2014 NHL Mock Draft: Carolina Hurricanes Full 7-Round Mock Draft
The 'Canes pick seventh overall in Friday's first round, then six more times on Saturday, including back-to-back early in the fourth round.
A brand-new management and coaching team—headed by general manager Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters—must add as much upside as possible to a Carolina prospect pool ranked 29th in the NHL by Hockey's Future.
The majority of the discussion will concern the team's valuable first-round selection, but every choice has the potential to blossom into a star player in the future.
A complete Carolina mock draft, including projected picks for all seven selections, lies on the coming slides.
Keep in mind that predictions are highly speculative and, considering the complexity of a 210-pick draft, unlikely to be correct. The purpose of the exercise is to highlight possible selections and generate discussion. In 2013, my mock draft accurately predicted one pick (Brent Pedersen in the fifth round).
Player rankings, height and weight courtesy of Central Scouting Service (CSS) rankings for North American skaters, European skaters and North American goaltenders. Prospect statistics courtesy of Elite Prospects. Hurricanes' draft history courtesy of HockeyDB.
1st Round, Pick No. 7: LW Nick Ritchie
Nick Ritchie may be the most physically intimidating prospect in this year's draft. He's tall at 6'2", but he's far from lanky at 226 pounds.
He's a Tuomo Ruutu-esque, hit-everything-in-sight player, yet he's also willing to take that assertiveness to the crease, where he shows Jiri Tlusty-like opportunism.
Ritchie recorded 71 points and 136 penalty minutes for a losing Peterborough team, boosting their offense to third in the OHL's Eastern Conference. Ranked 9th by the ISS, the Ontario native possesses an intriguing balance of tough body and soft hands that will make him almost a guaranteed top-10 selection.
"He’s a tough guy for the defense to handle when he wants to take the puck to the net," said Tony MacDonald, Hurricanes chief amateur scout, to reporter Michael Smith. "He’s a load for a defenseman. He’s at his best when he’s playing a physical game and driving the net."
The 'Canes have a perfect opportunity to bolster both their physical and scoring potency with the selection of Ritchie at No. 7 overall.
2nd Round, Pick No. 37: C Robert Fabbri
Projections are all over the board for when Guelph center Robby Fabbri will be taken on draft weekend, but the 'Canes would be happy to snatch up the gifted offensive talent if he does fall to early in the second round.
Fabbri's situation is eerily similar to Jeremy Roenick's in 1988: an undersized center (estimates range around roughly 5'10", 170 lbs) with a undeterrable nose for the goal and a scoring pedigree to follow.
For Guelph, he scored 45 goals and 87 points in 58 regular-season games along with 13 goals and 28 points in 16 playoff games, but he is still mentioned in only one of NHL.com's three first-round mock drafts. The Central Scouting Service ranks him 21st among North American skaters.
Elite Prospects' scouting report appropriately states: "Fabbri is a below average sized buzz saw who works hard and has some of the best feet in the entire draft. He uses his speed and mobility to be shifty and elusive but is also willing to play physical."
He'd be a fantastic steal for the 'Canes at No. 37.
3rd Round, Pick No. 67: D Alex Peters
As longtime goaltender Justin Peters approaches unrestricted free-agent status this summer, the 'Canes could reinvest in the Peters family with his younger brother Alex.
A 6'4", 220-pound shutdown defenseman, Peters played 126 games for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers the past two seasons combined—under the leadership of now-'Canes assistant GM Mike Vellucci.
Needless to say, Hurricanes connections abound for the 18-year-old.
Said Peters to Jason Menard of Hockey's Future in February:
I’m a shut-down D-man. I like to move the puck and sometimes jump up in the rush, but mostly I just try to shut them down. There’s a player on Washington, Karl Alzner, and I play the same type of game as him. It’s just solid defense.
Peters was considered a potential second-round choice until his CSS rank slipped from 36th to 56th among North American skaters over the second half of the season. Nonetheless, he's a steady player with solid upside.
Carolina could use a reliable defensive defenseman prospect to counterbalance 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy, who should graduate into the NHL full-time in 2014-15.
4th Round, Pick No. 96: RW Alex Schoenborn
The Hurricanes are in desperate need of right-wing prospects and could bolster their strength at the position with unheralded American winger Alex Schoenborn.
Schoenborn stepped into a significant role with the WHL Portland Winterhawks in 2013-14, tallying 36 points, 119 penalty minutes and a plus-19 rating in 72 regular-season appearances. The Winterhawks posted the second-best record in the WHL and came within one win of the league title.
Portland's success was attributed in large part to Schoenborn's growth as an impact player, as noted by Neate Sager of Yahoo Sports. The North Dakota native described himself as a "Power forward — drive the puck wide, shoot, skate, do all the stuff down low" to Sager.
While he says he models his game after Scott Hartnell, Schoenborn is similar to current 'Canes top prospect Brock McGinn as a player who plays bigger and tougher than his mere 6'1", 194-pound frame would suggest.
4th Round, Pick No. 97: C Antti Kalapudas
The 'Canes have used only two of their last 15 draft picks on European players, and I project Finland's Antti Kalapudas as the lone non-North American selection of 2014.
Kalapudas (6'0", 161 lbs) was a prolific scorer for Karpat's U20 squad at just age 18, accumulating 59 points in 44 appearances. He added another nine points in 16 games for the Finnish U18 international team, including three in the World Junior Championships.
A playmaker-type center, Kalapudas emerged out of the blue as a viable mid-round pick (jumping up to 32nd among European skaters in CSS rankings) only recently and would be a risky choice, if only due to lack of familiarity.
However, his pure scoring statistics indicate that there could be great potential in this center.
5th Round, Pick No. 127: RW Matheson Iacopelli
Few players go undrafted twice only to be chosen midway through the proceedings in their third year of eligibility, but USHL top scorer Matheson Iacopelli may be on the verge of doing so.
Iacopelli, 20, exploded in his first season in the USHL, leading the league with a whopping 41 goals (and 23 assists) in 58 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The CSS' 98th-ranked N.A. skater outscored a number of projected early picks, including Nick Schmaltz (19th) and Shane Eiserman (45th).
His unexpected campaign at last attracted the attention of NHL scouts, according to Chris Dilks of SB Nation, who wrote that Iacopelli has "great offensive instincts, an above average shot, and isn't afraid to use his size to gain position and win pucks in front of the net."
The Michigan native is committed to Western Michigan University for 2014-15, where he will need to grow into his 6'2" frame and prove that his late blooming isn't a fluke.
Ron Francis will need to take chances on riskier prospects to help boost Carolina's prospect system back to respectability; he'll have few better opportunities to do so than with Iacopelli in the draft's later rounds.
7th Round, Pick No. 187: G Austin Lotz
Despite a meteoric plummet down the CSS N.A. goaltender rankings over the second half of the season, WHL product Austin Lotz could be a seventh-round flier with plenty of upside.
Lotz, average-sized at 6'1", 200 pounds, went 31-18-5 with a 2.53 GAA and five shutouts for the Everett Silvertips.
2014 is Lotz's second year of draft eligibility, after he ranked 10th by the CSS last spring but passed over. He dropped from 11th on the CSS midseason rankings to 22nd by season's end for unknown reasons, but he does benefit from a previous tie to the 'Canes organization—he played as a team invitee on Carolina's 2013 Traverse City prospects tournament squad.
The Hurricanes found goaltender gold in the 2010 seventh round, landing now-Anaheim star Frederik Andersen. They could hope to match that success with Lotz this June.