14 drafts of Tod Button: a trip down memory lane

The Calgary Flames promoted Tod Button to the role of head scout in the fall of 2001, replacing Ian McKenzie. He had been with the organization since 1997 and was promoted to the top job by his brother, Craig.

This will be Button’s 15th draft as the Flames’ top dog in the scouting department. How’s he done over his previous 14 kicks at the can?

BY THE NUMBERS

Drafts: 14, Picks: 102

By Round:

  • First: 14
  • Second: 10
  • Third: 16
  • Fourth: 14
  • Fifth: 14
  • Sixth: 13
  • Seventh: 17
  • Later: 4

By Position:

  • Goalie: 9
  • Defense: 29
  • Forwards: 64

By League:

  • WHL: 35
  • OHL: 17
  • USHL: 8
  • Sweden: 7
  • QMJHL: 7
  • NCAA: 6
  • Finland: 4
  • BCHL: 3
  • Russia: 3
  • High School (US): 3
  • Switzerland: 2
  • AJHL: 1
  • Czech Republic: 1
  • High School (Canada): 1
  • OPJRA: 1

Most common teams:

  • Kootenay Ice (WHL): 5
  • Farjestads BK (SHL/SEL/Jr.): 4
  • Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): 3
  • Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): 3
  • U.S. National Development Team (USHL): 3
  • Windsor Spitfires (OHL): 3

    YEAR BY YEAR

    2002

    GM: Craig Button

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    Notable NHLers: Nystrom, Lombardi, McElhinney, van der Gulik

    A lot of reaches in the later rounds, including five players not ranked by Central Scouting. Nystrom was a slight reach at 10th overall (13th-ranked North American skater) and Lombardi was a re-entry from a previous draft.

    2003

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: Phaneuf

    Darryl Sutter’s first draft as GM was a big whiff aside from Phaneuf. The draft ranking archives only have Top 30 rankings for 2003, but Ramholt was a pretty big reach as the 17th-ranked European skater (at 39th overall) and it only got worse from there. But hey, lots of tall and/or big guys.

    2004

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: Prust, Boyd, Pardy, Cracknell

    Chucko was 29th-ranked North American skater and Boyd was the 68th-ranked North American skater, so respectively they were both semi-reaches. But this was generally one of the better drafts, with a few whiffs here and there but a few good finds in later rounds. Aside from Hogg, lots of big guys again.

    2005

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: none

    The Flames reached a lot with their first two picks, going with Pelech (the 41st-ranked North American skater) and Baldwin (241st) with their first two picks. This was one of the weakest drafts in Flames franchise history, though a lot of it can probably be traced back to those early reaches.

    2006

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: none

    Irving was the second-ranked North American goaltender, so his selection wasn’t a huge reach. Nor were Armstrong (51st-ranked North American skater), Marvin (50th) or Carpentier (95th), really. This was basically just an unlucky draft, with guys getting selected roughly in line with Central Scouting’s rankings and them just not working out.

    2007

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: Backlund

    This was a rare draft where they didn’t reach all that much (aside from Negrin, who was the 85th-ranked North American skater). Backlund was the second European skater and went roughly where he should have, and the Flames managed to get Aulie (108th NA), Renaud (105th NA) and Severyn (110th NA) at decent value.

    2008

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: Bouma, Brodie

    This was a mixed bag. They selected Nemisz (22nd-ranked North American skater) about where he should’ve gone. They reached on Wahl (64th) and Brodie (154th), but got Bouma (68th) and Larson (52nd) at decent value. And no, I’m not sure what universe had Larson ranked 102 spots ahead of Brodie.

    2009

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: none (Ortio and Erixon are both borderline)

    Relative to his Central Scouting ranking (fifth among European skaters) Erixon was taken a wee bit early, but not amazingly so. For whatever reason the 37th-ranked North American skater Howse was available at 74th overall (perhaps a bad sign), but the Flames reached hugely on Bjorklund, the 23rd-ranked European. Bennett and Ortio were appropriately-ranked late round picks.

    2010

    GM: Darryl Sutter

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    Notable NHLers: Ferland

    Would it be unfair to call this the last gasp of Sutter? Reinhart (79th-ranked North American skater) taken a bit early, Leach (120th) taken really early, Ramage (131st) taken roughly where you’d expect. Arnold (36th) fell to them and was arguably great value at 108th overall. Ferland and Holland were perfectly acceptable late-round picks, both going roughly where their Central Scouting standing suggested they should.

    2011

    GM: Jay Feaster

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    Notable NHLers: Baertschi, Gaudreau

    Baertschi was the seventh-ranked North American skater in a European-heavy first couple of rounds, so he went basically where you’d expect (as did Granlund, ranked ninth among Europeans). Wotherspoon was 40th in North America and went where you’d expect, as did Brossoit (the seventh-ranked netminder in North America). Gaudreau, ranked 193rd among North Americans, was the big outlier here.

    And thank goodness for that.

    2012

    GM: Jay Feaster

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    Notable NHLers: none

    Feaster’s second draft was a bit all over the place. Their second round pick (Sieloff, 31st in North America) was ranked ahead of their first rounder (Jankowski, ranked 43rd). They arguably reached on Gillies (the sixth-ranked goalie in North America) and then got value the rest of the way as Kulak, Culkin, Gordon and DeBlouw were all ranked between 51st and 66th in North America. DeBlouw was the highest ranked of the foursome.

    2013

    GM: Jay Feaster

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    Notable NHLers: Monahan

    Monahan (fifth North American) and Klimchuk (25th) went about where you’d expect, but Poirier (39th) was perceived as a reach on draft day. If you flip the draft positions of Kanzig (112th) and Roy (41st), their selections look a lot more favourable relative to where they were picked (particularly Kanzig). The late round is the usual glut of unranked/overaged guys and low rankings.

    2014

    GM: Brad Treliving

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    Notable NHLer: Bennett

    This is basically what you’d expect to see if teams paid Central Scouting any attention. The Flames drafted the top North American skater and the second-best goalie, and everyone else went basically where you would expect them to go.

    2015

    GM: Brad Treliving

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    Notable NHLers: none (so far)

    Andersson (93rd-ranked North American skater) was a reach according to Central Scouting, and Mangiapane (85th) somehow fell to Calgary. Beyond them, Kylington (sixth among European skaters) went a bit earlier than projected by Central Scouting, but Karnaukhov and Bruce went about where you’d expect.

    THE HIGHEST-DRAFTED TEAM

    The lineup made up of the highest-drafted goalies, defensemen, and forwards:

    • G: Leland Irving (2006), Mason McDonald (2014)
    • D: Dion Phaneuf (2003), Tim Erixon (2009), Matt Pelech (2005), Tim Ramholt (2003), Patrick Sieloff (2012), Rasmus Andersson (2015)
    • F: Sam Bennett (2014), Sean Monahan (2013), Eric Nystrom (2002), Sven Baertschi (2011), Mark Jankowski (2012), Emile Poirier (2013), Kris Chucko (2004), Mikael Backlund (2007), Greg Nemisz (2008), Morgan Klimchuk (2013), Brian McConnell (2002), Markus Granlund (2011)

    THE BEST-DRAFTED TEAM

    The line-up made up of the goalies, defensemen, and forwards with the most NHL games played.

    • G: Curtis McElhinney (2002) & Joni Ortio (2009)
    • D: Dion Phaneuf (2003), Adam Pardy (2004), T.J. Brodie (2008), Keith Aulie (2007), Tim Erixon (2009), Tyler Wotherspoon (2011)
    • F: Eric Nystrom (2002), Matthew Lombardi (2002), Brandon Prust (2004), Mikael Backlund (2007), Lance Bouma (2008), Sean Monahan (2013), Dustin Boyd (2004), Johnny Gaudreau (2011), Sven Baertschi (2011), Adam Cracknell (2004), Markus Granlund (2011), Micheal Ferland (2010)

    OBSERVATIONS & TENDENCIES

    Generally-speaking, Button’s crew tends to draft players in the first half of the first round more or less in the spot Central Scouting suggested they would go (examples: Bennett in 2014, Monahan in 2013 and Baertschi in 2011). As the Flames’ picks have crept into the later part of the first and into the second, they’re much more likely to diverge from Central Scouting’s list (as seen with Andersson in 2015, Poirier in 2013 and Jankowski in 2012).

    And once you get into the third and fourth round, they’re just as likely to grab players that have slipped through the cracks in earlier rounds as they are to reach on a player – though this usually seems to be based on a treasured attribute. Examples of this include Mangiapane in 2015 (speed), Kanzig in 2013 (size), Gaudreau (speed/offensive ability) in 2011 and Brodie (skating in 2008).

    The Flames scouting staff seems to take big swings in later rounds, often taking players who aren’t ranked or are in their second or third draft due to specific attributes that make them attractive. The team’s big swings during the Sutter years seemed to veer towards big guys and Europeans, while in recent years the club seems to grab a mixture of college players, Europeans and big kids in the late rounds.

      • freethe flames

        Reading through this gives me the yikes! We are trusting a staff that seems to get it wrong more often than right.(Yes I know that all the later rounds are just crap shoot) The other thing that strikes me is the different marching orders of what a good “Flame” would be based upon the GM. I wonder what BT marching orders are now that he has had a whole year to be the GM.

        • Greg

          I was actually thinking the opposite. Seemed like a total train wreck going through year by year. But if you factor in Monahan, Bennet, Anderson, gillies, Nylander (presumably), plus Hamilton who traded that last 1st for, it actually does look just like what you’d expect for a team that was always drafting outside the top 10 but had some recent top end picks: a (very) marginal NHL team, with a sprinkling of good players and a lot of young bright spots.

          Look at all those 6’2″+ers that we whiffed on though! Is it just my imagination, or is there a pretty high correlation with “big” picks not panning out and “small” picks being decent players?

        • Backburner

          And a right handed shot to boot…

          I could be wrong on this, but I believe that there were concerns over his fitness level at the time. Andersson was a little on the “pudgy” side, I think the term was used.

          Nothing that a good off season training camp won’t fix.

          • Baalzamon

            Andersson fell steadily over the course of the season, for some reason. Then he started to rise again at the end of the year (probably after CSS released their final rankings)… and then the draft combine happened, and he plummeted again.

            People put way too much stock in combine results. IIRC, that was a big factor in Griffin Reinhart being drafted fourth overall. IMO, you should almost be looking for players with poor combine results, not the other way around (if he’s this good now, how good will he be when he’s actually in shape?).

      • Dan the flames fan

        I wonder just how much influence or “hand-cuffing” Sutter, and to a measure Feaster, had on the draft teams. Sutter was always looking for bigger and stronger, but not necessarily super skilled. (Clydesdales come to mind). Feaster looked for “a big splash”. Given when he was hired, it is quite evident that he was either not involved with the 2011 draft, or had a minimal input. Each draft afterward had at least one player who was considered a WTF, why the reach!? The one philosophy change I will credit to Feaster is that he always stated he wanted “player with high hockey intelligence,and a strong sense of compete. A lot of the selections during that time seem to be fitting that description. Right now, BT seems to have a balance in his influence with the draft team. He has made splashes but also appears to listen to and follow the recommendations of Button and his team.

        • al rain

          I picture WW in his basement on draft weekend with all his notes and lists, forehead veins popping, throwing his slippers at the TV. Hehe.

          And not that I disagree, but it all seems like small potatoes compared to what Dutter wrought.

      • Kevin R

        I think this is a classic case that you have to get your 1st rounders right & chip in with some of your second rounders in a deeper draft. After that, there is just no rhyme or reason & I look at how lucky the Oilers have been getting 1st over all lottery wins the last few years, well our lottery wins have come in the form of Gaudreau & Brodie. I am praying Gilles falls into the lotto win column. Those picks & how they have turned out & importance to our team is nothing short of winning the NHL draft lotteries.

        Now this is where I really feel where the possession stats should be totally invested upon by an NHL club. Hire the staff & track the possession/corsi numbers at the Junior/College level before you draft these kids. Early/ 1st round there will probably be a pretty good correlation between talent & possession results, but in the 3rd to later rounds, the gems may be more visible rather than just depending on blind luck & objective arbitrary rankings. The better you can profile through the stats, the better you can have Huska or developmental coaches develop what you already think you have & get them to the NHL level.

      • Juan Valdez

        It all comes down to what the GM decides. The Director of Scouting can only make suggestions. Hire an unqualified GM and your team will suck for a long time.

        • Baalzamon

          And that’s why Tod has kept his job for so long. He coordinates the scouting department and gathers information based on the mandate passed down from Management. He doesn’t make decisions on selections himself (except for, according to Feaster, the 2011 draft, which looks like it may have produced NHLers in 5/5 picks).

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Yes I would like to see a list of Team Buttons recos going into the meetings before he was told who he had to pick. But of course this will never be public because then you could see the incompetence of the GM. We seemed to hit some home runs in the later rounds, which makes me think these were Buttons as the GMs likely lost interest and stopped micro managing.

      • cunning_linguist

        Just seems like we can’t make anything happen in the first round unless we get a top 10 pick…(and even then, Rico Fata, Daniel Tkachuk..)

        Backlund is a win for sure….but jeez, Chucko, Pelech, Irving, Nemisz, Erixon…reads like a Swiss league team or something

        Klimchuk fading, Poirier kind of fading, jury’s still out on Janko…

        the next time we get a later-half 1st round pick, we should just trade it for a butt load of 4th round picks…that’s the one round our scouts seem to have figured out.

        • freethe flames

          Unless players are drafted in the top 5/6(most years) the chance of playing immediately go down significantly; be patient. Klimchuk just finished his first year, Poirier had a good first year but struggled last year and Janko has 7 or so AHL games under his belt. Guys drafted after 20 usually take 3 years of AHL before they are ready. I will be more concerned about these three if they don’t make progress next year.

      • freethe flames

        The Flames have 5 picks in the top 65. hopefully they can find some prospects that can help in 2-4 years. Or use the assets to help next year, just don’t trade for old guys.

      • Franko J

        Choosing of Ramholt over Weber should have been obvious evidence that either Sutter or if Button who was in charge of the draft were clueless when selecting talent. Selecting a goalie in the first round was a big time mistake.

        If it weren’t for some fortunate picks in the later rounds, where would this team be now.

        As well, up until Feaster there was no emphasis on development of prospects.

        Then again how does a player like Benn go in the fifth round to Dallas. Is it bad scouting or luck?

        • Baalzamon

          Then again how does a player like Benn go in the fifth round to Dallas. Is it bad scouting or luck?

          Hard to say. I put it down to a strange development curve that basically went vertical as soon as he was drafted. His BCHL results weren’t all that good… just over a point per game. But he put up basically the same numbers in the WHL the following year, then shot up to 82 points the year after. Then he was in the NHL.

          • Franko J

            I guess classic case of late bloomer with Benn. However each and every draft there is always one or two players drafted in later rounds and surprisingly are better NHLers than first anticipated or projected.