As the mid point of the season passes, the NHL has released their midterm prospect rankings for next summer’s draft. How might the Hurricanes fair?
Some shrewd trades have helped position the Canes to make lots of picks in the draft the last couple of years. On top of the quantity, so far Ron Francis and company are helping to deliver quality in the those picks too. Already, drafted players from the last few drafts are making their Hurricanes debuts.
Looking ahead to the 2017 edition, the theme will be the same for Carolina as it was the last couple of years. Francis will be looking to sure up as many holes in his prospect group as possible. The good news for him is that there aren’t that many. That could open up some trade possibilities, but we will get to that when the draft gets closer.
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In the present, we are gonna take a look at some of the players the Canes might be looking at if the season ended now. The Hurricanes would draft in the 15th overall position if the year ended now, even though they are 14th worst (the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be guaranteed a pick no worse than 6th overall in 2017). Here are some projected first rounders that might put on a Hurricanes sweater come June.
A theme under Ron Francis has been his pursuit of Finns. First it was Aho, then Teravainen, and then Kuokkanen. In the 2017 draft, that theme might very well continue. This year, all eyes are on small, Finnish winger Eeli Tolvanen. He has been carving out quite a career in the USHL after leaving his homeland a few years ago. Tolvanen is one of the top 10 scorers in the league currently, even after miss games due to the World Junior Championships. In that tournament, he was one of the few bright spots on a bad Finland team, scoring a point per game. In terms of his size, skill level, and style of play, he in many ways resembles Teravainen, but with more of a shooters mentality. He might fall to Carolina at 15.
Depth down the middle isn’t really a problem for Carolina at the moment. With so many players who can play the position in both the NHL and AHL, the pipeline is a little clogged. However, Ron Francis has shown continued interest in taking tall, massive centers as projects in hopes they turn out well. Enter in Ryan Poehling, a 6’3 center from St. Cloud State University. He decided to forego his last year of high school to play with his older twin brothers at St. Cloud. He still has developing to do, but he has tons of physical tools to become a good NHL center.
If there is one thing we’ve learned from Ron Francis, its that he likes drafting defensemen in the 1st round. While unlikely he goes that route in 2017, he might fall back on old habits. Also, if the Hurricanes make a big trade involving one of their stud blue line prospects, he might go right back in the draft to fill that hole. Whatever the circumstance, Carolina is sure to be looking at Mississauge Steelheads defenseman Nicolas Hague. This kid is straight up massive. At 6’6 and 214lbs, he’d be one of the largest players on an already big Canes blue line. He has proven himself to be a solid two way defenseman in the OHL. He also has a great goal scoring record as a d-man with a thunderous shot.