The Hurricanes look poised to make a run at the playoffs in the upcoming 2013-2014 season. The second line was average during the 2012-2013 campaign; however, the average production can be attributed to a few things. Jordan Staal didn’t seem to be completely comfortable throughout the season and Tuomo Ruutu spent the majority of the season out of commission due to undergoing hip surgery during the lockout. The first line on the other hand was one of the best in the NHL before the Canes began their mid-season slump from mid-march until the end of the season. Jiri Tlusty, Eric Staal, and Alexander Semin accounted for 135 scoring points throughout the season which led the team by a large margin.
With the fifth overall pick in the upcoming draft it will be interesting to see who the Hurricanes take. It has been said that the upcoming draft is deep enough that the third, fourth, and fifth picks could have potentially been the first, second, and third overall picks in an average draft. It is almost a certainty that Seth Jones, the star defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, will be selected first overall by the Colorado Avalanche. Although the Hurricanes lack a solid core of defensive defensemen, it is likely that Jamie McBain will be traded in order to address that need before next season gets underway. That would defeat the need for the Canes to call a defenseman’s name during the first round of the draft. With the draft being one of the deepest, if not the deepest in years, the Hurricanes should look to follow GM Jim Rutherford’s approach of drafting the best player available.
The best player available when the Hurricanes get their chance at the podium could come in the form of Valeri Nichushkin of Russia. The 18 year old Nichushkin is the second ranked European prospect in the draft and should be there for the taking with the fifth pick. He is classified as a playmaker with excellent skating ability. He also boasts a big body at 6’4 and 202 pounds. With those qualities and size he has the potential to be a lot like the Hurricanes star forward Eric Staal who stands at 6’4 and 205 pounds. If Nichushkin can be half as good as Staal has been for the Canes over the years, expect him to be a mainstay in Raleigh from day one.