You’re not going to find many more varied draft classes than the one we saw assembled by the Calgary Flames at the 2016 NHL Draft. The Flames added nine players to the organization from every position in Buffalo and did so from six different leagues. After getting an exclusive chat with Calgary’s Director of Amateur Scouting Tod Button, we’ve got the low down on a very interesting 2016 group.
Tyler Parsons almost went higher than 54th
The Flames put their draft lists together by ranking skaters and goalies separately and then slotting the netminders in accordingly. While general manager Brad Treliving told me the team wasn’t necessarily looking to take a goalie in Buffalo, the opportunity to take Parsons was tough to pass up. Button echoed those sentiments.
“We had Parsons a little bit higher, actually a lot higher,” Button said on the draft floor. “We had him early in the second round and when [Treliving] made the trade to trade 35, it might have been a little contentious at the table.”
The Flames have used a second round pick on a goalie in two of the last three drafts which raised the eyebrow of some, including me. I don’t usually subscribe to taking goalies in the early rounds, but those in the game speak nothing but highly of the London Knights product.
The scouting report on Parsons pegs him as a ridiculously athletic goalie who simply will not give up on a puck. We saw that at the Memorial Cup with overtime of the final holding up as Exhibit A. When Calgary selected Mason McDonald in 2014 it seemed like they did so because they felt they needed a goalie. With Parsons, though, it feels like a team trying to seize an opportunity.
Taking Parsons at 35 would have seemed like a slight reach knowing who was still on the board. 19 picks later doesn’t feel that way quite as much. The Flames’ scouting staff is on board with that.
“At 54 we said, no, this is the right spot for him,” admitted Button. “If we would have taken him at 35, then we would have taken him at 54.”
The Tkachuk family is thrilled with the weekend
Sixth overall selection Matthew Tkachuk admitted Calgary was his first choice of teams on Friday night. Now, we hear that stuff all the time from newly picked players, but this one seemed genuine. Not only did Tkachuk sell it very hard, but so did his dad.
Yes, everyone is well aware that former NHLer Keith Tkachuk is Matthew’s dad, so I won’t bore you with the fluff. I will tell you Keith was just as jacked as his son was to hear Calgary make the pick, though.
I’ve been told the exact same story by three different people from the organization now. Backstage while Matthew was performing all of his post-selection duties, Keith conveyed his enthusiasm by assuring everyone multiple times he wasn’t just paying “lip service” and “playing the part”. The Tkachuk’s loved the way they were treated by the Flames and love the direction the organization is going. Yay happiness!
Taking Linus Lindstrom in the fourth round was risky
I loved this story from Button today. When I asked him about how his final list translated to the actual selections on the floor, Button said they deviated once in the middle stages of the draft. With pick #66 on the clock, Calgary had Lindstrom near the top of their list but decided to play the market and take a risk. The team used their third round pick on lower ranked Adam Fox instead and waited until round four to call Lindstrom’s name.
“We had Lindstrom a lot higher,” Button said. “We thought we could get him lower, so we took Fox ahead of Lindstrom because we didn’t think we could get Fox. We did a little bit of moving around like that, but it was still a matter of you’re hoping it can all work out.”
In that situation, I certainly wouldn’t have had the stones (am I allowed to say that?) to roll the dice like that. The Flames did, though, and it paid off for them.
Stepan Falkovsky was a known commodity
When Calgary spent their final pick on Saturday on Belarussian blueliner Falkovsky, a lot of people were scrambling through their draft guides to find his name. While he likely wasn’t a household name for you, the Flames were extremely familiar with the blueliner who was in his second year of draft eligibility.
“We liked him last year,” Button told me. “We saw him play…and we had him on our radar. After our January meetings we were going to go back and watch him in Europe, we had some trips planned, and then he got hurt and he missed the rest of the year. We never got a chance to follow up on him, so he was on our draft list but without having the follow up we didn’t want to take a chance.”
Falkovsky made the jump to North America this past season and played his first season across the pond with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. That situation seemed to fit Calgary fairly well, as Button recounted.
“When he came to Ottawa this year, we were happy about that. We’ve got a scout right in Ottawa, Fred Parker, and we watched him a lot.”
But just what do the Flames have in Falkovsky? Comparisons were immediately drawn to 2013 pick Keegan Kanzig, but that might not be an overly fair portrayal. Yes, like Kanzig, Falkovsky is big and bruising; he’s 6’7 and 225 pounds. However, the point totals are significantly different.
In Kanzig’s 19-year-old season, he put up 16 points in 49 games while Falkovsky had 32 points in 58 games during his 19-year-old campaign. Calgary has had him on their radar for a while and think there’s a little skill hiding behind that hulking exterior.
“He moves the puck good,” Button said. “He’s got really good mobility, he’s just got to work on his quickness and the short areas defending smaller guys.”
Craig Conroy loves Matthew Phillips
The assistant general manager of the Flames made no secret about his affinity for the team’s rather slight sixth round pick. Phillips told us today he’s currently at 5’7 and 145 pounds which is up from a year ago. Yeah, he’s not a big kid, but that didn’t stop Conroy from lobbying hard for him at the draft table.
“Conny believes in the kid,” Button revealed. “Conny loved him and Conny wanted to pick him. Nobody was battling against the kid…and I’m happy for the western scouts and I’m happy for Conny for, you know, stepping up for a guy like that because that’s not an easy thing to do.”
Phillips put up 76 points in 72 games as a 17-year-old with the WHL’s Victoria Royals this past season, so he’s definitely got the skill. With his height, though, Phillips is definitely a hit or miss prospect. If he hits, he’ll be really fun to watch at the NHL level. If he doesn’t, well, 166th overall was the right place to take him.
It’s all about hockey sense for Adam Fox
President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke was on live with me as the Flames selected Fox 66th overall from the US National Development Team. He said while Fox is a little undersized for a defenceman, the other attributes trump that potential downfall. Mr. Button would tend to agree.
“He sees things that some people don’t see,” Button raved. “His deception and the look away and the drawing the opponent into him and then making a penetrating pass to a guy back door; it’s hard to teach.”
Knowing Fox is committed to Harvard for the 2016-2017 season, it would make sense for him to think the game at a high level. On top of his IQ, the team loves his skating and his playmaking ability and they also understand having a smaller frame isn’t the disadvantage it once was. As such, Buttons says Fox was a sought after commodity on Saturday.
“[US scout Jim Cummins] was a dog on a bone…there was no way we were leaving today without having Adam Fox in our stable, that’s for sure.”