My stance on what the Hurricanes should do with the fifth overall pick is to take whoever is the best player available and in this year's draft, it's looking like that player will be a forward. One of Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov, Valeri Nichushkin or Elias Lindholm will likely be available when it is Carolina's turn to pick and these are some of the best prospects to come out of their respective countries in years, so it's going to be tough for Carolina to pass on anyone of them. However, as we get closer to the draft, I've seen more and more people predicting that the Hurricanes will take a defenseman, passing on either Nichushkin or Lindholm by doing so.
It's easy to see why Carolina would take a defenseman early, as they were one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL last season and there aren't many free agents available who would improve their blue-line much. They also don't have many prospects in their system who project to be top-four defensemen with the exception of Ryan Murphy who is more of an offensive threat. There is always the chance that someone like Brett Bellemore or Danny Biega can step into a big role within the next couple of years but neither will give Carolina a huge upgrade on defense as of this moment. Therefore, it would make sense to draft a defenseman because he would likely help the team somewhere down the line and possibly provide an upgrade as soon as next year.
The one negative of drafting a defenseman this early is that they take a longer time to develop than forwards and usually aren't contributors at the NHL level until 1-3 years after they are drafted. There's nothing wrong with drafting a defenseman in the top-five when you have a need there, but if you're looking to draft someone who will provide an immediate impact, there's a low chance that a defenseman will give you that in his rookie season. This is why I subscribe to the "best player available" philosophy. There is a good chance that an 18-19 year old forward can contribute in a top-nine role on an NHL team, but a defenseman of the same age is likely a third-pairing guy, so the foward gives you more immediate value.
The Hurricanes might need defense more, but if they can get a forward with elite potential that can make an impact as soon as next year, then they shouldn't pass on it. Plus, once some of the team's older corps begin to age (Semin, Ruutu, E. Staal), someone like Barkov, Nichushkin or Lindholm can slide into their place. So drafting a forward can fit both into the team's short and long-term plans if all goes correctly.
Who says a defenseman can't contribute after the year he was drafted, though? It has been done before and the pedigree of this year's draft class has been noted plenty of times, so it's possible that the Canes might be able to find a defenseman who is good enough to play a top-four role in the NHL next season. Defense isn't cheap these days and if you can find a young player who can play in the top-four on an entry-level contract, then that is amazing value. However, players like this are also very rare and whether or not this draft class has any of them remains to be seen. Just how rare are they? Find out after the jump.no comments