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Flames 2017 First Round Targets: The field

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve outlined a few key prospects in the 2017 National Hockey League draft that we feel would be some combination of (a) available to the Calgary Flames at 16th overall and (b) really good fits in the organization.

That said, this year’s draft is a bit of a crap shoot so it’s prudent at this point to broaden scope a bit and shed a bit of light on eight other players that would likely be considered by the Flames if they were available. Here’s a brief glance, with the Nations Network profiles for each player quoted and linked for your curiosity and information.

Forwards

Michael Rasmussen – Tri-City (WHL)

Ranked ninth by McKenzie’s list, Rasmussen has generated some concern in scouting circles because of his crazy reliance on special teams time for generating points. It’s likely that the Flames are familiar with him due to his WHL roots, and it’s also likely that they have some interest because of his size. He could easily slide to 16th if the teams ahead of Calgary are concerned about his even strength offense generation.

Nations Network ranking: 32nd

But Rasmussen is not going to be a first line centre in the NHL. Middle six expectations may be more readily met, and while that is a very valuable commodity, it’s not one that you’d want to use a first round pick on. Not when there are players with top six scoring potential littered throughout the first round.

Klim Kostin – Moscow Dynamo (KHL, and affiliates)

Ranked 18th on McKenzie’s list, Kostin is a talented Russian player that had a few injuries this year that limited viewings. He’s also Russian, so there’s always going to be concerns about his willingness (or ability) to transfer to North America, as well as concerns about the level of competition he faces in junior or minor pro.

Nations Network ranking: 22nd

Kostin is the biggest mystery of this draft’s first round. Given that he wasn’t healthy in the limited time he actually saw this season, how good a handle NHL teams feel they have on this kid will probably depend on how much they managed to see him in his draft-minus-one season. It only takes one team to think that hey can harness the potential that was apparent pre-injury, which is why I think that Kostin will still go in the middle of the first round.

Ryan Poehling – St. Cloud State University (NCAA)

Ranked 19th by McKenzie, Poehling’s a solid college forward. There’s not a lot of flash to his game so the probable concern is probably his (relatively) low ceiling, particularly in a year where the Flames only have the one pick in the first three rounds and have mentioned seeking high ceiling players.

Nations Network ranking: 21st

Poehling is a strong skater who has a well rounded game. He is particularly adept at using his teammates to create offence but still packs a punch with his wrist shot. Ideally he would shoot more because his wrist shot is one of his best weapons.

He will need to add some muscle and maturity to his game to become a pro, but he has a skillset that could very easily move up to the NHL level. The problem is, that his ceiling just may not be particularly high, he may only ever be a bottom six centre.

Robert Thomas – London (OHL)

Ranked 21st by McKenzie, Thomas is a product of the same Knights system that produced Matthew Tkachuk and Tyler Parsons. The Flames have seen a ton of him and likely feel they know him well, and they have drafted from the OHL a ton under Treliving.

Nations Network ranking: 34th

Thomas is frequently compared to Bo Horvat by a number of scouts, but it’s worth noting that Thomas actually exhibits superior skating and playmaking ability when compared to Horvat’s in his draft year. The comparison certainly makes sense, at least on a superficial level, given that Thomas also loves to use the toe-drag move as he barrels towards the net. He’s also a little overrated defensively, much like Horvat has been throughout his career, although I somehow doubt that’s what scouts have in mind when they compare the two, however.

Kailer Yamamoto – Spokane (WHL)

A tad undersized, McKenzie ranked him at 24th on his listing. A WHL product, this kid is dynamite offensively. But he’s small, and there’s some question of how many undersized offensive players the organization needs – particularly when they already have Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Phillips and Andrew Mangiapane in their system.

Nation Network Ranking: 12th

Obviously when it comes to actually selecting a player in the NHL Entry Draft, you have to be concerned about things like size. It’s not as easy as saying ‘he is really good, so let’s take him’. Yamamoto’s small stature has to be taken into consideration and is likely why he isn’t ranked higher. It will not be surprising to see the 5’8″ winger to be selected in the middle part of the first round or fall down a bit further.

But there is no denying the talent that he possesses. He is easily one of the most talented players in this draft and if a team isn’t scared of that size risk, they may walk away with a top 6 forward that will just keep producing as he progresses up the ladder.

Defensemen

Juuso Valimaki – Tri-City (WHL)

A skilled Finnish import in the WHL, Valimaki was 14th on McKenzie’s list. He’s very well-rounded and has a nice offensive upside to his game.

Nations Network ranking: 16th

Valimaki’s defensive skill makes him more likely to be the 70 percent high-scoring defenders than the 30 per cent, which would most likely be predominately either or both undersized or defensively weak defensemen. His offensive skills, IQ, skating, and size suggest that he has a great shot at being better than third-pairing; however, his lack of that wow factor or dynamic “oomph” limits that chance he becomes an elite or first-pairing defender…

… but probability is not destiny.

Nic Hague – Mississauga (OHL)

Hague is massive, standing 6’6″ and well over 200 pounds. He’s 25th on McKenzie’s list and is unusually mobile and agile for his size.

Nations Network ranking: 19th

Any team will enjoy a second pairing defender drafted mid-to-late in the first round, but the lack of that dynamic flare limits the possibility of him hitting that Burns/Pronger type ceiling. There’s always that chance. Teams like a big, mean player that can skate.

An oversized defender with some offense will get some teams really tempted to swing for the fences with Hague.

Erik Brannstrom – HV71 (SHL)

The Flames seem to like Swedens. Brannstrom, 29th on McKenzie’s list, is a bit of a reach but is smart, mobile and has played a couple seasons in a good league against grown men. He’s arguably the “safe” defensive pick in the mid-to-late first round.

Nations Network ranking: 23rd

Obviously when he originally caught my eye, the expectation was that he would still fall into the second round. Despite his size, he has done everything possible to push himself into the first round, and that’s likely where he gets selected. Statistically, there is a lot of indicators of future success and then using an ‘old school’ scouting eye backs up those positives.

With the need for mobile defenceman who can transition, move the puck and keep possession are becoming a premium. Size is no longer a huge concern, as there have been a track record of players who are the same size that have made an impact in the NHL.