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Photo Credit: Alaney2k/Wikimedia commons

Taking stock of the Flames prospect pool before the NHL entry draft

In this upcoming draft, the Flames are in a position where they haven’t been for a while. They don’t need immediate help from a top end pick, and even if they did, they’re not in a position to draft such a player. The team is finally good enough that they don’t need to rely upon the draft as a source of immediate NHL talent.

This draft will be about building depth. Even if the team may need to wait two or three years to reap the rewards, it is imperative (especially with only five picks) to continue adding quality to the prospect pool. If you need proof of this, look at Darryl Sutter and his spotty drafting record. The stone-faced GM’s lackadaisical approach to scouting and drafting resulted in a prospect pool full of nothing and sent the team spinning out of control into a rebuild. If you can keep stoking the fire, it keeps burning.

Today’s investigation will be demonstrating which areas could be potential problems if ignored and how they can effectively build at those positions, both in the first round and in others.

Areas of most need

Right-shooting centre

Current prospects:

League Age Height Weight GP-G-A-P
Daniel Pribyl AHL 24 6’4″ 210 lbs 33-5-10-15
Matthew Phillips WHL 19 5’6″ 141 lbs 70-50-40-90

The Flames only have two right-shooting centres in their org, and they’re polar opposites. Pribyl has been an alright player when healthy, but is slightly on the older side of what we can consider a prospect (he also might not stick around after next year). Phillips is young and exciting, but is nearly a foot smaller than Pribyl. If either or both of these gents make the NHL, their likely spot is on the wing, anyways. You could say that the Flames truly have zero right-shooting centres.

Options in the first round: Nick Suzuki, Martin Necas, Robert Thomas

Perhaps this feeds into the problem: young and good right-handed centres are tricky to find. Of the three options projected to go in the first round, one (Necas) is highly unlikely to be available at 16, one (Suzuki) might have a slim shot at being there, and the other (Thomas) will definitely be there, but only because he’s projected to go late in the first round. If the Flames get a shot at one of the first two, they’re definitely taking it, but otherwise, they’ll look to address this problem in later rounds. I could see them spending a few picks at this position.

Options in other rounds: Lane Zablocki (4th/5th), Zach Solow (5th/6th), Drake Rymsha (6th/7th), Micah Miller (6th/7th), Corey Andonovski (7th)

Right wingers

Garnet Hathaway NHL/AHL 25 6’2″ 210 lbs 26-1-4-5/31-8-12-20
Hunter Smith AHL 21 6’7″ 225 lbs 34-3-8-11
Austin Carroll AHL 23 6’3″ 214 lbs 46-7-8-15
Eetu Tuulola WHL 19 6’3″ 225 lbs 62-18-13-31

The Flames have some depth on the right wing; the only problem is that none of it is particularly good. Hathaway, Smith, and Carroll are all replacement-level energy guys in their respective pro leagues. Tuulola, while very promising, is still a bit of a long shot to ever make the league.

There’s also the likelihood that three of the four will be gone at the end of next season. Hathaway should probably not be qualified, and if he is, he probably won’t stick around for a long time. Unless they take substantial (emphasis on this) steps forward, Smith and Carroll are likely gone, too. That leaves Tuulola, who will be signed to an ELC and AHL bound.

Options in the first round: Klim Kostin, Eeli Tolvanen, Kailer Yamamoto, Kristian Vesalainen, Nikita Popugayev, Kole Lind

The Flames have a high chance of remedying their right wing problem in the first round, but only sort of. Of the list here, Tolvanen and Vesalainen are left shots who play both wings, Kostin is a left-shooting right winger, and Yamamoto is a right-shooting left winger (listed at all positions, but commonly plays LW in addition to RW). These are all good picks, but they may not truly be solving the RW problem.

The only right-shooting right wingers are Lind, borderline first rounder, and Popugayev, who is even more of a stretch. Popugayev, Lind, and Owen Tippett are the only true right wingers who are projected to go in the first round, and the Flames don’t have a shot at the only guy who is unanimously a first rounder. If they can’t get one of the centres listed above, I feel they target one of those listed here. Regardless of who’s available, the Flames are going to use their first on a forward who either shoots or plays on the right.

Options in other rounds: Ostap Safin (4th), D’Artagnan Joly (4th), Kyle Olson (4th/5th), Kirill Slepets (6th), Shawn Boudrais (6th), Kirill Maximov (6th/7th), Maxim Sushko (7th), Trey Fix-Wolansky (7th), Brannon McManus (7th)

Areas that could stand an upgrade

Right-shot defenders

Rasmus Andersson AHL 20 6’0″ 214 lbs 54-3-19-22
Adam Fox NCAA – ECAC 19 5’10” 187 lbs 35-6-34-40

The Flames have already moved on from Riley Bruce, and will likely do the same with Kenney Morrison. Those two guys were made expendable because the team has built up impressive skill at the RHD position through their previous two drafts. Andersson was arguably the best defender on the Stockton Heat, and will likely be making his case for an NHL spot next year. Fox is the best defender in USNDP history and is also probably the best defender the NCAA has seen in 30 years. That’s pretty good.

But there’s only two of them. No prospect is ever a sure thing, so if you can draft some more high-end depth (especially with the potential of owning three stud RHD who are all under the U.S. drinking age), why wouldn’t you?

Options in the first round: Timothy Liljegren, Callan Foote, Conor Timmins

Again, slim pickings. Liljegren has been falling in recent months, but not so far that he could be selected at 16 (although I had similar thoughts about Oliver Kylington). Foote is an interesting player who has a strong chance of being at 16, and so is Timmins, although he is ranked around the late first round.

Again, I don’t think they go down this route unless everything goes wrong. If the draft breaks so that they only have an “ehhhhh” forward selection at 16, look for them to go defensively. Otherwise, they might build depth in later rounds. Again, I feel they could spend multiple picks on RHD, especially given the depth in the late draft.

Options in other rounds: Eemeli Rasanen (4th), Filip Westerlund (4th) Ian Mitchell (4th), Martin Bodak (4th/5th), Will Warm (5th), Phil Kemp (6th), Dylan Coghlan (6th/7th), Walter Flower (7th), Otto Latvala (7th)

Left wing

Hunter Shinkaruk AHL 22 5’10” 181 lbs 52-15-20-35
Morgan Klimchuk AHL 22 6’0″ 185 lbs 66-19-24-43
Andrew Mangiapane AHL 21 5’10” 183 lbs 66-20-21-41
Emile Poirier AHL 22  6’2″ 196 lbs 43-6-11-17
Ryan Lomberg AHL 22  5’9″ 187 lbs 68-13-16-29

At first glance, the Flames have some pretty good depth down the left side. Shinkaruk, Klimchuk, and Mangiapane all scored at a 40-point pace over the course of an AHL season. If Lomberg takes a step forward and Poirier reclaims some of his past glory, the Flames will have some of the most enviable depth in the league.

However, the major concern of this group is that they have only played a combined 23 NHL games in their combined 11 seasons of professional hockey, and Shinkaruk has been doing a lot of that heavy lifting with 15 games played. Speaking of, Shinkaruk, along with Poirier, have taken steps backwards after previously promising seasons, which raises some concern. Klimchuk, on the other hand, has only had one good AHL season after a dreadful rookie year where he scored single digit points. Timeline criticisms are unfair to AHL rookies Mangiapane and Lomberg, but only one of those guys has a ceiling that is above NHL fourth liner, so we should still have some doubts.

AHL success is well and good, but the sketchiness of an NHL future for some of these guys is a bit concerning. Adding a few 18 year olds is not a bad idea.

Options in the first round: Vesalainen, Tolvanen, Yamamoto, Jason Robertson, Isaac Ratcliffe

In addition to the LW/RW guys, there are some interesting names in OHLers Robertson and Ratcliffe. The latter might be a bit of a stretch pick at 16, but the former is a very interesting, underrated player. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Flames drafted him.

Though I doubt the Flames would go for someone who exclusively plays LW. They might snag a left-handed player in the first, but he’s gotta be able to play both sides for the team to consider him. This is likely something they look at in the fifth to seventh rounds.

Options in other rounds: Tyler Steenbergen (4th), Ivan Shekhovich (4th), Yaroslav Alexeyev (5th), Joseph Garreffa (6th), Austen Keating (6th), Skyler McKenzie (7th)

Areas that are just fine

Left-handed centre

Dillon Dube WHL 18 5’11” 183 lbs 40-20-35-55
Mark Jankowski AHL 22 6’4″ 203 lbs 64-27-29-56
Linus Lindstrom SHL 19 6’0″ 165 lbs 50-2-4-6
Mitchell Mattson USHL 19 6’4″ 192 lbs 55-12-16-28

The Flames addressed this need last year, adding three lefty centres in the first six picks. All good on this front.

Left-handed defender

Stepan Falkovsky ECHL 20 6’7″ 225 lbs 54-21-11-32
Oliver Kylington AHL 20 6’0″ 183 lbs 60-6-21-27
Brandon Hickey NCAA – HE 21 6’2″ 190 lbs 35-4-11-15
Keegan Kanzig ECHL 22 6’7″ 247 lbs 40-1-4-5
Adam Ollas Mattsson SHL 20 6’4″ 216 lbs 52-1-3-4
Josh Healey NCAA – B10 22 6’0″ 196 lbs 35-4-21-25

LHD is their deepest group in the whole prospect pool, so it’s unlikely they select another one this draft. There may be some minor concerns over the lack of high-end talent, as Kylington and maybe Hickey are the only ones with realistic shots at the NHL soon, but the team should feel content with what they have. If they make any selections at this position, it will be a coke machine in the seventh round.

Goaltenders

David Rittich AHL 24 6’3″ 207 lbs .924
Jon Gillies AHL 22 6’6″ 223 lbs .910
Tyler Parsons OHL 19 6’1″ 185 lbs .925
Nick Schneider WHL 19 6’3″ 179 lbs .886
Mason McDonald ECHL 21 6’4″ 201 lbs .897

It seems odd to say, but the Flames are fine at goalie. And the customary goalie pick is every other year, so we won’t see them take one until next year’s second round anyways.

  • Parallex

    Of the players discussed my general order of preference would be…

    1: Liljegren
    2: Tolvanen
    3/4: Tie (Suzuki/Foote)

    For later rounds I hope Eemeli Rasanen is around when we get to round four… if tradition holds and we have to take one coke machine on the Blueline then I’d like us to take the one that put up 39 points in 66 games. We don’t have enough picks this year to gamble one on a guy that can’t produce at even the junior level (ala Bruce).

  • Dr

    In the first paragraph, you say the team is finally good enough. How so?
    Before the ten game winning streak, they were only three games over 500. That’s not a great accomplishment in the Bettman era. After the streak, they were a game under 500. If they had split the ten games, and gotten only ten points in that stretch, Winnipeg would’ve gotten their playoff spot.
    Since December 5, they beat only 4 or 5 playoff teams in regulation time. They were a win two, lose two team.
    I’m not convinced that they are a good team.

    • Parallex

      Because those 10 games count? Besides which the fundamentals on the season as a whole look good.

      You’re right, if you arbitrarily remove the best 10 game segment from the season they don’t look so good… on the other hand if you remove just their worst 10 game segment they probably look like contenders for the division championship.

      • Dr

        If you were GM of the team, would you look at their overall record (45-33-4), and say, “All is well.” Or, would you be more judicious in your assessment, and conclude that, in 72 games (88% of the season), we were only two games above 500. In the other 12%, we were on fire. Maybe our record was not entirely indicative of how much work we have to do. Even sub par teams can get on a roll. Philly won ten straight, and they missed the playoffs. Personally, I would be looking to add more roster players and prospects.

        • Purple Hazze

          If you want to throw out the 10 best games of the season, then you should also throw out the 10 worst games as well. It took the team 15 games or so to adapt to the new coach and systems at the start of the season, and those games also shouldn’t count when you say the team “was only 2 games above .500”

    • Puckhead

      If you’re a Flames fan and are somewhat knowledgable about the prospect pool in the pipeline you would understand what is meant by being good enough – the team doesn’t have an immediate need to graduate drafted players into the NHL.

      • DangleSnipeCelly

        You’re telling me we can’t trade back 10 spots and pick up even a late 2nd rounder? Nonsense. If the draft class is weak then so is the 2nd rounder you’re acquiring.

        • Puckhead

          A team would have to be super excited to trade up for a player at #16 and give up a second rounder. Obviously, I’m no scout but I think in this years draft it makes sense to hold onto your second rounder and double the odds that at least one player works out.

          Anything is possible though and if anyone can pull a rabbit out of the hat it’s BT. For all we know he could trade away the 1st and we’ll have nothing in the earlier rounds.

    • DKramer

      I like the idea. Suzuki seems like a great pick. But if there’s nobody that really blows them away at 16 I wouldn’t be opposed to trading down to even recoup a 3rd. Hopefully a second but the draft environment is always different so that may but unobtainable.

  • Just.Visiting

    After watching the Ducks and Edmonton, I think that the biggest need is a big dominating centre like Getzlaf or how Draisaitl projects out as being. If that means moving Monahan or Bennett to the wing, so be it. We can mitigate the RW problem in the near term by moving Tkachuk to RW and switching him to the Monahan line and move Janko or Ferland to the Mike line. (That being said, I’m interested to see how many of Gaudreau’s scoring changes came from his wrong wing.) Lazar can also be looked at as a centre, although I see him more as a replacement for Stajan in conjunction with the creation of a new and cheaper fourth line.

    • Puckhead

      What about GG and his ridiculous handedness thing? Note that most of the right wingers mentioned in the article are left handed but play both wings or left handed and play right wing. Also, if Brodie was moved back to the right side this would give them more possibilities for the 4D position.

      Pigheaded stupidity….who cares what side a guy plays on if he is effective