In National Hockey League draft annals, the 2003 Entry Draft is regarded as one of the deepest and most talented classes, especially considering the to-date accomplishments from the 30 first-round picks alone: 21 have played in at least 400 games with 15 having crossed the 500-game marker, 14 have been named All-Stars and nine have captured the Stanley Cup, not to mention the swath of captains and award winners.
A decade later, the same things are being said about the emerging class of the 2013 NHL Draft.
With the fifth overall pick in the draft, which will be held at Prudential Center in New Jersey beginning at 3 p.m. on June 30, the Carolina Hurricanes are in an ideal position to land an impact player.
“It’s a deep draft. Everyone likes to reference the 2003 draft as a comparative, and it is right,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes’ chief of amateur scouting. “It’s going to run deep for two rounds, maybe three.”
The best player available on the board at five is likely to be a forward, perhaps Finnish forward Aleksander Barkov, Swedish forward Elias Lindholm or Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin.
“I think the player we take at five, you will expect that he’s going to be able to come in, play on your team and make a contribution next year,” MacDonald said.
The last player the Hurricanes’ selected in the top 10 was Jeff Skinner with the seventh pick in 2010. The then-18-year-old went on to score 31 goals and tally 63 points en route to claiming the Calder Trophy and becoming an immediate impact player.
“If that happened again, we’d be quite happy,” MacDonald said, smiling. “But it’s not always about production. It’s a player who can come in and play and fit in your lineup.”
The top four picks in 2003 – Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton and Nikolai Zherdev – each saw regular playing time with their new teams the following season, and many of the six remaining top-10 picks joined their clubs in regular roles after the work stoppage.
This year, MacDonald said NHL-ready talent could extend as far as the seventh pick. Because of this, Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford said he’s keeping an open mind.
“There are some areas of our team that we’d like to fix sooner than later. If we had the chance to get something that helps our team immediately and not move [down] too many picks, we would at least have to have a pretty in-depth conversation about that within hockey operations,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade the pick outright and wouldn’t drop too many spots, but I’m not going to say I wouldn’t do it at all. I think the odds are against it. Probably not going to trade it. But I think it’s important to look at all options.”
Rutherford said he has little interest in trading up in the draft, considering the caliber of players available in the first five picks. MacDonald agreed.
“We’re going to be happy with our guy at five,” he said. “Somebody might fall through there that is unexpected.”
In the likelihood that the Canes stand pat at fifth overall, it will mark the first top-five pick for the team since 2005, when Carolina selected defenseman Jack Johnson third overall, their third straight top-five selection. In 2003, the Canes picked Staal second overall, and in 2004, the team traded up to nab forward Andrew Ladd with the fourth overall pick.
Following the team’s first-round pick, the Hurricanes will have the fifth selection in rounds two, three, five and six of the 2013 Draft, which will be held in its entirety in one day.
“As always, people are hoping to snag that diamond in the rough in the late rounds, but that doesn’t change regardless what kind of draft year you’re looking at,” MacDonald said.
What does change a bit with conducting all seven rounds in one day is strategy. In years past, MacDonald and his staff have had time to regroup and reassess after the first round; that will have to be done on the fly this year.
Each weekday leading up to the draft, CarolinaHurricanes.com will profile 10 prospects in alphabetical order who we believe could be available in the fifth slot, someone who many peg as a potential impact player.
“It’s a deep draft,” MacDonald said, “and you’re going to get a good player.”
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