NHL Draft: Hurricanes' biggest needs, top prospects

The Carolina Hurricanes finished third overall in the NHL standings, but needed seven games to beat the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and were ousted in seven by the New York Rangers despite holding the lead three times in the series.

The Hurricanes' roster has some dynamic young stars like Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Seth Jarvis, but has featured a revolving door of netminders that proved to be part of the Hurricanes’ downfall this season. Carolina enters the draft without a first-round pick, but it still has eight total selections, which will allow the organization to stock up on future help.

Top Prospects

Scott Morrow - There’s a trend here. Watching Scott’s sister Sydney play at the U18 World Championship for Team USA, she moves the puck well, advances from her zone with her head up, and can find lanes in the offensive zone to create scoring chances. Copy and paste that description under Scott’s name, change the pronouns, and you have nearly identical high-end sibling prospects.

Scott Morrow had a fantastic season in the NCAA with Northeastern and looks like a first-round talent despite being selected 40th overall in 2021. Originally projected to be a few seasons out, if Morrow replicates his NCAA performance in Year 2, Carolina could be tempted to bring him up at the end of this campaign.

Ville Koivunen - Shortly after stealing Morrow, Carolina struck again with Koivunen. In his first season after the draft, Koivunen jumped into Liiga and scored 29 points with Karpat. He has top-six skills but also plays well away from the puck and in a defensive role.

Carolina will look to bring Koivunen to North America soon, if for no other reason but to help guide his strength training, which remains a focus.

Ryan Suzuki - There is nothing about Suzuki’s skill, poise with the puck, and playmaking ability that would lead you to believe he’s not a top prospect. His health, including a devastating eye injury, however, could limit his ceiling at the NHL level.

Carolina has a plethora of young forwards, which currently stands as Suzuki’s main barrier. This year, he’ll either rise to his potential and overcome the early adversity in his career, or he’ll become a trade chip for the Hurricanes.

Pyotr Kochetkov became an overnight sensation for the Hurricanes this spring. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
Pyotr Kochetkov became an overnight sensation for the Hurricanes this spring. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

One To Watch

It’s hard to know what future will await Russian prospects at the NHL level. Carolina has three worth watching. Vasily Ponomarev and Pyotr Kochetkov made their North American debuts this year, while Alexander Nikishin had a notable appearance as Russia’s youngest Olympian in Beijing.

While each has immense upside and the potential to impact Carolina’s roster, it’s Kochetkov, a netminder, who will be watched most closely next year. He became an overnight star in the playoffs for Carolina, but ultimately was unable to string together a performance capable of saving the Canes’ season.

He appeared in three regular season games for Carolina, and was forced to play four playoff contests during his first season in North America at 22 years old. It was a trial by fire and watching how Kochetkov responds next season will be crucial in future planning for the Hurrricanes. Both of Carolina’s NHL goalies are on expiring contracts.

Ready To Step In

There’s nothing truly elite in Jack Drury’s skill set, but his all-around game, leadership, two-way responsibility and the intangibles he brings to the organization are vital. Drury will step into Carolina’s bottom six and will likely pivot the third line at some point.

He made a splash in his NHL debut this season, scoring two goals in two games and took that confidence into the AHL, specifically the playoffs, where he scored more than a point per game. He’s coming off multiple seasons of development at Harvard in the NCAA, a strong European campaign in the SHL during the pandemic year, and this season, an excellent first swing at the AHL and NHL.

Drury, like those in his hockey family, will be a competitive contributor in the NHL and a positive boost to the team’s playoff success and locker room environment.

Needs At The Draft

The Hurricanes do not own a first-round selectiono in this year’s draft as they were forced to surrender the pick to the Montreal Canadiens as part of the offer sheet compensation for Jesperi Kotkaniemi. That move has had mixed results.

What Carolina does have is a large number of later round picks, which will allow the organization to stockpile an array of long-term prospects at each position. Carolina does not have a pressing organizational need, so diversifying its picks and focusing on the development of said players will certainly be the approach.

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