Recent general managers have revamped Flames scouting

The Calgary Flames used to be pretty bad at drafting and developing hockey players.

During the tenure of former general manager Darryl Sutter, the Flames frequently traded away high draft picks and often drafted players due to their physical attributes rather than, y’know, their potential to be effective hockey players at a higher level. If you were physically large and possibly Western Canadian, you were selected. It worked for Dion Phaneuf, but it didn’t really work out otherwise.

Thankfully, Sutter’s successors made some changes that have seemed to result in more success in Flames draftees (a) becoming professional hockey players and (b) playing in the National Hockey League. Let’s take a look at the changes that were made by each GM.

Jay Feaster

Feaster was GM for three seasons, more or less. Assistant general manager John Weisbrod (and eventually special assistant to the GM Craig Conroy) were also involved in scouting.

Picks:

  • 2011: Sven Baertschi (WHL), Markus Granlund (Finland), Tyler Wotherspoon (WHL), Johnny Gaudreau (USHL), Laurent Brossoit (WHL)
  • 2012: Mark Jankowski (high school), Patrick Sieloff (USHL), Jon Gillies (USHL), Brett Kulak (WHL), Ryan Culkin (QMJHL), Coda Gordon (WHL), Matthew DeBlouw (USHL)
  • 2013: Sean Monahan (OHL), Emile Poirier (QMJHL), Morgan Klimchuk (WHL), Keegan Kanzig (WHL), Eric Roy (WHL), Tim Harrison (high school), Rushan Rafikov (Russia), John Gilmour (NCAA)
  • Played in NHL (at all): Baertschi, Granlund, Wotherspoon, Gaudreau, Brossoit, Jankowski, Sieloff, Kulak, Monahan, Poirier

Scouting changes:

  • Feaster grew his scouting staff upon taking over for Darryl Sutter, bumping the “area” scouts (the ones that have a specific “home” area) from seven to 11. Tod Button was retained as director of amateur scouting.
  • Notable additions were Frank Anzalone (NCAA), Jim Cummins (USHL), Bobbie Hagelin (Europe) and Rob Sumner (WHL). WHL scout Blair Reid and European scout Anders Steen left the organization during Feaster’s tenure. The expansion of American scouting was the main thing that was accomplished during Feaster’s tenure.
  • Brandon Benning, son of Jim, joined the organization for one season as a scout before leaving to join the Canucks. New England scout Mike Adessa joined the organization shortly after Feaster, but left at around the same time.

Brad Treliving

Treliving has been GM for three seasons. Conroy was promoted to assistant GM and Brad Pascall was recruited as the other assistant GM.

Picks:

  • 2014: Sam Bennett (OHL), Mason McDonald (QMJHL), Hunter Smith (OHL), Brandon Hickey (AJHL), Adam Ollas Mattsson (Sweden), Austin Carroll (WHL)
  • 2015: Rasmus Andersson (OHL), Oliver Kylington (Sweden), Pavel Karnaukhov (WHL), Andrew Mangiapane (OHL), Riley Bruce (OHL)
  • 2016: Matthew Tkachuk (OHL), Tyler Parsons (OHL), Dillon Dube (WHL), Adam Fox (USHL), Linus Lindstrom (Sweden), Mitchell Mattson (USHL), Eetu Tuulola (Finland), Matthew Phillips (WHL), Stepan Falkovsky (OHL)
  • Played in NHL (at all): Bennett, Kylington, Tkachuk

Scouting changes:

  • Treliving did some shuffling of scouts, but ultimately ended up with a net gain of four – ending up with 15 “area” scouts. Button was retained as director of amateur scouting.
  • Three scouts were added to replace previous scouts: Eric Soltys in New England (replacing Adessa), Terry Doran in the OHL (replacing a retiring Tom Webster) and Brad McEwen in the WHL (replacing Rob Sumner, fundamentally). Four scouts have also been added, providing additional coverage in existing areas: Allister MacNeil (WHL), Corey Krakower (QMJHL), Luke Strand (USHL) and Petri Skirko (Europe).
  • Rather than filling gaps in the existing scouting team, Treliving’s focus seems to have been finding ways to provide additional depth in specific areas.

Sum It Up

Are the Flames the best drafting team in the league? Nope. Are they in the top half? That’s debatable. But they once were objectively awful at drafting and developing, and they’ve made huge strides in the recent past in shoring up their amateur scouting.

    • beloch

      I love this article. Thanks Ryan. It’s one thing to say the Flames seem to have been drafting better since the Sutter days, but quite another to show why with much-needed strengthening of the scouting system.

    • OKG

      Sutter is getting unfair treatment. There were two different Sutter eras, pre 07 Red Wings series and post. Backlund, Gio, and Brodie were all brought on board as prospects by Darryl.

    • smith

      Still not convinced they are drafting better.

      2011 – good

      2012 – Still not seen anyone really make the NHL. Three possibilities.

      2013 – a 6th overall pick better make it. Quite possibly no one else will. Fail

      2014 – 4th overall – once again had better make it. Even if Hickey makes the NHL will be at best okay. If he does not once again a fail.

      2015 – ?

      2016 – ?

      Still needs time but does not look great so far. I guess a minor improvement but that is probably due to having top 10 picks. It is quite possible that 2012- 2014 will have no NHL players beyond top 6 picks. Really it is up to Jankowski, Kulak and Gillies to change this. If they make it the drafting will look a lot better.

      From 2007 – 2010 (4 years) we got Ferland, Brodie, Backlund and Bouma. Beyond getting Lucky in 2011 not at all sure if our drafting is better than this. Take out Tkachuk, Bennet and Monahan and I would rather have the 2007 – 2010 prospects than the 20013-16.

      • SmellOfVictory

        One sticking point: drafting always involves getting lucky (even beyond a player actually panning out). Multiple teams may want the same player, and it’s a poker game to see how far down they can take him. Gaudreau and Kucherov are both good examples from that draft: other teams wanted Gaudreau and were gutted when the Flames got him – similarly, the Flames were peeved when Kucherov went earlier than they expected.

    • freethe flames

      So tonight most of us are cheering for the Blue Jackets, Rangers, Sens, Panthers and the Leafs. Go teams.

      Faywest: You are absolutely right and the question WW asks is Huska the right guy for the Heat? But I frequently wonder if we manage the organization in the right way. I look at the Heat and we have 1 quality center(Janko) and whoever happens to play on his wings seem to be fine. Other guys we suspect as having Offensive potential seem to flounder. Gutting the center ice position last year may have set the other forwards back.

    • Eggs Bennett

      Meanwhile in EDM… draft picks made since 2010: (NHLers in brackets)

      2010: (Taylor Hall),
      Tyler Pitlick,
      Martin Marincin,
      Curtis Hamilton,
      Ryan Martindale,
      Jeremie Blain,
      Tyler Bunz,
      Brandon Davidson,
      Drew Czerwonka,
      Kristians Pelss,
      Kellen Jones.

      2011: (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins),
      (Oscar Klefbom),
      David Musil,
      Samu Perhonen,
      Travis Ewanyk,
      Dillon Simpson,
      Tobias Rieder,
      Martin Gernat,
      Frans Tuohimaa.

      2012: (Nail Yakupov),
      Mitchell Moroz,
      Jujhar Khaira,
      Daniil Zharkov,
      Erik Gustafsson,
      Joey LaLeggia,
      John McCarron.

      2013: (Darnell Nurse),
      Marc-Olivier Roy,
      Bogdan Yakimov,
      Anton Slepyshev,
      Jackson Houck,
      Kyle Platzer,
      Aidan Muir,
      Evan Campbell,
      Ben Betker,
      Gregory Chase.

      2014: (Leon Draisaitl),
      William Lagesson,
      Zachary Nagelvoort,
      Liam Coughlin,
      Tyler Vesel,
      Keven Bouchard.

      2015: (Connor McDavid),
      Caleb Jones,
      Ethan Bear,
      John Marino,
      Miroslav Svoboda,
      Ziyat Paigin.

      2016: Jesse Puljujärvi,
      Tyler Benson,
      Markus Niemelainen,
      Matthew Cairns,
      Filip Berglund,
      Dylan Wells,
      Graham McPhee,
      Aapeli Rasanen,
      Vincent Desharnais.

      You know what’s funny? Outside of the first round, there are literally ZERO significant NHLers. I could have done a better job drafting for these guys…

      • YoketheJoker

        What do you mean by “significant”? If your “significant” comparison is Johnny Gaudreau, then you would be correct; EDM has no significant players outside of the first round. However, Brandon Davidson (6th RND) was playing top 4 minutes last year and is back to trending up this year. Most predictions have Las Vegas taking him in the expansion draft. Martin Marincin (2nd RND, in Toronto now) plays nearly 20 minutes a night. Toby Rieder (4th RND, In Arizona now) has 21 points in 50 games this year. Khaira (3rd RND), Pitlick (2nd RND) and Shlepyshev (3rd RND) all look to have decent NHL careers ahead of them. Again, none of these players are at JG’s level, but to say the Oilers have drafted “literally zero significant NHLers” past the first round is just wrong. I still think its too early to judge the draft classes from 2014 forward.

    • Pond Hockey

      What I find perplexing is how some of the top teams in the league are swimming in prospects and we are….not. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

      And please, no more tiny prospects for a year or two. It’s cute to a point.

    • freethe flames

      Well we now know that coming out of the 5 day holiday that we are out of a playoff spot. 1 point behind LA; it makes the 4 games against them huge. Will BT do anything to improve our chances?

    • freethe flames

      There is an interesting read on Flames From 80 on the Flames top 20 prospects midseason, Both Kulak and Hathaway who are with the big club are ranked 9th and 17th respectively. The hope has to be that the guys ranked ahead of them currently playing in AHL develop quickly and are able to make a push to be on the big club soon.

      The other interesting note as we discuss whether we should trade our 1st round pick for immediate and possibly longer term help is the rankings of 3 former first rounders; ranked 11 Shinkaruk, 12 Klimchuk, and 20 Poirier. Is it poor development as WW would insist or is it bad talent identification? Remember last year how so many celebrated the Shinkaruk for Granlund trade; Granlund has more points in the NHL this year than Shinkaruk has in the AHL(yes I know Shinkaruk has been injured). So if moving a first rounder somewhere between 12-20th gets us a 22-26 year old proven NHLer(especially if it meets one of our glaring needs) I wonder if that would not be better than waiting to see on a draft pick from what is considered a weaker draft than when the above three were drafted.

      • redwhiteblack

        The play of the Heat prospects has been very disappointing. I wonder if something is wrong overall with the system. They started really well but most have dropped off a cliff since 2017 began. I was excited about the pool as it seemed the talent was there. Something is wrong me thinks. Many players who have left our AHL system (Baertschi, Granlund, Agostino) seem to be doing better elsewhere. This as concerning as WW has pointed out many times.

    • Just.Visiting

      I think that the drafting in recent years has been far superior to the last 25 years.

      It’s depressing to look at many of the draft re-dos that are available on line.

      There are actually two key components associated with draft selections-your choices and how you are able to develop them.

      In this regard, once you pull out Monahan, Gaudreau, Tkachuk and (to give the benefit of the doubt) Bennett, the development and use of the more recent prospects continues to look like a significant area of opportunity for the team.

      I was fine with both the Sven and Granlund trades because it was clear that neither was ever going to be a significant contributor here because of the way they were being used.

      I also continue to question why there isn’t a greater willingness to provide homegrown talent greater opportunity to compete for bottom six and bottom pairing roles.