The Worst Draft Picks In Flames History: An Airing Of Grievances Part 1 (sadly)



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You may recall our ten part series showcasing the Flames best ever draft picks (Mister Number One Theoren Fleury even read the one dedicated to him), and you might have sat back in your chair and fondly recalled the triumphs and milestones achieved by one time Flames greats. You may have felt a chill run down your spine while recalling an Al MacInnis slap shot, or welled up with pride envisioning Gary Roberts charge down his wing, or gotten lost forever in the beautifully deep eyes of Hakan Loob.

It was good times.

Today, we’re heading in a different direction. This is going to be gut wrenching, but given the current turmoil of today’s Calgary Flames, we present the Yang to the Top Ten Draft Picks’ Yin, a snapshot of some of the worst draft picks to ever throw on a Flaming C or Horse Head Jersey (if they ever did at all). It’s a gutwrenching but thoughtful reminder that, hey, it can always get worse.

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Now, we didn’t do a Top Ten list for this feature, because limiting it to ten was about as easy as limiting the Florida Panthers opposition to 8 goals or less. As Kent Wilson so aptly summed it up in the email suggesting the article, "you could choke a fully grown male walrus with the Flames terrible draft picks"

Putting aside the fact that I think any ten men could probably eventually choke a walrus, you get the point. So this is going to shake down over a few days or weeks or what will feel like a millenium here, with two or three "celebrants". 

WARNING: YOU WILL CRY. With that inevitability out of the way, let’s get the wheels of this train wreck in motion, shall we?

Daniel Tkaczuk

Drafted: 6th overall in the 1997 NHL Draft. Career totals as a Calgary Flame: 19 GP, 4G, 7A, 11PTS, 

If you think I chose Tkaczuk so I’d have the bust with the hardest name to spell done and out of the way early, well…

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Daniel Tkaczuk had a promising career ahead of him in Calgary, I guess, after putting up a couple of 40 goal seasons with Barrie Colts of the OHL, and leading Canada in points en route to a gold medal losing World Junior Championship in 1999, the final WJC’s of the nineties, a decade in which hockey players’ talents and abilities continue to be the benchmark that players from other decades continue to haplessly try and emulate, but never will.

REMINDER: Daniel Tkaczuk was drafted 6 spots ahead of Marian Hossa.

I know that in hindsight it’s easy to look back and say that any team could have made the same mistake as Calgary by selecting Daniel over Hossa (and a host of other players with decent NHL careers), but every player taken in 1997 from 1 to 12, where Hossa was selected, played at least 250 games in the NHL. Daniel Tcakzuk himself played 19, so…oh wait.

The crazy thing about Tkac (which is what I’m calling him now, seeing as not only is it a hard name to spell, the sequential letters on a keyboard to type it out are all over the map. All over the map, of course, is also indicative of Tkac’s career, you’ll see) is that it wasn’t at the NHL level where things went sour for him. After earning a place on the AHL’s all rookie team in 1999-00, Tkac earned 19 games over a couple of callups with the Flames the following season, and, for a 21 year old rookie, performed rather well, collecting 11 points over that time. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to crack the roster regularly on a very deep Young Guns roster, so he spent most of his time in St. John’s.

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And would never see the NHL again.

On what is actually a pretty shrewd move by then Flames GM Craig Button (though it’s pretty inconsequential now, and no one ever really remembered he was a thing at the time), Tkaczuk and whatever still glimmering trade value he had as a young 22 year old prospect was traded to the St. Louis Blues as a part of the Fred Brathwaite deal that brought Roman Turek to Calgary, a move that shored up any goaltending consistency issues for the Flames for about…well, that’s another story for another day.

Tkaczuk’s is not one of the worst draft picks based on poor results over the course of his career in Calgary, it’s more because he never HAD a career in Calgary. Co-holding the title as the highest draft pick the Flames have ever had, to only have 19 games in a Flames jersey is unequivocally awful. Unequivocally awful, of course, is what Daniel became after being traded, as his game would regress at the AHL level and take him and his frustrations with his playing time to enough exotic locales to earn him one of those comically overstamped suitcases you see in travel commercials and nowhere else.

Daniel now runs a business called, which is an online hockey development resource, which I’m sure is vastly successful, because nobody knows about development like Daniel Tkaczuk and the Calgary Flames. He’s also written a series of "from the player’s perspective" articles, for The Hockey News. I haven’t read them, because why would I, but if you want to see them, they can be perused here. I’m sure it’s riveting stuff.

Rico Fata

Drafted: 6th Overall, 1998 NHL Draft. Career Totals as a Calgary Flame: 27GP, 0G, 1A, 1PT

Having the season previous earned their highest draft selection in team history with the 6th pick, it’s maybe not a surprise that the team, led by the exploits of stars like Marty McInnis and Hnat Domenichelli, lived up to expectations and skated to a 67 point season and found themselves back at the Draft Table with a repeat 6th overall pick.

With the same management and scouting staff going back to the same well, the Flames drafted Rico Fata, whose name is brilliant, from the OHL’s London Knights, and we all knew nothing could possibly ever go wrong this time around.

Indeed, at the time, it seemed like an alright pick. It was not considered a very deep draft, and any of the players that were selected after Fata have not necessarily been big impact players. I might have selected Alex Tanguay, who went 12th, but these things tend to work themselves out in the long run, don’t they? (although both Andrei Markov and Pavel Datsyuk went in the 6th round in 1998, so maybe a lot of General Managers have a lot to answer to on this one)

Fata was a shining star  with the Knights, and was even called up during his final year of junior to play with the Flames. The results were predictably hilarious, as it can be said that the Flames ended his career right then and there. In 20 games as a 19 year old, Fata did…well, nothing. Truly a glowing tribute to the level of depth on the Flames St. John’s farm team at the time.

Fata would join St. John’s the following season and would win a Calder Cup with the Baby Flames the following season, which we can all agree is amazing thing. If you ever wondered how Jim Playfair became an NHL coach, it was because of this.

The interesting thing about the Flames back in these days is how relatively little patience the team had with it’s, er, hopefuls. Rico was indeed absolute human garbage during a couple of brief callups with the Calgary Flames, again, not able to beat out Ronald Petrovicky in the depth chart. Hey, the Flames needed GRIT, so Blair Jones feels your pain, Rico. But the Fat Man produced decently in the AHL with St. John’s, scoring over 20 goals in both of his campaigns there. Yet, the Flames gave up all faith in Rico, and he was placed on waivers as a 21 year old.

You could argue that this was a pretty reactive move and that if the Flames gave him a bit of time to mature, he might have lived up to the lofty goals placed upon a Top 10 draft pick.

The rest of his career laughs at your petty notion of reclamation.

Fata spent the next 6 years bouncing around various Eastern Conference teams and, more specifically, their AHL affiliates, before fleeing to Europe, where careers go to die; a life as a  perennial Spengler Cup all star on the horizon.

Rico Fata, adorably and delusionally, is still making a kick at this professional hockey thing, plying his trade in the Swiss-A league with Geneve Servette, where he is about as productive as he ever was as a Calgary Flame.

Bryan Deasley

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Stay tuned for many, many more…

    • Flamesfansince86

      oh and I would like to add Kris Chucko’s name to that list! It’s bad when you know at the time of the draft that the GM is making a horrible selection 🙁 Let’s hope Jankowski does not end up in a similiar story in 10 years time.

      • RexLibris

        Jankowski will be the best player from his draft class in 10 years time….remember? haha

        Jankowski’s stock has risen since being picked so i’m not to worried.

        • Everytime I forget about how dumb Feaster is someone brings up things like this.

          There is absolutely zero upside to making a dumb comment like that. None. What an idiot…. I still can’t believe he said that. On live TV with the kid sitting beside him 2 minutes after being drafted. It really is unreal Uncle Feaster still has a job.

          • I agree he probably shouldnt have said that but he probably isnt the first GM to say something along those lines to a new prospect.

            Feaster was only reiterating what Wiesbroad said and you also have to take into consideration that they knew Jankowski better than we did.

            Maybe they knew he had the character to take that type of comment and build off it to become a great prospect.

            I agree I didnt like it but at the same time I don’t like how quickly everyone has thrown Feaster under the bus.

            I could compile a list of good and bad things Feaster has done for us in his short tenure and I’d bet anyone anything there is more good than bad. Much more.

  • RexLibris

    So then, based on your previous series, the trick to Flames drafting is to trade away from 6th overall.

    Would fans shudder in fear if the Flames were to nab the 6th overall pick this year out of superstition?

    Bryan Deasley. Wasn’t he Harry Potter’s sidekick for awhile?

  • Michael

    Names like Niklas Sundblad and Jesper Mattsson come flashing into mind…. and I thought I had excised those demons from my memory.
    The list of first round flops makes for mighty sad reading…

  • HARd to kind of fathom what really went wrong with DT. His opint totals at the NHL level wre pretty good for a first 20 games. One thing I’ve read is he had real sense of entitlement, but who knows? He was supposed to be a huge character guy in junior, the next Doug Gilmour. Still no real good explanantion onhow he went south so far, so fast.

  • RexLibris

    Funny thing is, if the players selected those 2 years had worked out, they could still be contributing to the team. Really shows the importance of drafting and development.

  • supra steve

    Essentially all I got from this is that Calgary can’t draft for $hit and we use the monkey and dart board method every year except instead of giving the monkey a dart, we throw the monkey at the dart board(he never sticks).

  • On the bright side, the Flames followed up their Tkaczuk pick with three second rounders – goalie Evan Lindsay, John Tripp and Dmitry Kokorev – and two third rounders – Derek Schutz and Erik Andersson – so you know the draft wasn’t a complete waste!

    Wow, hard to believe the team was so bad for so many years.

    I do take a perverse sense of pride in the fact that 6th is the highest they’ve EVER drafted, though.

  • Chris Fairfield

    As abysmal as our draft record is, I suspect that if we examined other teams more closely there would be tons of examples of teams with terrible records. It is a bit of a crap shoot, and there are lots of guys, like Zetterberg, Alfredsson, Hasek, and Robitaille who are late picks and make their teams look like geniuses.

    I think our draft records is still terrible, but so are lots of other teams. And as someone just mentioned, never picking higher than 6th, and never being so utterly dreadful as to get multiple number ones is a big factor.

    • RexLibris

      Did someone say draft?

      I’ve just finished having a close look at the drafts from ’96 to ’05, counting the number of NHL players (200+ games), core players, those taken in the 1st or later, and contrasting year after year.

      I don’t have the numbers in front of me right now, but the basic league average is somewhere between a 15% and 18% success rate for draft picks over an extended time period. Obviously there are outliers, the high end is around 21% and the low end close to 10%.

      The whole crux of drafting is to do it well, do it habitually, retain as many draft picks as you can, and invest in development. You don’t have to draft 1st overall, but if you deny yourself the picks because of trades then you’ve cut off your ability to potentially add those players at virtually no cost.

      The Flames were saved from their poor drafting by three phenomenal trades: Regehr, Iginla and Kiprusoff. That and the draft addition of Dion Phaneuf gave the team enough to sustain all of their other organizational shortcomings.

    • Robear

      I,ll do my best….

      Good: 1- fired most of previous scouting staff, kept Button to allow perspective upon past mistakes 2- let Sutter go as coach 3- changed drafting techniques to implement new perspectives (software, a democratic drafting system) 4- hired Wiesbrod 5- drafted Baertschi and Guadreau our two top prospects 6- followed up a solid 11 draft by getting the player he wanted and a 2nd round pick, also Gillies in 12 draft 7- in offseason signs the guys he wanted most who are succeeding in their roles ( not Cervenka yet, but who knows) 8- won the Cammalleri trade 9- tries to improve teams weakness without spending future (Richards, O’Rieley offers) 10- got great return for Erixon who wanted out 11- Stempniak for a broken Langkow

      Bad: 1- traded a 5th and 7th rd pick on useless players ( Modin, PL3) 2- made some comment on tv about trading players then backing down last year 3- probably should have traded Jokinen at last years deadline 4- shouldn’t have resigned Sarich and Babchuck 5- maybe should have traded Jackman when he had value 6- almost, unless they could have fought it, lost our 1st and 3rd rounder for nothing if ROR went on waivers 7- saying Jankowski was gonna be best player drafted in 13

      Most other things done in his tenure are mostly neutral…. Therefore, I think he’s done more good than bad…..

      • Robear

        I’m with you, I think Feaster’s taken a tough job post Sutter-plosion (bare cupboards, aging stars, abysmal draft record) and started repairing the organizations long term prospects.
        Even the darkest part of his tenure so far, the ROR offer sheet, I love the approach and attempt, and I’m still not sold that anyone else truly would have done different.

        • Robear

          The problem is, we love our team, were passionate, and it causes us to only care about “what have you done for me latley?”

          Feasters job was not an enviable one. I dont know how anyone can lynch this guy when he has done so well in trades and drafting..UFA signings and statements that alienate him are the only mistakes that he’s made (aside from ROR of course). Those mistakes are forgivable….well for me anyway.

      • Robear

        All very debatable:

        1) Most people on here would not shed tears at seeing Button let go.

        2) Sutter, IMO, could’ve stayed if he played ball, but he gave his terms for staying (rebuild!) and the team said no. It really was a fairly mutual thing.

        Also, Hartley is now feeling Brent’s pain. In fact, he seems far less patient than Brent was. Let’s not forget, Brent was hailed as bringing in a more exciting brand of hockey whenhe first got here too.

        And we can all see the difference in Hartley hockey already. Flames, to sum it up, can’t play that style.

        4) Lots of differences of opinion there, though don’t mind him. No savior though.

        5) Let’s wait and see.

        6) Janko? Definitely wait and see.

        8) Habs fans would disagree this season. Especially consdiering contract.

        He’s also gotten rid of 2nd rounders in moves I disagree with. Again, debatable.

        I also cut him no slack on the ROR incident. Before you commit 10 million and a 1st and 3rd, maybe, just maybe, you should pick up the phone and place a call to league offices. The obscure wording and newness of the CBA being aggravating and not mitigating factors IMO.

        • Robear

          “Let’s not forget, Brent was hailed as bringing in a more exciting brand of hockey whenhe first got here too.”

          Um. No. Brent was brought in to shore up the defence. No one anywhere said he would bring an exciting brand of hockey (we had that under Keenan), but everyone kind of assumed he’d help the D without hurting the O too much. In retrospect… yeah.

          But no one hailed Brent as “bringing in a more exciting brand of hockey”. No one. Keenan was exciting, so even if people thought Brent was an exciting coach (they didn’t) there’s no way they’d have thought he was more exciting than Keenan. The big things being bandied about when Brent signed on were structure and… well, you know, the fact he actually had a system.

          Turns out, that system sucked. (Then again, the team wasn’t great either).

  • RexLibris

    15-18%?? Wow! Brutal success rate!! I don’t care which team we’re talking about or which league we’re talking about…..the drafts are a crap shoot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

    • schevvy

      If drafts were a complete crap-shoot like a lot of people like to say they are, then 1st rounders wouldn’t make the show more frequently than players taken in all the other rounds put together.

    • schevvy

      Besides which, the success rate actually isn’t at all surprising. Think about how many players are taken in the draft EACH year. 7 per team for 30 teams. That comes to 210 players every year. In a “perfect draft” (100% pick success rate), that would mean an average of 210 players leaving the league every year to accommodate the average of 210 players coming in. How many players retire per year in the NHL? I’m pretty sure the rate is a lot less than 210.

  • Robear

    rico fata, the only player in nhl history to have played on the same team same year as Kovi,Sid the kid crosby and Ovi. amazing he ended up playing for ASIAGO of the italian league. LINDBURGER didnt want him.

  • Robear

    With all that said, I will admit that if Feaster does the same thing for a third time this trade deadline (not trade tradable assets – not in future plans) then I will be quite annoyed and question his abilities further.

    But until then Im on his side.

  • Robear

    @ SeanCharles

    I do love the passion we have for our team, and the genuine desire for the Flames to be successful. And I do believe that as GM, Feaster is a puppet in many ways.

    However, to your good and bad….first of all, I think Brent Sutter actually ‘left’ more than he was ‘fired’. I’m not saying he should be here still, but he obviously could see Feaster wasn’t going to, or probably wasn’t allowed to, make the changes in that dressing room that we are now finally contemplating one year later. 2. My verdict is still out on Weisbrod. I loved the fact we finally brought someone in from a winning organization, but knowing that he was behind last years draft day home run swing on Jankowski does not bode well. The off-season signings of Hudler and Wideman seem ok as of now. That said, we paid full money on long-term deals to make it happen. And, in typical fashion, tossed away a draft pick to get Wideman.

    I don’t know if he can brag too much about the pursuit of Brad Richards and the albatross contract that would be anchoring us right now. The ROR saga needs no pat on the back, either. Regarding Erixon, he received one second round pick and Roman Horak. The team would have received a second round compensatory pick if we had done nothing. Under the circumstances they were in, it was an acceptable move, just the same. And I do agree that Baertchi and Johnny G etc are awesome draft choices.

    I don’t need to really expand on the points you made about the mistakes he has made because they all ARE bad moves. Everyone ran Darryl Sutter down for never having a good quote (and many other reasons) but not only is this not Darryl’s problem anymore, I wish Feaster would be less quotable. ‘Guaranteeing the playoffs’, building Jankowski up to basically justify his pick (while the hockey world laughed), making a big deal about the ROR signing in the Avs building, promising ‘changes’ at last years deadline and then doing squat, boasting about ‘intellectual honesty’ and then NEVER using it…..

    These are some of the reasons why I’m not a big fan of Feasters. I read the Steve Ludzig book. Wow! He was in and around Tampa when Feaster was there. There are at least two of us who feel the same way.

    • Robear

      “Regarding Erixon, he received one second round pick and Roman Horak. The team would have received a second round compensatory pick if we had done nothing. Under the circumstances they were in, it was an acceptable move, just the same”

      – he got two 2nd round picks and Horak –

      Feaster has had 3 options really: 1- do what he has done 2- trade futures for quick fixes or 3- tear it down and do the scoarched earth re-build.

      I dont like trading futures for short-term, Sutter did that.

      I dont like the scoarched earth approach either.

      Given his tools, hes built a descent framework here.. thats my opinion anyway. But like I said all his credibility rides upon this trade deadline and offseason/draft. We will see….If he has a good deadline and offseason/draft ppl will change their tune…

  • Robear

    @ meat1

    “These are some of the reasons why I’m not a big fan of Feasters. I read the Steve Ludzig book. Wow! He was in and around Tampa when Feaster was there. There are at least two of us who feel the same way.”

    Can you expand on that???

  • Robear

    @ the-wolf

    It was a couple years ago that I read it so don’t quote me. But basically, Ludzig perceived Feaster to have ridden in on the coat-tails of the previous GM, Rick Dudley, who had built what would become a cup champion. He then shook all the hands, and kissed all the babies, etc. And then when it got down to business moving forward, signed Richards, Vinny, St. Louis, etc to such albatross contracts that it set TB back to being an also-ran. He got punted, but Ludzig said not nearly quick enough.

    @ SeanCharles

    I have enjoyed the back and forth banter and we can agree to disagree. Just to clarify though, Feaster received only ONE extra second rounder plus Horak for Erixson. He was going to get one if he hadn’t signed/traded him.