It is a new era in Carolina. The only general manager the team has known since its move to Raleigh, Jim Rutherford, retired then later surprisingly took the same job with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rutherford's heir apparent, former captain Ron Francis, has taken the reins and is charged with overseeing the Hurricanes' draft.
Carolina has been out of the playoffs for five straight years, so fans are getting anxious for the team's high draft picks – and high-priced veterans – to translate to more wins.
Top 10 Prospects:
More than anything, Carolina is hoping to land another star like they did the last time they picked seventh overall, when they landed Jeff Skinner in that slot in 2010. But if there is a clear weakness in Carolina, it is depth at the wings. Top-end wingers like Skinner and Alexander Semin are signed long term, but outside of Brock McGinn and maybe Sergey Tolchinsky, there is no one who is really eagerly anticipated in Raleigh in the next couple years.
The team has stockpiled plenty of defensemen who should challenge for an NHL job down the road, but outside of Ryan Murphy there is not anyone with the top-end talent that makes one believe there is a definitive future in the top four for any of them. So if the team can make a play for a top blueliner, they should consider it.
The Hurricanes are young at the NHL level, so that has – or soon will – make their prospect cupboards seem bare in the near future. But truth be told, the Hurricanes has several players currently on the roster who still have not even entered their prime.
The defense, while lacking a sure thing, has several prospects who could exceed their draft position – see Jaccob Slavin, Trevor Carrick, Brett Pesce, and more – and emerge as key players.
The Hurricanes have struggled to turn their later picks into suitable complementary players, and the Western Conference powerhouses have made it clear how important it is to draft and develop in order to stay competitive.
The Hurricanes also have a lack of depth in goal, a problem caused in part by Anaheim Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen's decision two years ago to re-enter the draft rather than sign with Carolina, who picked him in the seventh round in 2010. Daniel Altshuller has shown promise, but the team desperately needs to stuff its coffers with more net talent.
The Hurricanes drafting trends have changed in recent years. After mostly avoiding Europeans in the first two rounds for almost a decade and a having a stated policy under Rutherford of not taking defenseman with a number one pick, Carolina has changed its tune the past few years with the selection of Elias Lindholm and Murphy, among others.
While it is hard to call Francis' promotion a regime change, it would not be surprising to see the Hurricanes further avert from their past tendencies. That has also included a reluctance to draft QMJHL players, a trend that could change if the team thinks Halifax's Nikolaj Ehlers is the best available player when it comes time for them to pick.
Carolina hold seven picks in this year's draft, including two fourth round picks – the second acquired in a trade with Vancouver prior to the start of the 2013-14 season – and no sixth-round selection (dealt to Los Angeles in the trade that brought Kevin Westgarth to the Hurricanes in January 2013).
Carolina holds picks 7, 37, 67, 96, 97, 127 and 187 this season.
Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
7. William Nylander, C/RW, MODO (SHL)
Yes, the Carolina Hurricanes need size. So while hulking Nick Ritchie is a consideration, the concerns surrounding his work ethic are enough of a red flag to not reach for him here. Jake Virtanen may have been the best fit, but his recent shoulder injury raises questions.
So instead it is Nylander, another small-but-skilled forward to add to a stockpile of similar players like Skinner and Lindholm. But while many Hurricanes observers will lament more of the same, Nylander should quickly ease their worries with his top-end skill and pedigree.
The son of former NHL star Michael, Nylander is a top-notch point producer who can play center or right wing – the latter being an urgent need for Carolina – and could conceivably play right away due to his skill and experience playing in Sweden's top league.
If Nylander falls to Carolina here, they need to shrug off any rumblings of attitude issues and gamble on arguably the most offensively talented player in this class.