In 2002, the Carolina Hurricanes would use their first-round draft pick on a goaltender. How would that 22nd overall pick pan out for the team?
Allow me to take you back in time to a time when there were only 30 teams in the NHL. Only the Dallas Stars had won a cup since 1994 that didn’t belong to the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, or Detroit Red Wings. Carolina had just made the Stanley Cup Finals only 5 years after being relocated from Hartford, Connecticut.
Carolina had one major hole they needed to fill, and it was in the blue paint. You can apply this sentence to seemingly every season ever for the Carolina Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise. So Carolina looked towards a goaltender from the draft when they took a young man from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan named Cam Ward.
At the time, Carolina had just made the cup finals with Arturs Irbe and Kevin Weekes between the pipes. Two goaltenders who had endured less than spectacular careers to this point. It was the teams biggest weakness, but the franchise had shown they were capable of winning without a truly spectacular talent in goal (with all due respect to Weekes and Irbe).
With Irbe towards the end of his career and a lot of question marks hanging around what Weekes was capable of, there was a lot of organizational pressure pushed onto Ward. He had a spot on the roster as soon as he showed that he was capable of playing at the top level. All that was required was for him to perform to show he could play with the worlds best.