What do the Flames have to show for their last 10 first rounders?

Until maybe a few seasons ago, the Calgary Flames were known as a team that was bad at drafting. Like, really bad. Like, couldn’t find a nut if they were a squirrel in a room full of nuts bad. Not only was their drafting not particularly great, their asset management with their first round picks – free assets that teams get from the league to help them stay competitive – was pretty awful as well.

So to take a look at Calgary’s drafting and asset management, here’s what the Flames have done with their last 10 original draft picks.

2006 – 26th Overall

The Flames stayed put and drafted goalie Leland Irving. Irving was signed to an entry-level deal, puttered around the organization for a few seasons, and eventually left as a free agent without making much of an impact.

Organizational Assets: none

2007 – 18th Overall

The Flames traded down to 24th overall with St. Louis and got an extra third round pick. They selected Mikael Backlund at 24th overall and defenseman John Negrin with the third round pick. Both were signed, both played pro in the organization. Negrin was later traded to Winnipeg for Akim Aliu, who left as a free agent after two seasons and seven NHL games.

Organizational Assets: C Mikael Backlund

2008 – 17th Overall

The Flames traded their own pick (along with a 2009 second round pick) to Los Angeles in exchange for Mike Cammalleri and a 2008 second round pick. They selected Mitch Wahl with the extra pick. Cammalleri left as a free agent a year later, and Wahl was eventually traded away for a depth AHL prospect (who also left as a free agent).

Organizational Assets: none

2009 – 20th Overall

In 2009, the Flames traded down to 23rd overall and got an additional third round pick (which they used to trade up later on). They selected Tim Erixon with their pick. When Erixon didn’t want to sign with the Flames, he was traded (with a fifth round pick) to the NY Rangers for two 2011 second round picks (Tyler Wotherspoon and Markus Granlund) and Roman Horak. Subsequently, they traded Horak to Edmonton along with Laurent Brossoit in exchange for Ladislav Smid and Oliver Roy, and Granlund to Vancouver for Hunter Shinkaruk.

Organizational Assets: D Tyler Wotherspoon, LW Hunter Shinkaruk, D Ladislav Smid

2010 – 13th Overall

Just prior to 2009’s trade deadline, the Flames traded a conditional pick (their choice of either 2009 or 2010) to Phoenix as part of a package (along with Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust) that landed them Olli Jokinen. The Flames elected to keep their 2009 pick. Less than a year later – before the Coyotes had used the 2010 first round pick – the Flames traded Jokinen away (with Prust, reacquired) to the Rangers for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Kotalik was sent to Buffalo in a swap that gained the Flames Chris Butler and Paul Byron, both of which left the organization (via free agency and waivers, respectively) for nothing.

Organizational Assets: none

2011 – 13th Overall

The Flames (for once) didn’t trade down or trade their pick away. They selected Sven Baertschi at 13th overall. He was traded before the end of his entry-level deal to Vancouver in exchange for a 2015 second round pick (used to select Rasmus Andersson).

Organizational Assets: D Rasmus Andersson

2012 – 14th Overall

The 2012 Draft was a fairly, uh, contentious one. The Flames traded down from 14th to 21st overall with Buffalo, gaining a second round pick in the process. They drafted Mark Jankowski at 21st overall and Patrick Sieloff with the resultant second round pick. Both players have been signed to entry-level deals, and Sieloff even scored a goal in the NHL.

Organizational Assets: C Mark Jankowski, D Patrick Sieloff

2013 – 6th Overall

The Flames stayed put at sixth overall, selecting the consensus “best player available” Sean Monahan. Monahan signed an entry-level deal and joined the Flames the season after his selection, and has generally been a damn fine young NHL center.

Organization Assets: C Sean Monahan

2014 – 4th Overall

For the second season in a row, the Flames kept their original pick. For the second season in a row, they took the “best player available” at their pick. This time, they grabbed Sam Bennett from Kingston. Like Monahan before him, Bennett signed almost immediately and spent time in the NHL in his first post-draft season.

Organization Assets: C Sam Bennett

2015 – 15th Overall

The Flames traded their pick to Boston (along with a pair of second rounders) for Dougie Hamilton, who they promptly signed to a long-term extension.

Organizational Assets: D Dougie Hamilton


Q: What do the Flames have to show for their last 10 first round selections?

A: Mikael Backlund, Tyler Wotherspoon, Hunter Shinkaruk, Ladislav Smid, Rasmus Andersson, Mark Jankowski, Patrick Sieloff, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Dougie Hamilton.

That’s kind of impressive when you recall that they have nothing to show for the 2006, 2008 and 2010 first round picks (and were just dreadful for several years preceding this time period). That said, we’re going to be doing follow-up pieces comparing Calgary’s haul from their past 10 first rounds to Edmonton and Vancouver to provide a couple comparisons.

  • cberg

    Ten years, 10 NHL players (pretty much), well 5 (mostly) great NHL players (1aC, 2/3C, 1/2D, 5/6D, 1bC) & 5 very good – excellent prospects (5D, 2LW, 2/3D, 2/3C, 5/6D), with some very fine top-level talent included. Overall I’d grade that as Very Good, but it’ll be interesting to see the comparisons to other teams.

    If you average all of our picks it works out to an average of #15 overall for every one of the 10 years, with the best pick #4 overall and only 1 in the top 5, with another (to make it 2) in the top 10. Amazing results, actually.

    To re-sum it up: 10 average #15 OA picks (best #4 OA) “likely” resulting in 2-#1 Centres, 2-#2/3Centres, 1-Top6 LW, 2-Top Pairing D, and 3-Bottom Pairing D. That’s a 100% success rate and on average got way better than our average draft position throughout.

    • Greg

      Take out the last 3 years, and you’ve got Backlund, a few decent prospects (Anderson, Shinkurak, jankowski, maybe Witherspoon), and a dead weight contract in Smid.

      Thank goodness for the last 3 years.

      • Exactly. It’s easy to be excited if we include the last few. Otherwise, as burning sensation pointed out, it has been a gong show. Thank goodness that things can turn quickly if you have the right guy at the helm.

  • Darryl Sutter was a poor Flames GM. The franchise is still recovering from his draft and free agent decisions. And he was dealing with the consequences of poor decisions by his predecessors in that job.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Going off the board with early round picks because “our GM is so much smarter than anyone else” never works out…

    Baerchi, Jankowskiand Backlund are just a couple of examples…

    Trading down is also a recipe for disaster…


    • flamesburn89

      I don’t think Baertschi or Backlund were “off the board” picks in their respective draft years. Using Bob Mckenzie’s TSN draft rankings (because they were the quickest to find), Baertschi was drafted 3 spots earlier than his ranking (drafted 13th, ranked 16th). Backlund was ranked 15th by Mckenzie and went to Calgary at 24. Jankowski was the only guy who was drafted considerably ahead of his ranking (he wasn’t in Mackenzie’s top 30 and was taken at 21).

    • T&A4Flames

      Baertschi was never an off the board pick. It’s still too early to make the call on Janko. As for Backlund, trading down didn’t hurt much. Between 18 and 24 the only other player that has really done anything significant is Pacioretty. All in all, that’s not terrible.

    • supra steve

      As you are well aware WW, that Backlund pick has just turned out terribly for the Flames. Worse than Irving, Wahl, Chucko, Krahn, Nemisz, etc. Organization shattering.

      Your revisionist history on the Baertschi pick is a bit confusing, but entertaining…and that’s what we’re all here for.

      Next year will be telling for Janko. I think we know on which side your hopes lie. How happy would you be if he broke both femurs in late August?

      Enjoy your weekend man.

  • Backburner

    If the Flames are lucky enough to have Dallas advance to the Western Final, AND win a top 3 pick… they can set themselves up nicely for the next 10 years.

    • cjc

      If that pick comes to fruition, do we consider trading it? It will be a very late first rounder, so maybe it would be worth pairing it with our other first to trade up, or using it to acquire a good roster player, or the rights to an RFA a la Hamilton, or use it to sweeten the pot and offload a bad contract (e.g. Wideman) while taking back a second round pick in return. Obviously it all depends on what Dallas does and where Calgary ends up picking, but it’s nice to dream about the options.

  • BurningSensation

    It’s instructive to compare previous drafts to see just how appallingly bad our picks have been;

    1990 – we traded up with New Jersey to take Trevor Kidd. NJ took Brodeur. Kidd had a career mostly as a backup.

    1991 – Niklas Sundblad (the Swedish Wendel Clark!). Bust.

    1992 – Cory Stillman. Solid if unspectacular offensive winger. But he was a player, and that is success for a Flames 1st rounder.

    1993 – Jesper Mattson. Bust.

    1994 – Chris Dingman. Yes, we drafted a pure goon in the 1st. That was how we rolled in the 90’s. At least it wasn’t another Euro winger never to be heard from again, Dinger played a bottom 4 role for a number of teams.

    1995 – Denis Gauthier. A hit! Mostly a bottom pair defender known for big hits, but we landed an actual NHL defender!

    1996 Derek Morris. Was a legit top 4 guy for a few years, but nothing special.

    1997 – Daniel Tkachuk. Total bust.

    1998 – Rico Fata. Looked good next to Mario during a stint in Pitt, but was otherwise the fastest player with cement hands the league had ever seen. Bust.

    1999 – Oleg Saprykin. Mostly a bottom six winger.

    2000 – Brent Krahn. Knee injuries wiped him out. Bust.

    2001 – Chuck Kobasew. A mid six winger with middling offense.

    2002 – Erik Nystrom. Career grinder.

    2003 – Dion Phaneuf. Our first legit All-Star! (From the deepest draft in history where everybody got one-except the Rangers and Edmonton)

    2004 – Kris Chucko. Another grinder in the first. Bust.

    2005 – Matt Pelech. Big defender already had bad knees when he was drafted. Bust.

    So compared to the horror show that had taken place prior, the last 10 years have been FANTASTIC

  • Flash

    The stats shown are a bit misleading since you’re comparing the Flames when they were a potential contender with a win-now mentality, to their current rebuilding for the future state.

    So it made sense back then to trade picks for older players who would be immediately productive, like Cammalleri and Jokinen, who they did get a few productive years from.

    Obviously that’s not something management would do for the current team.

    • BurningSensation

      I think no matter how you look at it, the Flames were simply terrible at the draft table for more than a decade, a slide that didn’t stop until Uncle Feaster took over.