The 2014 Draft: Ambiguous Territory

As the run-up to the 2014 NHL Draft begins in earnest, everyone and their dog does a mock draft. Heck, probably two or three of ’em.

It makes sense. Mocks give an idea of the actual players a team might get, rather than in the abstract, which makes them easier to discuss. But ignoring the obvious “you’re trying to predict the behaviour of 30 groups” problem, from a Flames standpoint we had another issue.

This is the first draft for Brad Treliving and Brian Burke in Calgary, and nobody knows what their preferences are or how hands-on either of them will be.

Back before Treliving was hired, the variables were simpler. Brian Burke would run the draft, but Tod Button would create the list with his staff. Button is still probably working off the Weisbrod/Feaster criteria of a combination of character, skill and hockey sense, given that the upper management roll-over began in December, when a lot of the groundwork had been laid for the year’s scouting.

Burke? He likes big guys. And we’ve had a few looks back at his drafting history as a GM already – he’s sat at the table for a lot of drafts, so he has a track record. Treliving doesn’t give us that option, as he was an assistant GM under Don Maloney and probably had a similar level of involvement as Craig Conroy does – input on some decisions, but probably no final calls.

In a way, though, that could work to Calgary’s advantage.

If nobody knows what cards the Flames have, or what players they value – on their team or in the draft – it provides a really interesting shift in bargaining position that the team hasn’t really had in a few years. Teams will probably find it harder to pull a fast one, at least until they develop expectations of what the new management team really values on the market.

But it sure does make it frustrating when you’re trying to assess from the outside whether Treliving and Burke prefer Aaron Ekblad to Sam Bennett, or Sam Reinhart to Leon Draisaitl, or Michael Dal Colle to Jake Virtanen.

We can guess, but none of our guesses this year will be particularly educated.

      • As I said, I don’t think the list will be incredibly different from the scouting rankings. Their list is probably some variation of the top five or six players in the draft, but do not include someone who is ranked 10-15 by central scouting. I doubt that the Flames will pass up Reinhart or Bennett for Virtanen or Ritchie.

  • mattyc

    I keep flip flopping. Sometimes I hope it’s Bennett, sometimes Reinhart and sometimes Driasitl. There really is no way to tell who is going to be the better player. Development will have a huge impact on it. If it’s any one of those three I’ll be extremely happy. I doubt Eckblad falls that far. If he does I’d be extremely happy with him too.

    In terms of size I think Bennett and Reinhart could easily fill out to around 200lbs, with Monohan being similar or slightly bigger. Having two Centers at 6’0/6’1 200lbs is sufficient size to compete in the west as long as the skill set is there which I believe it would be.

  • mattyc

    I think my list goes Ekblad, Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Dal Colle (although we’ll get one of the 4 other guys).

    Not holding out much hope for Ekblad though. It also sounds like both Draisaitl and Reinhart are more NHL ready than Bennett.

  • Reidja

    The more I think about it, the less sense it makes for us to keep the #4 spot. To maximize the value of the pick we should either trade up for Ekblad or down for a first round defender or right winger. The only reason I could see us adding to the LW or C prospect ranks is if B & T do a reshuffle and move some of our assets at those positions. Trading down is never sexy or popular, but it may be the best call in this position depending on the other asset(s) coming back.

    • MattyFranchise

      Trading up will probably be too expensive. Trading down is too risky when you’re giving up a top 4 pick unless an incredible offer is gift-wrapped and placed in your lap and that’s unlikely.

      Someone on here (Lebowski?) wrote recently that too many people are too anxious to quick fix this rebuild through all sorts of complex trade ideas.

      Burke’s history would suggest a big splash. Treliving’s statements and history show he likes to build from the back end out. The Flames have plenty of forward prospects. Fans love a big splash. Seems reasonable then that they’d try for 1st overall in order to get a cornerstone D in Ekblad. However, it’s impossible to say who in that consensus top 4 will turn out to be the best, so trading up for the pick seems like a poor idea.

      The Flames need (and I believe they will) pick one of the consensus top 4 with their own pick. They then need to stay patient for the year to better evaluate what they have in the system. Right now it’s too early to tell what the ceilings on players like Reinhart, Granlund, Gaudreau, Baerstchi, Hanowski, Agostino, Arnold, Ferland, Seiloff, Ortio and even Ramo will be.

      One more season will give a much better indicator if Gaudreau can indeed handle the rigors of the NHL (I believe yes, but it’s not certain yet), if Granlund can evolve into a 2C or only a 3C, if Ferland and Seiloff can get back on track after injuries, etc.

      The Flames aren’t going to be world-beaters next season and there’s a fair chance they may even regress slightly. While some on here have stated that the Flames have no shot at McDavid, it’s a very deep 1st round next summer. Even beyond him and Eichel there’s guys like Noah Hanifin. Another bottom 5 finish would be a huge benefit, especially in a lottery system.

      2016 season, IMO, is the time to start making moves to fill in holes in order to avoid perpetual rebuild. For now, stand pat and take the Best Player Available! Positional needs can be addressed later.

      • supra steve

        If the Flames indeed have a top tier of 6 to 8 players on their list, then trading back becomes much more attractive. It’s not something you can finalize until after the first 3 names are called, but if they have Nylander Draisaitl and Dal Colle (for example) as more or less equal, and they are all available at #4…then you gotta listen if VAN or TML or CAR are calling and are anxious to move up. Naturally it depends on the return being offered, if any of those teams are even interested in moving up.

    • MattyFranchise

      What do you give up for it though? This year the Flames are going to get a fine player at #4 no matter who they pick.

      To trade up the teams are asking for so much that the Flames either don’t have or if they do have it, they need to keep it.

      Keeping number 4 is the best way to go. A second option is to maybe trade down a little lower in the top ten and try to get another second out of it but that’s not really ideal either.

      I like the Flames draft position where it is. Moving that number 4 pick in either direction is just not a good idea.

  • Skuehler

    My choice would be Eckblad, Reinhart, Draisatl. If those three are gone by the 4th pick, I would trade it for a 2015 first round pick, or trade down to 8-10, and a D prospect. Then pick a Virtanen or Ritchie.

    Sound a like picking up a guy like Virtanen with a four spot would be leaving some leverage on the table. I expect BB will do something. Besides firing Feaster, trading Berra and hiring Treveling, he’s been rather quiet so far. He has a lot of options at his disposal. This coming season might be the last free pass the team has before expectations rise again. So this might be a chance to think long term and leverage the demand for picks to our advantage somehow. This is peak selling time for draft picks.

    Surely between Button, Conroy, Treveling an BB, there must be a consensus top 2 or 3. You have to either get that player or trade places and pick up an additional asset. Can’t be passive and let the other teams decide who we have access to at 4.

    • piscera.infada

      So, let me get this straight. #4 overall this year for a young D prospect, (by all accounts) the #8-#15 pick this year, and a 2015 first rounder? That is not happening.[Just saw the update to your comment. However, if that’s the case, I’m not selling out just for 2015, and I don’t see anyone in the 8-10 spot with a wealth of young D prospects.]

      I, like several people think you just stay at 4. The only way the Flames divert that plan are if Treliving/Burke really (and I mean, really) want Ekblad. If the rumour is true and Florida is really looking to draft Nylander, then there could be something there, but it still seems as though the cost would be prohibitively high.

      Just do your thing, draft your guy, and move on. The two second-round and third-round picks are where you’re really going to make hay in this draft year.

        • piscera.infada

          I agree, depending what that asset is and if there’s a guy lower that you know will be there and you want. It seems like haphazardly trading down (from the highest draft pick in organizational history) is a) how you end up with Jankowski (an optics nightmare, considering likes of Maatta, et al.) or b) how you leave yourself with an inferior prospect in the long-run. Make no mistake, this is exactly the inverse of what we’re talking about with Florida. Is a team really going to trade you their pick and a blue chip or even ‘b’ prospect to move up 3 or 4 slots? Likely no. Especially when the allure of #4 overall is nowhere near as powerful as the allure of #1 overall.

          It’s definitely not futile to inquire what the going rate for either moving up or moving down is – that’s just doing your due diligence. However, it’s clearly not as easy as it’s made out to be this high up in the draft order – or you’d see it more often. It happens all the time in the NFL. Why? Positional need in a sport with far more positions, where filling positional weaknesses within your organization is the “name of the game”.

          Quite simply, in the NHL draft (as I’m sure everyone knows) the team that ends up with the best player(s) wins the day. It’s that simple.

  • TheoForever

    If you subscribe to logical continuation of development and growth, most Flames prospects need one more year of development.
    Most of them will be knocking at the door in 2015/2016 season.

    2015 draft will be strong and having a high pick will land someone really good. Looking at what Flames are, a bottom 6 pick is extremely realistic.

    Bold moves will come after 2014/2015 season.
    Let’s not make a mistake because we want to shorten the rebuild time.

    BTW. Craig Button has Virtanen at #43!

      • McRib

        Considering the Flames would undoubtedly have won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with Martin St. Louis on our side rather than Tampa Bay’s you sir are correct. Craig Button didn’t even trade the perennially NHL top scorer he actually bought him out of his contract!!

        The one thing I can’t understand with all the Jake Virtanen criticism is I understand he has a mediocre Hockey IQ and is a below average passer. The thing is though if he had a fantastic Hockey IQ and was a great passer guess what?!?!?! He would be the clear cut 1st overall pick in this year’s draft!!! Who scored more goals than Virtanen in this year’s draft? Nobody! Who is a better skater in this year’s draft? Nobody! Who has a better shot than Virtanen in this year’s draft… You get the point! This kid already has high-end NHL caliber Tools (Shot, Skating, Physicality, etc), you don’t need to be an astrophysicist to be a great hockey player! Jake Virtanen was put on this planet to play hockey!!! Anyone who has ever met Theo Fleury (favorite player of all time) or Mark Messier understands what I am talking about as I was more intelligent than both of those players by the age of 12. The fact that Craig Button has Jake Virtanen ranked 43rd is a joke.

        • Burnward

          Who scored more goals than Virtanen in this year’s draft?

          Ehlers!

          But you raise a good point: Virtanen had the best even strength goal production in the draft. The best rate since Tyler Seguin, in fact. source here

          • T&A4Flames

            Tough to say who a possession guy will be at 18. Look at what’s coming up; Sven, Gaudreau, Granlund, Knight etc. Guys that can score but are better playmakers. Add a pure scoring power forward to those guys, someone who will open up space and we have some good looking lines.

          • DragonFlame

            I would argue that Granlund is a better scorer than playmaker, actually. He doesn’t have his brother’s vision or creativity, but the release on his shot is unreal.

          • Irrelevant. By the time Virtanen (or whoever) is ready, who knows what the team’s needs will be.

            Regardless, there is no way I’d take Virtanen at 4. That was not the discussion.

            I agree, though, that a true playmaking center is definitely lacking in the Flames’ system right now.

          • piscera.infada

            Maybe haha. If he’s there, why not? I have him fourth on my “list”

            I kind of hope Florida takes Nylander first, just because that would instantly throw every mock out the window.

          • EugeneV

            The link is VERY interesting.

            I would have any of those players already in the league on the Flames. (even Niederreiter who seemed to be getting it this year).

            I will love adding one of the top 4 ranked players, but the list on the link suggests that Ritchie and Dal Colle are very much worth having as well. Think Corey Perry

            Would BB/BT look to make a deal like:

            To Anaheim:
            Glencross, Smid and #54 overall pick

            To Calgary:
            # 10 overall pick

            Then pick BPA @ #4 and Virtanen, Ritchie or Fleury @ #10?

          • EugeneV

            The Ducks might be more in the market for centers than wingers and dmen… although they (shockingly) have a ton of cap space, so maybe they just throw some $$ at Grabovski or Stastny or someone in FA.

            Is Glencross enough to entice them to trade that pick? I’m not sure.

    • DragonFlame

      If it’s an exchange of picks and Sven, Flames’ management would be dancing in the streets of Philly. I mean no disrespect to Baertschi, but the Flames need a defenseman, and Ekblad fits the bill.

      As long as the “+” is a roster player other than Brodie, Gaudreau, Monahan, or Giordano, I don’t see how the Flames could pass on the flip of picks.

      • TheoForever

        Ok, so Sven + Reinhart/or/Draisaitl/or/Bennett/ putting up 40 points each with Panthers.

        VS

        Ekblad in Calgary 15 points and minus 30.

        Do you still like it?

        • DragonFlame

          Oh, so you know Ekblad won’t develop into a top-notch defenseman, Theo?

          Good Lord, why not head over to the ‘dome and apply for a job as head scout?

          It is one thing to have an opinion, another entirely to spew off stats like you know what you are talking about.

          Who is to say one of Reinhart, Draisaitl or Bennett won’t be the 90’s versions of Rico Fata or Daniel Tkazchuk?

          You?

          Please!

          • TheoForever

            I used a comparable, a projected franchise dman and his performance in his first year out of junior. This guy has been considered a level above Ekblad.
            His team finished ahead of Calgary.
            77 games – 6g, 19a, 25pts and -23.
            I’m sure everyone knows who I’m talking about.

            Ekblad one day could be #1,2,3,4 dman but he will not be there in his 1st year.
            That’s prediction of scouts, you know pros.

            As for the 3 centers anyone of them could be a bust and so could Sven, but those are 2 shots vs 1 in Ekblad.

          • DragonFlame

            Right, but defensmen take time.

            What has Sven done at the NHL level? He was mediocre in the AHL this year.

            I am not saying toss Beartschi away because he won’t amount to anything. Perhaps he will develop into a great player. I really don’t know.

            But, the Flames have lots of forward prospects.

            I am not saying I am right . . . but if I had a choice of swapping picks, Baertschi and a player off our current roster (aside from the four names I mentioned previously), I would have to give it considerable thought.

            Seth Jones is a very good comparable, by the way.

          • TheoForever

            Yeah, dmen take time. I just wanted to demonstrate it, short term a trade like that would look like a disaster. If the scouts could agree on what Ekblad is the decision would be easier, it’s a risk.

            Sven is physically and mentally fragile. He bought into hype that he would be face of the franchise, and it was a shock when it didn’t workout on the first try.

            21 pts in 46 games in NHL, that’s not bad.
            40 pts in I think 67 games this year, not bad.
            He was starting to improve later in the year.

            We have given up on so many prospects don’t want to risk losing another one.
            We could use another top end center man as well and it would cost nothing.

            I don’t think we will get 1st or 2nd pick in 2015 but that 3rd pick looks realistic – Hanifin. Not that 2015 draft should affect how we draft in 2014.

          • DragonFlame

            The Flames should not be in short-term mode.

            Short-term thinking is why the Flames have been terrible.

            I don’t care about the pain of losing if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

            I am tired of watching a team try to fill holes with the hope they might make the playoffs.

            Let’s face it, the 2013-2014 version of the Flames was far more entertaining to watch than anything Calgary has iced since 2004.

          • TheoForever

            I liked the style this year way better. B.Sutter was a bad coach.
            I’m against shortcuts with this rebuild.
            We are not going to agree on moving up, I’m against it, not worth the price.

          • Skuehler

            So BPA is a fine simplistic, passive approach but you do have to factor in organizational needs to certain extent – weighted properly. Strategically though if the top 4 picks are interchangeable skill wise then what factors come into play?? I would think you have to factor in needs, maximizing assets, leveraging competitor needs, and perhaps most importantly supply and demand. If there is one potentially elite Defenseman avail to 3 potentially elite Centremen, doesn’t that seriously increase the value of the D-man? Not for his skill but for the scarcity of what he has to offer? If you have a chance to grab that and fill an org need, why would you let him go at 3 say and just politely wait your turn to see you are offered at 4? Is that why Burke was brought here?!

            Pronger, Neidermyer, Beauchemin, Phanuef, etc. Burke likes to build from the back end out and we have need. If there is an opportunity to grab Eckblad I can’t imagine Burke wouldn’t make it happen. Maybe a pkg with goalie coming our way too…Luongo?? Haha

        • The only player close to -30 this year was Chris Butler, and he was only -23. I think it goes without saying that Ekblad is much better than Butler even without having played a single NHL game.

          I still don’t agree with trading up for Ekblad. The Flames already have a good first pairing with Gio and Brodie. Ekblad would be a nice piece in the 2nd pairing, but I feel that the Flames could fill that void with a free agent rather than giving up Sven and another quality prospect. They could probably find a good 2nd pairing defenceman in the 2nd round as well.

          I feel that trading for Ekblad is a double edged blade. They (T&B) could make the defense substantially better at the expense of offensive prospect dept, or they could continue building the offensive talent pool and leave the defense to free agency or another draft.

  • T&A4Flames

    IF you want a trade down option the Ducks have #10 and #24.

    If they came to you with that and said we will give you those two picks for #4 does Calgary take it?

    Maybe not. Maybe the idea of two middle prospects is not worth one great prospect.

    What if the deal is #4 and Byron for #10, #24, and your choice of (Noesen, Smith-Pelly, or Etem)?

    The Flames have to know which teams might contact them in the top 10 and what they think of their top ten prospects, and what is the minimum value that you would ask from each of those teams. Same as they have to know what is the maximum that that would pay each of the three teams in front of them to move up.

    What if they think that Ritchie is going to be just as good as any of the top four and you believe that you can get him at #8.

    Would you swap #4 for #8 and Gardiner?

    To move up to #1 is Ekblad worth #4 and Baertschi? #4 and #54? #4 and #83?

    Really hard to say what the value difference between these players is.

    I hope that they just stay at #4 and that they take one of the consensus top four (whomever is left) because I think that they need the high end talent and I don’t think that they are far enough into the rebuild to be able to give away assets as I don’t think that Ekblad will be that much better than any of the other four (at least at this point in time projecting).

  • T&A4Flames

    Most pundits have said there is little difference between the Top 4 picks. Therefore just looking at BPA then CAL’s #4 pick and FLA’s #1 pick would mean there is little reason to trade up by giving the #4 pick, a Top 6 asset and another pick too.

    The only way I can see CAL trading in to the first round is to get ANOTHER FIRST ROUNDER IN ADDITION TO the #4 pick, with the pick being used to select either Tuch or Virtanen at RW OR Fleury, DeAngelo or McKeown at RD.

    The price for a mid-late 1st round pick will still be high…likely a Top 6 player, a prospect and a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

    Essentially the Flames would be trading a 50 point or 25+ goal scorer in Hudler or Glencross (assuming his agreement), plus a prospect (ranging from Agostino to Granlund) plus a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

    In return the Flames would be getting a future Top 6 Fwd or Top 3 Defender. Essentially we’re trading a current productive roster player for a 65-70% chance of securing and developing a 1st rounder who will be a Top6 F or Top4 D in 2-4 years.

    Adding a Draisaitl/Bennett PLUS a Tuch (RW) OR DeAngelo (D) in 1 draft, on top of 3 1st rounders last year, would likely position the Flames to start being successful in ~2 years.

    In fact our rebuild would rival Edmonton’s Top6 with 5-6 1st rounders plus Gaudreau (elite?) but only taking 2 years versus 8 yrs for the Oilers.

  • DragonFlame

    I dont really understand the need to predict and discuss the draft…. possible trade scenarios yes… being your own GM and putting together next years roster is fun… but in the case of the draft what will happen will happen in less than a month so to discuss it to death and envision scenarios is useless and a waste of time… we dont know what Burkes list looks like and we dont know what FLA BUF or EDM lists look like so debating who we should take is equally useless when we dont even know who is available at #4.

  • RedMan

    It is equally pointless to debate whether Ekblad will be a franchise D or not. None of you know or can predict that.

    There are 30 NHL teams that have staff who get paid to do this and they all know way more than the people who comment here.

    Your opinions on Ekblad and the draft are useless uninformed and hold no water whatsoever.

  • Craig Button is sandbagging Virtanen so that the Flames can pick him with their second rounder……….

    WW

    (As always: please PROPS my post if you agree with me…………………TRASH it if you think the great Walter White is the best FN blog contributor of all time!!!)

  • T&A4Flames

    Would you guys do a trade involving Gio as the centrepiece to FLA for their 1st and we keep the 4th? Trash it for a hell no and a thumbs up for yes (assuming it didn’t involve a big over pay with current prospects).

    • Mixed feelings on this. I don’t think the Flames will want to move Gio; he’s the captain, he’s cost effective, and he’s probably the most popular player. I don’t think Florida would want him either, seeing as they can have Ekblad. However, if we could trade Gio + prospects for 1st overall and keep our 4th, I would take it.

      • T&A4Flames

        I agree , it’d be tough to move Gio because he means so much to this organization. That said, it sure would move the personnel of a rebuild much further ahead if we are drafting 2x in the top 4. Then the concern is the development on the ice from vets. That gets a little more difficult without Gio.

        • RedMan

          I wouldnt consider trading Gio for the first overall unless there was another legit high end defensive prospect… sure, first overall is nice, But Gio is top 10 or 15 in the league at the apex of his career… his value is far more then a pick, even the first overall.

    • TheoForever

      If you trade Gio you will quickly have the “Oiler” model of being pathetic annual losers !!

      The young prospects will not have the required veteran leadership and character needed for a successful rebuild.

  • TheoForever

    In what universe a dman in conversation as one of the best dmen in 2013/2014 is not worth a shot in the dark i.e. Ekblad.

    Long time ago Ramage was worth Hull or so Flames thought.
    The difference is Florida is not in Stanley Cup conversation.

  • Rockmorton65

    Here’s a name no one’s mentioned that could quite easily be in the conversation:

    Backlund, Baertchi and 34th overall for 1st overall?

    Florida gets two players who could easily slot into their top 6 next year and a high 2nd.

    Calgary gets Ekblad and one of the Sams.

    I wouldn’t like giving up Backlund, but either one of the Sams would be a long term upgrade.

    I wonder if that would get the conversation started?

      • Rockmorton65

        If someone offered you Ekblad and Bennett for Backlund, Baertchi and a 2nd, you wouldn’t take it? Seriously?!?

        To me, adding Bennett/Reinhart gives us flexibility in moving a center. In a couple years, they could easily pass Backlunds production. And Ekblad would have a much higher impact on the long term success of this organization than Baertchi (just an opinion).

        • T&A4Flames

          One of CGY’s problems over the years was not having those players that fill the gap between vet and rookie/kid. A testament to the poor draft record we own during that time. Moving Backlund may be inevitable, but I’m not sure now is the time. Although I agree with you that it would be mighty tempting to grab 2 of the top 4 in this draft.

  • supra steve

    It is quite likely that the top 4 picks at the draft will not simply be Ekblad, Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl.

    I do agree with BJ’s post on the futility of trying to figure out how the draft will go down/who the Flames get/picking your favorite. If the Flame scouts do their jobs (and they have luck on their side) they will get a strong prospect with that #4 pick who will contribute to a strong team in the future.

  • Derzie

    Any ‘move Gio’ talk is lunacy. Period. A team needs an identity, market value be damned. We traded our past identity to Pitt for magic beans and got our new identity from within (Gio). No identity change required for several years at this point. Oh and Ekblad is overrated. Stats and eye test don’t back up the hype. We take Bennett, we win.

    • piscera.infada

      Agree re: Ekblad. He kind of reminds me of Erik Johnson – massive guy, dominated because of it. What happens against grown men, when he doesn’t have an automatic advantage against almost everyone he faces? I’d take him if there at four, but I’m not moving anything to take him. And I certainly don’t see Doughty or Keith in his play (as some have compared him to here).

      • piscera.infada

        I believe he’s the best D in the draft and would probably take him if I was picking 1st overall, but I’ve often wondered, in 10 years, how much better will he really be than say Haydn Fleury?