Over the past five years, the Carolina Hurricanes have not suited up their first overall draft pick into the National Hockey League (NHL) with the exception of Jeff Skinner in 2010-2011.
They came close to keeping defenseman Ryan Murphy on the roster in 2011, as they pushed the envelope in playing him in the maximum number of games allowable before returning him to his OHL club, the Kitchener Rangers.
Even Zach Boychuk got a two-game look before being returned to Lethbridge back in 2008.
However, other notable first-round picks like Jamie McBain (2006) and Brandon Sutter (2007) both returned to play with their college and junior teams respectively before starting their NHL careers with Carolina.
Not the exception, but the rule
It hasn’t been part of the Hurricanes prospect development program to rush their top draft picks onto the main roster.
It’s not an unusual practice for many teams to follow.
However, it seems that times are changing and top picks are now cutting their teeth early and playing in the NHL.
Obviously, what the individual organization is doing with its entire personnel lineup plays a role in what methodology it follows, particularly if relying on young, unproven players to become successful is part of it.
Is Carolina at a point and position to do that right now?
They are when they’re sitting with the fifth overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft and have missed making the playoffs for four straight seasons and six of the last seven.
What to do, what to do
Following from that thinking, will that first pick then be a defenseman or a forward?
According to pre-draft analysts and the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings, the potential skaters that the Hurricanes would be in line to select include North American forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Europeans Valeri Nichushkin, Aleksander Barkov, and Elias Lindholm.
Top prospect and defenseman Seth Jones will likely be out of reach for Carolina in its draft spot, but blueliners Darnell Nurse, Rasmus Ristolainen, or Ryan Pulock could merit consideration for their size and potential two-way capabilities in eventually earning them a spot on an NHL roster sooner than later.
However, based on where the Hurricanes roster sits currently, drafting a defenseman at the top spot may not benefit what they need in that position entering the 2013-2014 season.
Size and experience attainable by free trade purchase and/or a trade is what the priority is there.
Thus, the options and depth of offensive talent that exists in this draft class must be the target to acquire ‘the next big thing’ to fill the net with pucks.
With the fifth pick, Carolina should be able to draft a dynamic young scorer who will be able to play up front right away, regardless of where he would fall on the depth chart.
Would this be a departure from past thinking and process?
Hard worker, big scorer
The key to making such a pick is that this player must have significant size and be able to grind and work to get the puck while also being able to put it in the net.
That is the style of play that coach Kirk Muller has preached and rewarded during his time behind the bench in Carolina.
It is a tall order to make, but possibilities exist for the Hurricanes to make such a pick and have that player make an impact.
Following this direction of thinking, look for Carolina to consider selecting from an additional list of forwards that possess size and offensive capabilities to those mentioned previously: Anthony Mantha (RW, 6-3, 190 lbs), Frederik Gauthier (LW/RW, 6-4, 214 lbs), Sean Monahan (C, 6-2, 187 lbs), Hunter Shinkaruk (LW/C, 5-10, 181 lbs), Kerby Rychel (LW, 6-0, 205 lbs), Max Domi (C/LW, 5-9, 197 lbs)
Maybe not hyped as much as others on this year’s draft list, it presents for some other possibilities to fuel the conversation until the 2013 NHL Entry Draft begins in New Jersey on Sun. June 30.
Triangle Sports Network
The Raleigh Sports Examiner on Facebook
Raleigh Sports Examiner on Twitter @pksport
Raleigh Sport Examiner – You Tube channel