Dreger: Flames one of 5 teams interested in signing Dryden Hunt

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.


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.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    I would love to have this kid on our team, but once he sees how badly Huska destroys promising players careers he will sign elsewhere…..

    WW

    • fretsey

      I’m being full on serious here. Why do you hate Huska so much? I know absolutely squat about any of the coaching staff so I’d like to know why you continue to say he destroys promising players careers?

      • The GREAT Walter White

        Please have a look at team performance and player statistics this year (vs last few years) and get back to me if you have any questions….

        WW

        • KiLLKiND

          Yet you still haven’t watched a single Heat game is that correct? Our Defence in Stockton isn’t great neither is the goaltending which Huska doesn’t control. Can you truly say the Heat have been poorly coached or just aren’t that great of a team?

          Our top center from last season, Arnold was injured for a long time, Granlund was playing in the NHL, and Ortio blew at least 10 games for the Heat. Poireir has been putting enough pucks on net that he should have more goals, and Klimchuck is in his first professional year. I think the composition of the team just isn’t up to scratch on paper which translates to not doing as well as last year. Our top RW is currently Garrett Hathaway…

          You say we have “we have a lot of high draft picks and promising college players in our system that are being destroyed.” And yet our top RW is Garrett Hathaway, we don’t have a lot of great prospects in the AHL right now we have a few great ones in the CHL and NCAA but not in the AHL. Other than Poirier can you even name a player in Stockton Huska has “destroyed”? That was a rhetorical question because we all know you can’t. So this narrative of fire a coach I’ve never seen is getting old at least go back to complaining about Backlund when he scores.

          KK

          • DestroDertell

            I have watched dozens of Stockton games. You can complain about the quality of goaltending and all you want but the defense has actually been great overall.

          • KiLLKiND

            I’ve only seen the Heat like 5 times, so I could’ve just got unlucky, and overall the defense wasn’t too bad they would just pull the occasional leaving two guys uncovered in the slot. You are probably right though, and our forward lineup just isn’t good enough. As when I look at our 3rd and 4th I can’t help but think not one of them realistically is going to crack the NHL. And as others pointed out our team is really young, we don’t have a team full of players that have been around the AHL for years.

          • piscera.infada

            It’s not so much as lack of skill but more a function of being extremely young and inexperienced at the pro level.

            I’ve been doing some cursory research on the Heat when Ward was coaching them, versus the two teams Huska has coached. Upon a very quick review, it looks like Ward’s teams were on average roughly 5 years older in average age. In addition, they typically had a fairly substantial number of what you would term AHL “vets” (5+ season in the league), or NHL/AHL tweeners (players that spent substantial time in the NHL as well as the AHL–for example Paul Byron, Krys Kolanos, Ben Street, Blair Jones).

            If you really look at what Huska has, it’s what, Aaron Johnson and Dustin Stevenson (now, Raymond)?

            I’d also argue that the few times we’ve seen AHLers up in the NHL (Grant, Granlund, Wotherspoon, Nakladal), they seem to be fairly well equipped, and they generally perform well. That’s also a mark of good coaching.

            Look, the Heat could sell out for more wins, and bring in a bunch of veterans whom they could play over a lot of young kids. You wouldn’t have as much inconsistency, and the team would preform a lot better in all likelihood (like many of the teams in the Heat’s division). But, I mean, then we’re probably hearing different arguments.

          • freethe flames

            WW has a selective memory; if your opinion does agree with his he forgets. Since the rebuild began the Flames farm team has made the play offs once and that was just barely. Our top two picks have spent no time in the AHL. Agostino is having a better year this year, Spoon seems to have developed this year, the top goalie has missed most of the season. Let’s be honest one of the problems the Heat have is not enough seasoned AHL vets who can put the puck in the net; they expect the prospects to do it. When you veteran leadership includes Colton Orr you know something is missing.

            WW is just mad that his favorite whipping boy over the last 3 years is no longer with the organization.

          • cberg

            To further the discussion, the Heat’s top 2D are currently up with the Flames and doing a great job over the past several games. Yeah, really killing those prospects, hey WW?

          • The GREAT Walter White

            You have a better way do you?

            Team and player performance seems like a pretty good assessment tool for a coach.

            What do you got:

            Advanced stats?

            Corsi?

            Give me a break….

            Don’t tell me you have actually watched any Heat games this year…

            Poirier, Shore, Agistino, Klimchuck, VanBrabant, Grant, Arnold, Kylington, Kulak…,Ortio looked pretty good in the NHL last night!!!!!! Who am I forgetting?

            This guy has been terrible.

            WW

          • Christian Roatis

            No, the only way to evaluate a coach is to observe systems and systematic changes in style of play to adapt to opponents. Things along those lines.

            Mike Babcock and Todd McLellan are tremendous coaches, but by your measurements they’re hot trash.

            And I have watched Heat games, not with regularity but I really enjoy watching my boy Kylington.

            I’m not defending Huska because I haven’t watched enough to make any rational and educated comments, but I strongly disagree with your Google search method of evaluation…

          • The GREAT Walter White

            I agree; Babcock is a great coach but he is coaching an AHL team in full tank mode right now.

            But McLellan?? What makes him a tremendous coach exactly?!

            WW

          • Primo

            However team record and player stats remain an important element of player development. A winning record instills confidence and a positive culture that can benefit a player when called up.

            As well the apparent digression in the development of players such as Poirier, Shore Elson, Van Brabant, Carroll, Morrison, and Wotherspoon remain a concern to me. Accountability is with Huska…..I’m of the opinion a change is required in the off season.

      • The Real Slim Brodie

        That’s why the series ended maybe take on a new persona. .tumbleweed. ……….two maybe…………………or tumbleweed 2.0

        Tw………2.0

    • McRib

      We should have taken Hunt in the 7th I don’t disagree (I thought he was a lock to be drafted in 2014, I was at a Hitmen game last week and saw an NHL Scout sleeping. Tells you as much as you need to know about NHL Scouts, most are 65+ and long past being able to analyze anything let alone 17 year old talent), but at least we took Riley Bruce in the 7th Round and not in the 1st Round (Matt Pelech) or 3rd Round (Keegan Kanzig)…. Starting to learn from our mistakes at least slightly.

      • everton fc

        In all fairness to past “regimes”… This one drafted Hunter Smith in Round 2, 54th overall.

        May turn out as bad as the Pelech pick. Other teams would have took a runner at Kanzig, based on his size…

        • The GREAT Walter White

          Yup; they drafted McDonald in the second round that year too when Demko was still available….?!

          I asked Burke about the McDonald pick a few weeks after the draft, he said: “yah, we liked Demko too, but we liked McDonald better”…..

          That blunder will haunt us for a decade.

          WW

        • McRib

          “Other teams would have took a runner at Kanzig, based on his size…”

          In the 6-7th Round not in the 3rd, that was a good draft year, Anthony Duclair, Pavel Buchnevich, Olivier Bjorkstrand, etc were all still on the board. How bad of a pick was Matt Pelech… Some major scouting organizations and most teams didn’t even have him in their Top. 200.

          “In all fairness to past “regimes”… This one drafted Hunter Smith in Round 2, 54th overall.”

          Well we still have the same head scout unfortunately (at this point I think he has naked pictures of the owners wife), but at least they have done a LOT better job since the 2000s. Where they were an absolute laughing stock of the league, other NHL teams used to take bets on what awful pick they would make every year in the 1st, no word of a lie. Family friend is an NHL head scout. Best thing Feaster did for us was at the Minnesota Draft he fired all of the old guard area scouts (apparently they were all 80+ and could hardly even see, wouldn’t make this up if I wanted to), that’s really helped.

          Unfortunately Patrick Sieloff, Tyler Wotherspoon, Mason McDonald were sneaky bad picks though as well. Imagine a Christian Dvorak, Damon Severson. Nikita Kucherov, etc along with who else we already have. Feaster has gone on record and said they were thinking about taking Kutcherov, so that one still stings every time I hear his name. But like always “It could have been worse”, i.e. the early 2000s. I think 2015 was Treliving’s first full control draft as in 2014 he had just joined, as he did a really good job in 2015 (I like every pick other than Bruce), so I am hopeful.

          • everton fc

            I meant other teams MIGHT have taken a run at Kanzig. We should have passed (Dulcair was available… Man, what a miss…)

            I actually don’t mid the Bruce pick. 7th round.

          • McRib

            I know eh, imagine what this team would look like with Kutcherov and Duclair…. It is not even that crazy to think, most scouting services I read had them as best available in both respective years.

            That aside, what is a 7th Rounder really, I was no word of a lie hoping they took Dryden Hunt or Brayden Burke (Lethbridge) so we could still have both anyway. I wouldn’t have minded Tate Olson (PG) Vancouver’s 7th Rounder as well, but I agree the 7th Round is the only place where you should take big high upside, low percentage defenders like Bruce (not in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd). Haha.

  • ApolloRising

    I hope they sign him. We could use the depth down LW. I’m curious to see who makes the jump on our wings next year and the end of this season. Defense seems obvious. But the readiness of our wings seem to be unknown (relatively speaking).

  • redricardo

    I get the feeling of déjà vu here…

    Remember when the Flames signed prolific overage scorer Bryan Cameron? How he (didn’t) set the world on fire?

    We have the room, so it’s a low risk signing. I’m still not expecting much though.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    I trust with the Flames being 1 of 5 teams, that Hunt is obviously turning heads. He’s worth signing no doubt, but a 20 year old 6′, 200 lbs man playing in a league of boys can often throw their weight around with little pushback. I wonder, if he’s a late bloomer or a better than average overager? Still those are some impressive numbers!

    • McRib

      Dryden Hunt suffered a major head injury, missed all of his 17 year-old season, teams were scared away. He should absolutely have been drafted the last two years though, that aside. He is extremely strong on his skates has an unbelievable shot and constantly plays in traffic. He is only an average skater for his size, but he will be a good AHLer worse case. If he can add a half step he could be a good NHLer (not out of the question), someone compared him to Bryan Cameron. Bryan Cameron was a really really soft, much worse skater, Hunt is a way better prospect. He is the best FA WHLer in years (at least since Josh Winquist in 2013-2014). Now that I hyped him up he will sign with Vancouver or Edmonton. I have heard that the top three teams in the running are all from the Pacific Division, but we are the front runnners.

  • smith

    While I am not completely down on the AHL coaching yet, there are quiet a few disappointments this year among the players down there. Shore, Porier, Ortio, Morrison all seemed to be doing very well at the end of last year. Was hoping for some big things from them.

    The most disappointing part of this year though has been the lack of willingness to give youth a chance. It did not matter how bad Bollig, Colborne, Wideman, Russel, Engelland, Hiller etc…..were, there was no chance youth were going to be tried. How do you rebuild without even trying to see what you have in your youth?

    • everton fc

      I’ve been listening.

      The Agostino-Hamilton-Hathaway line sounds like they are phenomenal at the AHL-level. Poulin seems to be making good saves. Verpaelst’s name came up a few times in a good way – big hit at centre ice. Adirondack coach really liked him, so the Heat gave him a PTO. He’s only 22. He’s paired w/Culkin. Verpaelst just made a gaff that gave San Diego a 3 on 1. Luckily, no goal.

      Nothing yet from Shinkurak. Klimchuk and Poirier seem silent. Aaron Johnson and Kulak +2. Elson’s and Van Brabant’s names has been mentioned a feet times in the positive, as well. Colton Orr is on the ice.

      The announcer could be the worst I’ve heard in years. Like a high school game. Brutal. Sportscasting is certainly seeing it’s share of lightweights slipping through the cracks, with all these leagues!

  • freethe flames

    The simple fact is kid has average NHL size, is putting up good numbers as an overager therefore he has skills, What can it hurt to have him signed and bringing those skills to either the AHL or ECHL next year. Yes it takes up another contract but eventually the team will reduce the number of contracts anyways.

  • Parallex

    Meh, I dunno.

    It’s the lowest of low in terms of risk so why not I guess. But even looking just at what video I can find online I can see why he was passed over in the draft twice. Heck of a shot… but just watching him skate makes my legs tired, it’s a lot of effort for not a whole lot in the way of speed/acceleration.