An early peek at the 2017 NHL entry draft’s top prospects

Yesterday, Kent opened up the forum to the possibility of the Flames trading their 2017 first round pick at trade deadline. If the return is good and the gain long-term, it’s something to consider.

In the more likely event that nothing happens, let’s consider the options the Flames have by using the pick the way it is intended to be used. With the CHL top prospects game having happened recently and with scouting services releasing their halfway lists, it’s about time to get briefly acquainted with the likely 2017 first rounders.

The Flames heading in

Taking stock

Heading into draft day 2017, here’s how I feel the prospect pool will look (handedness in brackets, where applicable):

LW: Hunter Shinkaruk (L), Morgan Klimchuk (L), Andrew Mangiapane (L), Pavel Karnaukhov (L)

C: Dillon Dube (L), Mark Jankowski (L), Linus Lindstrom (L), Mitchell Mattson (L), Matthew Phillips (R), 

RW: Garnet Hathaway (R), Austin Carroll (R), Hunter Smith (R), Eetu Tuulola (R)

LW/RW: Brett Pollock (L), Emile Poirier (L)

LD: Stepan Falkovsky, Brandon Hickey, Keegan Kanzig, Oliver Kylington, Adam Ollas Mattson, Rushan Rafikov

RD: Rasmus Andersson, Riley Bruce,  Adam Fox

G: David Rittich, Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald, Tyler Parsons, Nick Schneider

Out: Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ryan Culkin

Taking orders

Here’s the good news: the Flames don’t really have an immediate NHL need right now, but they still need to build a lot of higher quality depth.

The Flames have major deficiencies down the right side. Let’s start with forwards. We have hope for Eetu Tuulola, but he’s a ways away. The best they have is an NHL fourth liner (who isn’t as good as perceived) and two AHL fourth liners (who rotate out with each other). 

This deficiency goes up to the pro ranks, where their best right winger shoots left, and the second best is being paid big cash for diminishing returns. They could also use some picks on right-shooting centres, as their only one is smaller than Johnny Gaudreau (and is also slowly being moved to the wing).

There’s also shallow depth down on right defence. Andersson and Fox are looking very promising, but they’re still years away. There’s not a lot of excitement around Bruce (I was tempted to put him in the “out” section), so even if he is signed, he’s likely to be an AHL lifer. Left defence has more depth, but also could use a few upgrades.

You could also argue for a revitalization of Calgary’s left wing, though it is currently their most stacked position in the NHL. Players selected in the middle of the first (a safe place to assume the Flames will be drafting) will probably take a few years anyways, so it’s worth considering.

The rundown

Based on what’s established above, I’ve whittled the list down to positions the Flames should build depth at and who will feasibly be available at that 10-20 range.

Lias Andersson

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
C/LW L Oct. 13, 1998 5’11” 198 lbs HV71 SHL 32-6-5-11 16.91

The son of a Flames alum (for all 11 games), Lias Andersson has been one of Sweden’s most exciting prospects. He dominated the U20 league last year, and has smoothly transitioned into a consistent player for HV71’s senior team. He’s one of the older kids in this draft, but Andersson put up better numbers in the Superelit and the SHL than William Nylander, so take that as you will. Scouts praise his two-way ability, his smooth skating, and his adaptable game. Andersson is considered by some to be a top 10 pick, but would most likely be available in the 13-17 range.

Callan Foote

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
D R Dec. 13, 1998 6’3″ 209 lbs Kelowna Rockets WHL 52-5-36-41 17.46

Last year was the year of good NHL bloodlines, as one-third of the 3M line proves. There are fewer sons of stars this year, but one you should keep your eye on is Callan Foote, son of Adam. He’s an intelligent, defensive-minded defender but with some offensive upside. Kind of like a T.J. Brodie lite. He has the typical problems with skating that most bigger guys have, but otherwise he’s an incredibly solid and complete player.

Cody Glass

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
C R April 1, 1999 6’2″ 179 lbs Portland Winterhawks WHL 51-24-47-71 30.82

A very smart playmaker, Glass (unrelated to Tanner, if you can believe that) is probably the second best draft-eligible player in the WHL behind Nolan Patrick. He’s filling out quickly, allegedly adding 20 pounds since last season, making him a physical presence as well. He’s already really good right now, and has potential to get better. Scouts are overlooking him, so he could be a good value pick.

Nicolas Hague

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
D L Dec. 5, 1998 6’6″ 214 Mississauga Steelheads OHL 47-14-21-35 19.54

The gigantic Mississauga defender is wowing the scouts, and he’s probably neck-and-neck with Juuso Valimaki for the title of CHL’s best defenceman. People love Hague’s skating and passing, contributing equally in the offensive and defensive zones. He’s a valuable powerplay contributor, and could potentially be the best defender in the draft. It’s hard to find a defenceman like him elsewhere in the draft, and if he’s available in the mid-first, it could be a coup.

Klim Kostin

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
RW L May 5, 1999 6’3″ 196 lbs Dynamo Moskva KHL 8-0-0-0 0

The big Russian winger, currently on IR for a shoulder injury, has been a dominant power forward in Russia’s junior league and in international competitions. The first overall selection in last year’s CHL import draft, Kostin chose to stay in Russia for an opportunity at a bigger challenge. While his skillset and history leave scouts drooling, his injury status and the so-called “Russian factor” could keep them at bay.

Martin Necas

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
C R Jan. 15, 1999 6’0″ 168 HC Kometa Brno Czech Extraliga 35-6-7-13 13.4

Necas has a chance to be the first player from the Czech Extraliga to be drafted in the first round since 2012 (Tomas Hertl). His performances in the Czech’s men league have been a little lacklustre compared to other Czech draftees, but his international performances have been dominant. A project player, but one with high potential, mostly thanks to his hockey IQ.

Nikita A. Popugayev

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
RW R Nov. 30, 1998 6’6″ 203 lbs Prince George Cougars WHL 54-24-35-59 24.19

The big Russian is an offensive phenom (though some would argue that is his only strength) and is one of the fastest skaters in the league. He’s got a lot of skills that could develop to the elite level, but his performance in all zones besides the offensive one is concerning. Popugayev is an ideal scoring winger, but not much else.

Nicholas Suzuki

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
C R Aug. 10, 1998 5’11” 183 lbs Owen Sound Attack OHL 47-24-35-59 32.94

A smaller and younger centre than most, Suzuki has produced results that make it hard to pass on him. He’s eighth in OHL primary points (although only half of those are 5v5), the youngest in the top 20, and the only other 17-year-old besides top 10 pick Owen Tippett, though Suzuki is about half a year younger. He’s a smart playmaker, and possesses a hell of a shot and a lot of strength regardless of his size. He could be a first round steal.

Eeli Tolvanen

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
LW L April 22, 1999 5’10” 179 lbs Sioux City Musketeers USHL 31-17-15-32 23.7

Arguably the most exciting offensive player in the draft, Tolvanen has been honing his trade in the USHL and will head to Boston College next year. He’s been a standout at Sioux City as a 17-year-old, leading the Musketeers in scoring and propelling them to the top of the standings. He also led the dismal Finnish WJC squad in scoring. Tolvanen is a favourite of the scouts, but he’s going to require some seasoning before he makes the NHL.

Juuso Valimaki

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
D L Oct. 6, 1998 6’2″ 201 lbs Tri-City Americans WHL 43-15-30-45 23.17

A rock solid, all-around defender, Valimaki is gathering a lot of hype. He’s got great mobility and excellent offensive instincts. Probably explains why he’s second in primary points for WHL defenders. The next closest first-year draft eligible has 10 fewer primary points. Timothy Liljegren may far and away be the best defender in the draft, but Valimaki is another great option. If he’s available in the middle, it’s a steal.

Kristian Vesalainen

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
LW/RW L June 1, 1999 6’3″ 207 lbs Frolunda HC SHL 22-1-5-6 13.42

There seems to be a trend this year with European power forwards. Vesalainen is a great puck handler with a big body. He used these two strengths to break into the SHL as a 16-year-old Finn, the first to do so. A common description would be a poor man’s Jesse Puljujarvi, which isn’t a bad endorsement in itself (on this website though? Ehhh), but it indicates that he may take time to be an NHLer.

Kailer Yamamoto

Position Shoots Birthday Height Weight Team League GP-G-A-P NHLe
C/LW R Sept. 29, 1998 5’8″ 159 Spokane Chiefs WHL 45-30-34-64 31.49

The tiny winger still doesn’t get the respect he deserves from the scouting services. He’s one of the best in the WHL – ranking up there with the elder statesmen of the league – and is currently top 10 in 5v5 primary points. Naturally, he’s drawn comparisons to our own Johnny Gaudreau, and not just because of size. He’s a major threat in open ice and has some very slick hands. He has the potential to be this draft’s Alex DeBrincat, so don’t skip on him.

    • But the OHL isn’t as great this year. They certainly have more top end talent in Tippett and Vilardi, who are out of reach for the Flames, but the middle is dominated by the WHL and European leagues. Regional biases should not get in the way of drafting good players, whether it be western or eastern.

      • Derzie

        Not suggesting a bias (that would be what Sutter did) but I am suggesting it matters. We can pretend there are not tendencies associated with regions but we all know there are. Not rules, tendencies. There is readily available data on the makeup of Stanley Cup winning teams. Ontario players outnumber others. Ignoring that would be a bias.

  • everton fc

    Popugayev is a big RW. Interesting…

    I also like Valimaki, Hague, Andersson, Yamamoto and Glass. I think we need to consider a big, skilled winger, in the “cut” of Tkachuk. We get pushed around a lot. I don’t like that.

  • KiLLKiND

    We should take a right handed shooter with our 1st pick this year and our 2nd round pick if possible. The NFL is a league where drafting by position is very important. The NHL I would argue is the 2nd most important of the big 4 North American sports. Our left side is filled with potential and is already where all our best players except for Frolik and Hamilton are. We need to address the weakness in our right side and Treliving cannot afford to blunder this draft as he did with trading for Elliot and drafting Dube last year. We need high skill players in every position and we have 1 high skill RW potentially in Phillips, but he isn’t even in the AHL yet so it will still be years before we know what we have in him.

    We are currently at a point where Brouwer is considered our 2nd best RW and Wideman is in the top 4. Go to http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca/ and look up both players and realise that our lack of skill on the right side is the downfall of the Flames. You can place some blame on the coach for his overuse of them, but the heart of the problem is the lack of drafting players in positions we so clearly need. Our RW, RC, and RD cupboards are bare and it is Treliving’s doing. He needs to right this wrong this year or it will hurt the Flames for years to come.

        • KiLLKiND

          Not really crackpot theories when there are many articles and plenty of evidence showing that defencemen play better on the same side as their handedness. He is also not the only coach to implement this strategy, in fact, many coaches throughout the NHL would love to be able to have matching left and right D in their lineup. The only problem with GG doing this is that Engelland and Wideman shouldn’t be in the top 4 at all.

      • KiLLKiND

        If he instead of trading for Elliot drafted Debrincat and had drafted Abramov over Dube we would be in a much better position. He did start, but it wasn’t a great start.

  • Newbietwo

    I really like Popugayev, Hague and Foote.. I have watching them closely and they are all top players and they has both size and skill which is exactly what’s ideal.. what we have learned by drafting the Shinkaruks of the world is that it doesn’t work meaning small offensive minded with limited upside other then that!

  • McRib

    On Cody Glass: ” Scouts are overlooking him, so he could be a good value pick”

    He is currently ranked 4th by Red Line Report, so not everyone is overlooking him. Glass has so much freaking upside it is crazy, he was 5’7″ just three years ago and still has 20-30 pounds to gain down the road. For that reason he has more upside than Nolan Patrick.

    • “Scouts” referring to the conventional folks. Many have him in the middle (FC has him at #30, if you can believe that), which is absolutely crazy considering I think he’s better than Michael Rasmussen, who some consider a potential top ten.

      My preference would be:
      1. Glass
      2. Michael Suzuki
      3. Kailer Yamamoto
      4. Klim Kostin

  • freethe flames

    I can’t get to excited about the draft until I know where we are going to draft. It’s to depressing to discuss it while we are still in a playoff race.

  • Prototype369

    After the hype train that was Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, followed by Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine, this draft seems meh. Even Nolan Patrick is projected as a 2C. If there was ever a year to trade our 1st, it would be this

    • Baalzamon

      Even Nolan Patrick is projected as a 2C.

      That seems odd to me considering he scored over 100 points last year. If he had been eligible for last year’s draft he’d have been drafted before Tkachuk for sure.