Hurricanes focus on forwards, goal in second day of draft

Eight of Carolinas nine total picks come from North America

In the 2016 NHL Draft, the Hurricanes selected Julien Gauthier, center, with the second of two first-round picks. (Timothy T. Ludwig/—Reuters)

BUFFALO, N.Y. —— The Hurricanes may have used their top pick Friday on defenseman Jake Bean, but Carolina’s focus shifted to the rest of the lineup after that, with the team selecting five forwards, two goalies and just one other defenseman with their other eight selections at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y.

Other than their second round pick, forward Janne Kuokkanen, the Hurricanes looked to North America to stock their prospect cupboards: six of the team’s nine selections came from Canada, with the other two, both left wings, being college-bound American prospects.

Carolina took big forward Julien Gauthier with their second first round pick, 21st overall, Friday, then added a Finn in Kuokkanen with the first of seven picks Saturday.

Kuokkanen, a 6-foot, 175-pound center/left wing, spent most of last season with Finnish League team Karpat’s Under-20 team where had 22 goals and 31 assists. He will likely join Karpat’s top team —— where Hurricanes’ top prospect Sebastian Aho terrorized Liiga —— next season. He is a jack-of-all-trades offensive player who can be a setup man or score when needed.

Carolina had three third round pucks and opted to use them all, taking two forwards and the first of two goalies they selected. Left wing Matt Filipe (6’1, 198 pounds) went first at 67th overall and is committed to Northeastern University this fall. He had 19 goals and 17 assists in 56 games with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders last year. Filipe is Massachusetts native, and scouting reports point to him being an “intense” player who plays well in front of the net. He ranked in the top 25 of five of the 15 tests at the NHL Scouting Combine.

With the first of two straight picks, Carolina went big again with 6’4, 200-plus pound WHL center Hudson Elynuik at No. 74. Elynuik had 19 goals and 25 assists in 56 games with Spokane last year, and his father, Pat, was the eight overall pick by Winnipeg back in 1986. A Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native, Elynuik combines size and work ethic to project as a third-liner who could contribute offensively.

Goaltender Jack Lafontaine went next at No. 75. The 6’3, 197-pound goalie played for Janesville in the NAHL last season and will be a freshman at the University of Michigan this fall. He’s the nephew of former 40-goal scorer Brian Bradley, but has instead made his name stopping pucks. He could compete for the No. 1 job with the Wolverines in 2016-17.

In the fourth round, Carolina took USHL left wing Max Zimmer with the 104th overall pick. Zimmer, listed at 6-foot, 189 pounds, is set to go to Wisconsin in the fall of 2017. The Minnesota native had 16 goals and 21 assists in 55 games with the Chicago Steel last season, and his best attribute is his skating. He should return to the Steel in 2016-17.

In taking Jeremy Helvig with the 134th overall pick in Round 5, Carolina selected two goalies in a draft for the fifth time in team history. Helvig (6’3, 195 pounds) played the last two seasons with Kingston of the OHL behind Lucas Peressini, but seized the No. 1 job and was drafted after being passed over in his first year of eligibility at last year’s draft. Helvig was 19-3-1 with a .929 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average last season, and he won three of four decisions in the playoffs for the Frontenacs.

With their final pick at the draft, Carolina finally went back to the defense by taking Guelph’s Noah Carroll. Carroll, an Ontario native, was stuck on the OHL’s worst team last season, but the 6’1, 178-pound defenseman logged big minutes for the Storm. He had 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 67 games last season, his second in the OHL.