Hurricanes Draft Preview

By Kirk Pedersen
Dating back to their days in Hartford, the franchise hasn’t always been the best drafting team in NHL History.
Nobody is perfect, but the list of first-round blunders in the Whalers/Canes history is rather long.

It all began back in 1979. The former New England Whalers were just out of the crumbled World Hockey Association, and looking to make a name for themselves in the NHL.

With their first pick in franchise history, they selected smallish WHL scoring ace Ray Allison. On the surface, it looked like an airtight pick; Allison had been among the top scorers in the WCHL (now WHL) for three years, and there wasn’t much to suggest that he wouldn’t be a solid point producer for the Whalers in the future, Right?

Unfortunately, wrong. Allison was never able to achieve his full potential with the Hartford organization. He was dealt to Philadelphia in 1982 after only two full seasons in the organization, and topped out at 54 points, with the ’81-’82 Flyers.

Also a part of that deal was the Whalers first-rounder the next season, Fred Arthur. Arthur, a big, hulking defenseman from the Cornwall Royals of the OMJHL, racked up 75 points in his final season of junior. (5g, 70(!)a) He, too looked like a foolproof pick, but many didn’t believe his offensive prowess at the junior level would transfer on to the pro level. He, as previously mentioned, was a part of that big deal that sent fellow then-Whalers-prospect Ray Allison to Philly. Arthur would never realize his potential at the NHL level. He retired after the ’82-83 season, only amassing a lonely nine points in eighty NHL games with Hartford and Philadelphia.

But enough with the old, it’s time for the new!

The Hurricanes have a bit of a need on defense, being that the only legitimate defensive prospect that they have, besides David Tanabe, who is now in the NHL, is Nikos Tselios.

Tselios, who is related to Detroit blueliner Chris Chelios, plays a game which resembles Chris’. He is big (6’4″ 190), and has decent offensive skills, but probably won’t score much in the NHL.

With that being said, however, the ‘Canes need some help on defense going into the upcoming draft. That being said, I’m not too high on Jean-Marc Pelletier as the goaltender of the future in Carolina, so some depth in goal is a must.

When the #15 pick rolls around, you might expect to hear could be Carlo Colaiacovo. He really poured it on towards the end of his season with the Erie Otters of the OHL, and, is currently ranked number ten out of all the North American skaters. He is skilled offensively, racking up 39 points (12g, 27a) in sixty-two games with the Otters this past season. He’s also a pretty decent defender who you’d want out there in the dying moments of a game, to try and hold on to a lead. A safe pick at #15, if he is still around.

The Canes are also in need of a power forward. A guy who can barrel to the front of the net with reckless abandon, they showed in the playoffs that they need that kind of player. R.J. Umberger would be a steal at #15. The Ohio State Buckeye centreman was named the CCHA’s rookie of the year in 2000-01, and with good reason. Umberger put up 36 points (14g, 22a) in 33 games for Ohio State. The one downside is that scouts want him to get more involved physically.

Tim Gleason is a gamble, if he’s left at #15. He’s an excellent skater with good acceleration and great balance. He loves to play physical, and has a bit of an offensive touch (8g, 28a) in 47 games with the Jason Spezza-led Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Unfortunately, he runs around a lot in his own zone, and he has poor hockey sense. When he gets to the NHL, he probably won’t be a top three D, but I think his upside is too much to pass up at 15.

If you want to go with a solid, two-way defenseman from the OHL, then look no further than Mark Popovic. I wouldn’t say that the St. Mike’s Majors defenseman has a lot of offensive skill, but in my opinion, he is the best defensive-defenseman available in the Draft. He’ll probably still be there at 15, and I think that he’ll be an idiot-proof pick, if he lives up to his billing.

As far as goaltenders go, Pascal Leclaire, Michael Garnett, and Andrei Medvedev will most likely all be available when the ‘Canes step up to the podium at 15. Leclaire could go early, just because of his upside, which is just about unlimited at this point. Medvedev has a chronic weight problem, and he will probably slip into later in the second round as a result, but he’d be a good pick for the ‘Canes in round two.