Most NHL teams say they subscribe strictly to the "best player available" theory. In my experience, some are being honest, some do that in the first round (and incorporate their depth charts beyond) and some take position into account from the beginning. If I were running a team, I'd fall somewhere in the middle because of the very marginal differences in prospect value outside the very top.
Team strategies in the draft should be slightly more complex than simply, "Draft the best player." Teams should try to balance their depth chart if the option is within a reasonable talent range, or they can make trades to either address the need or trade to a spot where the player they want would be a better value. In this series, I'll recommend the best strategies for every NHL team going into this year's draft, division by division. For more on the draft prospects mentioned here (and many more), be sure to check in on our Top 100 NHL draft prospects list.
For the purposes of this column, team strengths and weaknesses generally refer to a team's under-23 NHLers, or players who have not lost rookie eligibility. Players not specifically mentioned are included in the evaluation.
Strengths: The Hurricanes have a good group of top-end young talent between Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk, Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy. You could do a lot worse for your top group of under-23 NHL players, as these four will be real foundational blocks over the next five-plus seasons.
Weaknesses: The Canes' system is really bad, with no real top-tier talents left in the pipeline until they make their first draft selection, and they could use more quality depth. They have some talent at forward between Victor Rask, Sergei Tolchinsky, Brock McGinn and Phil DiGiuseppe, but that leaves a fair amount to be desired. It's the same issue on defense, as they have a few decent prospects but lack a top talent with Murphy graduated. They also need a better top goalie prospect, as well.
Recommended strategy: Carolina should pick the best player available with their first-round pick (No. 7 overall), but after that, they need to go to work to fix their depth issue. A re-entry pick or two would help if their talent fits at the right slot, with at least one defenseman added in the top four rounds. They need to add another goalie prospect, and may be suited to trade down at some point to get more picks, thus adding to their system's depth.