A brief history of Flames first rounders’ first games

Mark Jankowski is set to potentially make his National Hockey League debut with the Calgary Flames in the next few days. If he does, he’ll join a rather interesting group who have been drafted by the Flames in the first round of the NHL Draft over the past decade and actually played with the Flames at some point. (Sorry, Tim Erixon, you don’t count.)

Here’s a quick glance at how their debuts went. Just a spoiler for you: keep your expectations for debuting players low, because they typically don’t play a heck of a lot or light it up in their first game.


Calgary’s first round selection in the 2006 NHL Draft (26th overall), Irving debuted for the Flames in mid-season. He was recalled on Dec. 6, 2011 from Abbotsford and debuted 10 days later, on Dec. 16. He faced 41 shots and lost in a shootout in Florida against the Panthers. The result wasn’t ideal, but all told a 39-save debut is pretty strong. Irving’s spot on the Flames roster that year was dependent on Henrik Karlsson’s injury status, so he yo-yoed up and down from Abbotsford for the rest of the season.

Debut scoreline: 64:58 TOI, 41 shots faced, 39 saves, 2 goals against.

Fate: Not tendered a qualifying offer by the Flames. Currently with KooKoo of SM-Liiga.


The Flames’ first round choice in 2007 (24th overall), Backlund plied his craft for the next couple seasons with his hometown team in Vasteras. He came to Canada for the 2009 World Juniors in Ottawa and, amidst whispers that he wasn’t getting enough ice time with his club team, the decision was made for him to move to the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets for the remainder of the season. In between, he played one game for an injury-addled Flames club at home on Jan. 8 against the New York Islanders.

Debut scoreline: 10:44 TOI, 1 shot, 2-for-7 in face-offs; he played with Matthew Lombardi and Daymond Langkow.

Fate: Currently on Flames roster.


Part of the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires of that time period, Nemisz was selected 25th overall by the Flames in 2008. He went pro in 2010-11 and got a one-day recall – somebody was hurt, but turns out not too hurt to play – and then finally came up for a spell, debuting on March 23, 2011. His debut was on the road in San Jose.

Debut scoreline: 6:38 TOI, minus-2, 0-for-2 in face-offs; played with Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan.

Fate: Traded to Carolina. Retired, currently an assistant coach for the Oshawa Generals.


The 13th player taken in the 2011 NHL Draft, Baertschi didn’t make the Flames roster out of camp but made his NHL debut that season anyhow. How did that happen? He was an emergency recall, after the Flames had already dipped into the AHL club three times in the span of a week and managed to satisfy the “emergency conditions.” He debuted at home on March 9, 2012 against Winnipeg.

Debut scoreline: 9:08 TOI, 1 shot; played with Greg Nemisz and Tom Kostopoulos.

Fate: Traded to Vancouver. Currently on Canucks roster.


Unlike Baertschi, Monahan made the Flames’ roster immediately after being drafted sixth overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. He debuted in the season opener on the road in Washington.

Debut scoreline: 11:40 TOI, 1 assist, 2 shots, 4-for-9 in face-offs; played with David Jones and Baertschi.

Fate: Currently on Flames roster.


The second of three first round picks the Flames had in 2013, Poirier was selected 22nd overall. He was first summoned to the NHL from the minors on Feb. 23, 2015 and debuted the following night in Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Debut scoreline: 8:10 TOI, 0 shots; played with Markus Granlund and Micheal Ferland.

Fate: Currently on Stockton Heat roster.


Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, had an interesting debut season. He was with the Flames as a non-roster player after shoulder surgery, eventually getting sent to the Ontario Hockey League in late February. He returned in April after his junior team was eliminated from the playoffs, and after sitting as a healthy scratch for three games he debuted on April 11, 2015 in Winnipeg. He ended up playing every game in the playoffs, too.

Debut scoreline: 16:00 TOI, 1 shot, -1, 1 assist; played with Josh Jooris and Ferland.

Fate: Currently on Flames roster.


Calgary’s first rounder this past summer, sixth overall, Tkachuk made the team out of camp and debuted on Oct. 12, 2016 in Edmonton against the Oilers. I’m not certain that he’s the only Flames first rounder that debuted in a Battle of Alberta, but he’s definitely one of a very select few.

Debut scoreline: 12:30 TOI, minus-1, 1 penalty, 2 shots; played with Bennett and Troy Brouwer.

Fate: Currently on Flames roster.