Been a while since I did a draft day post, so here are the Carolina Whalers!
I think it is important to point out that since the Hurricanes have only been around since 1997 and I believe there are still many Whalers fans out there I must tie the two together because in my mind they are most certainly the same franchise!
The first ever pick for the Hartford Whalers as members of the NHL was right winger Ray Allison. Ray Allison was the 18th overall pick in the 1979 draft. Ray was an amazing junior player for the Brandon Wheat Kings racking up 134 goals and 313 points in his last two years of junior. As a pro, Ray never found major success in the NHL but did have a few good seasons in the AHL.
The first ever pick for the Carolina Hurricanes was Nikos Tselios. Nikos never could really find a home on an NHL roster and spent time in the IHL, NHL, AHL, Finnish pro league, Swedish elite league and the UHL before calling it quits.
Finding the best draft in Whalers/Hurricanes history lead me down a path that ended with 1981 and 1982 as the possible top choices.
The 1981 draft wasn't as deep for the Whalers as it was for other teams. The Whalers did grab the player who I felt was the best in the entire draft with the 4th overall pick. Ron Francis is one of those talents that if placed on the right team you would have heard about his performances each and every night but being isolated in a small market, Francis really never got the respect I felt he deserved. If there ever was an all-star underrated team Ron Francis would be the captain and starting centre. Apart from Francis and MacDermid, the 1981 draft was a bust for the Whalers. But really, if you could always have one hit like Francis does it matter who else you picked?
In the end, it was the depth the Whalers found in the 82 draft that I felt was the best in franchise history.
Each of the first 6 picks from this draft would play in the NHL. Dineen and Ferraro would both score more than 300 goals and have multiple 40+ goal seasons. Samuelsson would have a long career as well playing more than 1000 games including one game where he ruined Cam Neely's promising career. Unlike Dineen and Ferraro, Samuelsson would also win two Cups as a member of the Penguins.
The worst draft in Hurricanes/Whalers history in my opinion was their 2001 entry draft (which isn't horrible by some standards). In that draft, Mike Zigomanis was the only Hurricanes selection to make the NHL. At this point in his career, Mike has played for 5 different NHL clubs over the course of 10 years while playing less than 200 games. Not exactly what was expected from a player who had multiple 40 goal seasons in junior. Zigomanis still has potential and could be a late bloomer. He finished this season scoring 47 points in 65 AHL games with the Marlies. However his contract is officially up and this summer he is a UFA looking for some love and cash.