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Carolina Addresses Weakness With Clayton Keller

The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is 22 days away and the Minnesota Wild are looking to find that next star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a mock draft. We are at Pick 13 today, and the Carolina Hurricanes are on the clock.

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Though there were no playoffs for the Carolina Hurricanes this season, it wasn't a bad year. They're a team in progress and saw some very good signs from the young portions of the roster that they are building around. Though they finished 10 points out of the postseason, there was a lot to be encouraged about, particularly some strong play when they were healthy, a great defense (and they were without James Wisniewski for all but about 10 minutes of the season), and a 51.3% score-adjusted CF%.

Offense remains their biggest problem (well, and goaltending). They allowed the third fewest shot attempts against per hour of even strength play and their shot attempts for ranked 21st. It's something they may aim to correct in the draft with a first round pick, two second round picks and three third round picks.

Carolina Prospect Pool

The defense here is immaculate. At the NHL level, Justin Faulk, Noah HanifinJaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Ryan Murphy carried the team last year. That's a group that didn't even include prospects Haydn Fleury and Roland McKeown, who are excellent prospects and should be on their way to becoming NHL regulars.

In net Daniel Altshuller has shown some promise, but the big prospect is Alex Nedeljkovic, who stood on his head for Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championship.

The problem area is at forward and center. There were a few young forwards making an impact in the NHL like Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask, but the team lacks a budding star in their forward ranks. Finnish phenom Sebastian Aho may be their best bet. He's had an outstanding year and is expected to be on the NHL squad next year. Additionally, Sergey Tolchinsky has shown flashes of brilliance, but he's on the small side and has an incomplete game. Acquiring Aleksi Saarela in the Eric Staal trade and putting Andrew Poturalski to contract will help bolster the prospect pool heading into next season, but it's still an area of weakness for the organization.

About Clayton Keller

Getting Keller this deep would be a huge win for Carolina, and it's possible. He's ranked as fourth overall by some scouts, but there are questions about his small stature and lack of physical play. He's also had some question his defensive ability. It's not poor, but it's a step below some of the forwards in the draft's second tier like Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Nonetheless, he's an offensively gifted player who is incredibly smart. He led the U.S. National Team Development Program squad with 102 points in 62 games, coming in 26 points ahead of Kieffer Bellows in second. The only player to ever put up more points for the USNTDP was Auston Matthews the prior year when he scored 116 points in two fewer contests.

Putting a fine point on his impeccable hockey sense, his 70 assists are the most by a USNTDP player.

How He'd Fit With the Wild

Keller would be a nice fit for the Wild as they continue to look for a top tier scorer for the system. Additionally, he's a center, which is another area of need. He wouldn't be an immediate fix, as he's not NHL ready and will undoubtedly play for Boston University next year. There are a fair number of centers in the system, but few that project as a likely top six lock. Keller would give the Wild just that.