Three players to watch at the NHL Draft

The draft's top-rated forward looks like he's coming to Carolina, and the Hurricanes could also potentially target a homegrown talent

Tyler Weiss is from Raleigh and has played the past two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan. (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey)

The Carolina Hurricanes hold seven picks heading into this weekend’s NHL Draft. Carolina will pick second overall thanks to winning one of the top three spots in the draft lottery. The Hurricanes’ picks then revert back to the 11th spot in each round, with the exception of picks the team has traded or acquired. Carolina has its own picks in the following rounds: second (42nd overall), fourth (104th), sixth (166th) and seventh (197th). The team also has Arizona’s fourth-round selection (96th) — acquired in the May trade that sent its third-round pick and Marcus Kruger to the Coyotes for Jordan Martinook — and Vegas’ seventh-round pick (216th) — acquired along with defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk for a second-round pick last June. Carolina sent its fifth-round pick to the Golden Knights for Kruger last offseason.

Here are three players to watch at this weekend’s draft. Also, check out NSJ’s NHL Draft Top 100 Draft Prospects.

Andrei Svechnikov • RW, 6-2, 192 pounds • NSJ’s No. 2 draft prospect

The worst-kept secret of the 2018 NHL Draft is that the Buffalo Sabres will take Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall selection. The Hurricanes picking Andrei Svechnikov at No. 2 is probably second on the “no duh” scale.

It would take a monstrous package to wrestle the pick from Carolina GM Don Waddell, and the reason is simple: Svechnikov a superstar talent. The Russian-born winger tore up the Ontario Hockey League last season, scoring 40 goals in 44 games — plus five more in eight playoff games — for the Barrie Colts in being named the OHL Rookie of the Year.

He’s the consensus No. 2 player in the draft, brushing aside early competition from fellow wingers Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, and emerging center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and should slide right into a top-nine spot on any NHL roster as an 18-year-old.

His brother, Evgeny, is a highly touted Red Wings prospect, but the younger Svechnikov combines size, strength, speed and skill like few draft-eligible forwards of the last decade. As soon as the No. 2 envelope was opened and revealed the Hurricanes’ logo, Svechnikov was the guy. He should be on Friday night as well — and for years to come in Raleigh.

Mattias Samuelsson • D, 6-4, 218 pounds • NSJ’s No. 28 draft prospect

The signing last week of Swiss defender Michael Roma — all 6-foot-4, 214 pounds of him — showed the Hurricanes are going to be true to their word of becoming tougher to play against. It would take a bit of a slide for Samuelsson, NSJ’s No. 28 draft prospect, to fall to the Hurricanes at 42nd — or a trade up in the second round — but he fits the mold of what the Hurricanes need to add on defense.

For all the talk of Carolina having one of the best young defense corps in the NHL, outside of 2016 13th overall pick Jake Bean, there’s not a lot of depth in the blue line prospect pipeline. Samuelsson, who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program the last two years, is a stay-at-home defender with a bit of the snarl that’s been lacking on the Hurricanes’ defense for much of the team’s nine-season playoff drought.

The son of longtime NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson (not related to former Charlotte coach Ulf), Mattias has NHL bloodlines and is headed to Western Michigan this fall to play alongside brother Lukas for former NHL coach Andy Murray. Samuelsson’s 80.75-inch wingspan ranked fourth, and he had the third-longest run on the dreaded VO2 Max test at the NHL Combine.

Tyler Weiss • LW, 5-10½, 150 pounds • NSJ’s No. 85 draft prospect

The Hurricanes have shown in the past they’re not averse to making a sentimental decision — see drafting Josh Wesley in 2014 and trading for Jared Staal in 2010. It’s a new regime under owner Tom Dundon, but it doesn’t get more feel-good than possibly selecting a Raleigh-born player.

There’s no doubt Weiss, who is graded as a third- or fourth-round pick by most scouting services and headed to Nebraska-Omaha in the fall, has the skill and work ethic to be an NHL player. The concern is his size: At less than 6 feet and the third-lightest player weighted at the NHL Combine, Weiss is small.

He’s also been overshadowed on the U.S National Team Development Program by fellow 2018 draft prospect Oliver Wahlstrom and 2019 first overall frontrunner Jack Hughes, but Weiss has had his moments. His goal from behind the net with 86 seconds that erased a two-goal third-period deficit against Russia at the U-18 Five Nations Tournament, vaulting the NTDP to the gold medal game. Team USA lost that game to Finland, 3-2, but Weiss assisted on both goals.

The Hurricanes don’t have a third-round pick heading into the weekend, but with fourth-round picks at 96th and 104th, the team could bring Weiss home.