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Hurricanes Prospects Mailbag: Draft Edition

Hurricanes fans brought the questions, Matt brought the answers.

New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Seven Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The draft begins July 7 and people have questions about the draft, the state of the pipeline and more. Since this is such a big time of year for the future of the team, I figured that I’d answer some questions from Canes fans in order to help prepare everyone for draft season.

Connor decided to hit me with the toughest question first, I see. The Hurricanes won’t have a selection until the late second round and at that point, you’re just hoping to draft the best player available. I’m not the biggest fan of the goaltenders in this draft and I feel that the Hurricanes could get just as good of a goalie in the later rounds of the draft, so I’m ruling that out. I would imagine that the Hurricanes select another defensive prospect to help bolster their blue line. You aren’t going to be able to have Pesce, Skjei and Slavin forever and you’ll eventually need to fill those roles with your younger players. It all depends how the Hurricanes view the available players, though.

It’s possible that there’s a run of defensemen in the middle of the second round and the Hurricanes are forced to take one of the forwards from their list. It’s also possible that the team really likes one of the top goalies in this draft and decides to take that goalie. Daily Faceoff’s Chris Peters wrote about all 32 teams’ needs heading into the draft, and his need for the Hurricanes was goaltending. I disagree with Chris, however. Pyotr Kochetkov will be an NHL starting goalie and they also have Eetu Makiniemi in the pipeline. If Makiniemi can stay healthy, I would bet that he at least makes it into the NHL at some point. He may not be a starter, but he’s a capable backup at the very least. The team also has Patrik Hamrla, who had a strong season despite playing on a weaker QMJHL team. The jury is still out on Hamrla, however, as he’s only 19. It never hurts to take at least one goalie per draft, but I think that the Hurricanes wait until later on in the draft before taking their first goalie.

I asked for clarity on this question, and he meant to ask if any Wolves players on AHL contracts will get an NHL contract with the Hurricanes. It looks like Griffin Mendel, Ivan Lodnia and Kyle Marino are the players that saw regular time with the Wolves this season. Mendel has already re-signed with the Wolves for next season, but it’s always possible that he gets an invite to development camp and earns an NHL contract based on his performance. Kyle Marino is a depth AHL player and, in my opinion, won’t be an NHL player. Ivan Lodnia, however, may deserve another shot an an NHL deal. I thought that he was fantastic when he was in the lineup with the Wolves, especially during the finals. His pace, tenacity on the forecheck and relentless motor are enough for me to think that he could earn an NHL contract. He had a rough go of things with Minnesota but was able to carve out a role for himself in the AHL, and with a little refinement, he could be a nice depth piece in the NHL. I don’t see Lodnia ever being a top nine forward, but he has the attitude and tenacity that Rod Brind’Amour looks for in his fourth line players.

I’m picking two prospects: one forward and one defenseman. Tuukka Tieksola has always been one of my favorite prospects to watch, and while this past year wasn’t the best, I still believe that he’ll be an NHL player. He’s quick, able to make decisions at a high pace, skilled with the puck, and a great offensive player overall. There are some issues with consistency and defensive work, so I’m not sure if he’ll be an NHL player. I am, however, inclined to believe that the Hurricanes will be able to get the most out of Tieksola and turn him into a strong top nine forward.

On defense, I love Domenick Fensore. Fensore is a rarity in that there are so few undersized defensemen in the NHL, but I believe that he’ll be an offensive defenseman at the NHL level. A player’s size does not equate to their skill level and Fensore plays like he’s 6-foot-2 in terms of how he pressures the puck. He’s an excellent passer and a player that was one of the best defenders off the rush in the NCAA this past season. Keep an eye on these two players, especially as Tieksola turns pro in the next year.

Honorable mention: Massimo Rizzo. I love how he plays and I think he could be a nice top nine forward at the NHL level.

I believe that Keane has a good chance, especially since the Hurricanes don’t have a clear power play quarterback for the second unit. His game matured this past year and I believe that he’s ready for an NHL role. That, of course, is dependent on what the Hurricanes decide to do with their defense next year. If Chatfield is on the roster, the Hurricanes may elect to bring in more experience and let Keane develop for another year. He is only 22, so perhaps he signs a two year contract with the first year being a two way deal and the second moving to a one way deal. Right now, I’d put Keane’s odds at 60% at making the opening night roster, but that could easily change if the Hurricanes bring in a top defenseman.

Drury plays a well-rounded game and I believe that he can play anywhere in the Hurricanes’ lineup. Brind’Amour is going to utilize him in a variety of situations, and I believe he’ll help the Hurricanes. Drury is able to work around the crease and get the greasy goals, which is something that the Hurricanes could always use. Realistically, I see Drury playing on a third line for most of his career. I do think that he can play up in the lineup, but I’m unsure if he’ll be able to produce enough offense to be a top-six forward consistently.

He does seem like a Hurricanes pick, doesn’t he? I love Lane Hutson and I think he’d be a fantastic addition to the team, but like you said, he’s another Dom Fensore. The Hurricanes have Scott Morrow as well, and they may not want to add another pure offensive defenseman to their system. Again, I would love Hutson to be a Hurricanes prospect because I feel that he would make the Hurricanes better at some point in his career.

If he’s available a little earlier and the Hurricanes feel that he’ll be the best possible player that they could draft, then yes, I could see them moving up a bit. The earliest I’d consider doing this would be around pick #45, though. NHL teams usually let these smaller defensemen fall because of how few there are in the NHL, so it’s possible that Hutson falls all the way to #60.

Jarvis is going to have a solid second year in the NHL, and I don’t see a sophomore slump being much of a concern. He’s too hard of a worker and too skilled of a player to have that sort of slump. Even if his production does slow for a handful of games, I can still see Jarvis creating scoring chances and making plays in all three zones. He’s only going to get better, especially at 20 years old. 50-60 points is a pretty reasonable ceiling for him, too. He has the potential to be a top line forward at the NHL level, which means that he could be a 70-80+ point player in the future. It’s natural to expect some progression, and with the level of talent on this roster, I can see Jarvis hitting the 50-point mark with relative ease.

Right now, I’m waiting to see how Morrow’s sophomore year goes. I think that if he improves defensively and continues to shine offensively, then we see him sign with the Hurricanes at the end of the year. If he needs another year in the NCAA to continue to improve in his own end, then that’s what it takes. Ultimately, we’re looking at a two to three year timeline for Morrow before we start to consider seeing him in an NHL role.

I love the second question, too. The Hurricanes have had a lot of success in the second round throughout the years. Let’s look at their second-round picks since 2010, shall we? Since 2010, the Hurricanes have drafted Justin Faulk, Victor Rask, Brock McGinn, Alex Nedeljkovic, Sebastian Aho, Janne Kuokkanen, Eetu Luostarinen, Jack Drury and Pyotr Kochetkov. Kuokkanen, Luostarinen and Rask may not be fantastic, but they’re all NHL players and that alone is impressive. That doesn’t include players like Morrow, Koivunen, Heimosalmi, Gunler, Rees and Ponomarev, who are all showing real promise. The Hurricanes do an excellent job of drafting in the second round for a few reasons, in my opinion. They don’t shy away from taking risks, as seen with the Gunler, Aho and Kochetkov picks. They take players with the highest possible upside, which can obviously have some risks. Not every second round pick they’ve had since 2010 has worked out, such as Mark Alt and Luke Martin, but the Hurricanes have a clear recipe for success. They also take players with high levels of hockey sense, which, to me, is the biggest reason for success. If you can’t process the game at a high pace, you aren’t going to make it at the NHL level. The Hurricanes know that and take players who can, that way it’s easier to transition them to the NHL.

The earliest we can see Nikishin in North America is 2024 since that’s when his KHL contract ends. He seems pretty loyal to Spartak Moscow, so I’d imagine that a contract termination isn’t going to be an option. On the bright side, Nikishin should be ready for the NHL by the time April 30, 2024 rolls around. He has already been playing in a top-four role in the KHL and spent a lot of his time on the top pairing last season.

I’ve already talked about Lane Hutson, so let me give you another name. Marcus Nguyen is one of my favorite plyers from the WHL in this year’s draft, and I believe that he can be an impact player at the NHL if he is developed properly. He’s quick, incredibly smart, great in transition, a takeaway machine and skilled with the puck. I’ve seen a lot of growth from him this season and I believe that once his role with Portland increases, he’ll show flashes of elite potential. Based on pure skill, he’s one of the more exciting players I’ve watched this year. He’s smaller and there’s no guarantee that he’ll reach this upside, so that’s why I’m labeling him as a boom or bust prospect. He’s an ideal late round selection because he has NHL tools.

That’s all, folks. I’ll have plenty of other things coming out closer to the draft, as well as draft grades, pick by pick analysis and more afterwards.