Backlund and Monahan are already two of the best Flames firsts (ever)

On June 24, the Calgary Flames will head to the podium and draft in the first round for the 43rd time in their franchise’s history. (Well, presuming they don’t trade their pick again.)

Historically, the Flames have had a mixed record in the first round. A perusal of their first round picks reveals a group that includes players that never left Europe, players that faded away in minor-pro, one deceased person (albeit from a really tragic accident) and tons of missed opportunities. However, the Flames have also drafted a few really good players in the first round, including a Hall of Famer and several others that have gone on to really good careers.

The 2015-16 Flames featured three past first round selections: 2007’s Mikael Backlund, 2013’s Sean Monahan and 2014’s Sam Bennett. When you take a statistical look at Flames picks, both in terms of their time with the Flames and their overall NHL careers, Backlund and Monahan are already among the franchise’s best first rounders.

Here’s how they stack up!


Players in bold are current Flames property. Four Flames-drafted first round goalies – Jason Muzzatti (1988), Trevor Kidd (1990), Brent Krahn (2000) and Leland Irving (2006) – aren’t listed here, but Kidd played 387 games in the NHL and was decent. The others were, um, not. Don’t draft goalies in the first round, everybody.

Career in NHL Career with the Flames
Player Draft G Pts Player Draft G Pts
Al MacInnis 1981 340 1274 MacInnis 1981 213 822
Gary Roberts 1984 438 910 Roberts 1984 257 505
Tom Lysiak 1973 292 843 Reinhart 1979 109 445
Cory Stillman 1992 278 727 Lysiak 1973 155 431
Dan Quinn 1982 266 685 Stillman 1992 109 235
Paul Reinhart 1979 133 559 Phaneuf 2003 75 228
Dion Phaneuf 2003 121 432 Quinn 1982 72 191
Derek Morris 1996 92 424 Backlund 2007 72 175
Jacques Richard 1972 160 347 Morris 1996 34 163
Chuck Kobasew 2001 110 210 Monahan 2013 80 159
Brad Marsh 1978 23 198 Richard 1972 57 103
Mikael Backlund 2007
72 175 Mulhern 1975 25 92
Sean Monahan 2013 80 159 Phillipoff 1976 26 79
Oleg Saprykin 1999 55 137 Shand 1976 14 77
Eric Nystrom 2002 75 123 Saprykin 1999 29 76
Richard Mulhern 1975 27 120 Kobasew 2001 34 71
Dave Shand 1976 19 103 Gauthier 1995 13 58
Denis Cyr 1980 41 84 Marsh 1978 3 44
Harold Phillipoff 1976 26 83 Nystrom 2002 19 39
Denis Gauthier 1995 17 77 Bennett 2014 18 37
Rico Fata 1998 27 63 Cyr 1980 14 29
Sven Baertschi 2011 25 58 Baertschi 2011 8 28
Sam Bennett 2014 18 37 Tkaczuk 1997 4 11
Chris Dingman 1994 15 34 Dingman 1994 3 6
Tim Erixon 2009 2 14 Pelech 2005 0 3
Daniel Tkaczuk 1997 4 11 Fata 1998 0 1
Matt Pelech 2005 1 4 Nemisz 2008 0 1
Greg Nemisz 2008 0 1 Poirier 2013 0
Emile Poirier 2013 0 1 Mercredi 1973 0 0
Vic Mercredi 1973 0 0 Sundblad 1991 0 0
Niklas Sundblad 1991 0 0 Chucko 2004 0 0
Kris Chucko 2004 0 0 Biotti 1985
Chris Biotti 1985 Pelawa 1986
George Pelawa 1986 Deasley 1987
Bryan Deasley 1987 Mattsson 1993
Jesper Mattsson 1993 Erixon 2010
Mark Jankowski 2012 Jankowski 2012
Morgan Klimchuk 2013 Klimchuk 2013


Let’s start at the top: MacInnis and Roberts came from the run of drafts through the 1980s where Cliff Fletcher’s scouting crew hit gold quite often. Heck, five of the top six on the “NHL career” side were selected when Fletcher was GM, and Stillman was grabbed the season after he left and largely scouted by Fletcher’s hires. Phaneuf was as can’t-miss as any Flames pick has ever been, and despite a tumultuous exit from Calgary and some trouble in Toronto he’s been a really good NHLer.

Heading to the mushy middle: in the context of NHL careers Backlund and Monahan are already pretty good first round selections. Backlund’s in his mid-20s and Monahan’s still a pup, yet they’ve already out-scored Saprykin and Nystrom and are closing in on Kobasew. Within Flames circles, they should crack the 200-point mark for their careers next season and enter the unofficial upper-echelon of Flames firsts. (When you take into account that it’s relatively rare that Flames picks crack 100 points with the team, that’s kinda sad…)

Monahan’s already the sixth-highest goal-scorer as a Flame among past first rounders and should hit 100 goals next season (and heck, he could push 30 goals again and catch Stillman and Reinhart).

And now to the very bottom: Poirier, Jankowski and Klimchuk are currently professional hockey players in the Flames organization, so it’s too early to really throw those guys onto the “no points in Calgary/NHL/bust!” pile. All three of them have two seasons remaining on their entry-level deals, so there’s still plenty of runway left for them before we throw them under the bus (so to speak).

Biotti and Deasley puttered around minor-pro and then quietly disappeared from hockey. Pelawa died in a car accident shortly after being drafted by the Flames, so that’s not exactly a development/drafting issue. Mattsson had a lengthy career in Sweden but only briefly came to North America for a two-and-a-half season sojourn before going back home.

And yes, your eyes do not deceive you: Darryl Sutter’s first round picks, aside from Phaneuf, all seem pretty bad when you see them on a list like that. If anything, the Flames’ history of uneven, sometimes disastrous drafting in the first round makes their recent successes all the more stark and impressive.

      • MattyFranchise

        I figured you would have run out of different ways to say this months ago but I was wrong.

        I sometimes wonder if you post this because you believe it or because you enjoy irritating people.

    • aflame13

      Looks like ya got the games and points reversed….wasn’t around then but I’m pretty sure MacInnis wasn’t a 4ppg player haha.

      Pretty cool chart though. Sad how many Flames firsts were duds.

    • cunning_linguist

      Despite the good numbers, I’m really hoping Monahan can take a big step forward next season. He’s a great finisher, but it would be awesome if he could start driving the bus a bit more.

    • cjc

      Tough to compare picks from long ago to those today. For instance, Joe Nieuwendyk was selected 27th overall and is inarguably the most impactful player in his draft year. However, 27th pick fell in the 2nd round in 1985. He’d be second on the list with 1126 pts (616 with the Flames). Conversely, Backlund was taken 24th overall in 2007, so would have been a second rounder back then.

      Then there is the difference in scoring among eras.

      That list of first round picks squandered on goalies (even Kidd) makes me weep.

      • PrairieStew

        And the other thing to consider is the scoring eras. For Backlund and Monahan, there are about 40% fewer goals being scored than when Richard, MacInnis, Quinn and Roberts ( and Niewendyk) played.

    • RKD

      The drafting of the guys in the 90s and early 2000s was just awful, Trevor Kidd over Martin Brodeur? Rico Fata over Simon Gagne and Alex Tanguay? Daniel Tkachuk over Hossa? Krahn over Frolov, Orpik, Boyes, Williams and Kronwall? Nystrom over Semin? Irving over Foligno? I don’t what these scouts were thinking. The drafting and scouting has been much improved with the picks of Backlund, Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, etc. Gaudreau was a diamond of a pick but the Flames really need high quality picks. It’s rare you hit the jackpot with guys in the 4th-7th rounds. It’s also not great drafting guys really late in the first round.