When it comes to selecting the best draft in Carolina/Hartford history one has to go back over 30 years to a pair of drafts in the early 1980’s. In 1981, the club drafted Ron Francis (4th overall) and Paul MacDermid (3rd round, 61st overall). The selection of Francis would help propel the Whalers team to improve on ice play and garner greater respect throughout the league. Francis of course is a Hall of Famer who spent the first 9+ years of his career with the Whalers before being dealt to Pittsburgh where he would ultimately form one of the best 1-2 center combinations in history with Mario Lemieux. Francis would return to Carolina years later and continue to be a productive player for the organization. MacDermid was a gritty hard-nosed winger who would record 151 points in 373 career games with the Whalers.
While the 1982 draft did not result in the selection of any high of fame player, the Whalers were able to nab three players who would each enjoy productive careers and play over 1000 career games. The first round pick was journeyman Paul Lawless and the club’s second rounder was Mark Paterson who would appear in just 29 NHL games. In the next three rounds, the Whalers drafted Kevin Dineen (3rd round, 56th overall), Ulf Samuelsson (4th round, 67th overall) and Ray Ferrero (5th round, 88th overall). Those players would combine with Francis to form the nucleus of the best stretch of hockey Hartford would see. In his 12 years with the Whalers/Hurricanes Dineen would reach the 20 goal plateau six times while topping 40 markers during two of those seasons. Samuelsson would stabilize the Whalers blue-line and eventually join Francis in Pittsburgh as a result of the ill-fated trade that landed John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker with the Whalers. Ferraro played 7 years with the Whalers as part of a long career that resulted in 408 goals and 898 points.
In terms of which draft was better, I guess you could look at this way. Who would you rather have Francis and MacDermid or Dineen, Samuelsson and Ferrero? It’s a tough call as the 1982 draft certainly yielded some good productive players but if you believe that the team that ends up with the best player wins the trade then I would have to go with the 1981 draft which saw the Whalers land Ron Francis.
The Hurricanes/Whalers franchise have had their share of less than sterling drafts. In fact the team has many drafts that on the surface appear really flat. Here are some tidbits for the 1988, 1997, 2001, 2008, 2009 drafts.
Total Number of Picks: 39
Total Number of 1st Round Picks: 5
Total Number of 2nd Round Picks: 5
Total Number of 3rd Round Picks: 3
Total Number of Players Appearing in at least 400 career games: 0
300 games – 0
200 games – 0
100 games =6
Best Player Selected: Shane Willis (1997 draft, 4th round, 88th overall) 174gp – 31g – 43a – 74points
With the next pick…
Lots of choices in this category although I’m sure one particular draft choice will stand out.
The 1979 draft is recognized as one of the best drafts of all time with a multitude of players going on to enjoy very productive NHL careers. This draft included the selection of future hall of famers Ray Bourque, Mike Gartner, Michel Goulet and Mark Messier. In the second round with the 39th pick the Whalers selected Stu Smith who would record 12 career points. Here’s what followed…Dave Christian (40th overall to Winnipeg), Dale Hunter (41st overall to Quebec) and Neal Broten (42nd overall to Minnesota).
In 1983 the Whalers selected Sylvain Turgeon with the 2nd overall pick. Now Turgeon had a productive NHL career by most standards. On 7 occasions he scored at least 20 goals and registered 40 goals as a rookie and 45 goals in his 3rd season at the age of 21. But his production began to decline sharply and after spending time with the Devils, Canadians and Senators he was out of the NHL shortly tafter his 30th birthday. What makes Whalers fans cringe about this pick is what followed. With the 3rd pick the New York Islanders selected Pat Lafontaine and with the very next selection Steve Yzerman was drafted by Detroit. Hindsight is always 20/20 but with a 20 year old Ron Francis already on the team the Whalers could have had a 1-2 center combination of Francis/Lafontaine or Francis/Yzerman for years to come. What could have been!
A year later in the 1984 draft, with the 11th overall pick the Whalers selected QMJHL defenseman Sylvain Cote. Gary Roberts was nabbed by Calgary with the next pick. Not to be outdone the Whalers used their 2nd round pick in the 1985 draft to select Kay Whitmore with the 26th pick while Joe Nieuwendyk went to the Flames at #27.
Finally, in more recent times the Hurricanes selected Zach Boychuk 14th overall in the 2008 draft while Ottawa drafted Erik Karlsson with the next pick. Of course in that same draft teams selected the likes of Luke Schenn (5th overall), Nikita Filatov (6th overall), Cody Hodgson (10th overall), Kyle Beach (11th overall) and Colten Teubert (13th overall) before Karlsson.
Late Round Bargain:
In 1996 the Whalers had two picks in the 9th round. At 231st overall they selected Ashkat Rakhmatullin who would never play in an NHL game but a handful of picks earlier with the 223rd pick the team drafted role player Craig Adams who would appear in 951 career games and be a member of Stanley Cup championship teams in Carolina and Pittsburgh. As a side note in the same 9th round of the 1996 draft Ottawa picked Sami Salo and Ronald Petrovicky went to Calgary. Petrovicky would appear in 392 career games while Salo would enjoy a solid 15 year career with the Senators, Canucks and Lightning.
Nothing earth shattering stands out except for the aforementioned draft of 1982 when the Whalers selected Ulf Samuelsson in the 4th round and Ray Ferrero in the 5th round. Three years earlier Hartford drafted Ray Neufeld a useful winger who would record a pair of 20+ goal seasons with the team.