The Calgary Flames’ needs at the draft

The draft is where teams build their foundations, but in most cases, it takes a long time for that to pan out. Unless you’re unlucky enough to be incredibly awful, lucky enough to win the lottery, or lucky enough to find later round gems, your draft isn’t going to turn your next season around.

Sure, players like Johnny Gaudreau and T.J. Brodie fall into that last category; it also took both three years since being drafted to pan out, and success such as finding them is rare to begin with.

Mark Jankowski was drafted at a time when the Flames were hurting for centres, with the expectation that he would be a long-term project; two years later, the Flames got Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, and in addition to Mikael Backlund, they look to anchor the middle for years to come. For as long as it can take a draft pick to pan out, things can change that much quicker.

So while there are areas the Flames need to address in their lineup, what can they do about it in this draft?

The immediate impact

Anything that’s going to resemble an immediate impact – or close to it – is going to come with the Flames’ sixth overall pick. Monahan immediately stepped into the NHL; Bennett had to wait a year. That’s pretty much the best case scenario for any immediate change.

There are two ways to go about this. The first: draft the best player available.

There’s some debate as to just who that will be, though. If it’s a defenceman, do the Flames take him? They already have Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton, plus a restocked cupboard that is, at this point in time, primarily taking the shapes of Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington. The sixth overall pick likely won’t be ready to immediately step into the NHL – but a lot can change over just a few seasons, and the Flames may be in need of that additional high-talent defenceman then.

This goes against the more pressing current issue for the Flames: a need for high-talent scoring wingers. If the Flames solely stick to the forward group that seems to make up the top two ledges of this draft class, then they’ll get that person; however, how long until he’s ready to play in the NHL? Will the Flames have already found a solution by then?

Fact is, though, the Flames’ top defencemen are concrete. Andersson, Kylington, and other prospects may never pan out, but we know the trio of Brodie, Giordano, and Hamilton is top tier in the NHL at present time. We don’t know how long that’ll be the case – but considering Brodie and Hamilton aren’t particularly old, it shouldn’t be a concern for a while.

Up front, on the other hand? We know the Flames have Gaudreau and Monahan, and have reason to believe Bennett will turn out. That’s really not enough for a forward core at all. It isn’t even a complete line; it’s one partnership and a high-level kid with no fitting linemates. That’s what the Flames need to address, and a high-impact young forward, which will be easily obtainable at sixth overall, is one of the better ways to go about it.

Then, there’s the second option in order to accrue immediate impact: trade the pick for it.

Kent suggested the pick could be in play for a starting-caliber goalie, something the Flames desperately need. Even though Jon Gillies and his future in this organization needs to be considered, he’s far from a sure bet. And if the Flames are to start turning the corner, the sooner they get someone in net they can trust, the better.

Even if they don’t get another high level forward a year or two away from the NHL with their pick, a goalie from, say, Tampa Bay would likely provide immediate dividends for the 2016-17 season.

The main concern here is getting fair value, especially if the hockey world is in belief of a ledge after sixth overall.

Future impacts

The Flames need a handful of things. A highly skilled young forward and a starting goalie can both be addressed with the sixth overall pick, but there’s still the matter of size to consider, especially when the brains of the organization are openly stating that fact.

But while later picks are less likely to turn out, they can’t be ignored. The Flames want size? Great, and they can try to find it – but not at the risk of leaving high-skilled forwards when they’re still available. For example, no more Keegan Kanzigs or Hunter Smiths in the top 70 of the draft. Not when there are Oliver Bjorkstrands or Brayden Points around.

That’s not to say size shouldn’t be addressed – but a pick that early has to have more going for him than being 6’6 and 230 lbs. There’s a noted difference between taking Hunter Smith in the second round and Austin Carroll in the seventh, especially when they go pro in the same year and the much later pick is scoring at a higher rate.

Teams are built through the draft: and that includes being smart with later picks, whether they surprise and pan out almost right away, or take their time and prove to be worth it further down the line. 

When do you get excited over someone taken in the sixth round? When he’s Andrew Mangiapane and is one of the top scorers in his league. So it’s our hope, over the coming weeks, to bring some of those names to your attention, and maybe give you someone you hope the Flames will pick.

Two different drafts, two different outcomes

Outside of Bennett, the 2014 draft is looking an awful lot like a dud thus far. It featured the fourth overall pick, as well as the 34th and 54th. There isn’t much in the overall group to get excited about.

The 2015 draft, meanwhile, saw the Flames trade away their highest picks. This is likely in part due to recency bias, but it also contains more names to get genuinely excited about than the year before – the year with much better picks – did.

The 2016 draft features similar picks to the 2014 one. Sixth overall, 35th overall, 53rd and 55th overall. Hopefully it’s a bit closer in apparent quality to 2015, though.

  • Backburner

    I’m leaning more towards the Flames trading their picks for young, skilled, RFAs, just like they did with Hamilton.

    That trade not only filled a desperate need on D, but also took a lot of pressure off the shallow prospect pool. By acquiring Hamilton, and drafting a few D with the remaining picks.

    I think this can really accelerate the rebuild.

    The Flames desperately need a top line RW, and the draft won’t be able to fill that role right now as Nylander and Tkachuck are at least a few years away.

    Drouin would be ideal. He’s a young, skilled RW, who can fill an immediate need. Price might be steep, but Flames could always try to regain a few picks in the draft, and use them to draft a few more RW’s.

  • J.P.

    Not one player in the 2nd round from 2014 draft has played a NHL game. Mason may or may not make it, but it looks like there really wasn’t any solid picks at that point.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Demko the number one consensus goalie was still on the board whe we picked MacDonald…..

      Vancouver also picked the massive Russian D who looks great when we picked Smith….

      The Canucks owned us in that draft.

      WW

  • Denscafon

    Unless BT can do more magic and somehow get rid of some bad contracts (wideman/stajan/engelland), I don’t see BT trading the 6th pick for any immediate help due to the cap crunch that’s gonna occur after signing Monahan and Gaudreau to their hopefully very long term contracts and signing of any goalie (i’m guessing minimum 3.5-4 mill).

    I know some ppl here expect the flames to go back to being a playoff team next season but I just don’t see it until these bad contracts disappear.

  • First Name Unidentified

    In the interest of improving puck possession, one role that gets usually overlooked is the need for an elite face-off man. Some of the best teams have a F/O specialist who comes on the ice to take the defensive face offs, wins it and then goes off the ice. Cullen is an excellent example. Jaret Stoll is available, or someone like Glendening?

  • Craig

    Look at Alexander Nylanders full name:

    Alexander Maximiliam Michael Junior Nylander Altelius

    Not only does this resemble Iginla’s amazing string of names they share a middle name in Junior.

    It’s a sign.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I’m not sure the Flames should draft Nylander or Tkachuck if either is available at #6.

    Admittedly, I have a bias against Nylander because the old man was the softest player I have ever seen. He makes Kessel look like Hammer Schultz. Over the weekend there was an article that the Marlies want brother William to step up his game so that his intensity matches his talent. I just can’t shake the notion that the Nylander boys are fresh jelly rolls, and the Flames do not have a supporting cast that can carry such a player, especially when ol’ blunderbuss is blasting away about truculence and toughness.

    Tkachuck’s suspect skating precludes him from playing a 200 foot game. He is dynamite from the blueline in, but today’s NHL requires guys to be able to play both ends of the rink. Moreover, if the Flames want to greatly improve their possession game, a guy who can only dominate a quarter of the ice ain’t gonna do it. Yeah, he can improve his skating, but can he improve it enough to be a top 6 NHLer?

    I’m wondering if the Flames draft at 6 whether they should take one of the top-end bluelines. Let’s face it, by the time either is ready to play serious NHL minutes, Brodie and Hamilton will be near the end of their contracts, and who knows what state Gio will be in in 3 or 4 seasons.

    The Pepsi kid looks like an interesting pick but I doubt he is available at 6. Nylander and Tkachuck worry me.

    Jost and Jones are also intriguing but apparently not worth a 6th pick.

    Jake Bean is worthy of a 6th pick as he is going to prove to be the darling of the draft in years to come.

    In summary, were I Tre, I might go D with my first pick.

    • MarbledBlueCheese

      Keller.

      Higher NHLe than Nylander.
      Can/does play center.
      Similar point totals to the upcoming #1 pick in the draft, and out of the same program.
      Younger in age than many of his draft peers.
      Concerns about size but larger than Johnny, anyway. Still growing.
      I’ve read a lot about him but have never read ‘suspect drive’ or ‘slow motor.’

      Initially I was biased against him but the more I look, the more impressive he seems compared to his peers.

  • flames89

    Check out Michael McLeod of Mississauga, 6’2″, 190 lb RH Center, unbelievable speed, hockey sense, born leader from a great Canadian family. Almost as many SH as PP goals last year for those who miss Byron:

    >

    Would maybe allow the flames to drop down a couple of picks and still get a gem who can also play right wing…

      • flames89

        Look at Mcleod’s highlights from last year, most of the time Nylander’s not even in them, or he’s receiving a pass from McLeod.
        You can’t teach speed and his is McDavid-like fast..`.at 6’2! someone’s getting a gift picking him @ #10-13.

        • Baalzamon

          And yet, McLeod’s offense completely evaporated when Nylander was out of the lineup. Nylander’s scoring rate actually increased when McLeod was away.

          In eight games without Nylander, McLeod posted just five points (a pace of just 36 points in 57 games, compared to the 61 he actually posted).

          In eight games without McLeod, Nylander posted 11 points (a pace of 78 points in 57 games, compared to the 75 he actually posted).

          Small samples, but clearly Nylander didn’t need McLeod at all. And that’s borne out in their respective performances in tournaments as well. Nylander was invariably a team leader. McLeod was invariably a depth forward. And even if you discount that, Nylander was still a much better player than McLeod. I doubt the asset gained from trading down would make up the difference in value between the two players.

          You can’t teach speed

          Nylander is fast too.

  • Franko J

    Taking about drafting….

    How about a new scouting staff to go along with the new coach.

    Sorry but the Flames drafting is less than stellar and needs a fresh new approach. While the Flames have been fortunate to draft a couple of hidden gems in Brodie and Gaudreau, most of the players drafted under Todd Button have been busts. In his defense though the Flames as a organization haven’t had a good GM since Fletcher left. However, sometimes a change is needed to gain a new perspective.

    Where the Flames are drafting at six, I see a prospect a year or two away from making an impact on the roster. As for rest of their picks, the players they select will most likely be in the long term variety. With plenty of development. Which I don’t mind. As long as they can draft two or more who can actually make it the NHL and contribute.

    Biggest need through the draft is selecting a couple of good solid RW’s.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Yes, some talent and depth on the right side is badly needed; however, you don’t positional pick at the draft. You draft the best available player regardless of organizational needs.

      Are you suggesting that when the Flames draft 6th, they should purposely choose a lower rated player who plays RW rather than a higher ranked player who plays a different position? That’s called a recipe for ineptness and futility.

      I am completely on board with your main point of your post in which the Flames need a full revamp of their scouting department.

      The Flames might want to begin by hiring a local kid who will soon graduate from high school. He’s the birddog who at age 9 and 10 called the greatness of Marty Jones. He’s the kid whose family has billeted Hitmen goalies for many years. The kid would play basement hockey with the Hitmen goalie living with them. Of all the goalies that stayed with them, the kid said that Jones was by far the best. He could not score on Jones! Jones would never even allow a softie to boost the kid’s spirit and give him a reason to play on. That’s how dedicated Jones was to his craft while still a terrible teen! Kid told Jones at the time he was gonna be a big star. In contrast, the Flames highly-paid and highly-trained keen observers of young hockey talent both near and far never event drafted Jones or threw him an invite to camp as a non-draftee.