Random Thoughts – Flames 2013 Draft



Now that "the most important draft in organizational history" is over it’s time to pick through the wreckage a bit…

– Although I half expected the Flames to deal at least one of their first rounders for some sort of return (or at least waste one on something stupid like a goalie), the team did good work in getting three 70+ point forwards. Sean Monahan was the natural choice at six, even though there are questions about his true offensive upside in the show. As we mentioned in his draft profile, Monahan was the 67’s offense this year, but he was also very dependent on the PP to get his points, which is a pair of mixed signals. 

There’s no question Monahan is NHL-sized already and has played in the toughest circumstances as a pivot in junior. He should more or less leap fully formed into the NHL down the road.

– On that note, I’m almost certain that the Flames are going want to sell hope this upcoming season, meaning they are going to push Monahan onto the parent roster to start the year. As relatively complete as the kid’s game is already, that probably doesn’t make sense from a hockey perspective – Monahan has yet to truly dominate junior in the Taylor Hall/Steven Stamkos sense, so there’s no reason to assume he’d be able to make the jump and be an impact player right away. In addition, the Flames aren’t going to win anything next year anyways, so burning a year of Monhahan’s entry-level contract so he can play 3rd/4th line minutes while the team struggles is a waste.

Like many tweener kids, Monhahan would likely be best served as a 19-year finding his legs in the AHL to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, thanks to the arrangement between junior and pro hockey, he is ineligible to play in Abbotsford, so it’s either Calgary or Ottawa for Sean next year. And unless he’s, say, Gabriel Landeskog, Monahan should definitely go back to Ottawa.

– The 22nd pick, of course, is much more contentious. Emile Poirier was well down the list of most consensus scouting firms. Which isn’t to say that other NHL teams didn’t covet him, although it certainly suggests he could have been had later. Of course, the real issue (like the Jankowski move down the year prior when Teuvo Teravainen was still available) was the presence of a much higher ranked talent in Hunter Shinkaruk.

The Calgary kid and Medicine Hat Tiger was considered a top-10 talent by many heading into the season. He took a marginal step backwards, though, after scoring a mind-boggling 49 goals and 91 points in his draft-1 season. This past year, he "only" managed 37 goals and 86 points (and a much worse -13 rating), which, when combined with his less than ideal size (5’10, 180) seemed to scare a lot of teams off, including the Flames.

Still, Hunter’s 177 points in his past 130 games was easily one of the best two season totals of any draft eligible junior player in 2013. Although it’s somewhat worrisome to see a kid run in place, it’s also indicative that he put together back-to-back 85+ point seasons.

Poirier, on the other hand, is much more flash-in-the-pan relative to Shinkaruk. The December, 1994 birthday winger has only played two seasons in the QMJHL so far (one fewer than you would expect of a soon-to-be 19 year old) and was only a 15-goal, 40-point player as a rookie in 2011-12.

His ascension up the depth chart on a bad Gatineau team was capped off by a playoffs that saw him score 10 points in 10 games. The steep slope of his improvement may be what convinced the Flames to go "off-board" at 22 to pick him. On top of having good size, good speed and high-end passing ability, Poirier also led his club in scoring by 16 points over second place Tomas Hyka (although Kyka only played 49 games).

So there’s some things to like about the kid. I will go through his numbers in more detail this week to determine his team% and ES/PP splits.

The red flag here is how small of a sample we’re talking about. Poirier came out of nowhere after being a just okay 40-point QMJHL rookie in his 17-18 year old season and the basis of his rise seems to be a very strong second half of a year and a 10-game playoff run. Relative to Shinkaruk, Poirier’s body of work is much smaller and therefore much less proven. For example, Hunter scored 16 goals and 42 points in 2010-11 as a 16-17 year old, a year before Poirier even made major-junior. Keep in mind that the Quebec league tends to be a bit easier to score in as well.

We won’t know for years if the Flames made the right choice in this instance. The guy they took had some things to like, but there’s certainly some risk involved.

– Morgan Klimchuk was much less of a question mark choice at 28. The only guy to outscore Klimchuk on the Regina Pats was three years his senior. The next guy on the scoring list was a full 30-points back with just 45 points in 46 games. Klimchuk is not very big and most scouting reports say he’ll need to up his strength and size to make it past junior, but nabbing a 36-goal, better than PPG guy at the end of the first round is decent work.

– After round 1, there isn’t much to talk about. Feaster failed to nab any other early-to-mid picks so it’s even more baffling that the organization decided to use their lone choice between 30-100 on man mountain Keegan Kanzig. The 6’7", 240+ pound defender, by all accounts, is a guy who can’t really skate, can’t handle the puck and has no offense to speak of. He was ranked in the 190’s amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting. Corey Pronman didn’t rank him in the top-100 either.

The only thing you can really say about Kanzig is he is huge, mean and can drop the gloves with anyone. Which is a description of Derek Boogaard and John Scott, but not of anyone who is actually useful at the NHL level. I woudn’t even endorse using a 7th round pick on this type of player since they can generally be had via free agency or waivers quite easily, so wasting a top-90 pick on him is flat-out mystifying.

Organizationally, Chris Breen is comparable, except that he is 20-pounds lighter and doesn’t tend to rack up the PIM’s like Kanzig. Remember, Breen was signed as a free agent out of junior after being undrafted and, at 24 years old, has yet to play a single NHL game.

BTW – Jordan Subban and JC Lipon were both chosen AFTER Kanzig yesterday.

– Eric Roy is probably the only Flames post-first round pick with any hope of doing anything. As mentioned yesterday and in his darkhorse profile, the kid has a lot to learn in the defensive end, which is naturally a major concern for defenseman as they try to transition to the pro game. If someone can reach Roy and teach him how to play in his own end, however, he has the tools to make some noise. 

– Beyond that, the rest of the picks are typical 6th and 7th round long-bombs. We can’t say much about them at this point and they probably aren’t worth discussing until they have at least a draft+1 season under their belt.

– Overall, Calgary beefed up their collection of offensive prospects via the first round, which is good, but it doesn’t look like they got much value beyond that this weekend, aside from maybe the Roy gamble. What’s additionally surprising about the Kanzig and Poirier picks is that the team didn’t attempt to trade down and beef up their number of selections in return. It’s a good bet either guy could have been had a little later on givn their general standing amongst scouts (especially Kanzig), so it’s odd the team wasn’t able to move down a tad and one or two more 3rd/4th/5th rounders. Oh well.

– I’m also a bit disappointed the Flames weren’t in on one of Cal Clutterbuck or Michael Frolik. Clutterbuck was had for Nino Niederreiter, so it’s understandable that the Flames couldn’t match return, but Frolik (a long time trade target of mine) went to Winnipeg for just a 3rd + 5th round picks. Frolik was had for Kanzig and Roy more or less.

He might never be a 20-goal scorer again, but Frolik is a young, useful bottom-6 possession/PK guy who would be cheap to sign and could firm up a team’s forward depth for years to come. He certainly wouldn’t be the difference maker for a rebuilding club like the Flames, but his addition would have been a small step in the right direction.

The good news is the Hawks gutted some of their bottom-6 depth (Bolland and Frolik trades) and signed Bickell to a bad deal this weekend, which weakens them and also means the Flames can’t go out and sign Bickell to a bad deal themselves. Word is capable middle rotation winger Viktor Stalberg is also on the outs in Chicago and he would make a much more sensible target for the Flames to sign come July 5.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Just ran across this mock draft by Sam Cosentino done a few days ahead of the draft. He accurately predicted all three picks by Flames and projected Shinkaruk would slide.

    It’s a shame we were not able to get Lindholm, looks like he has much more upside than Monahan, which explains why the Hurricanes wisely did not pass up on him.

    Here is the link (http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/2013-nhl-mock-draft-sam-cosentinos-30-picks/)

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I think what is bothering people with the entire smartest guy in room thing comes down to this:

    Weisbrod ranked the list as best Calgary Flames player available.

    What I mean by that is his constant droning about character, what they want a Flames player to look like, act like, think like. It seems obvious to me that this is first priority (given requisite skill). This will be the difference in their list compared to consensus which is who has the best skills. As example, there is video on Flames site where Weisbrod says after interview they moved Galchenyuk to top of that draft (over Yakupov).

    Now, that is the crux of it right there. People should have that debate. What do you as fans want? People who consider things this way or just the guys who make pucks go into opposition nets.

    I think Kent wrote an article about the character question and I think Strudwick wrote about it from the opposite (unrelated to Kent’s) on Oilers Nation. Guys like Nich/Shink may lack those character parts that Weisbrod considers immensely important.

    To be honest I’m not sure if they are in fact passing up talent (which in the near term-teenagers, seems negligible but by time 20’s has grown substantially).

    Would you want Galchenyuk over Yakupov? Do you want a GM that picks that way? Is having soft skills (character) going to allow more wins (becoming a player, then team winning at NHL) than hard skills (consensus rankings).

    It’s not that they don’t see other players as talented, they just prefer them to have intangibles that they have identified and quantified as being better. Are there better skilled guys who may also polarize the locker room. Boston is the template They seem to have the team guys first attitude, therefore no mega stars and mega egos.

    Furthermore, on video there is interview with Button talking about first round. Feaster had made the top 13 comment (mentioned quadrants of their list). Button says the lists consider players they feels would be already gone (which is concerning if their assumption is wrong, a player is still there, but they stick to list).

    • BurningSensation

      This might be the best post question about the Flames drafting ever.

      I went through some of the interviews you metnioned and I think the Flames use something like the following as a checklist that they sub sort they lists with;

      – intelligence: which explains the focus on college kids, Ivy Leaguers, etc. It’s not that they are overscouting the college region, or looking for Americans, but that the focus on intelligence is leading them to kids who are likely to pursue an education.

      – character: guys who show they can lead and perform, even, and maybe especially – on poor teams, will pop up on their radar more often. This fairly describes each of our 1st rounders as they were all very good performers on below average teams.

      – hockey IQ/ceiling: I think its clear from trading down to take Jankowski over Girgensons, and from passing on guys like Hartman at the draft to take Klimchuk, they prefer someone who projects as a potential 1st liner – however flawed they are at the moment, over a guy who has a ceiling of ‘good 3rd liner, maybe below average second’.

      This leads to some interesting questions, which are really just a rephrasing of Jeff Lebowski’s;

      – how much should these items play a role? Should we prefer a Tyler Seguin over Taylor Hall because Hall is famously ‘uncomplicated’? (Hall failed a boating exam 3x. It’s open book. He tweeted this information).

      – will making character and leadership important foci actually lead to a better room and competitive environment?

      • Jeff Lebowski

        If I was Weisbrod and I just got hired by Calgary, I would’ve went through Calgary’s draft history and the league draft history. Where did the mistakes happen? What is the common thread?

        Although lesser lights, I look at guys like Howse and Ryder. They had the hard skills, it would be very easy to rationalize picking them. But how come they kind of became busts? Was it talent? Was it empirical data interpreted incorrectly? I’d say no.

        When you watch the interviews, Calgary talks about the interviews, asking trainers etc. Will that be reliable to figure guys heads out? I don’t know but if that was a question to investigate (soft skills) I’d do that kind of questioning. Weisbrod and Button talk immediately of the importance of those things, it’s the first thing that comes out of their mouths.

        Having said the above, is Weisbrod’s method effective because how insanely complex is determining human behaviour when so many variables start changing. Take Dion-what happened to him after he got paid? How can anyone say what will happen to them once put in that situation? Maybe some guys mature into it (Marc Savard, Nazem Kadri).

        It is debatable but I see value in them trying to crack that nut.

        I think this is where the sentiment of people thinking Calgary are smarter/different. Because they are (different) and it gets confused with smarter. Maybe other teams say the same things about character but if you listen to Weisbrod’s comments he really drills down on what that means.

        It could be all pseudo science hocus pocus to make Weisbrod seem like some svengali.

        It could also be the CONTINUAL refinement of a process from a historical background of root cause analysis.

    • Jeff Lebowski

      Or, to paraphrase our good friend Clyde, different teams prioritize different qualities. We’ll have to wait and see if the Flames currently prioritize a good mix of qualities (or, perhaps more importantly, if they measure these qualities accurately).

      Great comment.

      PS: It surprises me not at all that the Flames might have had Galchenyuk first overall in that draft. I felt they might even at the time (mostly because he’s basically their ideal center).

      • Jeff Lebowski

        Exactly right. Are they measuring those qualities accurately. In the case of human behaviour is that just a fool’s errand?

        I honestly don’t know. When you read Kent’s Halo effect article you can see the scientific approach to that question.

        Perhaps the are over complicating things and ultimately put on a terrible path.

        Perhaps they are right and as the adage goes success is more mental than anything else.

        I think ultimately, with all things being equal or mostly equal (pure talent) what kind of decisions do people make? Can you learn something about projecting success (in any field) based on analyzing people’s decisions (even from the mundane like what they like to eat-I’m an athlete and I’m hungry I want McD’s or I’m an athlete and I’m hungry- I want healthy food).