The 2019-20 NHL season finally ended Monday night — more than three months after it was initially supposed to conclude — with the Tampa Bay Lightning claiming their second Stanley Cup. While next season’s start is still not set in stone, the league will begin its 2020-21 calendar with the NHL Draft on Oct. 6-7.
Initially planned to be held in Montreal, the draft will be done virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. That could minimize the usual wheeling and dealing, which usually takes place on the draft floor in plain view, though several teams have had more than six months to map out their offseason and others have salary cap issues to figure out.
The Carolina Hurricanes will enter the draft — which will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. with the first round and have Rounds 2-7 the following day — armed with eight draft picks, including the 13th overall pick and two selections in the second round.
While Carolina shipped out its own first (22nd overall) to the Rangers — who landed the first overall pick as well — in the trade that brought defenseman Brady Skjei to Raleigh, it will pick 13th thanks to the deal with cap-strapped Toronto during last year’s draft that sent Patrick Marleau — who was subsequently bought out — and 2020 first- and seventh-round picks to the Hurricanes in exchange for a sixth-round pick.
Carolina also has the Rangers’ second-round pick — 41st overall, from the Adam Fox trade — to go with their 53rd overall pick, along with one in the third (69th), fourth (115th) and fifth (140th) and two in the seventh (199th, 208th).
Last year, the Hurricanes selected 12 players, led by first-round pick Ryan Suzuki and goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov and forward Jamieson Rees in the second round.
The name most tied to Carolina leading into the draft is another Russian goalie, Yaroslav Askarov. While Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic — the same junior team that once featured Sidney Crosby — is the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick, no player has created more of a buzz than Askarov.
The 6-foot-3 Omsk native is the consensus top goalie in the draft and ranked the 10th-best player overall in the NSJ Top 100 NHL Draft Rankings.
Would Carolina try and solidify its uncertainties in net by picking Askarov at 13th overall?
Just one goalie was taken in the first round a year ago — Florida selected Spencer Knight, also with the No. 13 pick — and only six goalies total have gone in the opening round since 2009. Of those six, only Jack Campbell (11th overall in 2010) has gone higher than the 13th slot the Hurricanes will select in, and you have to go back to 2005 — when Montreal selected Carey Price fifth overall — for a goalie to go in the top 10.
Askarov might be worth it. The last two Russian goalies to go in the first round have proven to be worth the risk, with Tampa Bay taking Andrei Vasilevskiy with the 19th pick in 2012 and Washington choosing Ilya Samsonov at No. 22 in 2015.
While an 18-year-old goalie would still be years away from contributing at the NHL level, Askarov is already proving he can hold his own against men — in his first three KHL games this season, he boasts a 0.74 goals-against average and .974 save percentage with SKA St. Petersburg.
Of course, it’s possible Askarov won’t be there when Carolina picks at 13. So where could the Hurricanes go from there?
Owner Tom Dundon has said on the record that the team will not be selecting defensemen in the first round under his watch, so that means Carolina would be looking at forwards with their pick.
The Hurricanes could certainly use more help at right wing, and Jack Quinn (NSJ No. 11) fits the mold of a Carolina pick — an ultra-skilled and smart player who is competitive, though there are some concerns about his skating. Quinn had 89 points for the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s last season, including 52 goals, which ranked second in the OHL.
There’s also Seth Jarvis (NSJ No. 15), who piled up 98 points — including 42 goals — in just 58 games for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks last season. Like Quinn, he’s skilled and smart, but he also adds high-end skating to his repertoire. Another hard-working player, Jarvis makes up for his 5-foot-10 frame with his compete level.
And just in case Dundon was throwing up a smokescreen, there’s defenseman Jake Sanderson (NSJ No. 9), whose father, Geoff, starred for the Hartford Whalers in the 1990s. Sanderson, who played for the U.S. National Team Development Program, is a smooth-skating and rangy defender who fits the mold of a Carolina defenseman.
Draft Prospect spotlight
Yaroslav Askarov, G
6’3, 176 pounds • SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
The clear-cut top goalie in the draft, Askarov combines size and athleticism with the confidence needed to become a No. 1 goalie.
NSJ Rank: 10 (No. 1 goalie)
What they’re saying
The Hockey News: “One of the best goaltending prospects in years.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “I think he will become an upper-echelon goalie in the NHL.”
Craig Button, TSN: “He has completely dominated his age group time and time again.”
Jack Quinn, RW
6’, 179 pounds • Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Quinn’s big numbers could be skewed by the fact he’s the oldest player in this year’s draft who is eligible for the first time. Still, scoring 50-plus goals as an 18-year-old is impressive.
NSJ Rank: 11
What they’re saying
The Hockey News: “Quinn evolved into one of the OHL’s deadliest attackers.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “A super skilled and smart player who scored a lot of goals around the net.”
Craig Button, TSN: “I think he’s the best goal scorer available in the 2020 NHL Draft.”
Seth Jarvis, C/RW
5’9½, 179 pounds • Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
A hard-working and intelligent player, Jarvis is small by old NHL standards but fits the current era by being elusive and hard to hit — and scoring a ton.
NSJ Rank: 15
What they’re saying
The Hockey News: “He uses his smarts to avoid putting himself in a position to take a beating.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “The high-end pace of his game is what makes him so dangerous and will translate to higher levels.”
Craig Button, TSN: “I think he’s going to be a real top-end producer in the National Hockey League.