Hurricanes draft forward
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH ó The Carolina Hurricanes hoped to pick a defenseman in the first round of the NHL draft only to see their top targets slip away.
Instead, the Hurricanes grabbed forward Zach Boychuk with the 14th overall pick Friday night, giving the team one of the top-rated North American skaters available after deciding that the asking price to trade up for a blue-liner was just too high.
“It just didn’t make sense for us,” general manager Jim Rutherford said via teleconference from Ottawa. “We knew that this was a deep draft. We were comfortable that we were going to get a good player at 14. It wasn’t something we really tried very hard to do.”
Carolina ended up with an 18-year-old who led his Lethbridge Hurricanes to a Western Hockey League conference championship this year, scoring a playoff-best 13 goals. He finished second on the team with 72 points and had 33 goals on the season.
One of the biggest question marks is his size; he measured in at just under 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds. But Boychuk, who models his game after Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere, figured, “I just have to work through that.”
“I may not be the biggest guy on the ice at all times,” he said. “I use my speed and my quickness and deception, so there’s definitely ways you can beat bigger, stronger players.”
The Hurricanes had said they would likely look to draft the best player available instead of focusing on a specific position. Ultimately, they didn’t have much of a choice once a pair of unspecified defensemen went off the board leading up to their first selection. The consolation prize was to add a forward who can play at center or on the wing.
Boychuk is close friends with Brandon Sutter, Carolina’s first-round pick from last year. The two played together to help Team Canada win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships.
“I’m a guy that likes to set my goals high, so I’m really going to take this and focus on the Carolina Hurricanes throughout the summer and try to get bigger and stronger and see if I can make it next year,” Boychuk said. “I guess that’s everybody’s goal when they get drafted. I’m going to go to work and see what happens.”
Once their top choices at defensemen were selected, the Hurricanes didn’t want to pass up Boychuk, the eighth-rated North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Service. They had figured they’d end up with one of two defensemen or two forwards.
“We got a couple of calls about moving down,” Rutherford said. “But if we’d have moved down much further, we certainly weren’t going to get Boychuk. When we had the chance to get him, we felt we should stay there. We’re not the only ones that felt pretty high about him.”