Mar 27, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) is congratulated by center Eric Staal (12) after his shutout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. The Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Decade of Canes Draft Day Distinction

The Carolina Hurricanes Front Office is adept at many things, free agent signings, contract negotiations, keeping key players from testing the free agency market, selling the fan base on a “rebuilding effort” instead of just admitting  “Hey, We can’t afford to put a competitive product on the ice for a couple years. Buy more season tickets”. But nothing quite demonstrates their propensity for excellent decision making as much as their selection of first round talent at the annual entry draft. Over the past decade, the front office hasn’t missed on many (or any depending on how you spin it) of it’s first round selections. If a drafted player isn’t on our current roster, it’s because they were traded for a player/players  that, at least in the interim, upgraded the roster. Take a look!

2002: Cam Ward (25th overall) – Anyone want to argue this not being a great pick? Conn Smyth winner, Stanley Cup champion, 23721 minutes played,  205-149-46 record, .910 SV%,  and 21 SO in seven years at the NHL level. All of that, and we’re not even touching on his post season heroics where he plays more “Like wall” than Archie ever could in the second season.

2003 : Eric Staal (2nd overall) -Call him what you will (I’m partial to Capt. Wraparound), one thing you can’t call him is inconsistent, at least in terms of leading the team in scoring. Since entering the league at the start of the ’03 season he has been in the top three in team scoring  in all but his rookie year. He has also been a model for consistency as far as not missing starts. In his eight years in the NHL, he has only missed 14 games. Now, he just needs to be more consistent on a game to game basis to win the affection of Caniac Nation. Still, really good quality pick.

2004 : Andrew Ladd (4th overall)  -This one was a great pick considering we got good play out of Ladd for a few years, he contributed on the road to the Stanley Cup run and then we traded him for an even better player when it came time to give him a pay raise. At the ’08 trade deadline, JR and Co. pulled off a deal that shipped Ladd to Chicago in return for a six foot, finnish winger who was struggling to put the puck in the net. We know how that worked out. Although Ladd, in his own right, has become a great player, Ruutu fits the system much better and has (since his first night in Raleigh) become a fan favorite.

2005 : Jack Johnson (3rd overall) -Little Jacky wants to take his binky and play somewhere else? Good, get out! We don’t want you anyway! Although Johnson never played a game in the sweater with the sightless eye, his drafting wasn’t a waste. After years of trying to get him to sign with the team, Rutherford waived his wand and traded him (as well as Oleg Tverdovsky) to LA  for Eric Belanger and Timmy Gleason. I would’ve been fine with just Gleason! Since that trade Gleason  has 90 points, -1, and 368 blocks, and has since been promoted to alternate captain. Compare that to Johnson’s 138 points, -85, 348 blocks. Pretty close statistically, but Gleason is better defensively by far and also adds a level of leadership and accountability that Johnson doesn’t even know exists. Also, for what it’s worth, we later traded Belanger to Nashville for the Czech Condor (RIP) and although he didn’t produce much in his second stint with the team, for sentimental reasons, I think every Canes fan saw that trade as a win, especially at the time.

2006 : No first round pick 

2007 : Brandon Sutter (11th overall) -107 points in four NHL seasons, a vocal alternate captain who never takes plays off, a vital cog for the PK unit, a backhand that would put Iceburg Slim to shame, and a first step that almost no NHL defensman can keep up with. Gotta love coach’s kids! Is there anything else you could ask for from a 1st round pick? OK, well he also has a hockey pedigree that makes The Statsnys look more like the Osmonds.

2008 : Zach Boychuk (14th overall) -OK, here is the only player that graces the list that hasn’t really amounted to much or yielded a good return on investment. He seems better suited at the AHL level, and can never seem to break the NHL lineup for longer than an injury call up a couple times a year. It’s probably due to his size (5’9″, 176lbs.), but I don’t see that being a big problem for Matin St. Louis.  He’s still young, but his window is starting to close quickly. I don’t expect we’ll be seeing too much of him in the coming years, but you never know. Jury’s still out on him, but it’s close to a verdict, and it’s not looking good.

2009 : Philippe Paradis (27th overall) -This is a weird one. Paradis was drafted and then unceremoniously traded to Toronto about 6 months later for Jiri Tulusty. In 154 games playing in The Triangle, Tlusty has registered 54 points and shown that he has the potential to make an impact on this team at minimum as a productive 3rd line winger. Paradis’ NHL Stats? None yet. But his production in the QMJHL and AHL isn’t very flattering. Advantage Jimmy R!

2010 : Jeff Skinner (7th overall) -It’s Jeff Skinner. ‘Nuff said.

2011 : Ryan Murphy (12th overall) -Time will tell with Young Ryan Murphy. I won’t speculate as to any grades on him at this point as he missed a good portion of the season with Kitchener last season due to a concussion (the second  in his short career) courtesy of Tom Khunackl. I can’t see him being a total bust though. The boys up in the skybox have proven that they have a discerning eye for blue liners.

On June 22nd we get to see what our new look front office can pull out of their hats. We have been spoiled by success at the draft for a decade now, let’s hope it can continue.

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Tags: Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal Jack Johnson Jim Rutherford Pimp Hand NHL Draft Ryan Murphy Zach Boychuk

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