clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Analyzing Canes’ 2023 Draft Class

A look at the strengths, weaknesses and future outlook for each of the team’s 10 selections in the 2023 NHL Draft.

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As they have throughout the entirety of the Don Waddell tenure, the Hurricanes put together a very strong showing at the NHL Draft. The team has always prioritized passing on guys who have limited ceilings and are considered the “safer” choices, instead going for upside and trying to hit home runs on players that slide down draft boards. Mainly, the Canes prey on the Russian factor (with a lot of teams afraid to draft/scout that region) and guys who are undersized (when is a huge no-no for old school GMs).

The way the Canes draft is just a super smart philosophy. It’s easy to find bottom-6 forwards and depth defensemen in free agency, or for fair prices on the trade market. It’s a lot more difficult to find stars and top-6 wingers, so why not swing for the fences with your draft picks? These kids have ample time to grow, develop, get stronger and fix the issues in their overall game, so betting on upside is always a wise choice. Once again, the Canes did just that in the 2023 Draft, electing to covet skill and hockey sense. Let’s have a look at who they drafted, along with some analysis and highlights of each player.

Bradly Nadeau

First Round, 30th Overall

Nadeau is a player who made perfect sense for the Canes, considering their consistent need for goal scorers in their system. This kid was considered to be one of the best shooters in the draft, and watching the tape on him confirms that analysis. The puck explodes off his blade effortlessly, and his release is lightning quick. He can pick out corners with ease, and will be in a great program continuing his development at the University of Maine for the next few years.

Where Nadeau separates himself from a guy like Dominik Bokk is that his overall game is much more rounded. He’s also a strong passer, has great hockey sense and a high motor. He just seems like the ideal Canes type of player, and some scouts have compared him to Seth Jarvis stylistically, which would obviously be a fantastic outcome for a player drafted 30th overall. It’s a great swing on upside here, and I feel like this kid can become a 20-30 goal guy down the road someday.

Felix Unger-Sorum

Second Round, 62nd Overall

This pick was definitely another swing on upside. Unger-Sorum’s birthday was 2 days away from the cut-off for the 2023 Draft, so this is one of the youngest players in the entire class. At age 17, he’s already debuted and played 7 games in the top Swedish league, and has developed in a strong Leksands IF program for the past few years. He’s primarily a playmaker, his distribution and his vision can be elite level. Good skating and hockey sense are also keys to his success. He’s in a great spot for his development, and could become a very capable middle-six winger down the road. He has a lot of the tools that teams covet in modern day hockey.

Jayden Perron

3rd Round, 94th Overall

The Canes traded pick #71 to get this pick and pick #100, which was a masterclass in asset management. What’s even more impressive is that Perron was one of my top targets for the team at 71, so they managed to move back and still snag this player. He’s a tiny kid at 5-8 and 157lbs, but the skill this guy brings to the table is outstanding. He’s very smooth on his skates and dances around out there. His stickhandling and agility are very high end, and he’s very difficult to defend because of how dynamic he is. He can beat you inside with a deke or fly by on the outside, and his patience and vision makes him super unpredictable.

He’s also going the college route, to a very strong hockey school — North Dakota. That’ll be a great spot for him to develop and add the strength he’ll need to get to the next level. The skill level makes this pick a potential home run, and you’ve got to love this kind of passion from a small guy:

Alexander Rykov

Fourth Round, 100th Overall

Rykov is a player I really like because of his raw tools. He’s listed at 6-0, 176lbs at 17 years old, so he still has time to add muscle and really round out his frame. On the ice, his skating really jumps out at you. I’ve only seen clips, but he can really change directions quick and he’s shifty. He’s already playing in the Russian VHL — a men’s league — and played 6 KHL games as a 17 year-old. That’s a pretty rare feat in Russia, so the fact he can already handle himself against men says a lot about this kid mentally and physically. He’s got nice hands as well, strong hockey sense and vision. He’s a player that figures to develop a very pro-style game is his growth goes to plan, and I think down the road we could be looking at a solid 2nd or 3rd line winger here. He can really rip the puck:

Stanislav Yarovoy

4th round, 126th Overall

A double-overage selection, this is a player I really didn’t know much of when he was selected. He’ll be 20 in August, and just completed a full season with Podolsk Vityaz of the KHL, where he scored 9 goals and 7 assists in 45 games. He spent some time on that team’s top line, which shows the trust they had in him at a young age. This is another player with strong hockey sense, good skill and high character. He’s signed for another 2 years in the KHL, which means he’ll be 22 upon expiry and will likely be ready to jump over to North America by then. His development is already well on track, and another couple years in a strong Vityaz program should get him further along and give fans a clearer view of what to expect of this guy at the next level.

I think it’s important to note that this kid wears #99 for his team — which clearly exudes confidence and belief in himself — and his hands can back it up.

Charles-Alexis Legault

5th Round, 139th Overall

Another overage selection, and another player I knew very little about. He’s playing at Quinnipiac University — which is a fantastic program — and he has good size (6-3, 210lbs) and skates well. I asked a scout what he thought of this pick, and he said “[Legault] is alright, worthy selection in the 5th round. Good size and skating ability, but there’s not a ton there.” At this stage of the draft, you’re just betting on the upside, and this kid has the size and movement you look for in defenders. He’s a project, but in time maybe he can become a reliable third-pair guy.

Ruslan Khazheyev

5th Round, 158th Overall

A towering 6-4, 201lb goaltender, Khazheyev plays in the same system as Alexander Rykov, so my guess is that their Russian-based scout Oleg Smirnov scouted these guys together multiple times. Khazheyev spent the year in the MHL (Russian junior) and managed to put together a .923 save percentage despite losing 15 of his 23 starts. That’s a testament to his quality despite a bit of a weak team in front of him. I have not watched a second of this kid’s tape (yet), but scout Byron Bader has him ranked as the best goaltender analytically in this draft, which is very positive. It’ll be a long, long time before we have any idea of what this kid can become, but the tools are there and he’s very intriguing.

Timur Mukhanov

6th Round, 163rd Overall

This was probably my favourite selection that the Canes made in the entire draft. Mukhanov is a very fun player to watch, and I had the chance to see him play quite a bit while scouting Canes prospect Gleb Trikozov with Omskie in the VHL and MHL this past season. Mukhanov, while tiny, is a relentless player. I really like his hustle and drive on the forecheck, consistently pressuring and disrupting breakouts. He’s a smooth skater, strong with his edges and can zig-zag through opponents. He’s a strong 200-foot presence, but the question mark is how well his 5-8, 176lb frame can translate to the pro level.

Another project for sure, Mukhanov said at the draft that he plans to come to NA in two years when his contract expires in Russia, so we’ll see if that happens. By then, we should have a better read on which way this kid is trending. He reminds me a bit of a smaller Jesper Fast or Brock McGinn type, but if his skill can translate to the next level, he could have some real upside. Here’s some tape:

Michael Emerson

6th Round, 190th Overall

A big overage winger, Emerson looks evert bit of his 6-foot-2, 195lb frame out there, and the hope is he’ll continue to fill out. He plays a typical big winger game; strong along the wall, drives the net, and gets to the dirty areas. He had a real breakthrough as a 19-year old in the USHL, scoring 30 goals and committing to North Dakota. Truthfully, a guy his age and size *should* be physically dominant at the USHL level, so I’m in wait-and-see mode on this player. UND is an awesome program, and he’ll be there with a couple fellow Canes prospects in Jackson Blake and Jayden Perron. But he’ll likely need all four years in college to develop, and mature as a player.

Yegor Velmakin

7th Round, 222nd Overall

The second coming of Yegor Naumov? Hopefully not, but this is an intriguing kid. A double overage selection, as far as I can tell he was playing in the second tier of Russian junior, which was obviously not a good sign. Fortunately for him, he jumped up to the VHL for 12 games this past season and posted a .937 save percentage, which is surely what made scouts take notice. I don’t know much about his style, but he’s signed to play for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL next year, and if he makes that jump he’ll be very interesting to follow. From Junior B to the KHL within a year would be incredible progression. His size is OK at 6-2, but he’s listed at 172lbs, which obviously is not ideal NHL playing weight. So this is a project, but this could be a diamond in the rough from the Canes’ scouting department.


Overall, I really love this draft class. Obviously, not all of these kids will make it and it’ll be years before we have any clear pictures on that, but it’s hard not to admire the Canes’ philosophy of investing in smart and skilled young hockey players. They can develop and mold these guys to play the way RBA expects, and have the high-level IQ and skill that can’t be taught. It’s a class with a ton of intrigue, and will be exciting to follow along in the progression.