Who will the Flames select in the first round?

Barring trades, the Calgary Flames will draft at sixth overall at the 2016 National Hockey League Draft on Friday night in Buffalo.

The draft has a pretty cut-and-dry consensus top three grouping – Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi – who will likely be selected by Toronto, Winnipeg and Columbus respectively. After that, there’s a bit of a debate regarding who goes where, and it’s frustrating because Calgary’s pick is dependent on what happens above them.

In an effort to help alleviate any confusion, we’ve put together a handy guide to the Flames’ pick.

IF THE FLAMES TRADE UP TO 3RD

If the Flames somehow swing a deal to get the third overall pick from Columbus, they’ll draft whichever of Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi is left. This is generally considered a big swing move, but also considered fairly unlikely because of the cost anticipated in pulling off such a move.

IF THE FLAMES STAY AT 6TH

Calgary’s choice at sixth overall is contingent on Edmonton and Vancouver’s selections. To help navigate all of this, we’ve built a handy “If, then…” table. The table is based on the following assumptions:

  • Both Edmonton and Vancouver will select one of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk, Alexander Nylander, Logan Brown or one of several defensemen (likely Olli Juolevi, Mikhail Sergachev or Jakob Chychrun, grouped together here for simplicity).
  • Calgary’s preference in drafting is as follows: Tkachuk, Dubois, Nylander, Defensemen, Brown. (Granted, once you get past the top three choices on their preference list it doesn’t matter anymore.)
5th overall: VANCOUVER (across)
4th overall:
EDMONTON
(down)
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Matthew
Tkachuk
Alexander
Nylander
Logan
Brown
Any
Defenseman
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
———- Alexander
Nylander
Matthew
Tkachuk
Matthew
Tkachuk
Matthew
Tkachuk
Matthew
Tkachuk
Alexander
Nylander
———- Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Alexander
Nylander
Matthew
Tkachuk
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
———- Matthew
Tkachuk
Matthew
Tkachuk
Logan
Brown
Matthew
Tkachuk
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Matthew
Tkachuk
———- Matthew
Tkachuk
Any
Defenseman
Matthew
Tkachuk
Pierre-Luc
Dubois
Matthew
Tkachuk
Matthew
Tkachuk
———-

Obviously there are a bunch of scenarios here. Let’s run through them in the order of what are probably most likely to least likely:

  1. Edmonton takes Matthew Tkachuk, Vancouver takes Pierre-Luc Dubois, Calgary “settles” for Alexander Nylander.
    Nobody overthinks anything or makes strategic situational moves, and instead each team takes the consensus best player available. Calgary ends up with a versatile, skilled winger whose father played in Calgary.
  2. Edmonton takes a defenseman, Vancouver takes Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary “settles” for Pierre-Luc Dubois.
    Peter Chiarelli decides to use his pick to fill a positional need, Vancouver and Calgary grab the best available players at their selections. The Flames get a versatile, physically mature QMJHL forward.
  3. Edmonton takes Matthew Tkachuk, Vancouver takes Logan Brown, Calgary “settles” for Pierre-Luc Dubois.
    The Oilers don’t get fancy, but the Canucks go for Brown (a natural center) instead of Dubois (a winger that was converted to center this season) in order to shore up a position of need. Again, Dubois lands in Calgary.
  4. Edmonton takes Matthew Tkachuk, Vancouver takes a defenseman, Calgary “settles” for Pierre-Luc Dubois.
    The same as #3, except Vancouver shores up defense as a position of need rather than center.

Based on the feedback from scouts (and media comments from general managers), I can’t see Tkachuk falling to the Flames because I think the perception is that Tkachuk is superior to Dubois as a prospect. For Tkachuk to fall to Calgary, both Edmonton and Vancouver would have to go against the conventional wisdom of best player available – both would have to grab defensemen, or one reaches for Brown and the other reaches for a defenseman – and I just can’t see that happening. (The Flames trading up to third overall and grabbing a Finn is probably more likely.)

If one of the teams goes off-book, then Dubois becomes a Flame. If neither team goes off-book, then Nylander becomes a Flame. Given Calgary’s defensive depth, and how defense-heavy their 2015 Draft was, I really don’t anticipate them grabbing a blueliner at sixth overall. And their center depth organizationally makes me think they won’t grab Logan Brown at sixth overall for the same general reason – there’s no pressing positional reason for them to abandon the best player available strategy.

SUM IT UP

So who will the Flames end up with? In order of likelihood:

  • If Edmonton and Vancouver draft the consensus best players available at their picks, the Flames draft Alexander Nylander.
  • If one of Edmonton or Vancouver draft specifically for positional need (and target either a defenseman or a natural center like Logan Brown), the Flames draft Pierre-Luc Dubois.
  • If the Flames somehow trade up to third overall, the Flames draft Jesse Puljujarvi (or Patrik Laine, if Winnipeg gets cold feet).
  • If both Edmonton and Vancouver draft specfiically for positional need, the Flames drat Matthew Tkachuk.