The Carolina Hurricanes were armed with nine picks at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and in turn, had many different directions they could move in. Lets take a closer look at the nine players that joined Carolina’s prospect ranks this season.
Jake Bean – D – Calgary Hitmen – First Round, 13th Overall
With a few coveted forward prospects taken just picks before the first of two of Carolina’s first round picks, the Canes went the best player available route. Bean becomes yet another addition to the talented, young defense that is being built in Raleigh. With Justin Faulk (24), Jaccob Slavin(22), Brett Pesce (21), Noah Hanifin (19), Haydn Fleury (19) and Roland McKeown (20) already in the system, Carolina has a wealth of talent (and assets) on the blueline moving into the future.
Bean has the potential to be the best offensive defenseman taken in this draft. As a smooth skater with terrific vision, he is at his best when breaking the puck out of his own zone and transitioning to offense. The Calgary-native thrives with the man advantage, using time and space to set up his linemates for open scoring opportunities. He has the knack to find pockets of space in high-danger areas in order to release his accurate shot.
When returning to the WHL this season, Bean will continue to get stronger and refine the defensive side of his game. He finished among the top-six highest scoring defensemen in the league last season (64 points in 68 games) and there is no reason to believe he won’t improve on that in 2016-17.
Carolina used their second first-round pick, acquired in the 2015 Andrej Sekera deadline deal to select Gauthier, a power forward prospect who possesses a skill set that Canes fans have been clamoring for in recent years. At 6’4” and 225 pounds, Gauthier is a physical freak of an athlete who shows above average skating ability and hands despite his size.
In his last two seasons with Val-d’Or, Gauthier has scored 79 goals in just 122 games. Once viewed as a potential top-five pick, Gauthier’s draft stock fell over the second half of the season as he flat lined a bit from a production standpoint for a fourth place Foreurs team that crashed out of the playoffs in the first round.
He effectively uses his speed and strength to win one-on-one battles with defenders throughout the neutral and offensive zones. Gauthier will prove to be a weapon on the power play, and thrives when talented distributors are able to get him the puck in scoring areas. Given that he has an NHL-ready body and the Canes are lacking a player of his skill set, he should get a long look at camp.
With their second-round pick, GM Ron Francis went back to the well to the Kärpät system that produced their 2015 second-round pick and breakout prospect, Sebastian Aho.
Although Kuokkanen may not prove to have the amount of offensive upside as his Finnish counterpart, he is a strong, two-way forward with a high hockey IQ. Kuokkanen possesses terrific vision, and is at his best when making simple plays to spring his teammates for scoring opportunities through his elite level passing ability. The young forwards’ draft stock was on the rise after his performance in this years U-18 Championships, where he produced seven points in seven games en route to a gold medal finish.
He was drafted in this seasons OHL Import Draft by the London Knights, a team that has churned out NHL talent over the past few seasons, but by all accounts at this point he will be returning to Kärpät to continue his development.
Matt Filipe – F – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders – Third Round, 67th Overall
Lynnfield, Massachusetts native Matt Filipe was drafted with the first of three, third-round picks that the Canes owned. As a rookie in the USHL, he posted 36 points in 56 games and impressed scouts with his combination of size and speed.
Filipe thrives off his skating ability and athleticism at this point and still has many unpolished tools that when refined could make him into a shift disturber and secondary scoring option at the NHL level. He will move on to Northeastern University this fall where he should develop into a solid prospect with a potentially high ceiling for a third-round selection by the time he leaves college for professional hockey.
Hudson Elynuik – F – Spokane Chiefs – Third Round, 74th Overall
With their first of back-to-back picks, Carolina selected Elynuik, a big-bodied center prospect and son of nine-year NHL veteran Pat Elynuik.. The 6’5”, 200-pound pivot is just discovering the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his ability, but does have many raw tools that make him an intriguing prospect moving forward.
Elynuik moves well for his size, and is willing to get to the front of the net for scoring chances. Currently getting by on athleticism, skill and competitiveness, the Saskatoon-native has a lot of room to grow as a hockey player. There were some signs that he started putting it together in the second half of last season finishing at near a point-per-game pace over his final 33 games. He is a player that when he returns to Spokane this season, it will be with added responsibility and opportunity. He could be a sleeper for a breakout season in 2016-17.
Jack LaFontaine – G – Janesville Jets – Third Round, 75th Overall
Carolina scooped up LaFontaine with their third pick of the third-round and he would prove to be their first of two goalies drafted in 2016. After being passed over for a USHL roster spot at the beginning of the season, LaFontaine settled with Janesville in the North American Hockey League. As a rookie netminder, he had a breakout season featuring in 41 games and posting a 24-8-7 record. Among goaltenders that played 40 games, LaFontaine ranked in the top-five in goals against average (2.16) and save percentage (.921) in the NAHL.
LaFontaine is committed to the University of Michigan, and will be on campus in Ann-Arbor starting in the fall.
Max Zimmer – F – Chicago Steel – Fourth Round, 104th Overall
The Hurricanes went back to the USHL for another forward in the fourth round, drafting Max Zimmer, a University of Wisconsin commit. Zimmer’s game is all about speed. He is a strong skater, and he uses his ability to cause problems both on the offensive and defensive sides of the puck.
Considering how the game has shifted to putting such an emphasis on speed and the current makeup of Carolina’s forward prospect group features a number of players with size, Zimmer is a good change of pace. He should continue to round out his game, moving from a strictly north-south player, to one who can play effectively in the offensive zone in a possession system.
Jeremy Helvig – G – Kingston Frontenacs – Fifth Round, 134th Overall
Helvig and fellow 2016 Hurricanes draftee Lafontaine are mirror images of each other physically, both 6’3” and pushing 200 pounds. Carolina likely was able to see Helvig play a good amount this season, since fellow prospects Roland McKeownand Warren Foegele were mainstays in the Kingston lineup.
After taking over the starting job at midseason, Helvig went 19-3-1 with a sparkling 2.13 goals against average. He was not as dominant in the playoffs, losing some time to overager Lucas Peressini when the Frontenacs ran into a red-hot Niagara team in the second round of the OHL playoffs. He should continue to grow his confidence and consistency over the next few seasons.
Carolina took a late-round flier on just their second defenseman of the 2016 draft in Noah Carroll, a player who projects as a two-way project blueliner. With just 14 points and a shocking -48 plus minus rating, it’s questionable if you just look at stats as to why he was drafted in the sixth round. With a deeper look, you can see that Guelph had the fewest points (32) and goals for (156) of any OHL team last season. The Storm played to a shockingly bad -144 goal differential over 68 games.
Like many players at this point in the draft, whether or not they succeed to making the NHL is a coin-flip. Carroll has some of the physical tools that Canes brass like enough to allow him the opportunity to continue to develop and improve as a project moving forward.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect development camp opened Wednesday, July 6th and runs through Saturday, July 9th as a part of the teams annual Summerfest. The full camp roster can be found here.
I will continue to update this as the week goes on, but here are some notes from the first day of camp:
Carolina’s commitment to drafting size and skill shows. This is the biggest and most talented group I have seen come through prospect development camp in the last few seasons. Alex Nedeljkovic is the only drafted player in camp that is not 6’0” or taller.
Another note about Nedeljkovic: It’s easy to see some of the comparisons to Jonathan Quick that have floated around. He is incredibly fluid in net and uses his athleticism and lower body to take away shot angles from shooters and rebounds that should be easy tap-ins. His explosion out to meet rebounds and kick pucks out with authority was evident on day one.
I continue to enjoy watching Roland McKeown play. I posted on Twitter yesterday that he came out with a high-intensity level and his leadership ability really showed. Even though it was a prospect camp practice, he was physical and even slipped in a couple whacks to the hands of opposing forwards early in the session in one-on-ones. He’s a smart player who is positionally sound in all three zones.
Of the Western Hockey League defensemen, Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury were both good on day one. Bean showed some of the skating ability he is known for and seemed comfortable in his first professional practice. Fleury was vocal, and showed leadership qualities on the ice that are important for a player that has been through one of these camps before. I still feel he has another gear he can get to as he continues to develop.
Hudson Elynuik caught my eye a couple times given his combination of size and speed. I feel he’s a player to keep an eye on in Spokane next season, and could have a breakout campaign for the Chiefs.
Warren Foegele continues to bring intangibles to the table that coach’s love. He has good north-south speed and anticipation of the play that could translate into solid bottom-six forward if he makes the NHL. He could thrive in a PK role as well.
Julien Gauther was good, and showcased his elite skill set at times. He has a great shot, and is a player who I believe will shine more in a game setting with talented players around him.
More throughout the week!
Carolina most important piece of business was taken care of on June 15th, when they acquired forwards Teuvo Teravainen and Brian Bickell from the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2016 second-round pick and a 2017 third-round pick. Teravainen will be immediately inserted into the Canes top-nine forward group, and should get more offensive opportunity then he did in Chicago. Bickell will be given the opportunity to perform in a bottom-six role.
Carolina resigned goaltender Cam Ward to a two-year contract, which is more of an indictment of where the staff feels Nedeljkovic is as a prospect then anything. There were trade and free-agent signing possibilities in net, but the Canes chose to go with their known commodity until Nedeljkovic is ready to take over.
As in past years, GM Ron Francis didn’t dive too deeply into the free-agent frenzy choosing to sign forwards Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg to short-term contracts, and defenseman Matt Tennyson to a two-way deal for depth on the blueline.
Business still yet to be finalized:
Number one priority is getting RFA forward Victor Rask signed to a new contract.
RFA defensemen Ryan Murphy will also likely receive a short-term deal to continue his development within the organization.
The Canes could still look to add a top-six forward piece via trade, but have to this point been unwilling to part with one of their young defensemen to do so.
Hope you all enjoyed reading. Feel free to follow me and ask any questions you may have on Twitter @kleblanchockey.
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