While the hockey world focused on protected lists prior to this week’s Vegas expansion draft, I focused on the Canes organizational depth chart going into the NHL Draft on Friday.

Today I’m focusing on the organization’s needs as the front office heads to Chicago.

[Editors Note: This is the first of five posts leading up to the NHL Draft on June 22.]

Hurricanes Organizational Needs

Top Center

The most obvious need for the NHL club is a No. 1 Center. No player projected to be available with the 12th overall pick seems earmarked for that role. If a player of that stature is truly available and Ron Francis can acquire them, then the prospect pipeline will take a hit. The 12th overall pick and at least a prospect will have to be part of any package.

Fans all have their fingers crossed we see a deal on Thursday or Friday before the first round begins. If it does, the GM and the scouts will need to focus their attentiona on two other holes.

Drafting Playmaker

Outside of Skinner, Aho, and a potential 1C there are no dynamic playmakers in the system. Janne Kuokkanen and Aleksi Saarela may be the closest to that classification the team has. It will remain to be seen whether they can generate offense, plays without relying on their linemates.

Should the team retain the 12th overall pick, or move up in the first round, the front office needs to focus on that type of forward.

Defensive Depth

For all the accolades the NHL defensive group receives for their top-4 (Faulk, Slavin, Pesce, & Hanifin), the team is one injury or trade away from exposing any potential depth issues. Restricted free agent to-be Trevor Carrick is the only expected returning Charlotte Checker with any NHL experience – and that’s limited to two games averaging 16 minutes a night.

Of the seven or eight prospects expected to graduate to North American pro hockey this season, non are defensemen. That puts a lot of faith on former first-rounder Haydn Fleury as most likely to be recalled, relied on to play heavy minutes. Barring a trade involving Noah Hanifin, Fleury should start the year in Charlotte as the top defender.

With only two prospects (Jake Bean, Noah Carrol) on the horizon, the Canes will be wise to focus their second and third round picks on blueliners.

Canes Prospect Depth Chart

Here are the prospects slated to join the Hurricanes, Checkers, or Everblades this season:

  • Callum Booth (G)
  • Warren Foegele (C/LW)
  • Julien Gauthier (RW)
  • Janne Kuokkanen (C)*
  • Steve Lorentz (LW)
  • Nicolas Roy (C)
  • Aleksi Saarela (C/LW)*
  • Spencer Smallman (LW/RW)

*Players finished last season with Charlotte Checkers

That leaves nine players in the pipeline. The five NCAA players (Matt Filipe, Max Zimmer, Luke Stevens, David Cotton, Jack LaFontaine) are all likely to remain in university beyond their sophomore season. Of the four CHL players (Bean, Carroll, Hudson Elynuik, Jeremy Helvig) only Bean is earmarked for the NHL roster before 2020.

Of the seven skaters there are no right-handed shots. Given the limited depth on right-wing and right-side defense, finding a few right-handed shots would be ideal.

Of the Canes 10 draft picks, I’m hoping they make seven selections:

  • 3 Forwards
  • 3 Defenders
  • 1 Goaltender

Tomorrow I’ll focus on players who are options with the 12th overall pick