June 14 2012 09:22AM
Once upon a time, the Calgary Flames used to draft big, mean, Western Canadian defenders. Dion Phaneuf. Matt Pelech. Gord Baldwin. John Negrin. One by one, though, these men were sent away and the Flames adopted a different strategy, drafting mobile, puck-moving defenders like Tim Erixon and T.J. Brodie. (Erixon was also sent away.)
With the Flames a bit light on both size and skill on the back end, there's a good chance they'll try to shore up the blueline at the 2012 draft. If they want to adopted a blended version of their two prior strategies, they may look at American defender Jacob Trouba.
In short, Trouba may be the best player that would be found by either of the two drafting philosophies. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he's big. Despite this, his size doesn't take away from any of the other aspects of his game. Playing last season for the USHL's U.S. National Junior Development Team, Trouba put up 18 points in 22 games. He also represented the United States at both the Under-18 World Championships and the World Juniors. Serving as an alternate captain at the U18s, he helped the team win a gold medal. He won a gold medal at the 2011 U18s, too.
Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman seems to like what he sees from Trouba.
Trouba is a very well-rounded defenseman who has developed nicely in his draft year and has a chance to be one of the better if not the best defenseman the NTDP has developed in the last few years before Seth Jones gets picked in 2013. His best tool is his skating which is plus. While his straightaway top is only above average, it's his four-way mobility that really impresses. Trouba has great acceleration and gets up to his top gear in an instant. He's also able to skate backwards as seamlessly and quickly as he can forward and rarely does a forward get behind him. Aside from his skating no part of his skill set truly stands out aside from maybe his physical game, but what makes Trouba valuable is he is above-average across the board.
In addition to praising Trouba's all-around above-averageness, Pronman highlights his physical game, noting that he "relishes in laying opposition forwards out."
Trouba has committed to the University of Michigan for the 2012-13 season, the same school that produced former Flames first rounder Eric Nystrom and current Flames forward David Moss. It's a good school with a good program, one which will likely allow Trouba 2-to-4 years to grow into his body a bit and prepare for the rigours of pro hockey.
The problem with Trouba is still he will likely not be on board when the Flames hit the podium. ISS has him ranked 5th. NHL Central Scouting has him 9th among North American skaters. Hockey Prospectus has him 12th overall. Future Considerations has him 6th. Depending on where Europeans fit in (at least two will be chosen before Calgary picks), he MAY be available.
If he somehow falls to Calgary, expect the Flames to strongly consider him. He won't be turning pro for a couple of years, but he could easily anchor the Flames' blueline for years to come.
Probability he will be around at 14: Low
Probability Flames will pick him: Moderate