The Carolina Hurricanes entered the first-round of the 2016 NHL Draft on Friday with a lot of questions, and general manager Ron Francis stuck to plan and drafted with both of their top-30 picks.
With their first pick in the draft at 13th overall, the Canes had a lot of options. A team stocked with young defensemen, the Hurricanes were expected to draft a heavy forward early in the draft, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the club went with the best offensive defenseman in the draft, Jake Bean.
Bean dominated the Western Hockey League last year, leading the league in defenseman goal scoring with a remarkable 24 goals. Not only does Bean possess a great slap shot, he has a quick release on his wrist shot that catches goalies off guard.
His offensive instincts make him a potential power play quarterback of the future for the Canes, which is something they very much need after seeing the fall of Ryan Murphy, a player who was expected to head man the power play for the organization for a long time. With the acquisition of Bean, it seems very likely that RFA Ryan Murphy’s days as a Hurricane are numbered.
Bean joins an incredible group of defensemen in the organization. Carolina now has a lengthy list of high-potential blue liners under the age of 25. Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Haydn Fleury, Roland McKeown, Trevor Carrick and now Jake Bean are all either projected to be solid NHLers or have already established themselves as very good players at the top level.
With Carolina’s second pick in round one, 21st overall, they decided to address their need for big goal scorers, and they did so by drafting 6-foot-3-inch, 231-pound winger Julien Gauthier.
The son and grandson of former bodybuilders, the Quebec-born forward certainly looks the part. At the age of 18 he would already be a menacing player at the NHL level. To go along with his massive size, Gauthier netted 41 goals in 56 games with Val-d’Or of the QMJHL last season.
He’s a player who drives the net and reeks havoc in front of goalies. He was touted as one of the best finishers in the entire draft, and that is exactly what Carolina needs going forward. He said that he models his game after 2002 first-overall pick Rick Nash.
What Both Bring to the Canes
Both of Carolina’s first rounders have their obvious upsides. With Bean, it’s his ability to facilitate offense from the blue line and drive the puck up the ice with great passing and vision. With Gauthier, it’s his deadly blend of skill and power that makes him a fantastic goal scorer.
Jake Bean will need to put on a lot of muscle before he can make it into the NHL. He is listed at just 172-pounds at 6-foot-2-inches. He can also stand to improve his defensive play as he continues to mature. As an offensive defenseman, he has all the tools to become a very good player down the road in Carolina.
Julien Gauthier needs to work on his offensive distribution. He tends to get the puck and just barrel into the zone. While being a north-south player will be very beneficial for him in Bill Peters’ system, it will be even more beneficial for both him and the team if he can start to look for passes a bit more often.
That being said, his goal scoring ability as a power forward shouldn’t be undersold. He’s a player who can be a big time contributor at the NHL level sooner rather than later. He’ll be a player who competes for a roster spot in the NHL during training camp. He already has the size of an NHLer, the question now is if his game is good enough as is to translate to the big leagues. That will be something that head coach Bill Peters and his staff will have to determine in the coming months. There’s no need to rush him at this point.
The NHL Draft started off with a bang and some controversy for the Hurricanes. The Canes may have passed up on guys like Bellows and Tufte at pick number 13, but they more than made up for it by adding key prospects both up front and on the blue line on day one of the 2016 NHL Draft.