The Carolina Hurricanes opted for defense with their first-round choice in the 2014 NHL draft.
With the seventh overall pick, the Checkers’ parent club selected Haydn Fleury, a 6-foot-3, 203 pound blueliner from Red Deer of the Western Hockey League. Fleury was the second defenseman chosen in the draft as the Florida Panthers had earlier used the No. 1 pick on Aaron Ekblad.
The choice, the first overseen by new General Manager Ron Francis, marks the second time that the Hurricanes have chosen a defenseman with their last three first-round picks. In 2011, the team selected Ryan Murphy, who has since played 30 games with the Checkers, at No. 12.
According to Carolina’s Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald in a profile published on CarolinaHurricanes.com, Fleury projects as a dependable all-around defenseman.
“He probably epitomizes the so-called safe pick,” said MacDonald. “He’s probably going to play for you for 10-12 years and give you great service. He’s a very reliable, solid guy.”
""He’s a very big, mobile defenseman with a lot of upside," Francis, who later named the St. Louis Blues' Jay Bouwmeester as the nearest NHL comparison to Fleury, told Raleigh media following the pick. "We were pleased that he was sitting there at seven."
A native of Carlyle, Saskatchewan, Fleury, who has no relation to former NHLer Theo Fleury, scored 46 points (8g, 38a) and posted a plus-15 rating in 70 games last season.
As a player drafted from the Canadian junior leagues with a late birthdate (he will not turn 18 until July 8), Fleury will not be eligible to become a full-time AHL player until the 2016-17 season, though he could make an earlier cameo appearance as a late-season tryout once his junior season has concluded. Until then, he must return to his junior team unless he’s able to crack the NHL roster.
The Hurricanes have six picks remaining over the remaining six rounds of the draft, all of which will take place on Saturday. More information on what to watch for as the draft progresses is available here.