July 31 in 31: Carolina Hurricanes

by Kevin LeBlanc on July 6, 2017

2017 Carolina Hurricanes: 

After making trades for goaltender Scott Darling’s rights, and acquiring Trevor van Riemsdyk from Las Vegas following the Expansion Draft, GM Ron Francis and the Hurricanes still had eight selections entering the 2017 NHL Draft weekend. Many, including myself, did not expect the team to draft eight players, rather anticipating the Canes to make use of their pick surplus to add to their roster. Unfortunately, no GM’s were in a dealing mood around the draft and strangely there was less player movement then I can remember in some time in a draft weekend

In turn, Carolina did make use of all their picks, and added depth to their already solid prospect base. Here is a breakdown of their picks (brace yourself, it’s a long one):

Martin Necas: Drafted 1st Round, 12th Overall

Center – Brno (Czech) – 6'1", 178 – 1/15/99

Carolina had a wealth of options with their first round this selection, including best player available, filling a specific position need or trading the pick for roster depth. The decision was nearly made even more interesting given Gabe Vilardi and Owen Tippett’s slide down the draft board who were taken with the two picks ahead of them, but I think the organization got the player they were targeting at 12.  

Necas is all about speed and offensive explosiveness. He is a high IQ, high skill forward who has the makings of a two-way player at the NHL level. Although he will need some time to develop, his ability to drive play with his speed on the rush combined with his agility while in possession should excite Canes fans and fantasy owners for the future. From what I saw of Necas, he reminds me a bit of a Kyle Turris-type who can slot in anywhere in the top nine. The Czech youngster was drafted by Saginaw in the CHL import draft, but it’s not yet known whether he will stay overseas or come to North America in the fall.

Eetu Luostarinen: Drafted 2nd round, 42nd Overall

Center – KalPa (Liiga) – 6'2" 180 – 9/2/98

The Canes decided to target overage players with their wealth of picks, the first of which was Luostarinen, a lanky center from Finland. A bit underrated and off the board given the players who were available around him, the organization trusted European scouts Robert Kron and Joni Pitkanen again after they found Sebastian Aho and Janne Kuokkanen as second rounders in the last two drafts.

Luostarinen has good playmaking ability, and is committed to the defensive side of the puck as an 18-year-old. He split time between KalPa’s U20 team where he was almost a point-per-game player and in Liiga. If the pivot is full time in Liiga next year, he could see a significant jump in point production as he adjusts.

Luke Martin: Drafted 2nd round, 52nd Overall

Defense – University of Michigan (NCAA) – 6'3" 220 – 9/20/98

Martin was a smart, high-floor prospect selected by Carolina with their second, second round pick on Saturday. The tall, big bodied defender played in all situations for Michigan as an 18-year-old in his freshman NCAA season and had to be a steadying presence in what was a sub-par blueline for the Wolverines.

Although his offensive output doesn’t jump off the page at you at this point, Martin will likely increase his scoring as he grows. Likely his real value will be higher than his fantasy value, but I could see him growing into a blocks and hits style defender who chips in with secondary scoring. The Canes have a very similar player in their defensive group right now in Brett Pesce.

Morgan Geekie: Drafted 3rd round, 67th Overall

Center – Tri-City (WHL) – 6'2" 190 – 7/20/98

The second of three overage prospects drafted by the Hurricanes was Geekie, a Tri-City forward who was passed up in his first draft-eligible year. Fortunately, he had a huge year for the Americans and was ranked as one of the best overage players this go-around. 

The Manitoba-native posted a huge jump in points, piling up 90 (35 goals, 55 assists) this season after putting up just 25 in his first draft eligible year. Likely a depth option for the Canes down the road, Geekie will need to continue to develop his offensive arsenal over the next few seasons. He is proficient in the face off circle, and likely can fit a two-way need in the future. 

Stelio Mattheos: Drafted 3rd round, 73rd Overall

Center/Wing – Brandon (WHL) – 6'0" 190 – 6/15/99

Another well-slotted addition was Mattheos, who was taken with the Hurricanes second, third-round pick. The former first overall pick of the WHL's Bantam Draft in 2014, Mattheos has developed a grind-it-out forward who is willing to battle for his ice and has found a propensity for scoring goals from below the circles. 

Mattheos played in a forward group with second overall pick Nolan Patrick when he was healthy and will likely have higher responsibilities in all situations this season. He's a guy who could have good fantasy value for a third rounder in the future, especially in multi-category leagues. 

Eetu Makiniemi: Drafted 4th round, 104th Overall

Goaltender – Jokerit (Liiga) – 6'3" 175 – 4/19/99

Carolina has selected atleast one goaltender in their last four drafts, so they do have some solid depth at the position in their system with Alex Nedeljkovic, Callum Booth, Jeremy Helvig and Jack LaFontaine.  Makineimi adds to that depth, and can be a European development project over the next few years. The lanky netminder was rated as the ninth overall European goaltender and posted good numbers for Jokerit's U20 team a season ago. 

Brendan de Jong: Drafted 6th round, 166th Overall

Defense – Portland (WHL) – 6'5" 195 3/23/98

With their sixth round selection, Carolina took a shot on their third WHL prospect and third overage player of the draft in de Jong. The blueliner projects as a meat and potatoes type defender who has a huge frame at 6'5", with room to grow. At Canes prospect camp, he appeared to be a player who could be a tough, net-front rearguard who likely would provide shot blocks, hits and penalty minutes. Like any sixth rounder, he is still has a long way to go before being fantasy relevant. 

Ville Rasanen: Drafted 7th round, 197th Overall

Defense – Jokipojat – 6'1" 170 10/8/98

Even though he was a seventh rounder, Rasanen is a prospect that Canes brass was very excited about when discussing their draft class. They feel he has many of the tools needed to be a productive player, just may have been a prospect that others did not get to see a lot of playing for Jokipojat in the lower levels of Finnish hockey. This season we will see more about what type of player he can be as he makes the jump to Liiga for Jukurit. 

 

Off-Season Changes: 

In: Scott Darling, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Justin Williams, Josh Jooris, Marcus Kruger, Brenden Kichton, Keegan Kanzig, Zack Stortini, Nick Schilkey, Martin Ouellette, Jeremy Smith

Out: Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy, Matt Tennyson, Jay McClement, Brian Bickell, Michael Leighton, Danny Kvisto, Andrei Nestrasil, Erik Karlsson, Daniel Altshuller

 

It's a huge year for Canes prospects, as Nicolas Roy, Janne Kuokkanen, Warren Foegele, Julien Gauthier, Steven Lorentz and Callum Booth all will turn professional, and Aleksi Saarela, Roland McKeown, Haydn Fleury and Valentin Zykov will push for a spot with the NHL club over the course of the season. With the Canes pushing for a playoff spot in 2017-18, the Checkers should also be much improved in the AHL and looking for make the postseason for the second straight season 

 

Canes development camp took place last week, and you can find a good write up from @CanesandCoffee here.

 

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my updates at @kleblanchockey on Twitter.