It will be four or five years before we know how the Carolina Hurricanes did in the draft last weekend, although they deserve credit for breaking new ground, by their standards, in terms of location (their first-round pick was from Quebec and three out of six picks were Europeans) and philosophy (all six were 6 feet or taller).
Whether first-round pick Philippe Paradis will be regarded as a steal or a bust is yet to be determined, but the record is already clear on many of the Hurricanes’ past drafts, at least those from 2005 and earlier.
We all know the misses — Igor Knyazev, Jeff Heerema, Nikos Tselios — but among the hits, here are the Canes’ five best draft picks since the team moved to North Carolina, not necessarily in overall talent, but in terms of how well they did with the pick.
Eric Staal, for example, was a relative no-brainer at No. 2 in 2003, but Cam Ward was not late in the first round a year earlier, which is why they bookend Tuesday’s Top Five:
5. Eric Staal, 2nd overall (first round), 2003. Obviously, a slam dunk — one of the best players in a fantastic draft. Even if the Hurricanes had picked 10th, they would have been OK. Zach Parise was high on their draft board as well.
4. Jaroslav Svoboda, 208th overall, (eighth round), 1998. Svoboda’s career fizzled impossibly quickly after the 2002 playoff run, but to get a legitimate playoff contributor out of the eighth round — even briefly — is far better than most teams fare at that point.
3. Erik Cole, 71st overall (third round), 1998. The Hurricanes missed in the first round (Heerema) in one of the best drafts of the decade, but they picked up Cole and Josef Vasicek in the third round.
2. Niclas Wallin, 97th overall (fourth round), 2000. A few teams struck gold in that era taking older Europeans, and the Hurricanes were one of them. Wallin was 25 when they took him, and he stepped straight into the lineup and hasn’t left since.
1. Cam Ward, 25th overall (first round), 2002. Ward wasn’t ranked this high by most teams, but the Hurricanes obviously knew what they were doing. Four years later, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP as the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.