The Official Handbook of Hockey Cliches demands that the draft be referred to as a crapshoot. Not roulette, not keno, not baccarat — the acceptable game of chance choice for simile purposes when it comes to the teenage talent roundup is craps.
So how then does one refer to the annual summer development camps, such as the Flames-branded one starting Monday at the Saddledome? By this point, the prospects are older and presumably more readily identifiable and projectable. Perhaps the best analogy for such sessions is poker — there is still a major element of luck involved but a player who knows what he’s doing improves his chances for success.
Just for the heck of it, here’s the lineup for the Flames’ summer development camp from a half-decade ago — June of 2004.
Of course there’s one name that really jumps out from this group and the good fans of the Utah Grizzlies will forever be grateful for anything that happened at this camp that may have advanced Ryan Kinasewich’s career and put him on the path to becoming one of the ECHL’s most consistent point-getters.
Oh, all right, the real attention-grabber was actually Dion Phaneuf, who two summers earlier had been drafted ninth overall and in the interim had become an international junior star, the object of fixation for Pierre McGuire and an unofficial Sutter family member. Coming out of the lockout, it was presumed a NHL job for the upcoming season was Phaneuf’s to lose so putting the Red Deer Rebels rearguard into the “He’ll make it” category would hardly have qualified you for membership in the Scotty Bowman Legion of Hockey Geniuses.
With the benefit of hindsight, another notable name is that of Dennis Wideman, a London Knights defenceman and former late-round Buffalo draft pick who was in camp on an invitation basis. Wideman would sign with the Blues organization later that summer and today, as a member of the Boston Bruins, he’s considered one of the NHL’s better all-round blueliners.
Staying on the back end, Mark Giordano has sandwiched 113 NHL games around a one-year sabbatical in Russia and Richie Regehr made 20 big-league appearances before concussions derailed his career (he eventually made his way to Germany).
Then there’s the curious case of Brennan Evans, who actually played more NHL games before that summer’s prospect development camp (two cameo appearances for the Flames during the 2004 playoffs) than he has since (zero).
Rounding out a pretty impressive blue-line brigade is Deryk Engelland, who has never made it to The Show but has at least become an American Hockey League regular.
Between the pipes, Brent Krahn was still considered the organization’s top netminding prospect at this point although the knee problems that have dogged him throughout his career were already a concern at this point. As it turns out, it was collegian Curtis McElhinney who would grow up to be Miikka Kiprusoff’s cobweb-covered caddy.
Krahn, who dressed for some games with the Flames but never saw any game action, finally made his NHL debut in 2008-09 when he played one period for the Dallas Stars.
Davis Parley, if you must know, went on to a nomadic minor-league existence, with stops from Bakersfield, Calif., to Tulsa, Okla.
And how about that group of forwards? To date, not a single NHL game has been played by anyone on that list and the only way you could have seen one of those guys in action during the winter of 2008-09 is if you were at a rink in places such as Pont-Rouge, Que., Syracuse, N.Y. or Innsbruck, Austria.
A rare claim to Flames fame among those forwards is that Dustin Johner was part of the trade package that allowed Calgary to acquire Kristian Huselius from Florida in 2005.
To be fair, the contingent of centremen and wingers would have been considered pretty underwhelming even then seeing as how six of them were undrafted free agents and only two of the forwards were drafted higher than the sixth round — Ryan Donally (third round) and Jamie Tardif (fourth).
Also, many of the Flames’ forward prospects at this point consisted of Europeans (Tomi Maki, Andrei Taratukhin) whose attendance at such camps was inconvenient and costly or collegians (Eric Nystrom, David Moss, David Van der Gulik, Greg Moore, Brian McConnell) whose participation was prohibited by NCAA rules.
Nowadays, many Euros make the trip and college players pay their own freight to preserve their eligibility so the batting average of prospects who make the grade figures to be much better than the 2004 group. So how many of these 2009 Flames summer campers will we still be talking about five years from today?