The Hurricanes' amateur scouts met this week to go over their draft board, with that event now a mere three weeks away.
Based on what Peter Karmanos said Wednesday, in addition to Jim Rutherford's previous comments on the subject, it looks unlikely the Hurricanes will make a run at Tyler Seguin, although I believe with their quiver of picks, it's impossible to rule that out. (You can read all about that in the paper on Sunday.)
If they stay at No. 7, or move up in a less dramatic way than a jump to No. 1, they have some options.
First of all, some ground rules. Rutherford has left the door open to taking a defenseman, and I think it's safe to say everyone would agree that the current state of the Carolina blue line leaves an open spot on the second pairing that a top-10 pick could step into without much trouble.
But the Hurricanes don't have a very good record when it comes to drafting defensemen in the first round.
Part of that is because they don't do it very often. Rutherford's philosophy has been, particularly since the lockout, that taking defensemen high in the draft is a waste of money. By his logic, by the time they actually develop into decent players, they're free agents anyway. My feeling is, that's worth the risk, but I think there's some validity to his position.
I do wonder, though, if he has taken that position in part because he was burned so badly by Nikos Tselios (22nd overall, 2007), David Tanabe (16th overall, 1999), Igor Knyazev (15th overall, 2001) and Jack Johnson (3rd overall, 2005). Tselios was a miss in a shallow draft, Tanabe was an OK player in the NHL but not what was expected from him as a prospect, Knyazev was one of the great first-round busts of the decade and there was nothing wrong with Johnson as a player but too much wrong with him as a person, at least from Rutherford's perspective.
So they might be better off, and I mention this in Sunday's column, taking a forward from the OHL or WHL, where they seem to have the best handle on things. The past three times they’ve veered away from that comfort zone -- Knyazev, Johnson and Phillipe Paradis last year, their first first-rounder from the QMJHL in a decade -- they have come to regret it in less than a year.
The forwards from the OHL and WHL, since 2003: Eric Staal, Andrew Ladd, Brandon Sutter and Zach Boychuk, not to mention goalie Cam Ward out of the WHL in 2002. There's something to be said for knowing your strengths and weaknesses.
On the other hand, Carolina's distaste for defensemen has left them with a system chock full of high-flying young forwards and only one top-level defensive prospect, 2006 second-round pick Jamie McBain, so it would be hard to argue with a defenseman at No. 7 on orgaNIzational need alone.
(I strongly suspect, with no evidence whatsoever to support this, that defenseman Tyler Myers who went 12th in 2008, was on Carolina's list for 14th, where they ended up with Boychuk. No harm, no foul there, even if Myers will end up winning the Calder Trophy this year. They also passed on Erik Karlsson, Michael del Zotto, Luca Sbisa and John Carlson, who already have played a combined 209 NHL games, although only Sbisa was high on my list at that point, as far as I can remember.)
So gamble on a D or take a forward, again? Heck, why not bundle all those trade-deadline draft picks together and make a run at Seguin? But if the Canes stay at No. 7 or move up as far as No. 3, which they can do without too much hassle, here's who I think they'll be looking at (not, for the record, who I think they should take):
Fowler and Gudbrandson are both considered NHL-ready, or close to it, so if the Canes move up to No. 3 or No. 4 to take one, that might be an immediate-impact pick, and it's not like anyone's going to second-guess it even if it doesn't work out. Johansen is the comfort-zone forward who falls into their range at No. 7. Skinner's more of a move-down kind of pick, but he's a scorer who fits Carolina's profile. Forbort more in the ballpark at No. 7; he's 6-foot-5 and can skate.