Hurricanes 2008 draft review

By Cory Lavalette

Going into the 2008 Draft, the Hurricanes’ main needs were to add high-end talent and depth to an organization lacking in both areas. It was rumored Carolina could use draft choices to obtain a defenseman who could play next season, or even attempt to move up to acquire one of the top blueliners from this year’s class.

But in the end the team used its first-round pick on one of the top-five rated forwards in the draft. The Canes used their other picks on a well-rounded group. Carolina’s third- and fifth-round picks had been dealt to acquire Matt Cullen and Anson Carter, respectively, in past trades.

Director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald, in his 14th year with the organization, was in his first year running an NHL draft, replacing long-time scouting director Sheldon Ferguson.

Zach Boychuk, C — Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

Drafted: 1st round, 14th overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 175 pounds

Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford made it clear this offseason that he was against using a first-round pick on a defenseman who would need a long time to develop. In the end, the team followed through on Rutherford’s wishes, selecting Boychuk and thus adding an elite scorer to their prospect pool.

“I met with them at the combine, and I thought that there was a good chance that maybe I’d go there,” Boychuk said at the draft. “But once they called my name it was definitely a sigh of relief and I was definitely really excited.”

In past years, Boychuk’s size may have kept him from being a first-round selection. But with more and more smaller players making an impact in the NHL, Carolina couldn’t pass on a player with Boychuk’s talent.

“There’s lots of [undersized] guys that definitely inspire you,” Boychuk said. “You look at guys like Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane both making it to the NHL. [They’re] really smaller guys and skilled guys, and I feel that I’m similar to them. I just like to push myself and show people that I can overcome that step.”

A speedy, skilled puck-handling forward, Boychuk has put together back-to-back 30-goal seasons for Lethbridge in the defensive WHL. While his overall numbers were down from a year ago, he was among the WHL’s most dominant players down the stretch. In his final 23 regular season games, he scored 16 goals and added 19 assists. He then led the league in playoff scoring with 13 goals and eight assists in 18 postseason games, headed to the WHL finals.

On top of his scoring prowess, Boychuk is considered a well-rounded player who is responsible in his own end and doesn’t shy away from physical play. While he has been a scorer with Lethbridge, Boychuk said he is open to contributing in any way Carolina needs him.

“I’m a pretty well-rounded player, so I guess it depends on what type of role I fit into with their system,” he said.
   
Boychuk has also had the benefit of having international experience, playing on Team Canada’s U-18, Summit Series and World Juniors entries — all with Carolina’s top pick last year, Brandon Sutter.

“He’s a great guy and he’s one of my best friends that I’ve played with over my two years with Team Canada,” Boychuk said of Sutter. Boychuk, like Sutter, hopes to compete for a roster spot with Carolina next year.

“I gotta really go to work,” Boychuk said. “I knew after the draft that my focus had to be on the team that drafted me. So now the Carolina Hurricanes are basically where my focus is going to be. I’m going to be training hard and trying to make the NHL next season.”

Pros: Boychuk is a top-flight talent who immediately becomes Carolina’s top offensive prospect. The Canes took arguably the best player available and filled a need at the same time. His speed and creativity with the puck perfectly fit coach Peter Laviolette’s system.

Cons: There are concerns about Boychuk’s size, and the Hurricanes have not developed a draft pick shorter than 6’0 into an everyday player since their move to North Carolina.

Zac Dalpe, C — Penticon Vees (BCHL)

Drafted: 2nd round, 45th overall
Height: 6’0, 170 pounds

Following Friday’s first round, the Hurricanes’ brass made it clear they thought the player they were targeting (rumored to be Jared Staal) would be available when they chose at No. 45. But when Dalpe was still on the board when it came time for Carolina to make its pick, the team couldn’t pass on the forward heading to Ohio State next season.

A fast-rising prospect, Dalpe climbed draft rankings after his performance at the World Junior A Challenge for Canada West, earning MVP honors for the final game after notching a hat trick. Like Boychuk, Dalpe has shown a nose for the net without sacrificing play in his own end. He scored 27 goals and had 36 assists last year for Penticon.

Dalpe was selected by Plymouth (owned by Hurricanes’ owner Peter Karmanos Jr.) in the OHL draft, leading to speculation Carolina may push for Dalpe to further develop under the Karmanos umbrella instead of with the Buckeyes in the CCHA. But Dalpe has said he wishes to honor his commitment to Ohio State.

Pros: Again, the Hurricanes seemingly got the highest-rated player left on the board when they chose Dalpe. He has the upside to be a two-way forward who could fill a spot on the Canes’ second or third line in the future.

Cons: Dalpe somewhat came out of nowhere, and there’s always a risk when taking a player who hasn’t already played against higher-level talent. There have already been some rumblings from Ohio State that Carolina is trying to push Dalpe to go to Plymouth. Given the way the Jack Johnson situation unfolded a couple seasons back, it would be prudent for Carolina to delicately handle the Dalpe situation.

Michal Jordan, D — Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

Drafted: 4th round, 105th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight 184 pounds

Never before have North Carolinians heard a more familiar name chosen in a hockey draft, and the young Czech defenseman Carolina took with their third selection in the draft has a big moniker to live up to with the Tar Heels just down the road from the RBC Center. While the locals may think UNC, Nike and “greatest basketball player ever” when they hear the name Jordan, the Hurricanes are quite familiar with their fourth-round pick. Jordan, like several Canes’ selections in recent years, is a player with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.

Jordan had six goals and 22 assists in his first season in the OHL (he started the season with Windsor before being acquired by the Whalers), and has a chance to grow into his frame and develop into a solid two-way blueliner.

Pros: The Hurricanes have insight into what kind of player Jordan is because of his time with Plymouth. He had a good second half of his first OHL season and has enough size and mobility to hold up physically at the next level.

Cons: Carolina may have reached on Jordan, who was unrated by most of the major scouting services, and some will say he was picked because of his link to Plymouth.

Mike Murphy, G — Belleville Bulls (OHL)

Drafted: 6th round, 165th overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 161 pounds

The Canes made Murphy the first goalie they have chosen since selecting Justin Peters in the second round in 2004. After going undrafted last season, Murphy — in his first season as a starter — was named the OHL’s goaltender of the year. But despite his season, some thought Murphy was too small and too unorthodox to hear his name called in Ottawa.

Carolina, however, knows a little something about undersized, stop-the-puck-any-way-they-can goalies, having employed Latvian Arturs Irbe between the pipes for more than 300 games from 1998 to 2004.

Murphy led the OHL in goals-against average (2.24) and save percentage (.929) while going 36-7-4 last season.

Pros: At the end of the day, the most important thing a goaltender can do is win, and Murphy has done that. While not a traditional goalie, Murphy has shown he can do what it takes to stop the puck under any circumstance by using his mobility and competitiveness.

Cons: It takes exceptional talent to make it as this type of goalie — and Murphy has a long, long way to go before he shows he has enough to make it to the big time.

Samuel Morneau, LW — Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

Drafted: 7th round, 195th overall
Height: 5’10 Weight 190

The Canes filled a need at left wing by taking Morneau. Morneau is a hard-worker who has shown the ability to finish, but needs to work on creating opportunities.

Morneau played for Bai-Comeau last season, finishing the season with 23 goals and 19 assists. He was traded this offseason to Val-d’Or, which will be his third team in the QMJHL, since he played his first season in 2006-07 with Acadie-Bathurst.

Pros: A good work ethic is probably the most important attribute a seventh-rounder can have.

Cons: Morneau is a bit on the small side and hasn’t proved to be an elite point producer. He’ll need to make his mark at both ends of the ice to beat the odds and make it to the NHL.

Jeff Dahlia contributed to this article.