The 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia concluded yesterday and the Carolina Hurricanes added seven young prospects to the organization with hopes that they all pan out to be contributors in the future. Ron Francis’ first Draft as the Canes’ General Manager consisted of a sharp strategy shift in reference to his predecessor, Jim Rutherford.
Picking Haydn Fleury with the seventh overall selection and Alex Nedeljkovic with the thirty-seventh selection served to stiffen up the Canes’ leaky defensive corps and to enhance the prospect stock at the backstop position, respectively. Fleury, who follows fellow Canes’ draftees Cam Ward and Brandon Sutter as Red Deer Rebels, could be seen as a top-pairing defenseman in the near future. His combination of size and stature (6’3”, 203 lbs.) gives Fleury the intimidation factor the Canes have lacked for the past few years. Unfortunately, he may need a year or two to really become NHL-ready. Nedeljkovic is an undersized, yet athletic, goalie that currently suits up for the Plymouth Whalers. The Hurricanes have a knack for scouring this team for prospects and with the help of former Whalers coach Mike Vellucci (now the current Assistant GM/Director of Hockey Operations), Ron Francis pulled the trigger on the 18-year-old Ohio native. Nedeljkovic mentioned that he tries to play his game like fellow American, Ryan Miller. Along with Fleury, Nedeljkovic is a few years out from being a NHL-caliber goalkeeper.
The remainder of the Draft consisted of certain levels of risk/reward and an eye for the future. A quick description of each can be seen directly below:
- Warren Foegele (3rd round) – This Canadian high school LW is young and relatively unproven, but may possess the talent to make it to the next level. He tallied 107 points for St. Andrews High in Ontario and will continue playing at the University of New Hampshire.
- Josh Wesley (4th round) – The son of former Canes great Glen Wesley, Josh is a tall defenseman who still has time to grow into his frame. Wesley is also the first draftee to have been brought up and trained in North Carolina.
- Lucas Wallmark (4th round) – This Swedish centerman has had experience playing with Swedish youth teams, teams that have included current Hurricane Elias Lindholm. His scoring has been spotty at best, but that is common among Scandinavian prospects. He could fit well as a bottom-six center if he pans out.
- Clark Bishop (5th round) – The Canes drafted another centerman in Bishop, but they really took a chance on him. His draft stock fell drastically following the 2013-2014 season. His point production was meager at best, but his potential is still there, even if his talent level is not at the levels of other top prospects.
- Kyle Jenkins (7th round) – Ron Francis continued his defensive trend in this draft by selecting Jenkins with his final pick. Unlike the other two defensemen, Jenkins can be relatively offensive. Jenkins also has mediocre size at 6’0”, 166 lbs.
Ron Francis’ goal of getting bigger as a whole was somewhat accomplished through this year’s Draft. The Canes did not address the issue of size on the wing, but did stockpile defensive prospects. Haydn Fleury could turn out to be a very important defensive contributor for the Hurricanes in a few short years and Alex Nedeljkovic could be a welcome surprise. Although later-round prospects have cloudier futures, many have become stars in the NHL (Pavel Datsyuk first comes to mind). Although we may not see many of these prospects for a few years, we can expect they are in line with Ron Francis and Bill Peters’ mentality for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Overall grade: B-