Hurricanes 2004 draft preview

By Glen Jackson

Carolina Draft Preview

Hurricanes Top 10

1. Cam Ward, G
2. Magnus Kahnberg, LW
3. Mike Zigomanis, C
4. Danny Richmond, D
5. Patrick DesRochers, G
6. Tomas Kurka, LW
7. Aaron Dawson, D
8. Kevin Nastiuk, G
9. Brett Lysak, C
10. Matej Trojovsky, D

Team Needs


As would be expected for a team that has finished out
of the playoffs two consecutive seasons, the needs of the Carolina Hurricanes
are not difficult to identify: offense.


The primary thing they could use is a big, offensively
gifted forward, preferably a right wing or center. In 2002-03 the ‘Canes had a league-worst 171 goals for. In 2003-04 they again had the worst
offensive output in the league, with a meager 172 goals scored.


For the most part, the Hurricanes system is filled
with forwards who are smallish and who play a good two-way game, and so scoring
or size would be areas they should look at.


Another gap is on defense, especially compared to a
year ago when the skilled but arguably disappointing David Tanabe, and the
defensive defenseman Igor Knyazev
were traded for Danil Markov at the 2003 Entry Draft, who was then subsequently
traded for Justin Williams. This
defensive need is compounded by the uncertainty of both Glen Wesley and Sean
Hill’s future with the Hurricanes (both are unrestricted free agents).




With Cam Ward
now inked to a contract, Rob Zepp
coming off a strong playoff with the Kelly Cup (ECHL) runner-up Florida
Everblades, big Patrick DesRochers as
the clear Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL) starter, and a number of other decent
goaltending prospects, goaltending is a definite strength for the
Hurricanes. The Hurricanes will likely
not take advantage of the many good goaltenders available this year.


The Hurricanes system is also laden with good two-way
forwards such as Tomas Kurka, Brett Lysak, Ryan Rorabeck and Damian
. They might not all be all
that large, but they’re a hard working bunch who have done fairly well below
the NHL level.


Overall, the franchise has decent depth players in all
positions and can look at this draft to build on that.




Obviously the lack of scoring with the Hurricanes and
their prospects is a concern. But it
could still be argued that players like Ryan Bayda and Michael Zigomanis might step up their production in the NHL given a
little more time to develop. Pavel Brendl had a good run in both the AHL and
NHL in 2003-04 until he suffered a broken collarbone. If the Hurricanes had any scoring phenoms in the system it would
perhaps not seem like such a glaring shortfall, but only Magnus Kahnberg is a potential bright spot for the franchise in
that respect. That’s not to say that
the ‘Canes don’t have a lot of other good young forwards who show potential,
especially as two-way forwards, but almost all of those forwards who did well
at one level fell flat at the next one above in 2003-04. Zigomanis and Bayda both came up with
disappointing numbers in their second audition with the ‘Canes after decent
showings with the Lock Monsters. Chad Larose exhibited a lot of promise
with the Everblades, earning 36 points through 45 games, but his promotion to
the Lock Monsters lasted 36 games and he only produced 16 points; and he and
graduated prospect Brendl were the best of the lot.


This lack of scoring from prospects stands out as the
team’s biggest weakness with deficiency of size up front a close second. There are some big players in the system
such as Brad DeFauw and Shay Stephenson, but they aren’t really
capable of being much more than AHL role players.


Along with missing an impact forward, the ‘Canes are a
little thin on the blueline. Danny Richmond or Brad Fast might one day be able to fill Tanabe’s originally
anticipated role with the team, but neither is a lock to do so. Perhaps a more pressing need is a solid
two-way defenseman. The team has a
number of second-tier defensive prospects who might one day fill regular spots
on the blueline such as 22-year-old Tomas
, and 19-year-olds Matej
and Aaron Dawson, but
the overall system is lacking top-three defensive talent.




Last week it was announced that the Hurricanes elected
to not renew the contract of Willy Lindstrom, the team’s only full-time scout
of amateur talent in Europe. The ‘Canes
already had the smallest amateur scouting crew in the NHL, with just four
full-timers, but GM Jim Rutherford claimed that those four could pick up the
slack created by Lindstrom’s departure by focusing on just the European
tournaments. The impact of the
Lindstrom release won’t make a huge impact for the team however, as they have
rarely dipped into the European pool under Rutherford to begin with, selecting
only 12 since 1997, or 21 percent of their picks in that time. Most of those European picks have come in
the mid to late rounds but there have been exceptions to this tendency, most
notably in 2000 when their first pick of the draft was used to take Kurka in
the second round, and in 2001 when their first round pick was Knyazev. However, in the last two drafts they have
made only two European-born picks total.
Goalie Daniel Manzato and
Trojovsky were both taken in the mid-rounds, and both had played in the CHL
starting in 2001-02, or before they were drafted by the Hurricanes.


Besides focusing on North American players, the Hurricanes
have also taken a defenseman in either the first or second round of the draft
with just one exception dating back to 1997.
That was in 2000 when they had no first round choice and they didn’t
take a blueliner until the fourth round (Niclas Wallin). Otherwise, they have three each of first and
second round selected defensemen since the Whalers became the Hurricanes.


If a top four or five forward is present when the
Hurricanes get on the clock with their eighth overall pick on draft day, expect
that to be the way they go, otherwise look for them to select an offensive or
two-way defenseman who will not be too far away from playing in the NHL. That’s something they have tried to find in
three of their seven drafts. Cam Barker, if he somehow drops that
far, or A.J. Thelen would both be
possibilities in that order, keeping in mind that the ‘Canes select CHL or
college players with the majority of their picks, and that might keep them from
giving Andrej Meszaros or Ladislav Smid a shot.


A final tendency for the franchise is to select at
least one goalie in every draft. The
only time they didn’t was in 1997. A
number of teams do try their luck with keepers late in the draft, and Anttii Jokela is one of those gambles
that still have a chance to pay off for the Hurricanes. He was an eighth round pick in 1999 and is
still playing in Europe.


Player most
likely to be taken with first selection
(Hockey’s Future staff mock draft
result): Lauri Tukonen, RW