Forward, Defenseman or Trade?

As we inch closer to the NHL Draft, I can’t help but notice a lot of fans and bloggers run into the same pitfalls about what they should do with their pick. Most fans seem to have their hearts set on one player or decision that the team needs to make around draft time and they won’t be satisfied with anything else. The thing with the Hurricanes is that they have a lot of options as to what they can do with the #8 pick and there isn’t really one “right or wrong” choice. The chance of them getting a player who can help the team next season is slim, but they still own a top-10 pick and have a pretty good chance of acquiring someone who will be a useful NHL player somewhere down the line. That is the one thing to remember with all of this.

Hindsight is always 20/20 in the draft and busts do happen regularly, so everyone looks to minimize the risk of a bust by taking what they see as the “safest option.” This could be a player who projects to be a top-six forward or top-pairing defenseman and is likely going to be available when it comes their team’s turn to pick. However, there are times when a team needs to take risks to gain a star player. “Taking a risk” could mean multiple things including trading him, swapping the pick for a proven talent or selecting a player who had a higher “bust potential” due to on or off-ice issues. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hurricanes to take any one of these routes with their first round pick because they have a lot of needs and most of the players projected to be in the top 10 of this draft class can help the team in some way. In addition to that, trading the pick to move down in the draft could give the Hurricanes a chance to boost their prospect pool, making them better for the long run.

Some may have preferred it if the Hurricanes had a higher pick so they had a better chance at acquiring one of the top forwards in the draft but they are in a pretty good position as it is right now. There are so many different things the Hurricanes can do with this pick and most give them a chance to improve themselves overall. What exactly should they do with the pick, though? Well, I don’t have an answer for what they should do because they have too many options for there to be a “right or wrong” decision. What I can do is go through the different options and weigh the pros and cons of each.

After the jump, I will go over the different forward prospects who the Canes might target and also discuss the different trade scenarios which could possibly occur.

While there are a lot of options available for Carolina, the biggest need for them this draft (and this off-season) is to strengthen their prospect pool up front, specifically at the winger position. The best forward prospect in the system is Zac Dalpe and he is close to “graduating” so the front office needs to add some fresh bodies into the system to continue with the rebuilding process. They can help this area in a big way with their first round pick this year as there are quite a few high-end forwards who should be available at #8. It’s tough to say which one the Hurricanes the most but I’m sure the Canes would be happy to acquire any one of the following players.

Mikhail Grigorenko

Corey Pronman’s Take:

“Grigorenko is a very special kind of talent who scouts have been hearing about for many years. He absolutely burst onto the scene last year with a tremendous performance at the Under-18s. He’s an exceptionally gifted player who can control the flow of a hockey game seemingly at will with elite puck skills, vision, offensive creativity, and overall hockey sense. He makes high level dekes seem effortless and is the kind of player who is able to slow the game down to his pace rather than try to keep up with it. His ability as a playmaker is really special as he is the classic “eyes in the back of his head” type of player who consistently makes high-level reads quickly and effectively. Grigorenko’s hand skills allow him to keep the puck away from pursuers very well and when he’s setting up in open ice, the chances of a defender being able to cleanly check him is low. When you combine his puck skills and sense, though, you get the combination of tools that allow him to make “unique” plays, that after they happen, you try to remember about the last time you saw a play similar to that. He is an above-average skater who industry sources have described with the kind of stride that looks like he’s floating on the ice as he effortlessly picks up speed— especially for a bigger player. Grigorenko also has a pretty decent array of shots and is certainly an above-average finisher. He is an advanced two-way thinker who gets the job done at a decent level in his own end, and while he struggled with that aspect of his game earlier in the year, he was much better later on. He has above-average size, and while he doesn’t really use his frame as much as he could, he’s decent in the physical aspects of hockey as he boxes out fine along the wall and will win some battles. His work ethic draws issues at times but he’s not an extremely lazy player, though he’s not one who gives it 100% every shift. He’s also the kind of player who likes to slow the game down, so some observers perceive that as questionable work ethic. However, he’s the kind of talent who NHL sources have described as the best guy on the ice while he’s going at 75%.” – Hockey Prospectus

Grigorenko seems like the real deal if you are looking for a potential offensive superstar. I haven’t seen much of him personally but according to Pronman and numerous other reputable sources, he has incredible skill, excellent vision and the ability to be a top-line forward in the NHL. He’s also got the numbers in junior hockey to back this up and isn’t a liability defensively. He was actually projected by a lot of scouts to be a top-three pick nto too long ago but he’s fallen in the rankings over the last few weeks. Questions about his character have come up and if you look at Pronman’s report, you’ll see that he hasn’t been known for his work ethic. It has also been rumored that Grigorenko has received offers to play in Russia, which has driven some teams away from him.

Should Grigorenko slide to #8, I think the Hurricanes will waste no time picking him unless they have their heart’s set on another player. every GMs strategy is usually to take the “best player available” and if Grigorenko is available then, he is going to be the best player available and one who fills a position of need. I personally don’t buy into character issues because Grigorenko’s talent is too good to pass up if the Canes have the opportunity to select him. The bigger issue will be whether or not he will be available this late in the draft. His stock is falling but I would think that a trade will trade up for him before #8 if he fall out of the top five.

Teuvo Teravainen

Corey Pronman’s take:

“Teravainen is a tremendously skilled all-around winger who has played at a very impressive performance level considering how he’s a few days removed from being a 2013 eligible and is still scoring in Finland’s top pro league. Teravainen is an impressive skater with a great first few steps who can get to a dangerous top speed that puts defenders on their heels, while also showing the ability to change gears quickly, and is very elusive from a standstill. His combination of quickness and speed is a great asset but his possession skills are even better and really drive top-end value. Teravainen has high-end puck skills which when combined with the ability he has with his feet, allow him to make very rapid movements with the puck and create space for himself in an instant. He’s a smart, creative player who knows how to miss checks and open up lanes. Tervainen has plus vision and regularly makes very aware distributions with regular moments of flash in his playmaking. He’s the kind of player who scouts describe as “a player who sees everything.” Teravainen has above-average finishing skills as well. While he usually on the power play creates plays from the right side, he can also open up his hips and wind up a big one-timer. He’s small guy and that’s his main issue, but he does have a decent compete level although it’s hard to see his physical game being more than replacement level. If he improves his strength significantly however as he grows, I could possibly see that aspect getting to a half-grade above that level. His compete level shows up at both ends as he backchecks well, and overall despite his size, I tend to be pretty impressed with his defensive game although I’ve heard conflicting things about it. Teravainen commonly is listed as a winger, but I’ve also seen him play center with some effectiveness.” – Hockey Prospectus

Teravainen has been a popular pick for Carolina in mock drafts and selecting him would make sense if you think about it. He is a terrific play-maker, has a great shot and also shows the potential to be a top-line forward in the NHL sometime during his career. His numbers in the SM Liiga do not look that impressive this season but that’s mainly because he’s a 17 year old playing in a league with mostly adults. He was also used as a fourth liner for most of the season and worked his way up through the lineup and eventually became the second line center. He had six points in nine games in the playoffs this year, which is very impressive and it’ll be interesting to see if he can build on this performance next year.

If the Canes want to take the best forward available after the big three are off the board then Teravainen could be their guy. The questions surrounding him are all concerning his size and how he could be easier to knock around by bigger forwards at the NHL level. There also hasn’t been much written about Teravainen’s physical game, which probably relates to the size concerns. Similar things were written about Jeff Skinner when he was drafted and we’ve seen how that’s turned out. Like Teravainen, Skinner’s a gifted playmaker and goal-scorer but has been taken advantage of by opposing forwards and has already sustained a concussion.

Teravainen and Skinner have similar body types but Teravainen is only 17 years old and is at least another couple years away from being NHL-ready. He has time to grow and isn’t going to stay at his current frame of 5’10″/185 lbs. forever. If he reaches his full potential and bulks up a little then the Hurricanes have themselves one hell of a prospect on their hands. If he doesn’t grow that much then it isn’t a huge deal if he stays at wing. Wingers do not need to be big to be successful in the NHL.

Radek Faksa

Corey Pronman’s take:

“Faksa had a great first season in North America, rocketing to the top of the charts in OHL rookie scoring and playing a key role for Kitchener. Faksa is a pretty well-rounded player who doesn’t have a clear weakness but is notably strong at all areas of the game. He’s a solid to above-average skater with nice acceleration and who can get to a desirable top speed. Faksa’s puck skills are above-average as well and he’s certainly effective controlling the puck. He will show the ability to be a good puck distributer, though I have heard conflicting reports on this area of his game from scouts as some think he’s just solid and other think potentially high end. How well he has adjusted to the OHL pace has been impressive as he makes quick decisions in a fast Junior league. Faksa shows very good dependability in the defensive end and scouts I’ve talked to rave about his defensive game which is high-end potentially and creates a lot of value when combined with his skill set. He can kill penalties effectively and has been regularly relied on to play high-leverage minutes in both ends. He also has no fear of getting involved with the physical game as he will battle hard in the corners, take his checks with the body, and drive the net with regularity.” – Hockey Prospectus

Faksa was more than a point-per-game player with the Kitchener Rangers last season and appears to be more well-rounded than Teravainen. However, he is ranked lower than him in just about every list I have seen and I guess it’s because his offensive talent level is much lower than him. This could make Faksa the “safe pick” for the Hurricanes because he has good size, a relatively high offensive acumen and can play solid defense. He is also lauded for his willingness to throw his body around, which is something that a lot of GMs will like with the popularity of “power forwards” in the NHL.

No prospect is guaranteed to turn into an NHL-er but Faksa appears to have all the tools to do so. He seems to be much more polished and developed than most players his age and could be ready for the big show sooner than one would think. The question is, do the Hurricanes value Faksa’s all-around game more than Tervainen’s offensive potential? It’s a tough call, really. The one edge Teravainen has on Faksa is that he plays wing whereas Faksa is a center. Both are positions of need for the Canes but wing needs a lot more help than center right now. My guess is that Faksa could play wing, but that wouldn’t be using him to his full ability given his impressive defensive game. Teravainen might end up being the better player of the two, but it’s possible that Faksa suits the Hurricanes needs more. Both are the same age but from the sound of things, Faksa might be more NHL-ready.

Sebastian Collberg

Corey Pronman’s take:

“Collberg got a very small amount of minutes in the SEL after being a top scorer in the Swedish U20 league as a 16-year-old. In international events, he was much better and produced a lot. Collberg is a true plus skater who is very well rounded in that aspect of the game. He’s great from a standstill with good agility and first step quickness. When he gets going, his top speed is quite dangerous and he can really put defensemen on their heels. Collberg has very quick feet that allow his first few steps to take advantage of his acceleration and speed more than the average quick player. He also has a nice “gliding gear” after he makes a couple of steps and can create very quick bursts from the simplest of motions. Collberg has above-average to plus puck skills as he is a very coordinated player with the puck who shows good creativity, can control the play well on the power play from the sideboards, and overall is hard to strip the puck from. Collberg is a plus shooter with a great wrist shot that is deadly accurate and he regularly shows the ability to score from a distance. The phrase “quick release” is overused at times in scouting circles, but the puck truly does fly off his blade and is very deceptive. However, Collberg will also go to the high percentage areas to score goals and doesn’t mind getting involved with the physical stuff. He is quite small though and needs a boatload of strength to be effective doing that at the pro level. Collberg has decent hockey sense, although his sense is more an instinctual, shooter type of sense as opposed to having good vision but he will make the rights plays and does show above-average vision here and there.” – Hockey Prospectus

Collberg is another great offensive talent who has the skillset and talent to fit right in with the Canes system. It is said that he has good speed, a deceiving shot and a natural ability to score and that would definitely help out Carolina somewhere down the line. With that being said, it appears that Collberg is similar to Teravainaen and the only edge he has on him is that he is a better skater. If the decision comes down to between the two of them, then Teravainen would probably be the better pick. Collberg also has yet to record a point in 46 games at the pro level, which is concerning but not a huge draw back since he’s still very young.

I said that there are no “right or wrong” picks in this draft, but Collberg isn’t as good of a scorer as Teravainen and he is a little too undersized to get involved physically, something that isn’t a problem with Radek Faksa, so taking Collberg is a bit of a reach if either of those two are on the board at #8. The pick wouldn’t be “bad” in the general sense because you never know what you’ll get with prospects, but Faksa and Teravainen appear to be much safer.

Taking a defenseman

The one negative thing about Carolina being so low in the top-10 is that this draft is filled with a lot of fantastic defensive prospects and the Canes already have a lot of young defensemen in their system. You can never have too many good prospects, but anyone who has looked at Carolina’s prospect knows that forward is a bigger area of need and the pro team already has a bit of a logjam on the blue line. The only reason for taking a defenseman in the first round is if he is the best player available then, which might be the case. Morgan Reilly, Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba and Griffin Reinhart are all projected to be top-10 picks and most scouts and draft experts say they have a very good chance of turning into everyday NHL-ers.

It’s very possible that the Hurricanes scouting staff sees one of the defensemen available as a better player than Teravainen or Faksa, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Carolina take a blue-liner in the first round. It especially wouldn’t surprise me if the Canes take someone like Griffin Reinhart with this pick because of his supposed ceiling and puck skills. Personally, I’d rather the team go forward but if one of the main targets if off the board, then the Canes taking a defenseman here isn’t the worst thing in the world. Although, the disadvantage of taking a defenseman is that they normally take years to develop, so it could be awhile before any blue liner they select is ready to contribute to the Hurricanes’ NHL team. That’s the main drawback of taking a defenseman now even if he is the best guy available. This gives motivation for Carolina to trade up or down this draft. What are the possibilities there?

Trading Up

If Carolina does want one of the top three forwards, then they are probably going to have to move themselves into at least the top-five. I suggested earlier that they should give the New York Islanders a call to see if they have any interest in trading down because they are the first team that comes to mind when you think of clubs that need defense. I wouldn’t rule out Carolina trading up in this draft, but I only see it happening if one of Filip Forsberg or Alex Galchenyuk is available at #4-5. You could probably put Grigonrenko in that category as well. If Carolina can trade up for nothing but picks then it would be a no-brainer to do so. However, the Islanders or any other team picking in the top-five is going to want more than just to switch picks, so Carolina might need to part ways with one of their prospects or younger players if they want to move up. The Hurricanes aren’t in a position where they can lose prospects, but they might need to if they want one of the studs in this draft.

Trading Down

Let’s say that all the Canes main targets fall off the board, then the Canes could possibly trade down and get a few more picks instead of reaching for another player. You could also make the case that the Hurricanes should try to trade down if the best player available is a defenseman because they could possibly earn more picks later in the draft that would help them strengthen their forward prospect pool. I’d rather the Canes take the best guy available no matter what but trading down to get more picks would not be the worst thing in the world.

Using the pick as trade bait

This is something that is always talked about during the off-season and at least one trade involving a first rounder happens during the draft. We had the Troy Brouwer and Brent Burns deals last year and the Keith Ballard trade a year before. Could the Hurricanes possibly use their first round pick to acquire a proven talent this year? Honestly, I think this is a longshot. It isn’t often you see teams trading top-10 picks for just one player. A mid-late first round pick yes, but not a top-10 pick. Jim Rutherford has said that the #8 pick is in play for a trade but I think it’s a longshot that a deal gets done.

So, as you can see, the Hurricanes have plenty of different routes they can take and most of them and most of them should end with them getting a useful NHL player unless things go completely awry. Some fans might have their hearts set on taking one particular player but if he falls off the board, remember that there are other options, none of which are bad.