Hurricanes 2005 draft evaluation

By Cory Lavalette

The 2005 NHL Entry Draft started very promising for the Hurricanes. With the lockout wiping out the previous season, the NHL was forced to hold a weighted lottery to determine where each team would pick.

While Carolina did not land the top overall pick, they did earn the right to draft third overall. In all, the Canes made nine picks — six of which were used on defense — in the 2005 draft, but had limited success.

Jack Johnson, D, Michigan (CCHL) — 1st round, third overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 200

If Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford wasn’t thrilled to have landed the third overall pick, he certainly was giddy when Anaheim passed on Johnson to select Bobby Ryan second overall. Johnson was considered by most to be the No. 2 prospect in the draft — behind Crosby — and a franchise defenseman who could do it all: defend, score, lead and intimidate.

Unfortunately for Carolina, Johnson balked at leaving Michigan to join Carolina for the 2006 playoffs — a decision that cost him a spot on a Stanley Cup-winning team. With Johnson returning to Michigan for his sophomore season and Carolina looking for defensive help to assist them in defending their title, Rutherford traded Johnson to Los Angeles — along with cap dump Oleg Tverdovsky — for Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger.

It’s a deal that has benefitted both teams, with Gleason emerging as a steady, heart-and-soul Carolina fan favorite and Johnson slowly emerging as the force he was expected to become. Johnson had his best season this year for the playoff-bound Kings, scoring eight goals and added 28 assists for 36 points — all career highs — but he was a team-low minus-15 in more than 22 minutes a night.

The Kings already have a No. 1 defenseman in Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, so Johnson — who has had some scuffles with Los Angeles’ management — could be on the trading block this summer.

Nate Hagemo, D, Minnesota (WCHA) — 2nd round, 58th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Game Played: 0

If you just looked at Hagemo’s stat line, you’d think he was an example of another prospect who couldn’t cut it and make his way to the NHL. But Hagemo’s "bust" status is more about injuries and personal demons than hockey failures.

Hagemo’s college career ended prior to the Gophers 2006-07 season when he decided his shoulder, which had been injured the season before, was not healthy enough to allow him to continue to play. But in 2008, Hagemo’s story turned even more tragic when he was arrested on drug charges in Minneapolis. It was Hagemo’s third brush with the law since leaving Minnesota, having been arrested for attempted burglary in 2006 and ticketed in 2007 for refusing a blood alcohol test following an accident.

Hagemo attempted a brief comeback in the summer of 2008 and was invited by Carolina to the team’s summer prospect conditioning camp. But stints with a couple ECHL teams were brief and Hagemo is now out of hockey.

Joe Barnes, C, Saskatoon (WHL) — 3rd round, 64th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Barnes’ biggest contribution to the Canes came when he was dealt to the Rangers as part of a package that brought center Matt Cullen back to Carolina in the summer of 2007. At the time of the trade, Barnes was the Hurricanes largest forward prospect in a mostly shallow roster pool.

While Barnes’ size made him intriguing, he was never able to make headway as a prospect, playing a total of just 33 games in the AHL and ECHL through 2008-09. He was out of hockey this season.

Jakub Vojta, D, HC Sparta Praha Jr. (Czech Jr.) — 4th round, 94th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Czech defenseman did exactly what every NHL team wants to see a European prospect doing after being drafted: come to North America. Vojta spent two seasons with the 67’s, but returned to Europe for the 2007-08 season following a disappointing second OHL season. Carolina did not sign him after two years and lost his rights. Vojta returned to Europe and played in Slovakia and now plays in the Czech league.

Ondrej Otcenas, C, Trencin (Slovak Jr.) — 4th round, 123rd overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

For its second pick in the fourth round, Carolina went to the other half of the former Czechoslovakia to select Otcenas, a forward from Slovakia. Following his selection, Otcenas also came to North America and played for the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers — whose owner, Peter Karmanos Jr., also owns the Hurricanes. But Otcenas’ time in North America was brief: he had just 11 points in 50 games in 2005-06 with the Whalers and then returned to Europe and continues to play there. He played the majority of this past season with HKM Zvolen of the Slovakian league.

Timothy Kunes, D, New England Jr. Falcons (EJHL) — 5th round, 145th overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Kunes finished his first professional season this year, playing with the ECHL’s Trenton Devils after the Hurricanes opted to not sign him after he completed his four-year career at Boston College. Kunes was a role player on the hockey powerhouse’s blueline, winning a national championship with the Eagles in 2008.

After not producing much offense in college (a combined six goals and 22 assists for 28 points in four years), Kunes had a solid first season in Trenton, scoring seven goals and adding 31 assists for 38 points in 72 games, good enough to make him the Devils top-scoring defenseman in 2009-10.

While he’s still a long shot to make the NHL, the 23-year-old took his first steps this year.

Risto Korhonen, D, Karpat Jrs. (Finland) — 5th round, 159th overall
Status: NHL bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Korhonen plays a straightforward style — tough and hard — and when he fell all the way into the fifth-round Carolina took a chance on him in an effort to add more grit to their blueline. But Korhonen never left his native Finland. He joined SM-liiga the season after his selection and still plays there. Since Carolina was unable to sign him, they longer retain his rights.

Nicolas Blanchard, LW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) — 6th round, 192nd overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Blanchard is one of just two players from this draft still in the Carolina system, and he’s the highest drafted of the two despite being a sixth-rounder. He just completed his third full season with Carolina’s AHL affiliate in Albany and has emerged as a big, physical forward and willing fighter.

Blanchard was one of the most seriously injured players in the 2009 River Rats bus crash, but bounced back this season to register career highs in goals (14), penalty minutes (171) and games played (76). He just completed his entry-level contract with Carolina and needs to be re-signed this offseason to remain in the system.

Kyle Lawson, D, U.S. NTDP — 7th round, 198th overall
Status: NHL prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Any time a seventh-round pick earns a professional contract with the team that selected him, it’s a small victory. After four years at Notre Dame helping coach Jeff Jackson build the Irish into a national power, Lawson enters his professional career as the definition of a success story. He spent his four seasons overshadowed by more acclaimed defenseman like Ian Cole and Ted Ruth, but it was Lawson who was the glue that held together the Fighting Irish blueline.

There’s not much flash to Lawson’s game and, while stocky, his 5’11 frame is undersized for an NHL prospect. But his ability to play a smart, simple game and contribute in any situation makes the 23-year-old a project worth watching in Charlotte — the new home of the Hurricanes’ AHL afiiliate next season — going forward.