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Hurricanes Ward, Adams know NHL draft is an inexact science

By By JOEDY McCREARY, AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH — Cam Ward got the draft-day call sooner than anyone expected — including him. Craig Adams almost wasn’t picked at all.
Another NHL draft is approaching, and the Carolina Hurricanes’ executives are joining officials with other teams in considering prospects with whom they will restock their organizations during an often hit-or-miss selection process that generally can’t be evaluated accurately until several years later.
Ward and Adams are both prime examples of that.
Five years ago, Ward was a surprisingly early selection — if a two-hour wait before being picked counts as ‘‘early’’ — after the talent evaluators rated him as just the fourth-best goaltender in North America. The Hurricanes were coming off an appearance in the 2002 Stanley Cup finals and, by all accounts, were looking for a goalie with the 25th overall pick.
Ward was sitting with several other goalies at the draft in Toronto when Carolina made its pick, bypassing the top three goaltenders on the continent and taking the 18-year-old from the Red Deer Rebels of the junior Western Hockey League.
After Ward signed his first pro contract in 2004, he climbed through the organization quickly. He made his NHL debut in 2005-06 and wound up leading Carolina’s improbable Stanley Cup run, replacing benched starter Martin Gerber and becoming the first rookie goalie to win the Conn Smythe Trophy since Patrick Roy did it two decades earlier.
A year later, after going 30-21 with a 2.93 goals-against average in his first season as the No. 1 goaltender, Ward was awarded a three-year, $8 million contract that cemented his status as the franchise’s goalie of the future.
Ward said he ‘‘was very fortunate with the way things panned out for myself. A lot of kids are getting excited for next week and looking forward to the draft, but that’s where the hard work really begins — when you get drafted. It’s one thing to get drafted, but you still have to make that next jump and make the hockey club.’’
That’s how Adams emerged from the obscurity of the ninth round of the 1996 draft.
While the right winger from Harvard wasn’t Mr. Irrelevant, he was close — the Hartford Whalers made him the 223rd of 241 players selected that year.
When draft day arrived, Adams wasn’t invited to the draft and the freshman didn’t want to wait by the phone. Instead, he worked half a day at his summer job at a construction site that Saturday, then had a party with some friends and wound up learning of his selection in the Sunday morning newspaper.
Adams wound up completing his college career before playing professionally beginning in 1999-2000 and making his NHL debut a year later with Carolina, establishing himself during six seasons as a solid forward with 31 goals and 41 assists.