All teams should always be looking to improve: whether it’s for the immediate on-ice product, or for the future. When you’re a rebuilding team, though – like the Flames – then the future becomes paramount, and anywhere you can get talented young players from has to be considered.
Including the WHL. Not that the Dub should be foreign to Calgary – particularly with there being a team here and all – but it can be a rich source of prospects, whether they’re drafted or signed as free agents.
Free agents such as Dryden Hunt, the 20-year-old undrafted player who’s currently leading the WHL in scoring with 99 points. And the Flames are in on him.
Count the Calgary Flames among the 5 NHL teams with interest in signing Dryden Hunt to an entry level deal.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 24, 2016
Hunt, who’s listed at 6’0 and 199 lbs., is a left winger for the Moose Jaw Warriors: the third-place team in the WHL’s East Division. The Nelson, BC native currently has 49 goals and 50 assists through 61 games for the Warriors this season, making him the Dub’s most prolific offensive player, and easily its top goal scorer.
It’s not like he doesn’t have the size, nor, evidently, the ability: so how is it he’s an undrafted overager? In his draft year in 2013-14, he played 62 games for the Regina Pats, scoring 21 goals and putting up a total of 40 points through 62 games played: modest numbers, though not as good as then-teammate Morgan Klimchuk’s 74 points through 57 games. The Carolina Hurricanes invited him to their camp, but chose not to sign him.
As a 19-year-old, he scored 33 goals and had 83 points over 71 games split between the Pats and Medicine Hat Tigers. He wasn’t drafted as an overage player either – the Flames set their sites on a different guy, Andrew Mangiapane, with 104 points through 68 games for the Barrie Colts – but he was invited to the Montreal Canadiens’ camp, where he was, again, ultimately cut loose.
But after this season of dominating the WHL – and scoring hat tricks non-stop – Hunt finally looks destined to get a professional hockey contract, as, according to Darren Dreger, there seems to be competition amongst at least five NHL teams to get him signed to an entry level deal.
The Flames are the only team Dreger has named as interested in acquiring the now-high scoring left winger.
Considering how the Flames’ prospect pool is largely devoid of talented forwards – and now that Sam Bennett has been moved to centre, after Johnny Gaudreau the left side looks a little bleak – it’s definitely wise to pursue Hunt. He’s steadily progressed up the scoring ranks; it’s not as though now that he’s an overager he’s suddenly dominating the entire WHL.
At the very least, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to be able to play in the AHL next season – if he doesn’t surprise any further and make an NHL team, even.
As the Flames embark on their own fire sale and hopefully create room for more prospects to get a crack at the NHL, they may be able to entice Hunt to sign in Calgary. It certainly never hurts to bring another prospect into the fold, after all.