Every 12 months, the hockey world descends on an arena for a weekend that’s fundamentally the “hockey nerd convention” – the NHL Entry Draft. This year’s draft looks to be ultra-chaotic for a few reasons: the involvement of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, several teams seeking to make trade tweaks to their rosters, and a draft that’s thought to lack super-elite talent and is largely wide open after the top five or six players.
For the second time in three seasons, the Calgary Flames head to the draft on the heels of a season that resulted in a playoff berth. For the second time in three seasons, the Flames don’t seem overly satisfied that they merely made it to the dance and are hoping to make some improvements this summer to keep their season going a little bit longer next spring.
All the action gets underway on Sportsnet’s national feed beginning at 5 p.m. MT.
The Flames head into the weekend with the fewest selections they’ve had in years with only five picks:
- 16th overall
- 109th overall
- 140th overall
- 171st overall
- 202nd overall
The Flames have acquired zero additional picks for the draft, and sent away their second round pick (to Ottawa for Curtis Lazar) and their third round pick (to Arizona for Michael Stone). Based on history, perhaps the Flames make some moves to add a draft pick or two over the weekend.
The Flames have most of their big pieces – and their fourth line – locked down for the season, so most of their moves will be done around the periphery of their roster. Here are the players who are on one-way deals or, by virtue of being Matthew Tkachuk, are roster locks:
- F Johnny Gaudreau – $6.75 million
- D Mark Giordano – $6.75 million
- F Sean Monahan – $6.375 million
- D Dougie Hamilton – $5.75 million
- D T.J. Brodie – $4.65 million
- F Troy Brouwer – $4.5 million
- F Michael Frolik – $4.3 million
- G Mike Smith – $4.25 million
- F Mikael Backlund – $3.575 million
- F Matt Stajan – $3.125 million
- F Lance Bouma – $2.2 million
- F Matthew Tkachuk – $925,000 (plus bonuses)
These dozen “locks” (and Mason Raymond’s buyout) account for $54.2 million of the $75 million cap, leaving the Flames $20.8 million to fill 11 roster spots. You have to imagine that pending restricted free agents 21-Year-Old Sam Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Micheal Ferland and Alex Chiasson will be filling four of those open spots.
All that leaves for the Flames to do is find two forwards, three defenders and a backup goaltender while staying under the cap. No biggie. (All told, the Flames have 32 contracts on the books for 2017-18.)
Handicapping 16th overall
This year’s draft is a bit weird, in the sense that there’s a tremendous lack of scouting consensus beyond the first handful of players available. It’s probable that nine players won’t be around when the Flames pick, but there are probably around 8-10 players that could be around at 16th overall who the Flames’ scouts like for varying reasons. We’ve put a few under the magnifying glass a bit:
- Owen Sound Attack forward Nick Suzuki
- Frolunda forward Kristian Vesalainen
- HV71 forward Lias Andersson
- Sioux City forward Eeli Tolvanen
- Rogle defenseman Timothy Liljegren
- Kelowna defenseman Cal Foote
- The field
Based on the Flames’ recent draft tendencies and their organizational depth, I would expect them to draft a forward and for that forward to probably be from the OHL, WHL or Sweden. That said, if they have somebody high on their list and they fall into their laps all bets are off.
In other words: it’s a very difficult draft to predict and we expect trades, movement and chaos.