Hurricanes 2005 draft preview

By Glen Jackson

Hurricanes Top 10 Prospects

1. Cam Ward, G
2. Andrew Ladd, LW
3. Kevin Nastiuk, G
4. Danny Richmond, D
5. Justin Peters, G
6. Rob Zepp, G
7. Mike Zigomanis, C
8. Chad LaRose, RW
9. Casey Borer, D
10. Brett Carson, D

The Carolina Hurricanes definitely could have benefited from the PR boost of winning the draft lottery and with it center Sidney Crosby. Unfortunately for Karmanos and company that would not be, but the third pick overall should continue to improve the team’s below average prospect depth following a fairly successful draft in 2004.

Team Needs

Assuming all restricted free agents are signed, the Hurricanes roster for the upcoming season has an aging defensive corps. If Brad Fast can rebound from a horrible 2004-05 season in the minors he might be able to step in. Fast played his NHL debut on the final game of the 2003-04 season. He began the 2004-05 season as captain of the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters, but was later demoted to the ECHL. Danny Richmond is another blueliner who might be able to make the jump to the NHL depending on how he does in camp. Richmond is coming off a good rookie season with Lowell.

The ‘Canes have a decent group of forwards, but there are a number of signings still to be done such as Justin Williams, Erik Cole and Radim Vrbata. Jeff O’Neill does not expect to be tendered an offer and has made public statements last week about wishing to sign with another team. And perhaps 2004 pick Andrew Ladd will get the same opportunity that Eric Staal did in 2003-04 and join the team directly from junior.

Organizational Strengths

The Hurricanes possess one of the best goaltending prospects in Cam Ward, who is coming off a superb rookie AHL season and will likely back up Martin Gerber in 2004-05. After Ward on the depth chart are Kevin Nastiuk, Justin Peters, Rob Zepp, Craig Kowalski, and Magnus Akerlund, all in Carolina’s top 15 prospects.

Outside of goal, the ‘Canes have a few blue chip prospects such as last year’s No. 4 overall pick Ladd and defenseman Richmond. Right wing Chad LaRose, and defensemen Casey Borer and Brett Carson also show great promise, but the only significant strength in the Hurricanes’ system is in goal.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Hurricanes lack any real prospect depth and, even worse, only a few potential future NHL’ers outside of the crease.

Aside from those goaltenders, the ‘Canes could use the best skaters available at any position. With the snaking lottery format, they will have a long wait between their first and second round picks, however there is a chance they might trade down to secure more early picks in the draft.

Draft Tendencies

Two of the most significant, even signature, draft tendencies of the Carolina Hurricanes are that they select at least one goalie and sometimes two in every draft, and that they usually take one if not more players from the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, a team that shares owners with the Hurricanes. Almost 11 percent of Hurricanes picks dating back to the team’s first draft in 1997 have been from Plymouth.

The 2004 draft was a good one again for goaltending and they took Justin Peters in the second round and Magnus Akerlund in the fifth. Although the 2005 draft does not abound in goalies, don’t be surprised if they take at least one more at some point in Ottawa, but it would most likely be a late-rounder.

A look Plymouth’s roster reveals a possible later round pick of left wing James Neal or right wing Dan Collins, who were both ranked in the 20’s by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. A pick of defenseman Ryan McGinnis, or the Whalers’ backup goaltender Justin Garay, could be in the cards as well.

The Hurricanes tend to select North American players over Europeans. Almost 57 percent of their picks have been from the CHL, compared to the NHL average of 50.6 percent (dating back to 1969), and 18.5 percent are from US colleges which is also well above the NHL average.

Although there is a chance that the ‘Canes take WHL center Gilbert Brule, or big OHL winger Bobby Ryan, they are perhaps most likely to take Benoit Pouliot, a rookie for the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves who impressed scouts in 2004-05. If Anaheim elects to pass over defenseman Jack Johnson, then expect the ‘Canes to take the aggressive and gifted blueliner.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Benoit Pouliot, LW

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