No 1st-rounder but plenty of intrigue for Hurricanes at this week’s draft

Carolina isn’t set to pick until 60th overall, but the team could still use the two days in Montreal to reshape its roster

Slovakia's Juraj Slafkovsky, No. 3 in NSJ's 2022 NHL Draft Rankings, could be the first name called on Thursday night at the NHL Draft in Montreal. (Matt Slocum / AP Photo)

The Hurricanes didn’t select a player in the first round at last year’s draft, the first time since 2012 Carolina had to wait until the second day to make a pick.

Unless something changes before Thursday night in Montreal, the Hurricanes again won’t make a draft pick until Day 2 on Friday.

That is because of last summer’s offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, which the Canadiens chose not to match and thus received Carolina’s first- and third-round selections in exchange for the former third overall pick.

But the Hurricanes still come into the weekend armed with some draft capital. Their first pick is scheduled for 60th overall in Round 2 followed by their second choice 11 picks later, the 71st overall pick acquired when they send the 90th pick to Chicago at last year’s draft.

It was one of six trades Carolina made during last year’s draft, taking a cue from the New England Patriots and trading down several times while accumulating more picks to select 13 players — the most in franchise history since the Whalers drafted 14 players in 1983 back when the draft was 12 rounds long. Carolina has eight picks heading into the draft, with extra selections in the sixth and seventh rounds.

Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes wheel and deal again — and it could involve more than draft picks.

Carolina has three key restricted free agents with whom they’ve yet to sign new deals.

The two defensemen, Tony DeAngelo and Ethan Bear, have been allowed to talk to other teams to try and find a better contract offer, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. That doesn’t mean the Hurricanes aren’t interested in bringing either back, but the team is also exercising all its leverage on two players with arbitration rights.

DeAngelo had a 51-point season on his $1 million prove-it deal last season, but his past could still hold sway with an arbitrator. Bear had 14 points in 58 games in his first season in Carolina but was a healthy scratch for the entire postseason, making his case for a raise on the $2.5 million he made last season nearly impossible.

And then there’s right wing Martin Necas, who doesn’t have arbitration rights but could be in for a rocky negotiation with the Hurricanes after a disappointing third NHL season.

Contract offers have been made to all three, but their future in Raleigh could be in jeopardy if GM Don Waddell aims to shake up his roster. The Carolina front office could also attempt to trade the negotiating rights to pending unrestricted free agents like Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter.

And since the Hurricanes don’t have their first-rounder, making a trade (or trades) would be the biggest way for them to make noise in Montreal.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be found in the second round and beyond.

While this year’s draft isn’t considered to have a wealth of high-end talent, there are always diamonds to be found in the rough.

Carolina wasn’t particularly adept at locating late-round talent in the 2000s, but the team drafted NHL players after Round 1 in every draft from 2010 (Justin Faulk and Victor Rask) to 2017 (Eetu Luostarinen and Morgan Geekie). That includes cornerstone players Sebastian Aho (35th overall, 2015), Brett Pesce (66th, 2013) and Jaccob Slavin (120th, 2012).

It’s too early to know for sure, but more recent second-day picks like Jack Drury (42nd, 2018) and Pyotr Kochetkov (36th, 2019) already look like locks to be longtime NHL players. Even seventh-rounder Ronan Seeley, a defenseman from Everett of the Western Hockey League, could be looked upon as the steal of the 2020 draft down the road.

Another thing the Hurricanes have done since Waddell took over as general manager is take players from all over the globe. Last year alone, Carolina selected players from the United States, Canada, Finland, Czechia, Germany, Russia and Sweden. The Hurricanes drafted players from five different nations with their eight picks in 2020, and five countries were represented the year before as well.

As far as needs, Carolina has shown it will hunt for talent above all else — and that often means jumping on players who have slid in the draft or targeting boom-or-bust types.

One area the Hurricanes may avoid is goaltender. After not selecting any goalies in 2020 — the first time that happened since 2013 when the team had just four picks — Carolina drafted three a year ago. And with Kochetkov looking like a potential goalie of the future, the Hurricanes wouldn’t be criticized for not making goaltending a priority in Montreal.

While it will be two days of dream-come-true moments for the 225 players who will be drafted by NHL teams, the biggest news might be which NHL players end up in new cities.

And don’t be surprised if Carolina is the team making noise.

Draft Prospect Spotlight

Paul Ludwinski, C
5’11, 184 pounds • Kingston (OHL)

One of the best skaters in the draft, Ludwinski is also a high-motor player. He had just 43 points in his first major junior season but had a better postseason.

NSJ Rank: 62

What they’re saying

Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: “Ludwinski’s one of those players whose engine is always running so hot that he looks like he’s doing a lot out there when in many cases he isn’t.”

McKeen’s Hockey: “He has a great combination of competitiveness, defensive awareness and high hockey sense.”

The Hockey News: “Ludwinski has great skating ability and competitiveness.”

Nick Moldenhauer, C/RW
5’10, 170 pounds • Chicago (USHL)

Skilled with a good shot, Moldenhauer overcame both mono and a scary skate cut to the face to finish with 1.02 points per game in his first full USHL season.

NSJ Rank: 67

What they’re saying

Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: “He’s a high-energy worker … who [is] a Swiss Army knife.” “His combination of off-puck offense, shooting, passing and physical skill could make him an effective third-liner.”

The Hockey News: “Smart, skilled kid who has a good shot and is on the NCAA path.”

Vladimir Grudinin, D
5’10, 158 pounds • CSKA Moskow (KHL)

The left-handed defenseman faces some hurdles, including being undersized and Russian — a concern given the Ukranian conflict. He’s not a game-breaker but is a skilled skater who has been able to compete against older competition.

NSJ Rank: 93

What they’re saying

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “He has strong poise and skill with the puck.”

Dobber Hockey: “Grudinin’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses and make him an intriguing prospect.” “Grudinin’s footwork and agility make up for his size

NSJ’s 2022 NHL Draft Top 100 Prospects

  1. Shane Wright, C
  2. Logan Cooley, C
  3. Juraj Slafkovsky, LW
  4. Simon Nemec, D
  5. Matthew Savoie, C
  6. Cutter Gauthier, LW
  7. Joakim Kemell, RW
  8. David Jiricek, D
  9. Pavel Mintyukov, D
  10. Kevin Korchinski, D
  11. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, RW
  12. Denton Mateychuk, D
  13. Conor Geekie, C
  14. Danila Yurov, RW
  15. Frank Nazar, C/RW
  16. Marco Kasper, C
  17. Owen Pickering, D
  18. Jimmy Snuggerud, RW
  19. Jagger Firkus, RW
  20. Isaac Howard, LW
  21. Brad Lambert, C/RW
  22. Liam Ohgren, LW
  23. Rutger McGroarty, LW/RW
  24. Nathan Gaucher, C
  25. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C
  26. Ryan Chesley, D
  27. Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW
  28. Owen Beck, C
  29. Jiri Kulich, C
  30. Tristan Luneau, D
  31. Lian Bichsel, D
  32. Lane Hutson, D
  33. Sam Rinzel, D
  34. Jack D. Hughes, C
  35. Noah Ostlund, C
  36. David Goyette, C
  37. Filip Mesar, RW
  38. Seamus Casey, D
  39. Reid Schaefer, LW
  40. Danny Zhilkin, C
  41. Cameron Lund, C
  42. Maveric Lamoureux, D
  43. Ty Nelson, D
  44. Rieger Lorenz, LW
  45. Calle Odelius, D
  46. Noah Warren, D
  47. Mats Lindgren, D
  48. Mattias Havelid, D
  49. Adam Ingram, C/LW
  50. Gleb Trikozov, LW/RW
  51. Matyas Sapovaliv, C
  52. Elias Salomonsson, D
  53. Alexander Perevalov, LW
  54. Filip Bystedt, C
  55. Bryce McConnell-Barker, C
  56. Fraser Minten, C
  57. Dylan James, LW
  58. Jani Nyman, LW/RW
  59. Julian Lutz, LW
  60. Jordan Gustafson, C
  61. Tomas Hamara, D
  62. Paul Ludwinski, C
  63. Christian Kyrou, D
  64. Hunter Haight, C
  65. Vinzenz Rohrer, C/RW
  66. Matthew Poitras, C
  67. Nick Moldenhauer, C/RW
  68. Tyler Brennan, G
  69. Michael Buchinger, D
  70. Simon Forsmark, D
  71. Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C
  72. Topias Leinonen, G
  73. Topi Ronni, C
  74. Ryan Greene, C
  75. Cruz Lucius, RW
  76. Isaiah George, D
  77. Gavin Hayes, RW/LW
  78. Josh Filmon, RW/LW
  79. Adam Sykora, LW
  80. Matthew Seminoff, RW
  81. Kasper Kulonummi, D
  82. Artyom Duda, D
  83. Alexander Suzdalev, LW
  84. Devin Kaplan, RW
  85. Michael Fisher, D
  86. Ben MacDonald, C/LW
  87. Servac Petrovsky, C
  88. Brandon Lisowsky, LW
  89. Viktor Neuchev, LW
  90. Otto Salin, D
  91. Arseni Koromyslov, D
  92. Miko Matikka, RW
  93. Vladimir Grudinin, D
  94. Fabian Wagner, C
  95. Jake Karabela, C
  96. Quinn Finley, LW
  97. Jordan Dumais, RW
  98. Kirill Dolzhenkov, RW
  99. Spencer Sova, D
  100. Jack Devine, RW