Predicting picks in the NHL entry draft outside of, say, the top 5 is a bit of a fools errand. Not only do we not have access to the Flames draft board, where the club’s scouts would rank order the kids available, we also can’t anticipate the moves of the 29 other franchises on the day.
Of course, guessing picks in rounds three or later is several orders of magnitude more difficult. Draft boards tend to diverge wildly outside of the top 30 of any given draft, with some teams rating players that others wouldn’t touch. The consensus ranks developed by groups such as NHL central scouting are merely a sketchy roadmap for any wannabe draft day prophet as well – each team has it’s own scouts, preferences and priorities.
So while the Flames have easily identifiable needs and draft habits, the fact that they don’t currently own a choice in the top 60 means we’re throwing darts in the dark here. Doesn’t mean that this isn’t a worthwhile exercise, but just don’t be surprised if the Flames pick someone not mentioned (and perhaps, no one has ever heard of) at #64.
Hayley of Matchsticks and Gasoline has been way out in front in terms of this stuff for a few weeks. She has already identified and profiled a number of likely players, including Christian Thomas, Mike Peirera, Brett Bulmer, Kevin Sundher and Gregg McKegg. Make sure to head over and take a look at each of those guys.
Sundher, Bulmer and McKegg look like guys who would head the Flames list to me. All three had good-to-very good offensive totals last year, all three play in the CHL. Sundher is a center from Ryan Howse’s Chiliwack Bruins and placed second on the club in scoring this season behind Howse himself. Rated 67th amongst NA skaters by central scouting, there’s a good chance he’ll still be around when the Flames are picking and has probably been well scouted by the Flames given his team affiliation. Micheal Remmerde of Redline Report has this to say about Sundher at his NHL Draft Notes blog:
Grades out as a 75 on pure speed, but turning and agility drop the overall skating grade. Is a little bit of a Todd Marchant kind of player who can beat defensemen but not so much goaltenders. That said, he does have some shooting touch, and can pick up garbage goals and finish chances in close.
Lots of energy and likes to play physical. Probably doesn’t have the size to be that type of player in the NHL, but at least you have to give him credit for some grit, which is a must have for players of all sizes to be successful NHLers. But I have seen him give up the puck at times to avoid being hit, and that’s a bit of a red flag.
There’s some good (speed, hands in close) and some bad (average size, puckhandling) there. Of course, any player a team drafts in this range is going to have some warts.
Jordan Weal, C, Regina Pats
The highest scoring draft eligible players in the CHL this year were Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin…and Jordan Weal (102 pts). The main reasons Weal might anywhere close to where the Flames are picking is his size (5’9") and the fact that he skated with Jordan Eberle, who tore the ball off the cover in the WHL this season (meaning Weal’s stats may be inflated as a result). That said, Weal was a 70 point center in 65 games last year, so it’s not like he took a ridiculous quantum leap forward this season. Here’s what Remmerde has to say about Weal:
Very good inside the offensive zone. Very creative and makes things happen with the puck. Really distributes the puck smartly. Not real dynamic in an end-to-end or off the rush sense. Has good speed and quickness – but for a player this small, you tend to hold their skating a bit higher standard. His top speed and lateral quickness is a shade below what you want from a guy this size.
Really competes and isn’t afraid of battling physically or taking a hit to make a play. But he’s going to have to find a way to be more elusive at the next level.
This guy can flat out play the game. But he’s just not likely to get any bigger at all. He’ll struggle to become a top two line player, but my bet is he’ll still contribute as a 3rd/4th line guy and maybe a power play specialist. But I wouldn’t want to spend a top 45 pick on him, I’d probably not consider him until the 3rd round
If Weal is still around when the Flames pick at 64, it’s hard to imagine them passing him up. Especially since the club hasn’t shied away from picking up smallish forwards with offensive upside in the third round before (Boyd, Howse).
Ryan Spooner, C, Peterborough Petes
Another guy hampered by size concerns (5’10", 175 pounds), Spooner was the third highest scorer on the Petes this season, managing 19 goals and 54 points in 47 games. Described as a playmaker more than anything, Spooner has good speed and vision, but is "incomplete" defensively speaking. Brock Otten of OHL Prospects rates Spooner as the 9th best OHL prospect this season:
He’s undersized for sure, but he’s very quick. That shiftyness gives him time to operate in the offensive zone. He’s also very aggressive with the puck and seems to excel at driving to the net with the puck on his stick. His play away from the puck is inconsistent, but when he’s on, he’s like a litter waterbug out there and can be ferocious on the forecheck. On top of the above average skating and puck skill, Spooner also has very good vision on the ice and behind Alex Burmistrov, he may even be the second best playmaker on this list (even ahead of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin). Once he gets stronger and plays with more consistency without the puck, he’ll be a threat for the scoring title in this league.
While the warts are there, this suggests that Spooner has a ceiling that would be difficult to ignore in the third round. Unfortunately, Bob McKenzie has Spooner going as high as 39, so it may be stretch to see him stick around till 64.
Ryan Martindale, C, Ottawa 67’s
Another OHL prospect, Martindale has a far more "projectable" frame than Weal or Spooner (6’3", 187 pounds). He managed 60 points in 61 games for the 67’s, good for 4th on the club (and behind the higher ranked teammate Tyler Toffoli). Martindale’s weaknesses are suggested by his +2 rating, which was far and away the worst rate garnered by any of the top 5 scorers for Ottawa (Toffoli was +25). According to Otten, Martindale struggles with consistency and his compete level:
For Martindale, it’s all about consistency. He has the ability to do great damage offensively, but it doesn’t happen every game, nor every shift. As a late 1991, even with his past injury/sickness problems, you have to expect a greater output than Martindale put out (just less than a point per game). Yes he has some very likable qualities from an NHL stand point. He has great size, and he is skilled. He knows how to use his size to protect the puck and is actually a pretty good playmaker too. But I really don’t like his play away from the puck.
Otten also notes that Martindale’s skating is merely average and he has a tough time getting away from coverage in the offensive zone. Unlike Weal and Spooner, Martindale has bigger gaps in his scouting report and isn’t overly dominating elsewhere. As such, there’s a greater chance he’ll be around when the Flames are picking in the third round.