The Carolina Hurricanes traded away their first-round pick Friday night during the 2021 NHL Draft, grabbing two second-rounders for the final six rounds on Saturday. It wasn’t the only pick swap the team’s front office made during the two-day virtual event, and while the team didn’t select in the first round for the first time since 2012, it got a bit of everything with its staggering 13 selections.
Carolina of course added more Finns to its prospect pool, selected three goalies for the first time in franchise history, infused its mostly barren blueline stockpile with three players in the first 100 picks and then a fourth, and even drafted the sons of two NHL players.
Oh, and they even took a guy named Bobby Orr.
For now, the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft will be best remembered for all of the trades Carolina made.
While there were surely efforts to improve the team’s NHL roster during the two-day draft, the Hurricanes traded down five times on Saturday, accumulating four extra 2021 picks by moving down the draft board. Toss in a second-round selection acquired from Columbus in exchange for defenseman Jake Bean, and Carolina added a baker’s dozen to its prospect pool, plus an extra third-round pick in 2022.
“We went into the draft with the strategy that we wanted to get as many picks as we possibly can accumulate,” GM Don Waddell said, “because we’re going to miss a lot of guys this year. A lot of people are, but you’re going to hit up some guys too. And the more picks you have, the better your odds are that some of these guys are going to become very good NHL players.”
Armed with the 40th and 44th picks in Round 2, Carolina added two defensemen.
First, the Hurricanes drafted UMass-bound right-handed defenseman Scott Morrow (ranked 48th in North State Journal’s list of the draft’s top 100 prospects), an offensive-minded defender from Minnesota.
“Probably one of the most skilled players in this draft and that’s not including the defenseman,” said assistant general Darren Yorke, who oversees the team’s amateur scouting.”
Morrow described himself as an all-situations defenseman.
“It all starts with my skating,” he said, “being a 6-foot-2, smooth scanning defenseman who can contribute on both ends of the ice. I can move the puck. I can run a power play. I can play in the penalty kill, play in any situation.”
Four picks later, Carolina chose the first of two consecutive Finns, selecting Aleksi Heimosalmi (NSJ 55). Heimosalmi was named the top defenseman at the World U18s, finishing with eight points in seven games for Finland.
Yorke said Heimosalmi is “another sort of those offensive defenseman but also that doesn’t really sacrifice any defensive play.”
The Hurricanes then chose the first of five forwards they would take in the draft, selecting Finnish winger Ville Koivunen (NSJ 49). The creative Koivunen led Karpat’s U20 team in scoring last season, though there are strides that need to be taken defensively.
“To get somebody with that has about as high a compete as anyone probably in the draft with the same type of offensive skills … Harri Aho (manager of Karpat and Sebastian Aho’s father) just raved about his character.”
With their fourth pick and first third-rounder, the Hurricanes selected goaltender Patrik Hamrla from the Czech Republic — the first of three goalies the team took on the draft’s second day. Carolina also selected Nikita Quapp from Germany (sixth round, 187th overall) and Yegor Naumov from Russia (seventh round, 200th overall).
“It’s someone that you know both (goalie coach) Paul Schonfelder and (goalie development coach Jason Muzzatti) were really excited about,” Yorke said, “and (that) sort of led into this trend here with some of the other goalie selections.”
The Hurricanes also tapped into some NHL bloodlines, drafting forwards Jackson Blake (NSJ 77) — the son of former Islanders 40-goal scorer Jason Blake — and Justin Robidas (NSJ 61) — the son of tenacious defenseman Stephane Robidas — in the fourth and fifth round, respectively.
Yorke called Blake “incredibly smart” and Robidas “incredibly competitive,” saying both play and see the game on high levels.
Between those picks, Carolina took another familiar name: Robert Orr (NSJ 99). A right wing with Halifax of the QMJHL, Orr has no relation to the famed Bruins defenseman, but he did put up good offensive numbers in his first season with the Mooseheads (15 goals, 32 points in 41 games).
The Hurricanes closed out their draft with another sixth-round pick — big London Knights defenseman Bryce Montgomery — and two more overseas picks in the seventh round — center Nikita Guslistov and defenseman Joel Nystrom.