The Carolina Hurricanes could draft a Russian forward named Svechkov.
They could pick a Finnish forward — which would surprise no one.
Given the stated preference of team owner Tom Dundon, the Canes might again decide not to select a defenseman in the first round, although priorities can change based on need and which player is the best available.
Two days after the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken, the NHL will begin the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, with the first round set Friday and rounds 2-7 on Saturday. For the second straight year, it will be done virtually because of the pandemic, with the hope that in 2022, a more normal draft setting can be used again.
The Canes also now have an extra draft pick. They added a third-round selection Thursday in the trade with Detroit that sent goalie Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings. In return, Carolina gained the rights to unsigned goalie Jonathan Bernier and the 94th overall pick in this weekend’s draft.
The Canes lost a forward to the Kraken in the expansion draft when Seattle selected Morgan Geekie, a third-round pick by Carolina in 2017. Given the Canes’ track record the past three years — forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Ryan Suzuki and Seth Jarvis taken in the first round — the Hurricanes could pick another forward on Friday.
The Canes have the No. 27 pick of the first round but will make the 26th selection. The Arizona Coyotes, slotted at No. 11, forfeited their first-round pick after violating NHL rules by conducting pre-draft physical testing of prospects.
Defenseman Owen Power of the University of Michigan is expected to be the No. 1 pick by the Buffalo Sabres. The Kraken, who begin play in the 2021-22 season as the NHL’s 32nd team, have the second pick.
The Canes’ possibilities for Friday’s first round could include Fedor Svechkov. A center with speed and agility, he played last season for Lada Togliatti in Russia and was a standout for Russia in the U-18 World Junior Championship.
Odds are, Svechkov will be off the board by the Canes’ pick, but another Russian, winger Nikita Chibrikov, could be available. He’s not a big guy, but he’s skilled and a highly competitive type, according to scouting reports.
There are Finnish possibilities: Aatu Raty, Samu Tuomaala, Samu Salminen could be among the forwards who could go to the Canes.
Raty, a center who played for Karpat in the Finnish Liiga, might be too highly rated to be available for the Canes’ pick. Salminen, a playmaker, opened some eyes at the World Juniors and while playing for the Jokerit U-20 team. Tuomaala, another with a good WJC performance, spent much of last season with Karpat’s U20 team but also got in games with the Liiga team.
Another forward to keep in mind: Zachary L’Heureux from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He’s a banger at 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds and a sandpaper kind of player, although his discipline on the ice has been questioned at times.
Looking for a defensive possibility? It could be someone like Sean Behrens, a small but mobile defenseman from Illinois with some offensive skills. Or Daniil Chayka, a Russian who has played junior hockey in Canada with the Guelph Storm before returning to Russia last season for KHL experience.
Drafts can be unpredictable
Those are some names that have been bandied about, especially in the many mock drafts. But drafts can be a fickle, unpredictable thing.
The Canes, with the 27th pick in the 2009 draft, made forward Philippe Paradis of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL a surprising choice. In 2019, the Canes picked Suzuki of the Barrie Colts of the OHL with the 28th selection.
Suzuki, 20, is considered one of the Canes’ top prospects and could push for a roster spot in 2021-22. Paradis, 30, was traded by the Canes a few months after being drafted in 2009 and has never played in the NHL.
At the 2018 draft in Dallas, Dundon’s hometown, the Canes became the talk of the town. They took Svechnikov with the second overall pick, then pulled off a mega-trade with the Calgary Flames that brought defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and a defensive prospect to the Canes.
That prospect was defenseman Adam Fox, who the Flames drafted but had been unable to sign. Canes general manager Don Waddell called Fox the best defenseman not yet in the NHL and said he was “99.9 percent sure” Carolina would sign the Harvard star to an entry-level contract.
The Canes could not sign Fox. They traded him to the New York Rangers, where he became the Norris Trophy winner this past season as the best defenseman in the NHL.
Imagine the Hurricanes with Hamilton and Fox in the lineup. Now, the Canes might soon be looking for a replacement for Hamilton, a pending unrestricted free agent. Hamilton could be a Seattle Kraken target when NHL free agency begins July 28.
NHL Entry Draft
Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN2