Photo Credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports
The Calgary Flames had their most successful season in years in 2014-15. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and won a playoff round for the first time since 2004. And all this in just the second year of the club’s long-awaited rebuild.
Their reward for such a successful campaign? They get the best draft selection of any of the playoff teams, by virtue of being the club with the lowest point total to qualify for the post-season. On June 26, Flames general manager Brad Treliving will step up to the podium to select at 15th overall.
Here are the five most likely candidates to be selected by the Flames with their first round pick.
1) TIMO MEIER
The Flames haven’t had a great deal of success in drafting Swiss-born players: they cut bait with 2003 pick Tim Ramholt and traded 2011 first rounder Sven Baertschi to the Canucks. But third time may be the charm for the Flames, who probably view Timo Meier with a lot of nervous anticipation.
Meier’s touted as both super-talented and very versatile. A left-handed shot, he split time between the right wing and center with the Halifax Mooseheads. He’s spent two seasons in North America and really adjusted well, becoming borderline dominant this season.
the kind of versatile player that you can put on a skill line, and
trust to create dangerous chances, or on a shutdown line, and trust to
help stop pucks from going into your net.
2) THOMAS CHABOT
Arguably Calgary’s biggest positional need is on defense, particularly right-shooting defenders. But if Thomas Chabot was right-handed, he may be the perfect player for the Flames to select. Touted as a smooth-skating, two-way defender, you could argue that Chabot projects towards being a French-Canadian T.J. Brodie.
It’d be ideal if Chabot could shoot right-handed, but when a player with his type of talent and upward mobility is available, you don’t second-guess him. You just take him, particularly if Timo Meier is off the board already.
3) NICK MERKLEY
If the Flames aim to fix their rather barren right-wing situation, as well as going for a sentimental favourite, they might be tempted to take Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets.
The Flames have undoubtedly seen a ton of Merkley, the club owning the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and having a front-row seat at plenty of games with the high-scoring Rockets. Merkley is a right-shooting player who plays a tenacious, high-tempo game. You could argue that Merkley doesn’t have a ton of high-level attributes, but he has few (if any) weaknesses and his work ethic has more than made up for it thus far in junior.
And better yet, he’s a Calgary native, to boot.
4) JAKUB ZBORIL
If there’s a “safe” pick in the first round, it may be Saint John defenseman Jakub Zboril. An import from the Czech Republic – the nation that’s given the Flames such contributors as Jiri Hudler, Ladislav Smid and Roman Horak over the past several seasons – Zboril adjusted quite nicely in his first season in North America. He put up 33 points in 44 games, and won a silver medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
Like Chabot, he’s a left-handed shot. Like Chabot, he’s a strong all-around player. The scouting consensus is that he’s got few, if any, holes in his game. He’s arguably a step behind Chabot right now, but you could argue that the scouts know more about Chabot’s limitations than Zboril’s at this point – particularly given Zboril’s arguably still making adjustments to the various differences between European hockey (and life) and North America.
5) JEREMY ROY
Another defenseman from the QMJHL, as this draft seems to be full of at the upper-end, Roy is a right-handed all-around defender from the Sherbrooke Phoenix. He’s drawn comparisons to Duncan Keith in terms of his playing style, and he’s been praised for his responsible play on both sides of the puck.
Roy’s ranked a tad behind the other QMJHL defenders in this draft, but man, if taking this guy is a “reach,” I’m sure it’s a reach the Flames would be fine with making. He’s got size. He’s got offensive skill. He’s good without the puck. He’s right-handed. And man, that Duncan Keith comparison sure sounds good to me when you consider the Flames have a ton of smart and productive left-handed, puck-moving defenders in their line-up (and their system).
It seems quite likely that the Flames will use their first round pick on a Quebec player, despite historically not doing so very often. Before selecting Emile Poirier 22nd overall in 2003, their previous foray to the QMJHL in the first round was way back in 1995 when they selected Denis Gauthier at 20th overall. If you
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