As we barrel head-long into the off-season, the 2013 NHL Draft approaches rapidly. Estimations of what your Calgary Flames will do at the draft, in terms of picks, can be guided in terms of what they’ve said publicly on the subject and what they’ve done in the past.
NEEDS and VALUES
Based on GM Jay Feaster’s public comments, the Flames have identified their specific needs: size and grit, centers and a physical presence on their blueline. They won’t necessarily try to fill those gaps just at the draft, but those thoughts are in the back of their mind.
We can filter that needs assessment with the draft tendencies/value the club has established under the new regime. Jay Feaster has been at the helm of the Flames through two drafts and has made 12 selections, the last seven at the recommendation of John Weisbrod, who heads all scouting.
The Flames have chosen two goalies, four defensemen and six forwards. By source league, that’s four from the USHL, five from the WHL, one from the QMJHL, one from Finland and one from Quebec prep school. There’s some evidence of the club varying its sources a bit and trying not to select too many of the same “type” of player.
Based on interviews and conversations with Flames management and scouts, the team values hockey sense the most, followed by character, skill and skating. In other words, if you think the game really well – or the scouts say you do – you’re high on the Flames scouting list.
I’ve mentioned Ottawa 67s pivot Sean Monahan recently. He’s reasonably big, and arguably he’s the best of the non “Big 6” (Jones, MacKinnon, Drouin, Lindolm, Barkov and Nichushkin). He was also a very strong player on a lousy team and would have been a very high pick even in the 2012 draft had he been eligible.
But don’t sleep on Edmonton Oil Kings Curtis Lazar, the London Knights Bo Horvat or Regina’s Morgan Klimchuk. Horvat in particular has been a strong player on a great London Knights, and one that drives the club’s offense. Lazar isn’t as crucial to Edmonton’s success, but has one of the best, most accurate shots in this draft class.
I will continue to tout Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers until the draft, as I think he’s great.
Andre Burakowsky of Malmo is a bit less gritty, but has arguably more skill. Corey Pronman (of the vaunted Hockey Prospectus) quoted a source in his analysis who pegged Burakowsky’s “work ethic as equal to his skill level.” That’s a good sign. Swedish forward Jacob de la Rose, of Leksand IF, is also said to be excellent as a physical, two-way player, but projects more as a second rounder.
Another name to keep in mind is Adam Erne out of the Quebec Remparts. The Flames have seen quite a bit of him (via scouting Ryan Culkin), and he’s said to be big, fast and physically strong. He’ll be available in the mid-to-late first round.
This is where this first round shines. There are a lot of big, physical defenders available in this year’s draft.
Rasmus Ristolainen is arguably the best. He’s Finnish and has played in the SM-Liiga all season against grown-ass men, as a 17-year-old, and done quite well. Another high-level defender is Darnell Nurse, of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He’s big, physical and is Donovan McNabb’s nephew. And both of his parents are athletes, too. Nurse is roundly considered the best defender available after Seth Jones.
Outside of those two, standouts include London’s huge Nikita Zadorov, Kelowna’s Madison Bowey, Everett’s Mirco Mueller and a pair of USHL blueliners – Steven Santini of the U.S. National Development Team and Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Blackhawks. Both players are committed to join Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold at Boston College for the 2013-14 season, so they are no doubt on the Flames radar.
HIGH SCHOOL KIDS
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two key things about high school kids.
First, there’s a few decent lowly-ranked, long-term project type high school prospects out of Minnesota that stand out in the Central Scouting rankings. Jacob Jackson had 56 points in 25 games with Tartan High School, while Zach Glienke of Egan High School had 60 points in 25 games, and is 6’3” and 190 pounds. Either could be worth a shot in the seventh round.
Second, the best high school kids in the draft are supposedly Tommy Vannelli out of Minnetona High School in Minnesota – he’s a decently big defenseman – and Connor Hurley out of Edina High School, also in Minnesota, who’s a center. Vannelli’s committed to the University of Minnesota, but may play a year with the UHSL’s Tri-City Storm before he heads to college. Hurley’s joining the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL next year and then heading to Notre Dame.