Hurricanes GM Francis talks about how team can improve at 2016 NHL Draft

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
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Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – Ideally, skill and size are tops on the list for the Carolina Hurricanes heading into the upcoming 2016 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft that will take place June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

That’s what executive vice president and general manager Ron Francis and Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald alluded to when they met with the media at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Hurricanes hold a plentiful amount of picks, 10 of them, and with seven of them in the first three rounds of selection.

“It’s a good year to have the extra picks because it’s a little deeper at the top,” MacDonald said.

“Down into the draft, it’s not one of the deeper drafts we’ve ever had, but in terms of where we are, where we’re picking, it’s gonna be helpful.”

Francis added his thoughts on starting the team’s picking order in the 13th overall spot.

“I think it’s gonna be an interesting draft in the sense that I think there seems to be a consensus at the top, and then I think it kind of spreads from there,” he said.

“I think it would be really interesting to see how things go.”

It indeed is an interesting situation for the Hurricanes who have the ability to move picks for identified needs such as proven goal scorers to increase the team’s scoring depth.

It’s an area that head coach Bill Peters talked about since the beginning of last season and throughout the entire 2015-2016 campaign.

Only veterans Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, and Victor Rask scored more than 20 goals last season with none of them reaching the 30-goal plateau.

Skinner came closest with 28.

“I think you certainly explore that option if there’s a good NHL-ready player that’s available at the right price,” Francis said.

If Francis is not enticed to move up or down the draft order as a result of a trade, Carolina is slated to pick twice in the first round, (13, 21), twice in the second (43, 50), three times in the third (66, 74, 75), and once each in the fourth (104), fifth (134), and sixth (164) rounds.

“There’s probably a second drop-off around the middle of the (first) round,” MacDonald said.

“Then from there, the next group of players to 40, there are a lot of good players that turn out to be much better than others. Sometimes a player that might be available at 35 or 38 might be better than somebody that gets picked at 20. So, that’s the kind of a draft this is once you get past those few guys at the top.”

Francis left open the possibility to make a deal stating, “we have the flexibility to do more of that.”

“There has been a lot of phone conversations exploring what’s available as far as moving up or even if we get in a jam. If there’s players available and we wanna move back a little bit, we’ve had a lot of those conversations, and we’ll continue to have them right up until I’m sure at the table that night.”

Regardless, this year’s upcoming draft will once again allow Carolina to stock up on its prospect inventory and develop it to utilize for the future, or to leverage to attain players with experience to go along with the skill and size they’re looking for.

“With 10 picks you’re allowed to do that, or have options to do that,” Francis said.

“But, if it’s not the right deal, then the key is to make sure we get the asset, the player right when we draft him, and develop him so he becomes a solid NHL player, something that somebody else wants and get that flexibility (to deal) down the road as well.”

The ideal player for Carolina – skilled and big – basically every NHL team’s ideal warrior on paper.

That’s what you’ll see Francis and MacDonald working to get as they and the rest of the team’s hockey ops and scouting personnel seek to further improve the team’s chances to make the playoffs in 2016-2017 at this year’s draft.

“Certainly, if we can get everything we’re looking for, or attain a bigger player, that’s our first priority,” Francis said.

“I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we felt we needed to add some skill. We talked about it at the end of the year. We did a lot of things good. We struggled to score some goals at the right time. That’s an addition of skill. We want guys who are gonna come here and work hard every day and compete hard every day. If we can find that guy with that skill and that height, that’s the perfect guy for us.”