‘There will be more talk’: What will the Hurricanes do at 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal?

·6 min read

Darren Yorke expects the boos.

Yorke, assistant general manager for the Carolina Hurricanes, has been designated to answer the team roll-call this week as the 2022 NHL Draft begins.

The site: Montreal’s Bell Centre.

The Canes and Canadiens aren’t on the best of terms, not after competing offer sheets for players in free agency. The Canadiens tried to land the Canes’ Sebastian Aho in 2019, and failed. The Canes answered last year with an offer sheet to forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi that Montreal decided not to match, allowing Kotkaniemi to leave.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi (82) waits for a face-off against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Carolina Hurricanes’ Jesperi Kotkaniemi (82) waits for a face-off against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The Canes’ social media team rubbed it in with some tweets in French while Carolina also made Kotkaniemi a bonus offer of $20, matching Aho’s jersey number.

Touché.

Canes fans loved it. The Habs fans did not, and may make that known at the draft Thursday when the Hurricanes are first called on at the Bell Centre.

“I wasn’t good enough as an athlete to get booed, so at least I’ll enjoy that experience of having 22,000 people boo me,” Yorke quipped. “I may never get that experience again.”

Yorke directs the team’s amateur scouting and draft preparations. During an interview Thursday at his office in PNC Arena, he discussed the run-up to this year’s draft, took a look back at some memorable picks while agreeing a degree of normalcy has returned to the process after the challenges of the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.

‘There will be more talk’

The Canes do not have a first-round pick this year, sending it to the Canadiens as part of the compensation for Kotkaniemi. The Habs, in turn, traded that pick to the Arizona Coyotes.

The Canadiens have the No. 1 selection this year, however, having won the NHL draft lottery. That’ll create some big cheers Thursday at the Bell Centre.

The second day of the draft will be much busier for Carolina, which has eight picks in the final six rounds.

The Canes will not have a selection until the 60th pick, in the second round, the latest they’ve chosen since 2006 when defenseman Jamie McBain went 63rd overall. Carolina traded its first-round pick during the 2006 season to St. Louis for forward Doug Weight, who was member of the Canes’ Stanley Cup winners.

“That doesn’t make it any more challenging or easier,” Yorke said. “The process remains the same. Last year we didn’t know we weren’t going to have a first-round draft pick until the draft. You still have to put the work in and be prepared for anything.”

A year ago, the Canes traded their first-round pick — No. 27 — to the Nashville Predators for a pair of second-round choices, Nos. 40 and 51.

Canes president and general manager Don Waddell said Carolina might end up with a first-round selection or move higher than 60th in the draft this year, not ruling out making moves in Montreal.

“We always talk to teams and it depends what their price is,” Waddell said Wednesday. “Yes, we’d like to move up, but there’s a price we’re willing to pay and we’re not going to overpay.

“If it’s going to happen it usually happens at the draft when there’s a guy sitting there, maybe at 30, that you say you really want. We’ll continue to talk to teams, but I think as we get to the draft there will be more talk.”

For the first time since 2019, there will be fans in the stands and the NHL teams gathered at tables on the arena floor. The pandemic resulted in teleconferencing during the 2020 and 2021 drafts that were held remotely, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly announcing the selections from the NHL studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Team officials huddled in private, the Canes making the home locker room at PNC Arena their “war room” the past two years and having a lot of voices heard in the room.

“When you’re not surrounded by 31 other teams you can have your conversations with a larger group,” Yorke said.

Remembering 2019

At the 2019 draft in Vancouver, the Canes took forward Ryan Suzuki with their first-round pick. The trade of forward Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres in the summer of 2018 had gained the Canes another second-round selection and Carolina used it on a goalie, Pyotr Kochetkov of Russia.

Yorke said he and Paul Schonfelder, now the Canes goalie coach, had scouted Kotchetkov as he starred for the Russian team in the 2019 World Junior championship in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

“He was unbelievable,” Yorke said. “Because of technology we could then go back and increase the sample size, get more video and watch him, and then rank him. At the end we put him in a position where we thought his potential was similar to what we see today.”

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, left, congratulates teammates goaltender Antti Raanta (32) on his win over the Boston Bruins following Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, left, congratulates teammates goaltender Antti Raanta (32) on his win over the Boston Bruins following Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Kochetkov made his NHL debut for the Hurricanes this past season and was needed in the Stanley Cup playoffs to spell Antti Raanta. Although a bit unconventional with his technique, he impressed with his competitiveness while displaying a lively, at times fiery personal side.

“An infectious personality,” Yorke said.

Kochetkov, who turned 23 on June 25, teamed with goalie Alex Lyon to help the Chicago Wolves, the Canes’ AHL affiliate, capture the 2022 Calder Cup.

“When we saw his name on the board (and available), it was a no-brainer in terms of selecting him,” Yorke said. “Right now he’s looking like a great pick.”

With pandemic restrictions easing, NHL teams again were able to attend a prospects combine in Buffalo this year, watch the drills and conduct interviews. Yorke said there were fewer players than in past years because of the scheduling in the major junior leagues or injuries or travel problems.

After a couple years of relying on impersonal Zoom interviews, a return to face-to-face meetings with players was refreshing, Yorke said.

The Svechnikov draft

Few players made a quicker or bigger impact on the Canes than Andrei Svechnikov in 2018.

Andrei Svechnikov, of Russia, puts on a jersey after being selected by the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL hockey draft in Dallas, Friday, June 22, 2018.
Andrei Svechnikov, of Russia, puts on a jersey after being selected by the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL hockey draft in Dallas, Friday, June 22, 2018.

After jumping from the 11th pick to second in the NHL draft lottery, Carolina quickly honed in on the Russian forward as the player they wanted while understanding the importance of getting it right.

“Those can be franchise-altering decisions,” Yorke said.

Yorke said the Canes interviewed Svechnikov at the combine that year, then brought Svechnikov to Raleigh for a few days before the draft to meet others in the organization.

“The more time you spend with him the more you realize just how special a person he is,” Yorke said. “There are very few athletes or people who at 18 years old would have been as mature and as driven to get to where he wants to get to.”

When Svechnikov was chosen at the draft in Dallas, his parents and his older brother, Evgeny, were there to celebrate the moment. A few years before that night, Evgeny was taken in the first round by Detroit in the draft and Andrei was there in Sunrise, Florida, to give him a big hug in the stands after the selection was announced.

“The best part of being at the draft in person is seeing the parents’ reaction,” Yorke said. “It’s such a special moment. Irrespective of whatever happens in their career, the entire family has that memory.”

Hurricanes at the 2022 NHL draft

Selections

First round — no selection.

Second round — No. 60

Third round — No. 71 (from Blackhawks)

Fourth round — No. 124

Fifth round — No. 156

Sixth round — Nos. 171 (from Ducks), 188

Seventh round — Nos. 205 (from Blue Jackets), 220.

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