The Flames top-10 Darryl Sutter Draft Picks

Kent Wilson
October 03 2012 02:40PM

 

 

Jay Feaster has only been at the wheel for two summers, so it's currently impossible to really judge his regime's work in this area (although there are some good early returns). Sutter, on the other hand, took over in 2003 and was the guiding hand through eight Flames drafts all the way up until 2010. That span of time featured a lot of trades, not a lot of second rounders and 59 picks by the organization in total.

The collection of players yielded from Sutter's efforts was, uh, underwhelming to say the least. However, there were a few diamonds (or, at least, nuggets of copper) unearthed over that period.

The Top-10

1.) Dion Phanuef

No brainer. Dion Phanuef was taken with the Flames highest pick in over a decade (9th overall) in 2003, a draft which stands as probably one of the best of all time. The Edmonton native ticked all the right "Darryl Sutter" boxes - Western Canadian, big, mean, WHL developed and well known to the family thanks to playing under brother Brent in Red Deer. There was really no other choice for Darryl when Phanuef was left on the board at nine. When Dion took the stage, it was the first (and last) time I saw Sutter smile broadly and hug someone.

Aside from an incredible rookie campaign that suggested multiple Norris trophies were in his future, Phanuef's tenure in Calgary was uneven. As the years progressed, the various weaknesses in Phaneuf's game (poor defensive reads, apparent ability to unendingly annoy teammates) gew in prominence as his offense tailed off. Things came to a head when the Flames were losing in 2009 and Phaneuf was struggling on the first defense pairing, despite a hefty $6M+/year contract.

We all know what happened next: the trade that brought us Matt Stajan and three piles of used laundry. Phanuef has stabilized his game in Toronto, becoming a capable first pairing defender, although the promise he showed in the early years has all but melted away. Dion is not going to turn into the next Lidstrom or, ahem, Shea Weber (who, incidentally, was chosen in the second round by Nashville that same year), but he's certainly an above average defenseman.

All that said, Phaneuf is far and away the Flames best post-lock draft choice in the last 10 years. He was a calder trophy finalist, has already appeared in 552 NHL games and is a legitimate top pairing defender.

2.) Mikael Backlund

This will likely be a bit of a contentious choice, but the truth is the pickings get awful slim awful quick. Backlund has struggled to establish himself as the offensive centerman the team hoped he'd become when he was selected 24th overall in 2007. That said, at just 23 years old his overall game has already progressed beyond what most prospects - particular Calgary Flames prospects - manage.

If Backlund can bear down a bit more often in scoring positions and get a few more bounces, he will solidify his role on the team as a capable, two-way centerman who can play and contribute in just about any situation. Good news for the Flames is his lackluster offensive totals have kept his price down.

3.) Brandon Prust

A checker and pugilist in junior, Sutter was on record as being a big fan of Prust as the 2004 third rounder was working his way up through the Flames development system. He liked him so much, Sutter signed Prust to a one-way NHL contract after his ELC expired (despite the fact Prust had only appeared in 10 NHL games up to that point, all as a fourth-line support player). And then he traded Prust. Twice. Both times in swaps involving Olli Jokinen (Darryl went a bit cuckoo by the end).

Brandon was mostly cast in the fighter role in Calgary, but since leaving he's become a fighter/checker/penalty killer of decent quality. Prust held his own against other third and forth liners in New York despite some tough circumstances and was still willing to drop the gloves now and then.

Prust is never going to win any scoring races, but he's a decent middle-tier ruffian. His 279 games played thus far are second only to Dion Phaneuf on this list.

4.) TJ Brodie

One of Sutter's first departures away from the archetypal "big, mean, tough" defender in the draft was Ontario's TJ Brodie, picked in the 4th round in 2008 out of the OHL. Slight and mobile, Brodie was the opposite of failed choices like Matt Pelech and Gord Baldwin. He exploded for the Saginaw Spirit in the season after he was drafted, scoring 12 goals and 50 points in just 63 games, while becoming one of the club's top pairing defenders.

He carried that big jump forward into the Flames training camp in 2010, at first dominating the rookie camp before scoring at a near point-per-game pace in the pre-season. His outburst caused the Flames to sit Cory Sarich to start the year and give the kid a cup of coffee as a 20-year old before ultimately sending him down to the farm to ripen.

Brodie made the jump for good last season, however, and despite still having some hiccups in his game, looks like he will develop into a quality NHL defender. His mobility and poise with the puck are valuable assets on the back-end and it wouldn't surprise anyone to see him patrolling the blueline on the first or second pairing in a year or two.

5.) Adam Pardy

Like Brodie, Adam Pardy was picked closer to the middle of the draft (6th round in 2004), but his journey to the NHL was a lot longer and more complicated. Pardy was picked as an over-ager (20 years old) by the Flames out of the QMJHL and he would spend his first pro season bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. He was already 23 by the time he finally made the AHL as a regular and he spent two seasons there working his way up the Flames minor league depth chart. 

Pardy surprised more than a few people by making the Flames out of camp in 2008-09 and he's been in the big league ever since.

At 24/25 years old, Pardy basically jumped into the NHL fully formed, so there wasn't a lot of progression left to his career arc. He began life in the bigs as meat and potatoes third pairing defender who could at least keep his head above water and that's what he remains to this day (whenever he's healthy that is).

6.) Dustin Boyd

Yup. We're already out of regular NHLers. Dusin Boyd was one of my personal favorites back when he was a prospect/tweener with the club - he showed flashes of skill that would hint at something more if he could "just get over the hump" so to speak. One game in every ten, Boyd would make an eye-popping play or just dominate a shift or two.

But it never stuck. By the end of his time in Calgary, Boyd was still consistently struggling to outplay other third and fourth liners and Sutter decided to cut bait with the kid at the trade deadline by sending him to Nashville. Boyd failed to make it work with both the Predators and Canadiens and now plies his trade overseas.

That step Mikael Backlund took last year - where he was able to hold his own against top six NHLers and not get completely outshot and outchanced? - Boyd never got to that level. It's too bad, because the kid had some tools.

7.) Tim Erixon

Here's where things get speculative. Former first rounder Tim Erixon has yet to make the NHL, but by all accounts he's a top level prospect (if also a bit of a jerk). Erixon was an established pro in the Swedish Elite League as a teenager and he put together a quality campaign in the AHL last season. He was unanimously picked as Calgary's top prospect before all the trade/ELC signing shenanigans and will likely make the Blue Jackets (ha!) out of camp whenever hockey starts up again.

It remains to be seen how good Erixon will actually be in the NHL, but he's probably a good bet to be a regular.

8.) Max Reinhart

I was very skeptical of the Reinhart pick in the third round back in 2010, but the kids performance in the WHL since that point has helped ease my doubts. By all accounts, he's a high-end thinker of the game who has no obvious flaws, aside from needing to get a bit bigger and stronger to compete at the pro level.

Max probably won't be a big scorer as a professional, but his progression seems to suggest he could be a decent two-way, third line type guy down the road. If that happens, he'll rocket up this list in the future. If not, he'll fall right off.

9.) Leland Irving

Tabbed as the "goalie of the future" when he was chosen 26th overall in 2006, things haven't gone quite the way the team or Irving planned since then. His contract negotiations this past summer were drawn and out and contentious because it seems neither he nor the team really knows where Irving stands in the pecking order these days.

With four pro seasons of just okay results in the AHL under his belt and a few decent performances in the NHL, Irving has yet to really make the case that he's ready to be a capable NHL back-up, let alone starter. When play resumes, he'll likely get the chance to prove himself as Kipper's stand-in, but will have to take a big step forward to cnvince the club he's more than a replacement level puck stopper.

10.) Lance Bouma

Big, mean, fast and not afraid to mix it up, Bouma is on track to be the Flames next "Brandon Prust". A third rounder in 2008, Bouma was the Vancouver Giants captain and has been a favorite of the organization since he turned pro thanks to his mix of toughness, speed and tenacity. Unfortunately, Bouma doesn't have much offense to speak of, so his ceiling is limited.

Bouma is still very green with just 43 NHL games under his belt and he still hasn't really established himself as an NHL regular at this point. That said, he is likely to at least develop into a grinding 4th line and could yet become a Prust/Moen type checker who can start more often in his own end or check the other team's best players without getting killed.

Honourable mentions: Greg Nemisz, Keith Aulie, Joni Ortio, Brett Sutter, Bill Arnold and Michael Ferland

Conclusion

Obviously this isn't the most impressive list and the lack of any true, game breaking talents is a big reason why the club is battling to just remain amongst the West's middle class these days. Ironically, only five of the 10 names above are still part of the Flames organization (Backlund, Brodie, Bouma, Iriving and Reinhart) and only two of those five are regular NHLers at this point (Backlund and Brodie).

As mentioned, Feaster and company have had some good early returns with guys like Gaureau, Baertschi and Granlund, so the Flames might actually be nearing the edge of this seemingly endless draft and develop desert they've been wandering for the better part of two decades.

Of course, we will have to wait several years to see if the new group has truly turned the corner or not.

 

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Justin Azevedo
October 03 2012, 02:57PM
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that is putrid

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#2 The Last Big Bear
October 03 2012, 03:04PM
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The Flames top-10 Post Lock-out Draft Picks Not Including Sven Baertschi

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#3 The Last Big Bear
October 03 2012, 03:04PM
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Also, yes, putrid is an excellent description.

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#4 Vintage Flame
October 03 2012, 03:08PM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

The Flames top-10 Post Lock-out Draft Picks Not Including Sven Baertschi

Bärtschi wasn't drafted by Sutter though.

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#6 T&A4Flames
October 03 2012, 04:07PM
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I haven't read the article yet, I will as soon as I leave this comment. Then first thing that comes to mind, IS THERE 10 EVEN WORTH MENTIONING?

Ahhhhh... now on to the blog.

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#7 MC Hockey
October 03 2012, 04:11PM
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That's it, that's all? What about Dutters' MARVELOUS top 10 trades?

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#9 T&A4Flames
October 03 2012, 04:18PM
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.....aaaaannnnnnnnnnnnd I was correct.

We suck (at drafting- or at least did)

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#10 T&A4Flames
October 03 2012, 04:20PM
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To make a positive twist, we have done quite well in the later picks of the draft.

Then again, that doesn't say much for our 1st rounders.

"Ooohhh, we suck again!!" (Waterboy)

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#11 Tach
October 03 2012, 04:36PM
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I feel like everyone of these blurbs should end with "And he isn't Kris Chucko. So he has that going for him."

Kris Ckucko, the punch line to every Darryl Sutter draft joke ever.

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#12 Tach
October 03 2012, 04:37PM
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I feel like everyone of these blurbs should end with "And he isn't Kris Chucko. So he has that going for him."

Kris Ckucko, the punch line to every Darryl Sutter draft joke ever.

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#13 Chad
October 03 2012, 04:44PM
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Although the Dion Phanuef pick was a no brainer, the organizations weakness at center since trading Joe Nieuwendyk and looking at the centers taken in the rest of the first round of the 2003 draft does makes does make a fan wonder what if?

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#14 schevvy
October 03 2012, 04:45PM
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Where is Matt Pelech on this list?!?!? Tim Ramholt?!? You missed those incredible players!

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#15 suba steve
October 03 2012, 05:02PM
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Chad wrote:

Although the Dion Phanuef pick was a no brainer, the organizations weakness at center since trading Joe Nieuwendyk and looking at the centers taken in the rest of the first round of the 2003 draft does makes does make a fan wonder what if?

Yes, the Flames took Dion and thus passed on a few decent C prospects:

Carter

Parise

Getzlaf (big westerner with scoring touch)

Kesler

Richards

Is it too late for a do-over?

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#16 Charleston Kingsley
October 03 2012, 05:36PM
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Drafting is so vital when it comes to building a team and that's just an abysmal drafting record.

How many years before Feaster's picks over take this list? I guess time will tell but at least we've got some promising prospects to look forward to and it's about time.

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#17 RexLibris
October 03 2012, 05:49PM
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Well, I would like to say something particularly biting but Oilers fan, glass houses, stones, so on and so forth.

2003 was a horror show. Be grateful that the Flames came away with a player.

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#18 bookofloob
October 03 2012, 05:51PM
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MC Hockey wrote:

That's it, that's all? What about Dutters' MARVELOUS top 10 trades?

I would write that article but kill myself in the first draft

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#19 SmellOfVictory
October 03 2012, 06:00PM
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In fairness to Sutter and the kids, I suspect this list will look substantially different in a couple of years. The Sutter draft record starts to look a lot better near the end of his tenure, and most of those guys are too young to have had the chance to make any sort of pro mark (Reiny, Ferly, and Arny being three who I definitely expect to at least overtake Adam Pardy, and likely Prust). Speaking of Prust, I would have loved the crap out of a 4th line consisting of him, Bouma, and Jones. They're all more than capable in that role and they'd annoy other teams to no end, I'm sure.

I would also like to make it known that I think Brodie already deserves the third spot above Prust, although I realize Prust has a more established history.

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#20 SmellOfVictory
October 03 2012, 06:19PM
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MC Hockey wrote:

That's it, that's all? What about Dutters' MARVELOUS top 10 trades?

It's not that he didn't have good trades (acquiring Huselius, Tanguay, Kiprusoff, Langkow, Cammalleri, Bourque), it's just that he balanced them out/overshadowed them with an equal number of terrible trades.

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#21 RexLibris
October 03 2012, 08:29PM
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@SmellOfVictory

I think he rates ahead of Brodie not just because of his more established history, but also his body of work. I mean you can't just discount "In Search of Lost Time" and "Remembrance of Things Past".

Sutter must have already been a fan of his work when he drafted him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwAOc4g3K-g

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#22 SmellOfVictory
October 03 2012, 09:37PM
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Haha nice.

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#23 Greg
October 04 2012, 09:09AM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

It's not that he didn't have good trades (acquiring Huselius, Tanguay, Kiprusoff, Langkow, Cammalleri, Bourque), it's just that he balanced them out/overshadowed them with an equal number of terrible trades.

I think a two part series would be awesome: 1) sutter's top 10 trades and 2) sutter's worst ten trades.

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#24 MC Hockey
October 04 2012, 03:52PM
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Greg wrote:

I think a two part series would be awesome: 1) sutter's top 10 trades and 2) sutter's worst ten trades.

Yes, BookofLoob, or Kent or someone...please do that, but perhaps it's easier to do Top 5 trades and Bottom 25 Trades.

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