Best Drafts in Hurricanes/Whalers History

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft could be a pivotal one for the Carolina Hurricanes. With the potential for five picks in the first three rounds, the Canes have a special opportunity to add key assets to their organization.

This upcoming draft is projected to be one of the deepest and most talented groups in years. But general manager Don Waddell and the Hurricanes will have to strike gold with nearly every pick if they hope to outdo some of the franchise’s best drafts on this historic list.

2010 Draft

Round 1 (7): F Jeff Skinner
Round 2 (37): D Justin Faulk
Round 3 (53): D Mark Alt
Round 3 (67): D Danny Biega
Round 3 (85): D Austin Levi
Round 4 (105): F Justin Shugg
Round 6 (167): D Tyler Stahl
Round 7 (187): G Frederik Andersen

In a draft year headlined by the catchphrase “Taylor or Tyler?” for the No. 1 overall pick, all the focus was on whether Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin would go first to the Edmonton Oilers. But it was the Hurricanes who quietly left the draft with full pockets, although it may not have looked that way at the time.

Related: Brass Bonanza Silenced – The Demise of the Hartford Whalers

With the seventh-overall pick, the Hurricanes selected Jeff Skinner, and in Round 2, claimed defenseman Justin Faulk, two key cornerstones on what would become the Hurricanes roster for the next decade.

Jeff Skinner
The Carolina Hurricanes select Jeff Skinner seventh overall in 2010. (THW Archives)

But the under-the-radar selection that thrusts the 2010 draft on this list, is goaltender Frederik Andersen. It’s easy to forget that it was the Hurricanes who originally selected the star goaltender in the seventh round of that draft.

Andersen never played a game for the Hurricanes. In fact, he never even signed with them. Unable to come to terms on an entry-level contract, then-GM Jim Rutherford and the Hurricanes were forced to move on. Two years later, Andersen was draft-eligible again, and the Anaheim Ducks used a third-round pick to claim him.

Andersen, of course, has evolved into one of the league’s top goaltenders, having held down the No. 1 job for the Ducks, and more recently the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite the what-if scenarios brought on by the failure to sign Andersen, this was a pretty extraordinary draft on paper, and Faulk and Skinner still went on to become two integral players in Carolina.

Skinner, who joined the Hurricanes the following season, exploded out of the gate, besting all rookies in points in 2010-11 with 63 points in 82 games en route to winning the Calder Trophy. Throughout his eight years as a Hurricane, Skinner tallied 204 goals and 175 assists for 379 points in 579 games. He sits fifth in franchise history in goals, and seventh in points. Among 2010 draftees, Skinner ranks second in games played, second in goals, and third in points.

Jeff Skinner
RALEIGH, NC – FEBRUARY 1: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Faulk also played eight seasons with the club, and was one of their top defensemen during that span. He scored 259 points in 558 games, averaging 23:11 time-on-ice.

The Hurricanes also had three third-round picks they whiffed on with defensemen Mark Alt, Danny Biega, and Austin Levi, who have only played a combined 28 games in the NHL.

Although the ‘Canes landed three heavy hitters in Skinner, Faulk and Andersen, all that remains in the Hurricanes organization since their departures are the remnants of the Skinner and Faulk trades – draft picks, prospects Pyotr Kochetkov and Dominik Bokk, and pending unrestricted free agent Joel Edmundson.

1993 Draft (Whalers)

Round 1 (2): D Chris Pronger
Round 3 (72): D Marek Malik
Round 4 (84): F Trevor Roenick
Round 5 (115): D Nolan Pratt
Round 8 (188): G Manny Legace
Round 9 (214): F Dmitri Gorenko
Round 10 (240): D Wes Swinson
Round 11 (266): F Igor Chibirev

From 1985 to 1992, the Whalers made seven straight playoff appearances. They lost in the first round six of those seasons. Times were tough in Hartford, but matters only got worse after the 1992-93 season in which they secured only 58 points in 84 games – one of their worst seasons in history.

Chris Pronger Hartford Whalers
Chris Pronger, Hartford Whalers (THW Archives)

To say the 1993 draft was crucial would be a massive understatement. With a second-overall pick in hand, and after the Ottawa Senators notoriously selected Alexandre Daigle first overall, the Whalers drafted the behemoth blueliner.

Pronger only played two seasons for the club before he was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Brendan Shanahan in an iconic one-for-one swap of Hall-of-Famers.

Pronger’s legacy includes 1,167 NHL games with the Whalers, Blues, Oilers, Ducks, and Philadelphia Flyers. He also sports a legendary streak of 15 straight playoff appearances in his career, during which he scored a whopping 121 points and 326 penalty minutes in 173 playoff games. He won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1999-00, and is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won Olympic gold medals in 2002 and 2010, a World Championship gold medal in 1997, and a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.

Beyond drafting the Hall-of-Fame defenseman, the Hurricanes also nabbed goaltender Manny Legace in Round 8, who played 367 games throughout his career and backed up the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup championship in 2002. He never suited up for the Whalers, but did eventually re-join the Hurricanes for a final NHL season in 2009-10.

Other notable names from the 1993 draft include stay-at-home defensemen Marek Malik and Nolan Pratt.

Malik played 317 games with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise – more than any other team throughout his career. But he’s probably best known for his between-the-legs shootout goal with the New York Rangers that blew the roof off Madison Square Garden in 2005.

In Round 15 of the shootout, the hulking Rangers defenseman, who hadn’t scored a goal yet that season, became the unlikeliest of heroes, burying the game-winning goal in style to end the longest shootout in history at that time.

YouTube player

A fifth-round pick in 1993, Pratt was a grittier type of defenseman who made a successful 592-game career out of playing a rugged, more defensive style. He spent parts of four seasons with the Whalers/Hurricanes, but played most of his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the early 2000s.

In the fourth round, the Whalers selected Trevor Roenick, younger brother of Jeremy Roenick, who never suited up for an NHL game.

Among the other draftees from 1993 are Dmitri Gorenko (214th overall), Wes Swinson (240th overall), and Igor Chibirev (266th overall). Of those three, only Chibirev made the NHL, skating in 45 games for the Whalers, and playing out the rest of his career internationally.

1982 Draft (Whalers)

Round 1 (14): F Paul Lawless
Round 2 (35): D Mark Paterson
Round 3 (56): F Kevin Dineen
Round 4 (67): D Ulf Samuelsson
Round 5 (88): F Ray Ferraro
Round 6 (109): F Randy Gilhen
Round 7 (130): F Jim Johannson
Round 8 (151): F Mickey Krampotich
Round 9 (172): D Kevin Skilliter
Round 11 (214): F Martin Linse
Round 12 (235): D Randy Cameron

At the time of the 1982 draft, the Whalers were still a relatively new team, having played only been a part of the NHL for three seasons. But their haul at this draft brought them several key players that would shape the team for years to come.

The Whalers struck out on their first two picks – forward Paul Lawless (14th overall) and defenseman Mark Paterson (35th overall) – but that’s the only smudge on this draft class, because the next three players the Whalers selected all enjoyed fantastic careers of over 1,000 games.

Related: The WHA – A Look Back at the Upstart Hockey League

Kevin Dineen (56th overall), Ulf Samuelsson (67th overall), and Ray Ferraro (88th overall) were all a part of the trio of gems the Whalers locked down for the early years of their careers. This class stands out not just because of the quality of players selected, but their impact and commitment to the Whalers’ organization as a whole.

Then-captain Kevin Dineen salutes the crowd in the Hartford Whalers’ final season. (THW Archives)

Dineen was one of the Whalers’ all-time greats, playing parts of 10 seasons with Hartford. He sits third in franchise history in points with 544, and fourth in games played with 708. He was named captain for the 1996-97 season, and has the distinction of scoring the final goal in Whalers history.

Dineen remained captain for another year as the Whalers re-located and became the Hurricanes, before finishing out his career with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Samuelsson and Ferraro played their first seven years of their careers with the Whalers, before both being traded within four months of each other during the 1990-91 season.

Ferraro joined a lowly New York Islanders team that missed the 1991 playoffs by a wide margin. Samuelsson, on the other hand, was a piece of the massive deal that also sent Ron Francis to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Three months later, the Penguins were Stanley Cup champions.

The Whalers’ 1982 draft class has the most combined NHL games played than any other draft class in franchise history. Between Dineen, Samuelsson, Ferraro, and the lesser-known players like Lawless and sixth-round pick Randy Gilhen, this class boasts a grand total of 4,250 games played. Both Dineen’s No. 11 and Samuelsson’s No. 5 currently hang in the rafters at PNC Arena.

1981 Draft (Whalers)

Round 1 (4): F Ron Francis
Round 3 (61): F Paul MacDermid
Round 4 (67): F Mike Hoffman
Round 5 (93): D Bill Maguire
Round 5 (103): F Dan Bourbonnais
Round 7 (130): D John Mokosak
Round 8 (151): F Denis Dore
Round 9 (172): G Jeff Poeschl
Round 10 (193): F Larry Power

Sometimes all it takes is one, and it was the 1981 draft that brought the Hurricanes one of their most iconic players to date.

We can go over Francis’ accolades – fifth in scoring in NHL history with 1,798 points in 1,731 games, Selke Trophy winner, Lady Byng Trophy winner, two-time Stanley Cup champion – but his significance to the early years of both the Whalers and the Hurricanes can’t truly be measured.

Ron Francis Hartford Whalers
Ron Francis, Hartford Whalers (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

He carried the franchise through uncertain times, when both the Whalers and Hurricanes were in their infancy, and helped establish their identities as their representative and leader.

Honorable mention goes to the Whalers’ third-round pick in 1981, Paul MacDermid, who grinded out a very respectable nine seasons in Hartford, scoring 151 points and collecting 744 penalty minutes during his stay.

2019 Draft

Round 1 (28): F Ryan Suzuki
Round 2 (36): G Pyotr Kochetkov
Round 2 (44): F Jamieson Rees
Round 3 (73): F Patrik Puistola
Round 3 (83): D Anttoni Honka
Round 3 (90): D Domenick Fensore
Round 4 (99): D Cade Webber
Round 4 (121): F Tuukka Tieksola
Round 5 (152): F Kirill Slepets
Round 6 (181): F Kevin Wall
Round 6 (183): F Blake Murray
Round 7 (216): F Massimo Rizzo

Recency bias is strong, but the Hurricanes have also historically not been the best drafters, so the Class of 2019 looks good in that regard. It’s only been one year, and none of the draftees have even touched NHL ice yet, but there are some key points that suggest several years down the line, this draft class will be viewed as one of the best.

Jamieson Rees Carolina Hurricanes Draft
Carolina Hurricanes second-round pick Jamieson Rees, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Hurricanes had more picks in 2019 than any other draft since their relocation, and they used that advantage to draft a good assortment of players.

Forwards Ryan Suzuki (28th overall) and Jamison Rees (44th overall) both enjoyed torrid seasons in the OHL in 2019-20, despite both suffering unique setbacks.

Related: Old School NHL Jerseys – Gone But Not Forgotten

Suzuki’s season was derailed by an eye injury that forced him to miss significant time. After recovering, he was traded to the Saginaw Spirit where he caught fire, scoring 35 points in the final 23 games of the season. The Canadian center’s hands and creative playmaking ability earned him No. 1 on the Hurricanes’ top prospects list in March.

Ryan Suzuki Barrie Colts
Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts (Terry Wilson OHL Images)

Rees had a career high 61 points in just 39 games for the Sarnia Sting, an adventurous season defined by injuries and suspensions that hindered him from establishing any consistency.

Overseas, Russian goaltender Kochetkov has been developing nicely, and the trio of Finns, Patrik Puistola, Anttoni Honka, and Tuukka Tieksola have impressed as well. Puistola and Honka were special standouts at the 2020 World Juniors, where Finland finished just shy of a medal.

With 12 prospects in the stable from last year’s draft alone, the potential is there for the 2019 class to one day stack up to the other extraordinary drafts this franchise has had throughout its long and strenuous 41-year history.