With only a 3 percent chance to win the first overall draft pick and generally long odds to move up from the team’s #11 starting point, the two-part NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday set up to be a boring ho-hum affair.
When the Hurricanes did not appear at #11 in the backwards countdown, the even suddenly became much more interesting. Not appearing at #11 meant that the Hurricanes had moved into the top 3. The news set Twitter abuzz and made the second part of the draft lottery later in the night a ‘can’t miss’ for Canes fans who were aware of what was happening.
When the Montreal Canadiens logo came up first, either the Carolina Hurricanes or the Buffalo Sabres were going to win the first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft and with it the right to draft the consensus best player in the draft in Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. The Hurricanes did not win the final showdown, but in winning the #2 overall pick, the team gained a sizable upgrade from its original #11 starting point and also the ability to select the best forward available in the draft.
That opportunity is the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe which also includes a few polls for the first time in awhile to cue up a Monday Coffee Shop at the same time.
Personal disclaimer and broader forewarning as we enter draft season
We are quickly approaching that time of year when people who track draft age prospects exactly none for months on end, read a couple articles and quickly declare themselves up to expert level for assessing draft prospects. My all-time favorite for this category was the group who went bananas (in a negative way) over the Hurricanes selection of Sebastian Aho in the second round over a few more known North American options with size only to quickly be corrected that the Aho they were putting down (the defenseman from Sweden) was not even the right one. Try to find that group now.
I am firmly in the category who does not have the hockey time to track the 100s of draft-level prospects during the year, so I mostly defer to those who do in assessing, rating and ranking them.
Sizing up the options
Among the experts who track the prospects, the #1 overall pick is about as unanimous as you can get with Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin slated to go #1 overall to the Buffalo Sabres.
That leaves the Carolina Hurricanes with the opportunity to nab the top forward in a draft that has some good options in that category.
If one canvasses the draft experts, the decision is not as clear cut after Dahlin, but there is still a reasonable consensus for draft order that sees the Hurricanes choosing between three enticing wings.
Andrei Svechnikov — A Russian-born right wing who is playing in the OHL. Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst actually had Svechnikov #1 ahead of Dahlin in his April update.
Filip Zadina — A Czech right wing who has ties to Hurricanes 2017 first-rounder Martin Necas. The Draft Analyst pegs Zadina as a high-end offensive player who also possesses a well-rounded game.
Brady Tkachuk — A US-born left wing with NHL blood lines in father Keith and brother Matthew. The Draft Analyst is not quite as high on Tkachuk as others who rank him fourth.
What about the possibility of trading the pick?
At a basic principal level, I am not generally a fan of trading away first round picks for roster players. For gaining immediate help and a sure thing, a team gives up the potential of finding an elite talent. I am more open to trading mid to later round picks simply because the probability of finding an elite talent decreases significantly. But now sitting at #2, the Hurricanes have the potential to land an elite player.
I get the fact that the team could really benefit by adding another high-end offensive player to the lineup. But in terms of adding a truly elite player, I would argue that the #2 draft pick actually represents a greater chance than the trade market for that pick. The players likely to be available are good, proven NHL players but mostly a notch below the elite level. And with the fast track that most elite players are on today, the potential is there, especially at the forward player to get that from an 18-year old.
So for the next two months, the possibility of the Hurricanes trading down to add immediate help will be bandied around endlessly and reach a fever pitch leading up to the draft. But if any version of common sense prevails, I think it will all be nonsense.
The team needs elite scoring. The #2 selection actually represents the best chance to find that. And he comes in the form of a young player who is also on a three-year entry-level contract for peanuts. You do not trade that.
The Martin Necas ties for Filip Zadina
An interesting angle on the options is Filip Zadina’s ties to 2017 first-rounder Martin Necas. As cool as the possibility of having a Czech line with teenagers Zadina and Necas is to go with the Finnish duo of Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, I would not use this as much more than a tie-breaker for the Hurricanes’ selection. For a high stakes draft pick like this, the objective is very simple. Select the player most likely to become an elite NHL player. If the Hurricanes scouting staff sincerely believes that Zadina is a better player than Svechnikov or Tkachuk, then by all means, they should take him. But if Svechnikov (or someone else) rates higher, I would not take the second best player because of chemistry or country ties.
What say you Canes fans?
Free form thoughts on the 2018 draft and the Hurricanes #2 overall selection? Go!