Hurricanes armed with picks, cap space entering NHL Draft

Carolina heads to Nashville with the ability to make big moves

Connor Bedard, the biggest hockey prospect in years, is poised to join the Chicago Blackhawks when the NHL Draft takes place this week in Nashville. (Jeffrey T. Barnes / AP Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Hurricanes have fared well at the draft since Don Waddell took over as the team’s general manager.

First round picks Andrei Svechnikov and Seth Jarvis have quickly developed into top six forwards. Pyotr Kochetkov, a 2019 second round selection, looks like Carolina’s goaltender of the future. Alexander Nikishin, a 2020 fourth-rounder, is considered by many to be the best defenseman not playing in North America.

The last two seasons, the Hurricanes didn’t have their Round 1 pick, trading out of the first round in 2021 and surrendering their opening night selection at last year’s draft as part of the compensation for their successful offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Carolina enters Wednesday’s first round in Nashville with its top pick, the 30th overall, and is armed with eight more selections in Rounds 2-7. The Hurricanes hold their own draft choices in each round except the third, but Carolina has Philadelphia’s third from last year’s Tony DeAngelo trade (71st overall) and also has surplus picks in the fifth (139th overall, from Vancouver in the Ethan Bear trade) and sixth (163rd overall, acquired in exchange for Carolina’s sixth round pick, 188th overall, last year) rounds.

Carolina’s own second day picks are selections Nos. 62, 126, 158, 190 and 222.

The Hurricanes will likely have to wait until the end of Wednesday’s Round 1 at Bridgestone Arena unless they have a trade to move up the draft board. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks will surely select Connor Bedard with the first overall pick, making him the new face of the Chicago franchise as it begins a rebuild.

Carolina has never drafted a player 30th overall in franchise history, having surrendered its first round pick in 2006 to the Blues in the trade that landed the Hurricanes Doug Weight. When the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup that season, they were placed in the final spot in the draft order — then 30th. St. Louis later flipped the pick as part of a package to move up and draft Patrick Berglund, and New Jersey selected Matthew Corrente with the 30th choice.

The Hurricanes did have some luck in the past at 71st overall. In 1998, Erik Cole was picked with that selection. Carolina also took Alexander Perevalov last year at No. 71.

While the two days of the draft are ultimately about teenagers fulfilling another dream in their path to the NHL, it’s also one of the busiest trade days of the year.

The Hurricanes got started early, agreeing with Philadelphia on a trade that would bring DeAngelo back to Raleigh. The deal, however, has been held up by the NHL, but the Hurricanes are still trying to finalize the trade. Carolina dealt the defenseman and a seventh round pick to the Flyers at last year’s draft for three draft picks rather than re-signing the restricted free agent.

Philadelphia then gave DeAngelo a two‑year contract worth $5 million annually. If the trade goes through, the Flyers would retain half his contract for next season to ship him back to the Hurricanes.

In his one year in Carolina, DeAngelo posted 10 goals and 51 points, logging nearly 20 minutes a game. He played more than 22 minutes a night for the Flyers last season but clashed with new Philadelphia coach John Tortorella, who frequently criticized DeAngelo’s defense.

The 27-year-old would slot into the third pairing in his return to Carolina and likely run the second power play with Brent Burns entrenched on the top unit.

The Hurricanes also took care of their most pressing unrestricted free agent, re-signing captain Jordan Staal to a four-year extension with a $2.9 million cap hit.

That’s less than half the $6 million Staal made over the past decade, giving Carolina even more cap space to play with during the offseason. That could come into play in Nashville.

Last season, the Hurricanes weaponized their cap space to acquire Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan from Vegas for nothing and also landed Burns from San Jose. Those moves happened  after the draft in Montreal, but Carolina could opt to be aggressive in Nashville as teams look to clear cap space ahead of the opening of free agency on July 1.

Combined with a full complement of draft picks, Carolina has all the pieces to make noise in Music City.

Draft Prospect Spotlight

Eduard Sale (AP Photo)

Eduard Sale, LW

6’2, 174 pounds • Brno (Czechia)

The Hurricanes might not be able to pass on Sale if he falls to them at 30th overall. He’s the type of boom-or-bust prospect on which Carolina loves to take a chance. He’s creative with the puck but probably needs to be a top-six player to be effective in the NHL.

NSJ Rank: 21st

What they’re saying

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “Sale’s toolkit is exciting … and (he) has a ton of natural offensive abilities.”
Dobber Hockey: “ Needs to continue to round out his off-puck game but has the upside to become a top-six NHL forward.”
The Hockey News: “If Sale finds a way to add more of a competitive dimension to his game, the team that takes him is going to be very happy.”

Martin Strbak (AP Photo)

Maxim Strbak, D

6’1½, 205 pounds • Sioux City (USHL)

Committed to Michigan State, the Slovakian import had five goals and 18 points in the USHL last season. The son of Martin Strbak, who played 44 NHL games, is a defensive defensemen who shows flashes of having offensive upside. He’s a reliable defender who usually makes the right decisions.

NSJ Rank: 45th

What they’re saying

Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “I don’t see him as a legit scorer and
puck-mover in the NHL, but he’s good enough with the puck, can skate pucks up, and can make enough plays to survive at higher levels.”
Dobber Hockey: “Will likely become a bottom-pair shutdown specialist.”
Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: “Strbak’s a pro-built, stocky and physically strong defender who can play hard minutes.”

Lenni Hameenaho (AP Photo)

Lenni Hameenaho, RW

5’11½, 173 pounds • Assat (Liiga)

The Hurricanes love their Finns, so why not target another? Hameenaho is well-rounded winger who spent all of last season playing against men in
Finland’s top league. He’d be a safer choice than Sale, but his upside is also not as high.

NSJ Rank: 48th

What they’re saying

Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: “I could envision him becoming a complementary winger in the NHL, but I don’t see him as either a driver, a checker, or a skill guy.”
Dobber Hockey: “Could grow into a solid middle-six NHL forward with added pace.”
The Hockey News: “If you’re looking for a solid on-ice citizen, he fills that need. … He’s a good skater who can play both ends of the ice.”

NSJ’s 2023 NHL Draft Top 100 Prospects

1. Connor Bedard, C
2. Adam Fantilli, C
3. Leo Carlsson, C
4. William Smith, C
5. Matvei Michkov, RW
6. Zach Benson, LW
7. Ryan Leonard, RW
8. Dalibor Dvorsky, C
9. Matthew Wood, RW
10. Oliver Moore, C
11. David Reinbacher, D
12. Gabriel Perreault, RW
13. Nate Danielson, C
14. Colby Barlow, LW
15. Brayden Yager, C
16. Samuel Honzek, LW
17. Tom Willander, D
18. Quentin Musty, LW
19. Axel Sandin Pellikka, D
20. Calum Ritchie, C
21. Eduard Sale, LW
22. Gavin Brindley, C
23. Daniil But, LW
24. Otto Stenberg, C
25. Andrew Cristall, LW
26. Ethan Gauthier, RW
27. Lukas Dragicevic, D
28. Oliver Bonk, D
29. Riley Heidt, C
30. Bradly Nadeau, LW
31. Mikhail Gulyayev, D
32. Dmitriy Simashev, D
33. Tanner Molendyk, D
34. Charlie Stramel, C
35. Danny Nelson, C
36. Michael Hrabal, G
37. Koehn Ziemmer, RW
38. Carson Rehkopf, LW
39. Kasper Halttunen, RW
40. Luca Cagnoni, D
41. Oscar Fisker Molgaard, C
42. Nick Lardis, LW
43. David Edstrom, C
44. Caden Price, D
45. Maxim Strbak, D
46. Gracyn Sawchyn, C
47. Jayden Perron, RW
48. Lenni Hameenaho, RW
49. Beau Akey, D
50. Trey Augustine, G
51. Hunter Brzustewicz, D
52. Theo Lindstein, D
53. Nico Myatovic, LW
54. Mathieu Cataford, C
55. Coulson Pitre, RW
56. Anton Wahlberg, C
57. Aydar Suniev, LW
58. Cameron Allen, D
59. Aram Minnetian, D
60. Andrew Strathmann, D
61. William Whitelaw, RW
62. Luca Pinelli, C
63. Carson Bjarnason, G
64. Jakub Dvorak, D
65. Easton Cowan, RW
66. Roman Kantserov, RW
67. Alex Ciernik, LW
68. Denver Barkey, C
69. Noah Dower Nilsson, LW
70. Noel Nordh, LW
71. Etienne Morin, D
72. Kalan Lind, LW
73. Adam Gajan, G
74. Jesse Kiiskinen, RW
75. Jacob Fowler, G
76. Quinton Burns, D
77. Matthew Mania, D
78. Felix Unger Sorum, RW
79. Carey Terrance, C
80. Andrew Gibson, D
81. Gavin McCarthy, D
82. Martin Misiak, RW
83. Tristan Bertucci, D
84. Scott Ratzlaff, G
85. Aiden Fink, RW
86. Juraj Pekarcik, LW
87. Alexander Rykov, RW
88. Arttu Karki, D
89. Jaden Lipinski, C
90. Tyler Peddle, LW
91. Rasmus Kumpulainen, C
92. Connor Levis, RW
93. Albert Wikman, D
94. Zeb Forsfjall, C
95. Felix Nilsson, C
96. Jayson Shaugabay, RW
97. Ethan Miedema, LW
98. Alex Pharand, C
99. Zach Nehring, RW
100. Hoyt Stanley, D