Movin’ on up to the top-five

With the playoffs still being far from over, it might come as a surprise to some that the NHL Draft is only a little over a month away. This is about the time of year that scouts, team executives and bloggers scramble to find the best young talent from all over the world. One person who monitors this year-round is Corey Pronman of Hockey’s Future and Hockey Prospectus, who recently released his list of the Top 100 Prospects.

I am going to be straight up with all of you on this. My knowledge of prospects is very, very limited. I watch college hockey semi-regularly but most of those players are already in the NHL and I don’t have access to CHL or European games. Which means that I can only go by what I see in highlight clips and scoresheets with prospects, which are helpful but it is probably best if you listen to guys like Pronman before me when it comes to this stuff.

That being said, the Hurricanes are in an interesting situation with the #8 pick because judging from Pronman’s list and other mock drafts I have seen, the best forwards in this class are likely to go in the top five while there are many good defensemen available in the top 15. While I am of the “taking the best player available” mindset, I do think that forward is a bigger need for the Hurricanes and they might need to trade up to get the forward they want in this draft.

Now, this isn’t certain because there are always players who are taken lower than their projected position (see Jeff Skinner & Sean Couturier) and one of the top forwards being available at #8 isn’t out of the realm of possibility. One reason for that is because some of the teams above the Hurricanes in the draft have a bigger need for a top-level defenseman in their prospect pool rather than a forward. The Canes have the opposite problem. They don’t have the next Tyler Myers in their system, but they have more than enough defensemen prospects to get by while their strongest forward prospect is Zac Dalpe. Anyone who follows hockey can tell you that things could be a lot better there.

One of the teams that seriously needs a high-end defenseman in their system is the team picking at #4, the New York Islanders. Some Isles fans have expressed interest in trading down because they do not know if any of the defensemen in this draft class are worth taking in the top five. This should interest Hurricanes fans because a move into the top-five could give Carolina a better chance of taking one of the better forwards in this draft and they have some assets that they could move in the system. However, it is very possible that they might not have to deal one of their prospects if they try to move up four spots. Trades like this have happened before and very rarely have teams needed to move roster players to move up a few spots in the draft.

Let’s go back to 2004 when the Canes traded up from #9 to take Andrew Ladd at #4. All they had to do was swap first round picks and give up a second rounder. For a more recent example, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved up from #7 to take Luke Schenn at #5 in the 2008 draft, which cost them a third round pick and a second rounder the next year. In that same draft, the Predators gave up their second round pick to move up two spots from #9 to #7 in the draft.

The Hurricanes have two picks in the second round this year and moving one of them to move up a few spots in the draft isn’t completely otu of the qeustion. Although, I have to think that the Islanders, or any team in the top five for that matter, are going to want more than just a second round if another team wants to switch places with them in the draft. History has indicated the opposite, though.

Whether or not the Canes do trade up in the draft will depend on what the teams in front of them do and which players will be available at the time. If there is anything the last few drafts have shown us, it’s that anyone can fall off the board and be picked much lower than their projected position. If that happens with someone like Filip Forsberg, Alex Galchenyuk, etc. then there is no need for the Canes to give up picks to move up a couple spots. General Managers usually have an idea of who they want beforehand and will go to lengths to acquire that player if he is good enough.

It is still way too early to determine who Rutherford and the scouting staff likes in this draft, so if there are any moves made, they are going to be at the last minute. A perfect situation for the Canes is for 2010 to repeat itself and have a high-talent forward fall to them and that could definitely happen.