Yesterday, Canes and Coffee had 2 early features for the upcoming 2016 NHL draft.
First was an introductory post that offered thoughts on the team’s general strategy and priorities.
Second was a simple reader poll on who everyone thought the Canes would get at #13 and at #21.
Instead me inserting my research-based thoughts (like most, I track draft prospects for about 7 days per year leading up to the draft), we have something WAY better. Three prospect/draft experts will be chiming in with their thoughts about the Carolina Hurricanes 2016 draft.
A HUGE thank you to Zachary DeVine, Steve Kournianos and Kevin LeBlanc for stepping into our Carolina Hurricanes world to provide some objective, expert insight as we near the NHL draft. Please take a minute to thank them on Twitter if you are Twitter-inclined.
Zachary DeVine covers all manner of hockey on the West Coast, including the San Jose Sharks, San Jose Barracuda, Stockton Heat, Everett Silvertips and watches SM-Liiga games whenever they can be found. He has also written for @DobberProspects. You can follow him on Twitter @zakkthebear.
Steve Kournianos is the founder and publisher of The Draft Analyst and can also be found on Twitter @thedraftanalyst.
Kevin LeBlanc writes The Journey for Dobber Hockey and is the Carolina Hurricanes prospect writer for Dobber Prospects. Give him a follow on Twitter @kleblanchockey.
Question #1: Who do you project that the Carolina Hurricanes WILL draft with the #13 pick? Who do you think the Canes SHOULD draft at #13? Who would be an absolute steal at #13 who might drop that far?
Zachary DeVine: I’ve been projecting Kieffer Bellows to Carolina at the 13 spot since my May mock draft, and I think it is a great fit for both Bellows and the Hurricanes. Bellows is a good, not great, skater, but he is also very strong on his skates and hard to knock off the puck. What you cannot teach, competitive drive, determination, wanting to work in the dirty areas of the ice and a nose for the goal, Bellows already has. He plays much bigger than his listed 6’ 196-pounds suggests and can be prone to getting too emotional in games and takes the occasional bad penalty. But I’d rather tame a tiger with a quality shot than hope a kitten will drive the net.
As far as who could slide to 13 that I feel would be a steal, if Logan Brown, Tyson Jost or Bellow’s linemate with the USNTDP Clayton Keller are inexplicably still on the board for Carolina’s selection, those are more polished players. Those three are all centers but could move to the wing as well. I don’t think Carolina would or should take one of the defenders if they fall to 13.
Steve Kournianos: I think the Canes will grab a forward, preferably one with size. Jeff Skinner was such a tantalizing scorer before he was hurt, and that’s why I think they should draft Wisconsin winger Luke Kunin, who was one of the top freshman forwards in the nation. Speedy, skilled forwards seem to be the kind of prospects Ron Francis and crew like to grab early, but I have a hard time seeing the Canes pass on one of the top defensemen at 13 since they can always grab a skill forward with each of their two second round picks. I know they have Noah Hanifin and Justin Faulk, but with expansion on the horizon and the realities of a cap world, they would be crazy to pass on one of Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi or Mikhail Sergachev if they’re on the board at 13.
Kevin LeBlanc: The answer to these two questions may actually be the same. I expect Carolina to take center Tyson Jost out of the BCHL with their first of two first round picks. The Canes will have a decision on their hands if Clayton Keller and Jost are both available at 13, but in this scenario I’m expecting Keller to be gone. Jost is a solid two-way center that is committed to the University of North Dakota for next season. He has been knocked for his skating, but he should be able to continue to improve that with a couple seasons in Grand Forks. He has the all–around game to become a top-six, point-producing center at the NHL level. Be on the lookout for the Canes reaching at 13 for sniper Kieffer Bellows (more on him in a bit) if they decide to draft based on position need.
If Logan Brown falls to the Canes at 13, I expect to hear his name called by Ron Francis. Since Francis has taken the torch from Jim Rutherford, he has coveted big-bodied, skilled players with room to grow offensively. That description fits Brown perfectly. He was terrific for the United States at the U-18’s, and progressed offensively as Windsor’s season went on but has a ton of room for development. Add in that he is the son of former Whaler/Hurricane Jeff Brown, and you get a player who also has the NHL bloodlines that the organization has coveted in the past.
2) Who do you project that the Carolina Hurricanes WILL draft with the #21 pick? Who would be an absolute steal at #21 who might drop that far?
Zachary DeVine: Pascal Laberge is who I have slotted for the ‘Canes at 21. Laberge played center to start the year but came into his own when he moved to the wing, which allowed him to use his creativity and speed and did not have to worry as much on the defensive side of the puck. I think Laberge moves to the wing at the next level and with some work on his defensive game, which is a common knock on players coming from the QMJHL, he could be a difference maker, but has a fair amount of risk to the pick as well.
I think this draft is 24 players deep on talented difference makers, so the Hurricanes second pick of the opening round comes just in time. A player that might slide down that would be a good value at 21 include University of Wisconsin center Luke Kunin, who I have going in the mid-teens but could still be on the board.
: I wouldn’t be surprised if Carolina used both 13th and 21st overall on wingers. Two kids I like for them who might be available are Kieffer Bellows from Team USA and London’s Max Jones. Both are finishers with lethal shots, but also equally abrasive and physical at the same time. The combo of physicality and skill would make the Canes an even tougher team to play against, and their styles compliment the playmaking nature of the centers in the organization. Bellows would be a steal at 21, no question. He is one of the top goal scorers in NTDP history, and he was a prolific scorer two years ago in the USHL as well.
Kevin LeBlanc: Julien Gauthier. The Hurricanes need a big, disruptive presence on the wing with scoring ability and the 6’3”, 230 pound forward definitely has the potential to bring that to the table. Some scouts were down on Gauthier in the second half of this season for not producing at the same rate he did in the first half of the year, which could cause him to fall into the 20’s on Friday night. If he gains some consistency and learns how to more effectively use his frame, he could be a steal down the road. If Luke Kunin is still on the board at 21, he could be another candidate here.
If for some reason Bellows is still available at 21, I believe he is the pick here. The Canes have a need for players who can score, and the Minnesota native fits the bill. The Boston University commit netted 50 goals in just 62 games last season for the USA’s U-18 team, showcasing his potential. Add to the mix that he isn’t afraid to throw his weight around and go hard to the net, and you are looking at the type of player that Canes fans have coveted for some time.
3) Is there a player that you think would be worth trading up for and what slot do you think it would require to get him?
Zachary DeVine: There is a lot of talk about what the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames are doing with their picks, numbers four and six, respectively. Matt Tkachuk is a player that is just outside the Big Three of Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, and Jesse Puljujarvi. If Carolina could trade up to get him, and I think they’d need the fourth pick to land him for sure, he’s an elite winger.
But stranger things have happened. If Edmonton goes for defenseman Olli Juolevi, and I have heard Vancouver is smitten with Pierre-Luc Dubois, Carolina should certainly go all-in to get Tkachuk at six.
: The Canes could be interested in a marquee name with franchise-changing potential, and trading a collection of picks to move into the top-5 may be worth it, especially if they could walk away with one of forwards Matt Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois or sniper Alex Nylander.
Kevin LeBlanc: Matthew Tkachuk. I know there will be a lot of noise around moving up to nab Jesse Puljujarvi, and for good reason, but I feel Tkachuk may actually fit better in the Canes lineup. Edmonton’s fourth overall pick would be the spot that a team would need to move to in order to secure the forward, and the Canes do have the ammo to get it done if they are willing to move some assets. A terrific playmaker that sets up shop below the faceoff dots would look great in Bill Peters system. He should be a possession monster at the NHL level, and would add an element of skill and net-front presence that Carolina lacks among their forward group.
4) Do you have any additional thoughts or comments about the Carolina Hurricanes 2016 NHL draft?
Zachary DeVine: I am a big fan of the ‘Canes defense. In my mock draft, even though it’s a deep draft for good defenders, I think Carolina should key in on the offensive upside and should swing for the fences regarding forward prospects. Carolina has six picks in the first three rounds and their own selections in the fourth, fifth and sixth. I’d like to see some calculated risks to add firepower to the ranks.