The Flames Probably Take Travis Konecny or Nick Merkley at 15th Overall

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.

NICK MERKLEY:

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
stick.

TRAVIS KONENCY

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
dangerous scorers.

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?”

  1. How’s his 200-foot game compared to Merkley and Konecny?
  2. 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.

  • FeyWest

    I wouldn’t have an issue with either of those picks as their on my radar but why do you not see Svechnikov as an option Ryan? Is it the “Russian-Factor”, won’t be there at 15, a stretch pick at 15, not a fit? I’m just curious what your thoughts are on Svechnikov.

    Of the two I like Konecny just a hair more even though Merkley is just a tad bigger. Doesn’t Merkley seem more injury prone than Konecny or am I thinking of someone else, I thought I heard somewhere he has a tendency for getting injured.

    • Parallex

      If the Flames really want Boeser they should trade down. I’ve never seen him ranked where the Flames are picking and they could still get him if they move down a few slots and pick up something extra.

  • BurningSensation

    Im still daydreaming we can land a Hanifin/Semin deal….

    Of the three, Meir is the guy we should be hoping drops to us. He has all the tools Merkley/Konecny have in a 6’4″ 215lb package.

  • RexLibris

    I’d rate the three thus:

    Meier, Konecny, Merkley.

    Meier is a terrific young forward to add to any team.

    Konecny edges Merkley because he plays C and even if he switches to the wing as a rookie, he could be a Giroux-type prospect who starts on the wing and moves to the middle once he has established himself. I’d be concerned about his size as it relates to the intensity level of his game, but not so much so as to make it a significant issue.

    Merkley is a great young winger and, like Meier, checks off a lot of the boxes on the Flames’ shopping list. Kent covered this pretty well the other day, showing that Merkley is a good prospect now and another year in junior could show him to be an even better one by next season’s end.

    As I’ve said before, all the Flames have to do on day 1 is sit and wait. They are on the cusp of the second-tier/third-tier prospects and it is almost certain that someone very talented will fall to them.

    • Parallex

      There are 11 players I’d prefer to either Konecny or Merkley – I think this is the edge of the 2nd tier you’re referring to. I know there are surprises every year, but if the Flames traded up to 12th (Dallas) or 13th (LA) overall you would greatly increase the chance of getting one of those top 11. Does it make sense for the Flames to try to swap the 15th to get to one of those two spots before the draft starts? According to Broad Street Hockey’s draft pick value chart, it should only cost one of Vancouver’s or Washington’s 2nd rounder.

  • Parallex

    Another element to factor in here in Character (work ethic/ compete factor). I know its not really a measurable stat but it goes a long way with the Flames organization, and I’ve heard the interviews they have done at the combine, they actually did psychological testing.

    These two players, although undersized (if you consider 5’10 undersized), have a lot of character. Konecny was not only captain of 67’s but also of team canada U-18 squad, and Merkley watches a lot of video of himself analyzing aspects of his game where he can improve.

    I don’t know much about Meier’s compete level, but I think this tips the scales in favor of Konecny or Merkley. It also helps that they “model” there style of play after Brendan Gallagher and Patrick Kane respectively.

  • Parallex

    Between the two I take Konecny. That may seem a bit odd given my emphasis on results a lot of the time. I just find Konecny more impressive.

    Besides, the one asset the Flames’ manager group are always talking about (aside from size; Brad Pascall is particularly terrifying on that front) is speed. Konecny has it, Merkley doesn’t.

  • Parallex

    Use the #15 for another winger/forward, use the 2nd and possibly 3rd rounders on some defenders. I would be ecstatic if Konecky or Merkley were called upon by BT on Friday evening.

    • everton fc

      And grab a couple of good young prospects from other teams looking for:

      a. Hiller
      b. One of our 2nds (I’d rather have a guy closer to ready than one who may never be ready – again, see the Islanders depth-chart on defence as a reference)
      c. A forward prospect, where we are heavy, for a defencive prospect, where they are heavy.

      And I still think Ramo’s rights can be used to sweeten a deal if the team on the other end truly wants Ramo on board.

      As for Konecky/Merkley/Meier, I’d rather have Meier. Maybe even the Russian. But I have a soft spot for the local kid, as well.

  • Sobueno

    Living in Kelowna I’ve had the opportunity to see Merkeley in quite a few games. Kids got some real skill to go along with his compete level, and I’d be pumped if Calgary drafted him for sure. That being said, the reports on Konecny and Meier both sounds pretty outstanding as well. Sounds like regardless of what the 14 teams above us decide to do we’ll have some good options! Joys of a deep draft apparently.

  • CofRed4Life

    Both of these guys are on my top 5 hopeful picks. I think it would be exciting to hear either of their names called. And in case you’re wondering, my top 5 players that should (hopefully) be around at 15 are:

    1. Svechnikov
    2. Merkley
    3. Konecny
    4. Zboril
    5. Chabot

    It’s really hard to pick just a top 5 though, because there’s such a wealth of talent in this year’s draft.

  • everton fc

    Also – I know we are chockfull of centres… But I really like Tim McCauley out of Brandon. He won’t go too early, and is a lefty, but he produces.

    If Bennett stays on the wing….

    • Big Ell

      No offence. But it really seems that you love the Brandon Wheatkings. I could be wrong but you seem to mention them often. Do you get to watch them that much?

  • Koolmoedee

    I think having easier access to watch or hear about OHL players is a terrible reason to avoid prospects from the QMJHL, or Europe or the U.S. for that matter.

    If you’re an NHL scout, it’s your bloody job to go out and collect those data points on good players no matter where that might be. Detroit keeps drafting gloriously skilled Europeans in late rounds because they invested in European scouting.

    A player like Svechnikov is 6’3″ 200+ pounds, fast, gritty, and scored considerably more points than the slower, smaller Merkley. I haven’t watched him enough to know definitively if he’d be a better pick, but I don’t paid to watch junior hockey. He sure looks like someone worth keeping an eye on.

    Thankfully, the Flames aren’t entirely myopic. They drafted Poirier out of the Q when the fans were screaming for local product Shinkaruk, and they drafted Gaudreau out of the U.S.

    If the next Pavel Datsyuk is playing in the Siberian hinterlands, I want the Flames to draft him instead of the next Greg Nemisz.

    • Big Ell

      I am in the same situation as you and think Svechnikov is the best pick. From what I’ve read he is big, fast and extremely skilled. I also also read that scored most of his goals at even strength. I think that he has the most potential to be a mid round 1st pick that blossoms into a star.

      Not sure how valid this is but from bullet report;

      “Forwards that are 6’2 and have an NHLP of 60+ are rare players and all but one of them have been taken as first round picks (Brett MacLean went 32nd in 2007). In most years if a player puts up Svechnikov’s numbers, he would be a lock for a top 10 pick, but that is not the case this year. Either Svechnikov has a knock on his game that is dragging him down to being considered a mid 1st round pick or he is being undervalued. Time will tell.”

  • Burnward

    I’m really not getting the Q argument from this article. Seriously. Sven was WHL, not QMJHL. Poirier was though and he plays a 200′ game (at least now). Sorry, but the argument is senseless to begin with. Constant preaching in regards to BPA, but now the Flames are expected to discriminate by league?

    And then you argue that they should be taken because they’re right hand shots. Again, BPA?

    Then you say the Flames want to get bigger, but then quickly note that these two aren’t big.

    WTH?

    Also, I could give a rat’s arse where somewhere is born. Can everyone just cut out the whole Calgary kid nonsense? As Koolmoedee pointed out, thanks goodness we passed on Shinkaruk. I’ll take Poirier any day.

    Further, having a complete 200′ game in junior is overrated. Talent, character and IQ are what matters. If a player has those, he’ll learn and play the 200′ game soon enough and well enough.

    Also, just my opinion, but you underrate Chabot.

  • I’m no scout or expert, but would be a lot more excited about Svechnikov or Gurianov at 15. High skill, heavier, fast, high level finishing ability. I think it’s good to shoot for high ceiling and I think that those two have higher potential.

    Do not care about hometown or draft position going into Junior or Junior league particularly.

  • Craig

    Here are the vital stats for the forwards spoken about here today:

    name Ht Wt GP g a pt pims shot
    Merkley 5’11” 190 72 20 70 90 79 R
    Meier 6’1” 210 61 44 46 90 59 L
    Koncecny 5’10” 175 60 29 39 68 34 R
    Svechnikov 6’2” 200 55 32 46 78 70 L

    Lets remember that the first 3 are in their second season in the CHL while Svechnikov is in his first.

    Some said they wonder about the Ehler factor for Meier but what the Drias impact for Merkley. For me it comes down to Svechnikov vs Merkley with Svechnikov having the size advantage while being a Rightly tips it towards Merkley a bit. I would be happy with either but I like Svechnikov just a shade better.

    I was wondering what the cost of acquiring one of Columbus 2nd round picks would be.(34 or 38; I think there will be some very good players available there)

  • Craig

    I like both Konecny and Merkley. I like that Merkley is a gym rat even though he’s a bit smaller, that reminds me of Camalleri who was very strong for his size. The thing I like about Konecny is that he put up good points but on a much worse team. I think that goes a long way to show that he drove the bus on that team. Lots of good options at 15.

  • Franko J

    Too many choice prospects at 15. Overall the Flames are in another great position to possibly add another good player to their prospect’s pool. Whether it is Merkely, Konecny, or someone else I am looking forward watching them at the upcoming prospects camp.