The Flames’ lineup next season, without the 15th overall pick

It’s rare for an 18-year-old to step directly into the NHL, and even rarer so for it to be someone selected further down in the draft. While Sean Monahan made the Flames directly out of camp, and Sam Bennett may have as well had he not been injured, the Flames’ first pick in this upcoming draft will almost certainly not see any NHL ice time in 2015-16.

And that’s alright. While new talent is always exciting, patience is a virtue. Besides, it could end up being a few years yet before he’s ready, and it’s not as though the Flames will be hurting in the meantime.

We’ve been spoiled lately, anyway

Once upon a time, the Flames had no prospects to speak of. All hope lay on Mikael Backlund and TJ Brodie, because the only other choice was basically Greg Nemisz, and that just wasn’t happening.

Remember Roman Horak? He was fun, in part thanks to his making the NHL before Tim Erixon did. A major problem with that, though: Horak isn’t in the NHL anymore. And yet, just a few years ago, he was one of the better younger Flames available. It was sad.

We’ve seen better days as of late, though. Sean Monahan made the team right away, and while the Flames in his rookie season were pretty terrible, he was worth watching. First goals are always exciting, and Monahan not only got his quickly, but scored a bunch more to cement his spot in the NHL. That led to the countdown for a Flames rookie to score 20 goals, something that hadn’t happened in some time.

With Monahan’s rookie season behind us, though, the Flames didn’t have any shiny new toys… until an older one emerged. It wasn’t a certain thing that Johnny Gaudreau would be in the NHL for the entire 2014-15 season, but he made his case to stay, and so, we were treated to a second exciting rookie year.

The streak isn’t even ending there. A year of Bennett’s entry deal is gone, but his actual rookie season remains. What we saw in his time on Backlund’s wing in the playoffs was awesome; now, we get an entire year of that kid. 

Hopefully someone will be ready to step it up for 2015-16 to keep it exciting rookie movement going, but even if that’s not the case, it’s been a pretty good stretch.

There’s still a lot more youth to go around

The Flames are a young team.

Monahan will be playing his third NHL season, and he’ll only be 21. Gaudreau, in his second, will be 22. Eighteen-year-old Sam Bennett will turn 19, and probably end up being the youngest player on the team.

But there are more young guys beyond them. Micheal Ferland’s NHL career may officially be underway, and he’s 23. Drew Shore has more to offer, and he’s 24. There are a handful of 25-year-olds, like TJ Brodie, Lance Bouma, Joe Colborne, and Josh Jooris (who isn’t 25 yet, but will be when the next season starts). And that’s without even counting guys who aren’t regulars yet but may soon push themselves there: your Markus Granlunds, Emile Poiriers, Kenney Morrisons, Tyler Wotherspoons.

At 33, Jonas Hiller and Deryk Engelland are the old men of the group. The Flames are an exceptionally young team, and getting even younger really isn’t a concern for them at all.

Draft for need, or best player available?

So, if you aren’t expecting your first round draft pick to challenge for a spot any time soon, do you take into account what position he plays?

The Flames are picking in a spot not only with a very wide selection of good players available, but with many of those players fulfilling roles they desperately need. Defence is an issue, so Jeremy Roy, Jakub Zboril, and Thomas Chabot will be there. Right wing is an area of weakness, but Travis Konecny, Nick Merkley, and Daniel Sprong could fill that hole.

Does that mean you discount someone like Evgeny Svechnikov just because he plays left wing, though? Or Kyle Connor, yet another left-shooting centre?

It shouldn’t. If a left winger or centre is the highest pick on the Flames’ scouts’ lists when it’s their turn, then they should probably go with that player.

We all know defence and right wing are the Flames’ weakest points. We also didn’t know Kenney Morrison or Drew Shore were to be members of their prospect pool, just as we didn’t know Josh Jooris would actually turn out to be the real deal. 

The draft is one way to acquire necessary talent, but it’s not the only way. Smart trades will do it, as will free agency. What if the Flames sign Cody Franson and Michael Frolik in the off-season? The prospect depth in those positions is still rather thin, but those two positions in the actual NHL lineup don’t look like as big of a problem anymore.

If the Flames end up with too many high quality left wingers, it’s easier to trade one of them for a position of weakness than to draft a weaker player just because he’s a right winger. 

That said, if they’re evenly torn between a lefty and a righty, the righty should win out on the basis of positional need. But if they like the lefty more, take the lefty. If they like the centre more than the defenceman, take the centre. 

We have no idea what the Flames will look like a year from now, and with the 15th overall pick unlikely to make an impact until at least then, selecting based primarily on position makes little sense. If the organization’s favourite player happens to fill a position of need, then all the better. If he doesn’t, though, that’s no reason to discount him. Professional sports are both fickle and unpredictable, and approaching the draft – a time for futures – with an eye fixed on the present doesn’t account for that.

  • CofRed4Life

    Well said Ari. I always enjoy your posts.

    Hard to believe just a few years ago the Flames had so few prospects. The future definitely looks bright for us.

    I still think BPA is the way to go. Even if he doesn’t fill an immediate hole, there are always holes to fill, and the more quality assets we have, the easier it will be to plug the holes.

    • Franko J

      Oilers kept drafting BPA and wound up with a bunch of undersized forwards! (exception being last year when they drafted Draisaitl when Bennett was the BPA!)

      • Franko J

        And Nurse. And Klefbom.

        The Oilers’ problem isn’t who they happened to draft in the first round. It’s that, since they didn’t have a TJ Brodie or Travis Hamonic in place when they started getting those players, they never made a trade to address their need. They should have traded the Yakupov pick for a defenseman. Or Yakupov himself after his 31 point (in 48 games) rookie season.

  • beloch

    I think the differences between the players at the 15 slot are so small that you can make a BPA argument for a number of players, who happen to play a number of positions. I assume BPA already takes into account what you project the player to be as a D vs. a RW, for example.

    If the Flames take another C or LW at that position, he must be clearly, and objectively, better than the RW or D choices available.

  • beloch

    Draft, you take best player available. Free agency you address organizational need, which is partly why spending goes through the roof. what if you draft for organizational need, and by the time that player is ready, it is no longer a need?!

  • beloch

    Roman Horak was wise enough to get the heck out of Edmonton and is doing fairly well in the KHL (current NHLE is ~30). He may well show up in the NHL again.

  • beloch

    Potential 2015-16 lineup:
    F:
    Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler
    Frolik*-Bennett-Colborne
    Bouma-Backlund-Jones
    Ferland-Stajan-Jooris

    Extras:
    Bollig-Shore-Byron

    Depth prospects:
    Agostino-Arnold-Poirier
    D:
    Giordano-Brodie
    Russell-Franson*
    Gelinas**-Widman

    Extras:
    Smid-Engelland

    Depth Prospects:
    Wotherspoon-Nakladal
    G:
    Hiller-Ortio

    Depth prospects:
    Gillies

    Not sure it is a great thing to dip to deep into the FA pool but adding Frolik and Franson for the hell of it. Gelinas would be a trade with NJ for say Granlund; you could trade for another young up and coming Dman that might come available. I’d trade Raymond for anything or throw him in with Granlund.

    • Ari Yanover

      I’m not at all convinced that it would be worth it to trade up and loose assets for a shot at a slightly larger prospect pool. Is anyone at the third pick worth that much more than someone at 15? They are just prospects and some of the best have fallen well short of expectations in the past.

      I say take what you can get at your spot and move on.

    • Burnward

      Far, far too little. I love Backlund but… no.

      Think about this: Would you have traded the Monahan pick for Frans Nielsen and the 15th in 2013 (which happened to be Ryan Pulock, actually)? Pulock is a great prospect, but missing out on Monahan?

      • Koolmoedee

        I don’t think hindsight is a good way to look at it..but I do understand what you are saying.

        I just kinda threw it out there…I think adding a second would prolly get at least an answer compared to a hangup.

        By the sounds of it,Maloney is looking for a 1st,a 2nd and a helicopter..lol

        http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=770414

        “I’m like, ‘First-born, second-born, maybe I could use a helicopter to take me to work,'” Maloney said Tuesday. “That would certainly get us to start thinking about it.”

        I say give Maloney a call…if there’s a good deal for both parties,parting with Backlund isn’t a really a big deal for us.

        Just thinking out loud…

        • The GREAT Walter White

          Fair enough but if anything hindsight helps your case. And that was just the sixth pick. Think about last year when the Flames had the fourth pick, guaranteed one of Ekblad, Reinhart, Bennett, or Draisaitl. What would you have said if they traded that pick for the 15th and Darren Helm?

          • Koolmoedee

            I would have said Brad should go back to making pizzas.

            Honestly,I don’t know what to make of the 3rd being available. Maloney does not want to wait for that pick to develop,so he must be looking to fill an immdeiate hole while not dropping to far.

            No harm in kicking the tires

  • OKG

    Treliving and Burke have both repeatedly stressed the need for the team to get heavier. From a BPA perspective, I would expect them to pursue players like Hunter Smith more than smaller high skill players.

    • Koolmoedee

      The thing is, there are guys who could be available at 15 who are both big and skilled. Evgeny Svechnikov is 6’3″ 200 pounds, and scored at a higher rate than some of the other prospects in discussion (Merkely, Konecny, etc.). Timo Meier is 6’1 209 and scored a ton. Kyle Connor is 6’1″ 180, and scored lots too. Those would be my targets at forward.

      When Treliving was asked last year, he indeed said he wanted a bigger team. Then he drafted a skinny Bennett and watched the bigger players he picked up (Bollig, Engelland) struggle to keep pace with the game.

      After the season, Treliving was again asked what he wanted to add. The first thing he said was speed. He said he wanted skating and skill, and if those things came in a larger package that would be ideal. But size without speed and skill wouldn’t work in today’s NHL game.

  • Koolmoedee

    I look at this organization and here is my opinion: Johnny, Mony, Hudler, Bouma, Backs are core elements with Ferland and Bennett the same just less proven. All the other forwards are replaceable and from within. For me you could move almost any of these remaining forwards from within: Raymond, Jones, Shore, Byron, Jooris, Stajan, Colborne or Bollig. Move any three/four of these and the organization has possible replacements from within.

    Unfortunately on the back end there is not the same depth. I am looking forward to see how much Spoon has developed as well as Morrison, Culkin and Kulak. But we need to be patient here.

  • Koolmoedee

    Here is my thought …. people may hate this, but gotta be done …. trade 15 and the Glenny return …. Washington #2 & #3 ….. to move up to Florida’s spot and take Mier, the RW …. everything I have read is that the kid is elite …. we don’t need 3rd liners or 4 / 5 Dmen ….. we need elite talent …. a couple elite talent players is better than drafting 5 depth players in the first 3 rounds

    • Koolmoedee

      What makes you think the player the Flames get at 15th will be only a 3rd liner? Quite aside from the fact that Meier himself might be available in that spot, you have to think that a guy like Svechnikov is tracking as a first line player. He’s one of the best even strength scorers in the draft.

      I’d take the Russian over Meier. Seriously.

      People don’t say it’s a deep draft because there are projected third line forwards ranked in the first round (Paul Bittner and a handful of others notwithstanding).

    • RexLibris

      The Flames could just as likely wait until #15 and take one of Svechnikov or Meier.

      Either one addresses a need.

      As do Roy, Chabot, Kylington and Zboril.

      The only reason to trade up is if you think you can move high enough to get Werenski or Provorov or you believe Lawson Crouse will be the next Rick Nash/Milan Lucic.

      #15 can feel like you’re stuck at the velvet rope just outside the VIP room when you’re already in a pretty good club. You really badly want in only because you’ve forgotten that you’ve got the best seat in the rest of the house.

      There are good players available at #15 and this year likely more so than most. So long as they don’t lose their heads at the podium they’ll walk away with a very good young prospect.

    • Cofred24

      Agree we need elite talent and I’m not against your proposal. The issue is who is REALLY elite talent? Or better yet, who will become elite talent? Drafting higher generally increases the odds of finding that guy, but having multiple shots does the same.

      We’ve got to depend on the Flames’ scouts here to pick the right guys, and then the Flames’ development system to guide and direct them to be as good as they can be. Calgary has been pretty good at both lately.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    2 years ago it felt like we would be left out and ended up with Monahan.
    Last year it felt like we would be left out and ended up with Bennett.

    It always feels like you are just left out , yet beauties are available. Then we drafted Baerchi. Backlund. Jankowski. ……,Bums!

    We need a great draft this year !!!!!!

    WW

  • Cofred24

    It would be so nice to get Frolik in the lineup. Great depth player with skill too. Franson would be nice too because just think of a Franson-Russell pairing or a Franson-Schlemko line the flames need to take advantage of the off season.

  • Franko J

    As Ari pointed out in the article the Flames do have the beginnings of good, young nucleus at the forward group in which to build around. The obvious glaring need is on D. Outside of Brodie the Flames need another one or two prospects to step forward at training camp and push for a spot. Just like Jooris did this past season.

    I agree with coachedpotatoe that the team needs to be patient and build depth from the back end. The right way is through the draft. The more assets the team can acquire in the draft the better they will be down the road and in the future.

    Keep in mind whomever the Flames do draft at # 15 or wherever in the first round it will take some time for the player to develop. I really can’t foresee their pick cracking the lineup out of training camp, however if they do it would be another bonus. The smart thing to do is keep adding players who are going to push for spots on the team and further enhance the foundation they have started to build. Next season will not be any easier in fact might be even harder to make into the playoffs next year, but it is imperative the team continues to forge their identity and keep their competitive edge.

  • RexLibris

    The Sportsnet article suggested we might be interested in MvQuad; 6’5″rdefenceman; if we can’t get Franson (I suspect we will kick tires but his cost and term will be to much for BT/BB) Would this be an alternative?

    While I regularly say I would prefer Russell and Wides to be our third pairing I have to say they played well in the playoffs considering they were miscast as a 1 pairing. If you could get that kind of play from them all season they would be an adequate 2nd pairing.

    As fans we were spoiled last year by this team and while organizationally they expect to be a playoff team next year they could just as easily miss the playoffs. Lets remember how many good teams in the west missed last year; LA, Dallas, Col, and maybe even SJ. To be a playoff team again next year we need to upgrade the backend. You either do so externally through FA (and overpay but lose no assets) or trade (and likely overpay and lose assets) or through player development.

    As few here have the willingness to experiment and break up Gio and TJ. Then what do we have: a legit top end pairing that needs to play 25+ minutes a night, Wides and Russell a 3rd pairing playing second pairing minutes 20+minutes a night and the Eng’s who by all rights should be at best a 7th defender. If we sign Schlemko we have another 6th defender. Then we have the unknowns Nakal(I can never remember his name), Spoon, Morrison, Culkin, Kulak, and Ramage; all of whom could be in the conversation to make the team but are they ready to be on the 2nd pairing, probably not. The rest are much longer term prospects. For me if we can upgrade via free agency 1 guy who makes of backend better I would be all for it; but I don’t want another over 30 gap filler I would prefer to see the kids given an opportunity.

    If we started the season with Gio/TJ (27 Mins, almost all defensive zone starts), Russell/Wides (20 mins mostly OZ starts) and Spoon(assuming we don’t sign Shcmo) and Nakal(again assuming he is as good as we hope) (!3 minutes OZ and NZ starts) I could live with this.

    • everton fc

      Russell/Wideman as a 5/6 pairing is what you’d have on an elite team like the Wings were all those years. This is exactly what we should be shooting for.

      And our young defensive prospects rate not as bad “on paper” as one would suspect:

      Culkin
      Kulak
      Mattsson
      Wotherspoon
      Hickey
      Morrison
      Nakladal
      Rafikov
      Kanzig

      I make my lists “sans” the likes of Seiloff, Ramage, and the rest. I add Morrison, though he may be a flash in the pan for a few games…

      I like Chabot at 15. I like Svechnikov at 15, and you move one of Ferland or Bouma to the right side. I like Carlo and Pilon as 2nd defencemen. Maybe even Juulsen. I like Bittner of Portland as a big left wing prospect. Ditto Jordan Greenway. And I really like Brandon’s Jesse Gabrielle, who I think is a real winner.

      I like Nicolas Meloche and Andrew Nielsen of Lethbridge as a later picks on defence. Big kids. Keegan Kolesar and Val d’Oor’s Jeremie Fraser are also interesting prospects.

      Ultimately we need to hope one of the defence men above, or drafted (Chabot?) project as a 3/4

        • Franko J

          Of course we have to hope one becomes a 1/2, just the same as we have to hope Hannifin/Provorov/Werenski would become a 1/2 if we drafted them.

          Nobody just gives the spot to the new draftee fait accomplish (well, maybe the Oilers), they all need to grow and develop and earn that spot. Its no different than us “hoping” undrafted Giordano becomes a 1/2D and 4th round pick TJ Brodie becomes a 1/2.

          There are NO GUARANTEES!

      • Cofred24

        Wideman /Russell as a 5/6 pairing should be what the team is aiming for. Problem is those 2 are making a combined 8 million. Add Englland/Smid as 7/8 pairing at 6.5 million and it’s easy to see that management has tied there own hands when it comes to acquiring FA defenseman.

        According to GeneralFanager the Flames have one of the highest Ratio of total pay going to Defenceman at 33 percent.That does not take into account a extension for Gio.

        Paying a F/A more money and term than Brodie’s getting won’t happen.

        2 more year’s of Wideman/Englland and Smid.

  • Franko J

    Ari, When I read the header for this article I thought I would be reading your take on the Flames lineup for next season!

    How about giving us your take on what you see as the opening day lineup next season? and your thoughts on Ryan Pike’s assessment of which prospects could jump to the NHL: Ortio,Arnold. Poirier, Wotherspoon and Morisson.