The Carolina Hurricanes came into the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft with nine picks.
Three trades and a handful of hours later, the Hurricanes left having acquired assets for the future and having made 11 picks on day two and a total of 12 for the weekend, tied for the second-most picks in a single draft in franchise history.
“It’s been an interesting day,” Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell said. “We felt like we had a lot of guys on our list that we liked, so we wanted to add a few picks as we went along.”
“You look at where we had our draft list and the names we came out with, it was some names we might not have expected to get there. They sort of fell to us,” Hurricanes Director of Player Personnel Darren Yorke said. “We looked at getting better in terms of our speed and skill. It was a really exciting day.”
The Hurricanes were active early Saturday morning in advance of the second-round proceedings. In a swap with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Hurricanes acquired Toronto’s first-round pick (conditional) and seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and forward Patrick Marleau in exchange for the Canes’ sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
The headline of the trade is Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Should it be a top 10 selection, the Hurricanes will instead receive Toronto’s first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. In either case, the Canes have added an additional first-round pick to their collection of future assets.
“That’s important for the future,” Waddell said.
“[Rees] is the type of player that our fans are going to love. It’s a guy who is basically the Rod Brind’Amour-type player who plays extremely hard and can make big hits,” Yorke said. “He came into the under-18s and really was a firestarter for Team Canada in being able to play physical and be hard to play against, as well as scoring.”
“You can describe me as a very high-compete forward with good offensive ability,” Rees said. “Very physical. Very versatile and able to play many different roles.”
The Hurricanes then landed a trio of defensemen, including Anttoni Honka, whose brother, Julius, plays in the Dallas Stars organization, and Cade Webber, a big, rangy blueliner who measures in at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds. Defenseman Domenick Fensore from the U.S. National Team Development Program is a bit smaller – 5-foot-8 and 153 pounds – but fits the Canes’ bill of a skilled, competitive hockey player.
“Ever since I was growing up, I was not the tallest guy, so I had to work a lot harder than everyone else,” Fensore said. “I want to be the best player on the ice every day I go into practice.”
“This kid is a breakout machine. He’s able to go back, get the puck and carry it into the offensive zone. He can make plays from a breakout perspective. He can run a power play,” Yorke said. “The only reason he’s where we drafted him is maybe people were a little bit worried about his size, but that’s not how you should be describing these players; you should be talking about what they bring from a skill standpoint, and this kid has a ton of it.”
A run of five forwards rounded out the Hurricanes’ selections on day two. Among that group is Finnish winger Tuukka Tieksola and Russian winger Kirill Slepets.
“The common thread we’re all going for is speed. This guy can absolutely fly,” Yorke said of Slepets. “He can push the pace, get in on the forecheck and create havoc.”
With the end of the 2019 NHL Draft comes the end of the road for two Hurricanes’ scouts: Tony MacDonald, who spearheaded the team’s amateur scouting, and Bert Marshall.
“Tony has been with the organization for I think 25 or 26 years and has done a tremendous job if you look at a lot of the picks the Hurricanes and even going back to the Whalers have had over the years,” Waddell said. “He’s a tremendous leader and a good person. We’re sad to see him leave but happy for him to move into the next chapter of his life.
“Bert Marshall has been with the organization for 23 years. He lives out west here and has done a really good job handling the west for us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Up next for most of the newest members of the Hurricanes’ organization will be Prospects Development Camp, which begins on ice at PNC Arena on Wednesday. For these teenagers, drafted into the NHL was the realization of one dream, and Prospects Development Camp is the next step on their journey to the best hockey league in the world.
“It’s just a dream come true right now,” Fensore said. “My head is spinning. I don’t even know what happened in that moment. I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life. It’s awesome.”
“Very excited. It was a dream my whole life,” Webber said. “As a little kid, this is what you dream of. Sitting up there is obviously nerve-wracking. Finally, when your name is called, you jump up. It’s just unreal.”