Scouting Teams Make Their Names In Later Rounds

Tod Button has been Calgary’s head of amateur scouting since late 2001. General managers have come and gone under his watch – if you include interim GMs, he’s on his fifth – but Button soldiers on despite Calgary’s shaky record in the first round.

An explanation as to why Button is still in the big scouting chair may be gleaned from a look at the later-round picks; general managers tend to be pretty hands-on when it comes to their shiny toys in the first round, but the scouting team typically calls the shots the later into the proceedings you go.

SECOND ROUNDERS

Good Picks: none

Decent Picks: Markus Granlund, Tyler Wotherspoon

Whiffs: Brian McConnell, Tim Ramholt, Mitch Wahl

Too Soon: Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith, Patrick Sieloff

Darryl Sutter traded away the vast majority of his second round picks during his tenure. As GM, the Flames only chosen in the second round twice, and only once using their own second rounder. They’ve had a lot more in recent years, but…wow, that’s a lot of wasted picks. Granted, Wahl was hampered by injuries, but in general this is an unimpressive lot.

THIRD ROUNDERS

Good Picks: Brandon Prust, Matthew Lombardi, Lance Bouma

Decent Picks: Dustin Boyd, John Negrin, Max Reinhart

Whiffs: Ryan Donally, Dan Ryder, Gord Baldwin, Aaron Marvin, John Armstrong, Ryan Howse, Joey Leach

Too Soon: Jon Gillies, Keegan Kanzig, Brandon Hickey

I’m splitting hairs a bit between “good” and “decent.” I’m choosing to judge NHL regulars as “good picks,” and guys that were bubble players but had some valuable as decent. Here, you can see that the Flames fared a lot better than in the second round. Lots of bottom-six energy and gritty players that ended up becoming decent NHLers.

FOURTH ROUNDERS

Good Picks: Johnny Gaudreau, T.J. Brodie

Decent Picks: Keith Aulie

Whiffs: Yuri Artemenkov, Jamie Tardif, Kris Hogg, Aki Seitsonen, J.D. Watt, Hugo Carpentier, Henrik Bjorklund, Nick Larson

Too Soon: Bill Arnold, John Ramage, Brett Kulak

Here’s where reputations begin to get made. Once you hit the fourth round, unless a draft is quite deep, you’re flying blind or relying on gut instincts and information from your network of scouts. Gaudreau and Brodie are both huge, huge pieces for the Flames going forward, and they found them mid-way through the proceedings. You’ll also notice longer and longer lists of whiffs as we go deeper, typically. That’s because as you get further into the draft, you get players with more apparent deficiencies than earlier-on.

FIFTH ROUNDERS

Good Picks: none

Decent Picks: Micheal Ferland

Whiffs: Jiri Cetkovsky, Emanuel Peter, Victor Bobrov, Kristofer Persson, Greg Moore, Kevin Lalande, Matt Keetley, Juuso Puustinen, Spencer Bennett, Eric Roy

Too Soon: Ryan Culkin

Exception: Mickey Renaud

Tons and tons of stretches and gambles here, with a lot of European players relative to the other rounds. But hey, here’s Micheal Ferland – who may get upgraded to “good” if he becomes a regular this season. I put Mickey Renaud in his own category, as he died tragically and you can’t really blame the scouting staff – or anybody, for that matter.

SIXTH ROUNDERS

Good Picks: Curtis McElhinney, Adam Pardy,

Decent Picks: Brett Sutter, Joni Ortio

Whiffs: Tyler Johnson, Fred Wikner, Jordan Fulton, Ryley Grantham, Coda Gordon

Too Soon: Laurent Brossoit, Tim Harrison, Adam Ollas Mattsson

The Flames found veteran back-up Curtis “McBackup” McElhinney late in 2002 and depth defender Adam Pardy in 2004. I don’t know what it says about the Flames organization that their scouts are more likely to find NHL regulars late in the draft as early-on, but that’s basically what has happened. Ortio can be upgraded to “good” with a season as a competent NHL back-up. Brossoit’s not in the organization anymore, but he (a) had enough value to help Calgary get Ladislav Smid in a trade and (b) has been quite good in the minors.

SEVENTH ROUNDERS

Good Picks: David Moss none (not a Button pick)

Decent Picks: David van der Gulik

Whiffs: Pierre Johnsson, Thomas Bellemare, Matt Schneider, James Spratt, Myles Rumsey, Devin Didiomete, Per Jonsson, C.J. Severyn, Alexander Deilert, Gaelan Patterson, Patrick Holland

Too Soon: Matthew Deblouw, Rushan Rafikov, John Gilmour, Austin Carroll

Lots of no-names here, aside from 2001’s David Moss and 2002’s van der Gulik, who has been bouncing around the NHL for years. Patrick Holland stands out among the wash-outs, as he was a piece of the trade to Montreal that got Calgary the combination of Karri Ramo and Mike Cammalleri – so there was some value to that pick.

ROUNDS THAT DON’T EXIST ANYMORE

I wasn’t going to include the 8th and 9th rounds, but Button’s scouts did find journeyman NHLer Adam Cracknell in the 9th round in 2004, so that’s a minor victory for that group.

HOLD ONTO YOUR PICKS

The moral of this story is to hold onto draft picks, folks. With the scouting team that the Calgary Flames have, there’s almost as good a chance that their fifth or sixth rounders will become productive NHLers as their first rounders. There’s something both sad and exciting in that circumstance.

For the curious, Calgary’s 2015 picks include a first, three seconds, two thirds, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh. The six picks in the first three rounds actually is the exact same set-up as they had in 1997. That year, they chose Daniel Tkazcuk (1st), Evan Lindsay (2nd), John Tripp (2nd), Dimitri Kokorev (2nd), Derek Schultz (3rd) and Erik Andersson (3rd) with their picks. The six players combined for 31 NHL games.

Let’s hope this year turns out a little better for the Flames.

Update: Whoops – Button wasn’t running the show in the 2001 Draft; the 2002 Draft was his first at the helm.

  • FeyWest

    A good portion of your “too soons” are pretty silly man. Gillies and Arnold too soon. They both project to be NHLers and thats quite decent for 3rd and 4th round.

    The only whiff I will protest is Taratukhin. Very talented defensive center. Would have been a player for us.

    He just had to go back to Russia for certain family reasons.

    • FeyWest

      You could argue that pretty much all of the guys on this list projected to be NHLers at some point in time. There’s a few designations that could be debated but I thought the rankings were reasonably consistent.

  • Franko J

    Scary looking at most of the picks made. No wonder this team struggled to make the playoffs for so many years. I am bit surprised that Button was no let go somewhere along the way. Then again he spent a number of drafts under Sutter.

    Hopefully the trend will continue where the Flames can select a few more good players to add to their prospect pool.
    While there are no guarantees, the first round selection should be in consideration to make the team in the next few years. The real key is the second round. This year’s draft has a number a good players available in the second and third round that can really impact the Flames retooling.