July 04 2014 08:08AM
As many of you may know, while the Calgary Flames have been furthering their rebuild through various moves like drafting a 20 year old and signing Derek Engellend, I've been wandering through Europe.
As a result, it's been tough to write and get things out due
to the lack of internet. I have however, managed, one way or another, to keep up
with all the important maneuvers made by the team. I did watch the Draft live (on
Satellite Internet which is just as slow and expensive as it sounds) and most of
Free Agent Frenzy on cafe and hotel internet hotspots and I've bunch of
opinions on it all I'd like to share after the jump.
The Calgary Flames haven't had elite depth at center since
they won the Stanley Cup pretty much, and such a luxury appears to be in their
not too distant future. Mikael Backlund's fancy stats suggest he's in the same
league as some really, really good ice hockey players, so he's bound to make an
unbelievable third line center behind Sean Monahan and the gem of this years draft
class for Calgary, Sam Bennett.
I love the Bennett pick, partially because the Flames chose the best player available rather than Nick Ritchie who Burke no doubt salivated over, but mostly because he's a really good hockey player. Not much I can say about Bennett that hasn't already said, and mostly everything that has been said is of positive tongue. All in all, the Flames got themselves another stud - and at the most important position, no less.
I was expecting the Flames to find a way to re-enter the first round and make another selection within the Top 30, but nothing came to fruition so we were forced to wait the night until the Treliving and Co. cashed in on the rest of their lottery tickets.
At 34, the Flames shocked everyone by taking goaltender Mason McDonald. The pick was surprising to me for two reasons: one being I was expecting Roland McKeown or Jack Dougherty because the Flames depth at D is rather shallow, and two because I had McDonald as my 4th ranked goalie behind Thatcher Demko, Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso.
The kid was tremendous at the U18s and the Top Prospect Game (which happened to be in Calgary), but the rest of his season was tinted red from the non-stop flash of the goal light in the QMJHL. To be fair, both his teams were hot garbage and the QMJHL isn't kind to goaltenders regardless, but you'd like to see a guy with at least a .900 SV% (he had a .898 combined between the two teams) in whatever league he played in, particularly if you're drafting him at 34. Thatcher Demko was the youngest person in NCAA Hockey and managed a .919 SV%, Nedeljkovic had a .925 SV% playing on a middling Plymouth Whalers team (they were under .500 on the season) and Ville Husso, whom had very impressive numbers in the SM-Liiga, posting a 1.99 GAA and .923 SV% in the men's league. Nonetheless, I'm willing to wait and see how he develops and maybe I'll be proved wrong down the road.
With their second 2nd rounder, I had no idea what to expect, but wasn't really surprised that the guy they took was a tower. How could the Flames resist not spending one of their Top 60 picks on size? Having learned more about Hunter Smith, he sounds like a guy that has improved a ton over the last 12 months and has tremendous character, which leads me to believe he has the potential to develop into a real nice asset. Will he be Milan Lucic? Probably not (although Lucic was drafted with drastically worse stats than Smith), but I do believe he will turn into a useful middle 6 player on this team in the future, and outside the first round, that's all you can really ask for.
Moving on to the third round, without any bluechip
blueliners left, I was now really pulling for one of the two undersized, high
skilled forwards available in Brayden Point or Spencer Watson. I figured the
Flames had gotten their fix of size and truculence with Smith. Silly Christian.
Although Brandon Hickey isn't exactly a bulldozer, he is still six-foot-two and will probably play at around 200 pounds. That isn't to say, however, that I didn't like the pick because I did. Hickey fills an organizational need and is a very toolsy, all around rearguard. He skates fantastically well and is great puck mover. Someone mentioned TJ Brodie as a comparison and from talking to scouts, that's not far off. Four years of college hockey should do him a world of good from a development angle - playing against men and getting stronger. With resident grump Ryan Lambert keeping a close eye on the NCAA, we should have steady progress reports of how he's progressing and I look forward to seeing it.
Soon after that came the trade with Chicago which was received with vitriol from Flames faithful. Derek Dorsett had been dealt earlier in the day for the same price so the market for "good" fourth liners had been set at that. With no good prospects the Flames would be willing to select (because Brayden Point and Spencer Watson aren't 6'6) left, this deal was one I didn't really mind. Kevin Westgarth showed us that some fourth liners are better than others (he slotted under "others"), so having a guy that managed to play more than 5 minutes a night for all 82 games with Chicago isn't bad. Plus he's a good character guy and good in the room and all that.
The last two picks then made by the Flames contrast each
other fantastically. One is a rock solid young defenseman who's already
playing with men in Sweden
and shows NHL potential, and the other is a 20 year old tough guy.
The Adam Ollas Mattsson pick was great value in the 6th round in my opinion. The guy has already played in the Allsvenskan against men, was the captain of Sweden's U18 team and yes, is big. His only glaring weakness is his skating, but of all the things that could be wrong with a player, that's one of the easiest to correct. His contract in Sweden runs through the 2015/16 season so he'll have lots of time to develop in Sweden, but has shown no aversion to crossing the Atlantic, as he's scheduled to participate in the Flames' development camp at WinSport.
The second of the two however has made no sense to me, and leads me to believe the Flames felt there was really no one left, so just spun their big wheel of prospects (all over 6 foot course) and landed on Austin Carroll. It irks me that the Flames left two rather good prospects on the board in Jacob Middleton and Spencer Watson (who both went to LA last and second last), among other others, to take a 20 year old who didn't even score at a point per game in the 'Dub as a vet. Carroll could've probably been signed, seeing as he attend the Flames' development camp last year. Just don't get it.
If the Flames enter next years' Draft with the same dumb size mandate, they will miss out on some seriously good hockey players because much like 2013, the 2015 Draft is deep with quality talent and most of it isn't 6'4, 210 pounds.
Fully expecting an influx of John Scotts at fat cap values
to reach the floor and satisfy Burkie's undying thirst, I was pleasantly
surprised with the Mason Raymond agreement. The cap value at a hair over 3
million for 3 years is perfect in every way. Raymond's speed will be extremely
valuable for keeping up with the speed in the West, and he softens the blow
left by Mike Cammalleri's departure - which I don't think can be understated. The
Flames will suffer at times next year without Cammalleri's uncanny ability to
bury at key times. I guess we're not winning anymore thrillers in LA for a
Raymond can slot in anywhere in the Top 9, and will probably even see time on the top unit at some point during the season. Adds a lot of special teams value on both the PP and PK, too. Nicely done, Treliving. Real nice first signing.
Treliving's second signing was just as good. Two years, 9 million bucks for exiled
Ducks goaltender, Jonas Hiller, who was pushed out the door in Anaheim much like Viktor
Fasth because of the insane depth that team has in the crease.
likely platoon with Ramo and give the Flames a no-joke 1-2 punch in the crease.
As Darren Haynes of the Canadian Press mentioned on Twitter, the Flames are
still looking for their first regulation win from a Swiss goaltender (thanks
for the memories Reto), so Hiller will probably achieve that milestone. The money
is inconsequential considering Calgary's
cap situation, but the term is what makes this deal brilliant: a couple of years gives
the player a fair shake at establishing himself in the crease and if it doesn't
work out, no harm no foul, he gone.
It also gives the Flames a nice bridge into the Ortio/Gillies era. At the end of the Hiller contract, best case scenario for me would be Gillies starting with Ortio backing up, and Mason McDonald starting in the AHL. But that's a long ways away so who knows what could happen until then.
I jinxed it. I'm sorry. All the good momentum was too good to be true. Earlier in the day I heard the Oilers were in on Deryk Engellend and someone I know in Edmonton said they believed the numbers being thrown around were around two million. I laughed an evil laugh and hoped it happened. Then it did. But not to the Oilers.
No, the Hockey Gods are much crueler than that. Whatever, the Flames have cap space and the term is relatively short. My only concern is with the Flames collecting all the goons in the league, who are they going to fight? Outside of a few teams, everyone has smartened up and realized having a fighter offers you very little hockey value. I'm over it. HOW COULD YOU GIVE A SPOT FOR TYLER WOTHERSPOON OR PAT SIELOFF OR MARK CUNDARI TO DERYK FREAKIN ENGELLEND?!!?!!!?!! Over it. Totally over it.
All in all, the Flames had a very successful couple days at
the draft and subsequent frenzy of the free agent variety. They addressed
several needs, size obviously being the big one (pun somewhat intended), but
also the blueline. They appeared to have it another home run in Sam Bennett and
added some high potential pieces in Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith.
On the craziest day of the hockey calendar, the Flames stayed out of all the stupidity - with one small exception - and weren't tagged with any contracts surpassing 3 years, which is superb. Landing a forward, defensive goon and goaltender, they upgraded their forward and goaltending ranks, and increased the size of their blueline. I don't expect they'll make any more splashes, rather just stick to minor depth moves, addressing any other needs at the AHL and ECHL levels. Also, Deryk Engellend is supposed a really nice guy and I wish him all the best in Calgary. But the contract and the roster spot he takes up just gets me Fired. Right. Up.
The Flames crack open a fresh new Development Camp this weekend and we'll have lots of coverage of that, of course. All the new faces will be there, highlighted by newbie 1st rounders Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuck (who was unable to participate on-ice due to injury last year). The Flames also invited a bunch of really tall and heavy people to participate a well. The roster can be found here. The YoungStars Classic returns, taking place September 12-15, 2014 in its usual home of Penticton, BC. Exciting times ahead.