and minimizes movement getting himself square to the shooter and set. His butterfly is well formed and his lower body is closed. He positions himself well in this crease and remains calm. He absorbs pucks into his body https://t.co/3BojDrjtDC— Jeff Rea (@DraftinEU_Jeff) July 25, 2021
Sure, we can work with that. It definitely seems like he’s a different type of goalie than what we’re used to seeing in Carolina, but with a sixth round pick, you’re looking to draft someone that you can develop over a span of five or six years.
Yorke on Quapp: “Quapp is a goalie that really grabbed Jason Muzzatti when he watched him. For an 18-year-old to play in the men’s league. Big blocking style, a little bit different style than Hamrla and Naumov. A guy that just has the raw ability to be in the right spot and make some of the tougher saves look easy.”
Yegor Naumov, 200th overall
I haven’t found anything on Naumov as a player and it seems like people who watch the MHL are confused by the pick. The Hurricanes clearly saw something in him, but this won’t be a pick that we see in the NHL for a very long time, if at all.
Yorke on Naumov: “Naumov is probably closer to the style of Hamrla. Another guy that our goalie coaches really pushed hard on. Very athletic, very quick. Probably the more acrobatic saves and side-to-side saves. He reads the game so well and can make some of the desperate saves you need from your goalies.”
Nikita Guslistov, 209th overall
Guslistov has promise and can score goals, that’s for sure. He’s undersized and Russian, which is typically a death sentence for a prospect’s draft stock, especially if that player has already been passed over in a draft. Still, Guslistov has potential and the Hurricanes will be content to let him establish himself as a KHL player before hopefully bringing him to North America.
18-year-old Nikita Guslistov tips in first #GagarinCup Playoffs goal of his career! pic.twitter.com/Ltu0fKYKmu— KHL (@khl_eng) March 4, 2021
It's a natural in 1st period!— KHL (@khl_eng) January 21, 2021
18-year-old Nikita Guslistov becomes first Severstal player to score hat trick since Pavel Buchnevich in 2015-16! pic.twitter.com/wzr8mQxOjW
Joel Nystrom, 219th overall
Nystrom was a highly touted pick by scouting twitter. I’m fine with taking a chance on an overage defenseman in the seventh round, especially after hearing what people had to say about him.
Carolina does Carolina things and gets Joel Nystrom in the 7th round— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) July 24, 2021
Really, really mobile defenseman. Loads of upside as a transition D. Took a big leap forward this season compared to last
Another great pick by Carolina. Love Joel Nystrom: high motor, above-average skating ability, breaks plays early (pinch and gapping in the NZ), a lot of shoulder checking.... Not much offensive upside, except for activation and rotation with forwards. Very active.— David St-Louis (@DavidSt_Louis) July 24, 2021
So it seems that Nystrom was a late bloomer, which happens from time to time. I’m fine with this pick given the fact that it’s a late seventh round pick and it seems that Nystrom has upside as a two-way defenseman. He is currently on Sweden’s top pairing at the World Junior Summer Showcase, which is impressive. Sweden always has a first-class defense.
Yorke on Nystrom: “Nystrom is another late developer. He went through the draft already once. Probably one of the faster-developing players this year. Started off in the Swedish junior league and then got up to the SHL and played significant minutes. Another guy that is smart and dependable and has a little bit of offense to his game without sacrificing anything on the defensive side.”
All in all, this was a great draft class for the Hurricanes. There’s some high-end skill in this draft class and they did an excellent job of adding to their depth at every position. It’s going to be a long process for a lot of these players, and it’s likely that we won’t see some of them in the NHL for at least five years, but the amount of potential in this draft class excites me. The later rounds are a time to draft players that you can be patient with, and the Hurricanes did exactly that. Thank you to everyone who has followed my draft coverage either on Canes Country or on Twitter and I’m hoping to bring you all more content on the newest class of Hurricanes prospects very soon.