Canes get defensive at the NHL Draft
Posted June 27
Updated June 28
Philadelphia — The Hurricanes were looking to add size this offseason, and they did so on the blue line selecting Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL Friday night in the NHL Entry Draft.
At 6’2.5” and 203 pounds, Fleury, the second-rated defenseman in the draft, is everything the Hurricanes organization talks about liking at the position.
General Manager Ron Francis was very clear on why Fleury was the pick. “When you are picking at 7, you have to take the guy that helps your organization move forward,” he said.
Francis also made it pretty clear why taking this player was right call for the organization.
"We think he is the type of defenseman you need for today’s game," Francis said.
Fleury did his best to capture the emotion of the pick. "This whole night has just been unreal," he said. "I don't think I've felt my feet for a while. It's been a great experience, and I'm trying to take it all in."
The question with drafting defensemen is always how quickly they be NHL-ready. Francis and Carolina's Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald both said there will be no rush to get Fleury to Raleigh.
“I think normally when you look at defenseman, they take a little longer to develop," Francis said. "We don’t want to rush him at this point.”
"I think he is probably a year or so away from being able to play, maybe even two," MacDonald said. "Sometimes it is amazing what a summer of dedicated conditioning can do. We don’t need to rush him."
Fleury will keep an open mind about how quick he can be an everyday NHL player.
"I'm going to work hard this summer and come into camp and make the best impression I can and try to make it hard on the team to send me back to junior," he said.
He did note that going back to Red Deer wouldn't be discouraging. "At the end of the day, if I get sent back, I'm going to go back and keep working hard and help my junior team win games," he said.
The Hurricanes selection said he was impressed with the team's front office. "They were just all professionals, and they all liked my game. If they have a lot of trust in me and high expectations for me, that's a good thing," Fleury said.
"They have a lot of trust in me, and to take me seventh overall it's a great honor, and I'm going to try to not let them down."
MacDonald detailed the skills that put Fleury at the top of the Canes' board.
"This is not a draft that is laden with real top-end defensemen. He is a big kid who is an excellent skater. He can move the puck," he said. "The upside here is really unlimited. We think he is just scratching the surface."
Fleury will be at the team's prospect camp and will be playing for the Hurricanes at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and will be given a look at training camp.
His point total from last season is more than respectable with 46 points 8 goals, 38 assists in 70 games, and he was a team leader with a plus-15 rating. He has represented Team Canada in international competition and was named the Best Defenseman at the Under-18 World Junior Championships.
It is the offensive side of Fleury's game that is the biggest question.
"Some people question my offensive game," Fleury admitted, "but I am learning more each and every day, trying to produce more offensively will help me get there (to the NHL) quicker."
Other notes on the Hurricanes top pick:
Francis compared him favorably to longtime NHL defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, and Fleury agreed with that assessment, saying his game is similar to Bouwmeester's.
In carrying on with the tradition of selecting high-character people, MacDonald said, "He’s the kid a lot of dads would be proud to call son."
Fleury will turn 18 on July 8.
Carolina has selected a defenseman with the first selection in two of the last four years. In 2011, the organization selected Ryan Murphy.
Former Flyer wins approval of Philly fans
Philadelphia, where the 2014 draft was held, is known for being a tough crowd. Commissioner Gary Bettman was booed without mercy all night.
There was one man who garnered the biggest cheer of the night, and it was not a current member of the Flyers or even their pick. It was Hurricanes assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour. Brind'Amour spent almost nine full seasons in Philadelphia and received a standing ovation from the partisan crowd.
Francis said he planned to have the Philly favorite make the selection all along.
"It was what we hoping for. He deserved that. We talked about this a month ago," Francis said. "I asked Roddy if he'd be willing to come to Philly with us, and I wanted him to make the selection."
Brind'Amour asked Francis if he was sure, "I said absolutely, it was great for him to be here."