It’s been discussed and speculated on ever since the Calgary Flames had their playoff hopes end and saw their draft slot cemented at 15th overall. And recently on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, NHL.com correspondent (and Future Considerations guru) Aaron Vickers noted that the Flames probably will take a long look at forwards Nick Merkley or Travis Konecny if they’re available when Calgary comes up to the podium.
I’ll go one further: based on the available evidence – historical, anecdotal, statistical and otherwise – I’m thinking that the Flames probably pick one of these two players at 15th overall.
WHO WILL BE AVAILABLE?
Based on mock drafts, rankings, and plain old common sense, we can throw out a bunch of potential picks right away. Sorry gang, but don’t expect Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome, Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov or Zach Werenski to be off the board for sure. Beyond that, I’ll utilize the Draft Probability Tool from Don’t Tell Me About Heart.
Players with a sub-50% probability of being available at 15th overall, based on the model (in addition to those previously mentioned): Kyle Connor, Lawson Crouse, Matt Barzal, Mikko Rantanen and Pavel Zacha.
So, all-told, the general thought is that there are 12 players that Calgary probably won’t get. Merkley and Konecny (along with Timo Meier) are expected to be up for grabs, though.
AVOIDING THE Q?
The Calgary Flames draft a lot from the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League, especially lately. This is probably for any number of reasons. Some are stylistic, in that the QMJHL arguably plays more of a “run-and-gun” style that doesn’t really produce as many strong 200-foot players as the WHL and OHL have in recent seasons. That’s not an indictment of the Q, but merely pointing towards some factors that have led recent Flames picks to success (Sean Monahan is a 200-foot player) rather than struggles (Sven Baertschi is not).
Geography also matters a bit in terms of internal logistics. The Flames tend to rely upon cross-zone scouting to firm up their scouting list. Generally-speaking, players are seen a lot by a regional scout. That regional scout passes along scouting reports to the team, and if a player is deemed to be of interest, the team sends either a roaming person (such as head amateur scout Tod Button, or Craig Conroy or Brad Treliving) to check that player out. In terms of logistics, if you want to get more eyes on a player, it helps if they’re in North America because it’s simply easier to get Button, Conroy, Treliving and potentially either other regional North American scouts to check out these players.
NETWORKS AND EYEBALLS
More eyes on a prospect often means more data points to draw a sample from, but it also means that there’s a better chance that a prospect has two or three voices in the war room singing his praises rather than just one. Add in the fact that Merkley and Konecny both played at last summer’s Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and January’s Top Prospect Game, and Merkley also went to the Memorial Cup and won a WHL Championship, means that the Flames got a chance to see both guys in a lot of different situations.
Also, the fact that the Flames have well-established networks of contacts in North American makes it a bit easier to check in on players and find out a deeper pool of information. It’s probably notable that Ottawa 67’s coach Chris Byrne coached both Konecny and Sean Monahan, or that ex-Flames winger Shean Donovan was an assistant in Ottawa this past season, or that Adirondack Flames head coach Ryan Huska coached Merkley during his first full season in Kelowna. Hockey is a small, small world, and having these kinds of built-in connections can make the difference between a team picking a player or not.
DO THEY FIT CALGARY’S NEEDS?
In a word, yes.
The Flames are really thin on the wings, especially the right side, and you’ve probably noticed Brad Treliving signing seemingly every right-shooting body with a pulse over the past few months. There’s a reason for that: Josh Jooris was Calgary’s best natural right-hander last year. I love Jooris, but that’s a bit scary in terms of positional balance.
Konecny and Merkley are both right-handers, though Konecny primarily played center for the 67’s.
ARE THEY ANY GOOD?
From our friends at Future Considerations, some brief notes on the two players.
An offensive forward that makes an impact in the game every time he
touches the puck…improved skater this season and possess more jump in
his step…not big by any stretch but shows a willingness to throw his
weight around…impressive hockey sense and ability to think the game…very
creative and crafty with the puck…plays a complete 200-foot game…a
strong playmaker with impressive vision and touch on his passes…willing
to take the puck to the net…has an effective shot that is quick off his
A skilled forward who is a threat in all three zones…has great speed and
quickness with tremendous feet and balance on his edges; great
agility…very flashy with the puck, but smart…able to create space for
himself with his quickness and his vision…impressive puck-distributing
skills…moves the puck very well and is constantly able to set up his
linemates with excellent chances…possesses a hard shot with a deceptive
release…effort level is terrific each shift as he is a hard worker and
high-compete player…hits, battles and plays hard defensively; always
involved…fun player to watch and is already one of the OHL’s most
Both of those guys sound pretty damn good, and fall well within Calgary’s wheelhouse of wanting to get more skilled, faster, bigger and harder to play against. Neither guy is physically large, but both seem to fall within the Paul Byron “plays bigger than he is” style, which Bob Hartley absolutely loves, by the way.
WHY NOT A DEFENSEMAN?
We’ve mentioned here that Calgary is razor-thin of established blueline prospects beyond maybe Tyler Wotherspoon (who may be in the NHL next season), Ryan Culkin (who has one year of pro under his belt) and Brandon Hickey (who is a sophomore in college). So why wouldn’t Calgary take a defender?
Well, because the perception seems to be that there’s a fairly decent drop-off from the draft’s top three defensemen (likely Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski) and the remainder of the crew, whereas there isn’t such a drop among the forwards in the upper-end of the draft. This is based on Brad Treliving’s comments at Thursday’s news conference, at least.
WHY NOT TIMO MEIER?
I think there’s still a pretty decent chance that the Flames take a long look at Timo Meier. He fits many of the boxes they want a player to fit into. He’s got great numbers – though one can question how much playing with Nikolaj Ehlers helped those – and is unquestionably a strong offensive player. And Bob Hartley’s son, Steve, was an assistant coach in Halifax in 2013-14, so they obviously know the player pretty well.
But here’s the double-edged sword: there are two questions I have when I am asked “Why not Timo Meier?”
- How’s his 200-foot game compared to Merkley and Konecny?
- Will he still be available at 15th overall?
Meier is a gifted offensive player. One of the teams drafting ahead of Calgary will likely take a long, long look at him before Calgary gets to the podium. And if they pass, will it be because his defensive game isn’t as well-developed as his offensive side?
I’ve barely seen Meier play at all (particularly compared to my exposure to the other two), but personally, my gut says that question is irrelevant. I think he gets snapped up before Calgary even picks at 15. If he doesn’t? Well, let’s just say I’m glad I’m not Brad Treliving, because I’d hate to have to choose between these three players.