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.
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.