We’re just a few days away from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and things are already starting to heat up around the league.
The Calgary Flames are guaranteed to be busy one way or the other this weekend. Even if Brad Treliving stays out of the trade market, he has four picks in the first two rounds, including sixth overall. At the very least, he has four excellent lottery tickets which he can use to restock the organization’s cupboards.
Of course, Calgary also has more immediate needs. Their goaltending situation is dire, with zero proven NHL goalies signed for next year. The organization also has a dire need for a quality RWer and an impending cap crunch thanks to impending raises for Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
Obviously the Flames GM doesn’t have to solve all of those problems at once at the draft, but there’s a chance he’ll make headway on at least one of them.
Here’s how things may go down.
They Stand Pat
If everything else fails, the Flames will pick at sixth, 35th, 54th and 56th. There should be good value available at each of those picks, but especially sixth and 34th.
If one of the consensus top five doesn’t fall to the Flames, they are most likely to go with one of Alex Nylander or Olli Juolevi at six. Nylander is a right handed winger with sublime offensive skills. He would fill a dire need in the organization, given how thin the Flames are at wing outside of Gaudreau and Michael Frolik. He won’t be ready for the NHL next year, but has one of highest potential ceilings of any player outside of the top five.
Olii Juolevi is one of the three best defenders in the draft by the consensus ranks and the Flames seem to prefer him over Jakob Chychrun and Mikhail Sergachev. The club needs scoring wingers a bit more than two-way defenders, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear Juolevi’s name called by Treliving at six nevertheless.
Logan Brown and Clayton Keller are two centres who the club may opt to reach for as well. Brown is the biggest forward anticipated to be picked in the first round at 6’6″ and 220 pounds. He also boasts some of the better numbers in the entire CHL. Keller, on the other hand, is a smaller pivot who is considered perhaps the most dynamic and exciting player available.
As for the second round, It’s harder to guess who will be available around 35th, but there are some intriguing players who are projected to still be there when the Flames get back to the podium.
Alex DeBrincat would be a no-brainer in the second round. By almost any offensive measure you can name he was a top three player in the entire CHL this year. He has scored 100+ points and 50+ goals in back-to-back seasons. If he was bigger, there’s little doubt DeBrincat would be inside the top 15, if not the top 10, in most mock drafts.
Adam Mascherin and Vitalii Abramov are also great value picks in round two by the numbers. They scored a lot, scored a high percentage of their teams’ offense and scored a lot of primary even strength points. Although the club isn’t technically looking for any more smallish scoring wingers, it would difficult to say no to any of these guys given their results.
Finally there is Cam Morrison, a big winger out of the USHL who has kind of flown under the radar. Morrison is one of the youngest players available in the draft with an Aug. 27 birthday, but he already has NHL size at 6’2″ and 210 pounds.
More importantly, he put up really impressive numbers for the Youngstown Phantoms (34 goals, 66 points in 60 games). In fact, he finished tied for second in the entire league in scoring and led his team in points by 16 over the second placed guy. Given his age, Morrison could be a player who takes a really big step forward in his draft+1 season, which is saying something because his results are already pretty good.
We won’t get into the Flames’ other selections because the options multiply from there, but the club could come away with not one but two high end kids before hitting pick 50 this weekend.
They Move Up
Moving into the coveted top three is a longshot, but nevertheless a possibility if rumours about the Columbus Blue Jackets coveting centres are to be believed. The Jackets have third overall selection but only one second round pick. The Flames have a powerful need for big RW Jesse Puljujarvi, who is widely considered the third best prospect available, and three second rounders. The two clubs seem like natural trading partners.
The Blue Jackets could add assets and move down a few spots, where Logan Brown and Clayton Keller will likely still be available. The Flames could trade some of their excess assets and move up to fill a huge organizational hole.
In the end, it will entirely depend on what the Jackets demand in return. If they ask about a core roster player, there’s little chance Treliving will be willing to pay that price. If it’s something like a handful of second rounders and a support guy and another prospect though…
They Move Down
There’s also a chance the Flames could be convinced to move down a few spots. If they feel confident at least one of their targeted players will still be around picks eight, nine, 10, they may be open to trading with one of Carolina, Buffalo or Colorado.
It will likely take something pretty significant to get Treliving to go lower than sixth. Either an impressive array of other picks and prospects or a club offering to eat a big chunk of bad money, like Dennis Wideman. As mentioned previously, the Flames have a problematic cap crunch approaching and limited avenues for improving their budget flexibility. If the Sabres want to move from ninth to sixth, offering to take Wideman might be the way to do it.
They Trade For a Goalie
Even though Calgary’s top trade target Frederik Andersen was recently acquired by the Leafs, there’s still a lot of puckstoppers available. In fact, there’s so many teams looking to move goaltenders that they may line up to woo the Flames, who are now the belle of the ball as far as teams looking for netminding goes.
Options range from expensive, high end guys like MA Fleury and Ben Bishop, to also expensive, but much more mediocre fare like Mike Smith and Jimmy Howard. Brian Elliot could be the best target of the veteran bunch given his recent performance contract (one more year, $2.5M cap hit), but then again the Blues may opt to hang on to him now.
That said, the approaching expansion draft may make other clubs desperate to make a move rather than risk exposing a goalie and losing him for nothing. As we noted previously in this space, Jon Gillies potentially becomes an intriguing trade piece because he is a high quality prospect theoretically exempt from the expansion draft.
One way or the other, the Calgary Flames are going to have an eventful draft. Even if they can’t manage to clear up cap space, move up to third or acquire a goalie, there should be a lot to talk about on Sunday.