Every year, fans and media personnel alike look forward to the annual National Hockey League entry draft. The 30 NHL clubs jockey to select the best and brightest 18-year-olds available – along with some 19 and 20-year-olds that fell through the cracks in previous drafts – and try to upgrade their teams in any way necessary.
The NHL Draft is like a blockbuster film: there’s tons of anticipation and fanfare, and a non-trivial chance of crushing, crushing disappointment at the results. But there’s always that tiny voice inside every hockey fan’s heart asking, “Hey, what if this year isn’t a horror show?”
That’s why we love the draft. Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s horrible, but it’s always an event worth waiting for. Last year the Calgary Flames made a big splash. What will they do this year? We’ll all find out together, with your friends at FlamesNation having continuing coverage all weekend long! Ari Yanover and Pat Steinberg are on the ground in scenic Buffalo, while the rest of the crew is located remotely to provide instant analysis for your reading pleasure.
The first round begins at 5 p.m. MT on Sportsnet West and all around the hockey-related internet. Join us, won’t you?
The Flames enter the weekend’s festivities with 10 picks:
- 6th overall
- 35th overall
- 54th overall (from Florida)
- 56th overall (from Dallas)
- 66th overall
- 96th overall
- 126th overall
- 156th overall
- 166th overall (from Minnesota)
- 186th overall
Seven picks are the Flames’ original picks – they haven’t traded any away – while three were acquired by trading away expiring assets. The 54th overall pick came from the Jiri Hudler trade, the 56th selection is from the Kris Russell swap, and the 166th overall selection came from the David Jones trade.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the 10 picks give the Flames a ton of flexibility for the weekend. Based on history, I really doubt they actually make 10 selections. Expect some trades, even if it’s just them jockeying up in the draft order in the second or third round to grab somebody the scouts have targeted.
The 2016-17 salary cap has been set for a ceiling of $73 million (and a floor of $54 million).
Here’s a rundown of the players on one-way deals – or that are 20-Year-Old Sam Bennett, who is waiver-exempt but is an NHLer – sorted by their maximum 2016-17 cap hit:
- D Mark Giordano – $6.75 million
- D Dougie Hamilton – $5.75 million
- D Dennis Wideman – $5.25 million
- D T.J. Brodie – $4.65 million
- F Michael Frolik – $4.3 million
- F Mikael Backlund – $3.575 million
- D Ladislav Smid – $3.5 million
- F Sam Bennett – $3.225 million (including bonuses)
- F Mason Raymond – $3.15 million
- F Matt Stajan – $3.125 million
- D Deryk Engelland – $2.917 million
- F Lance Bouma – $2.2 million
- F Brandon Bollig – $1.25 million
- D Jyrki Jokipakka – $900,000
- F Micheal Ferland – $825,000
The players on one-ways account for roughly $51.367 million of cap space, leaving them with $21.633 million to spend. All in all, the Flames have 36 players under contract for 2016-17 (of the 50 contract limit), though Nick Schneider’s deal won’t count this year if he’s in the WHL… which he will be. They also have 13 restricted free agents to qualify by Monday afternoon. It seems unlikely that they’ll keep everybody based on the numbers game.
For those keeping track, pending restricted free agents Joe Colborne, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Josh Jooris and Joni Ortio would be receiving one-way qualifying offers (and almost definitely one-way contracts). So in essence, the Flames have 20 of 23 roster spots accounted for right now – pending buyouts – and $21.633 million to spread across eight roster spots (the five RFAs and the three vacant spots).
As it stands, the Flames need to go out and find themselves a goalie and a couple forwards, and figure out a way to fit them under the cap – particularly challenging when they don’t know how expensive Gaudreau and Monahan will be going forward.
HANDICAPPING SIXTH OVERALL
The Flames preference list at sixth overall likely goes something like this:
- Matthew Tkachuk – London Knights (OHL)
- Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
- Alexander Nylander – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
- A defenseman (London’s Olli Juolevi, Windsor’s Mikhail Sergachev or Sarnia’s Jakob Chychrun most likely)
That said, it seems likely that one (or both) of Tkachuk and Dubois will be gone by the time Brad Treliving steps up to the podium, so probably the Flames will end up with Alexander Nylander (son of former Flame Michael Nylander).
Unless one or both of Edmonton and Vancouver go off-book, and then things could get interesting.
SUM IT UP
On the surface, the first round of this year’s draft seems a lot like the 2013 Draft: it was really, really obvious in 2013 that the Flames would probably end up with Sean Monahan at sixth overall, unless somebody ahead of them went a bit nuts. Everyone remained sane and the Flames opted against make a big move to move up, and they ended up with a damn fine hockey player in Monahan.
If this year’s draft is as “by-the-numbers” as 2013’s, the Flames will “settle” for Nylander. But given the amount of trade chatter around the NHL, it seems probable that the 2016 Draft won’t be “by-the-numbers” at all.
Strap yourselves in, folks: we could be in for a heck of a ride.