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What do the Flames need at the 2018 draft?

Good drafting involves weighing team need and pick value. Do you draft the best player available or do you draft for need?

The bad news for the Flames is that they have picks with little value. If you like the draft picks = lottery tickets metaphor, the picks the Flames have are four one dollar scratch offs, if that.

And that’s okay, relatively speaking: the good news for the Flames is that they’ve done a pretty good job drafting so they don’t really have any glaring needs. Key word being “glaring.” They’re 90% of the way there, but they could still use that extra 10%. It is quite clear that the team isn’t perfect and getting a few youngins for free to upgrade is always a victory.

So what do the Flames need? How can they best spend their picks?

I broke down the organization by position, age, league, and contract term.

Goalies

Age League Contract term
Mike Smith 35 NHL 1 year
David Rittich 26 NHL RFA
Jon Gillies 23 NHL/AHL RFA
Tyler Parsons 19 ECHL 2 years
Mason McDonald 22 ECHL 1 year
Nick Schneider 21 WHL/ECHL 2 years

There’s a decent amount of goaltending talent in the pipeline, but I would bet the Flames pick a goaltender this year, and not just because it’s an even year. When you really look at it, there are some cracks at that position.

The bottom end of the goaltending pool, McDonald and Schneider, are not on track to have great pro careers. That leaves you with four goalies. Smith is also probably done after this season, so that’s three. There’s a pretty high chance that either one of Rittich or Gillies do not pan out as NHL starters, so that’s two goalies. If that happens to be Rittich and Gillies, that’s a disaster. This picture could easily go from healthy to sickly in just a year’s time.

So basically, the goalie position needs some depth and some skill. I can’t see how they can make a definitive upgrade with the picks they have, but they at least need depth and they’ll probably find a decent goalie with one of their fourth round picks.

Left defence

Age League Contract term
Mark Giordano 34 NHL 4 years
TJ Brodie 27 NHL 2 years
Brett Kulak 24 NHL RFA
Oliver Kylington 20 AHL 2 years
Juuso Valimaki 18 WHL 3 years (4 with a slide)
Rushan Rafikov 22 KHL No contract
Josh Healey 23 AHL 1 year
Adam Ollas Mattsson 21 AHL No contract

The Flames are pretty stacked at LD. Maybe they take a flyer on someone in the seventh round, but I can’t see them picking anyone given the depth and talent they’ve amassed over the years. If they make a trade, perhaps one involving Brodie, they might pick up another one just in case.

Right defence

Age League Contract term
Dougie Hamilton 24 NHL 3 years
Travis Hamonic 27 NHL 2 years
Michael Stone 27 NHL 2 years
Rasmus Andersson 21 AHL 2 years
Adam Fox 19 NCAA No contract

The RD position is strange. They have some great talent at the position, but limited numbers. If Stone is on his way out too, the Flames probably need to draft another RD to build some depth. I would think they use a sixth at this position to add another body. It’s not a skill need, but a depth need.

Left wings

Age League Contract term
Johnny Gaudreau 24 NHL 4 years
Matthew Tkachuk 20 NHL 1 year
Sam Bennett 21 NHL 1 year
Kris Versteeg 32 NHL UFA
Tanner Glass 34 NHL UFA
Andrew Mangiapane 22 AHL 1 year
Morgan Klimchuk 23 AHL RFA
Ryan Lomberg 23 AHL 1 year
Pavel Karnaukhov 21 VHL/KHL No contract
Mitchell Mattson 19 USHL No contract
Filip Sveningsson 18 Superelit No contract

The Flames have numbers at LW, but the talent is pretty front heavy. I could see them pick a LW anyways given the abundance of them in any particular draft and the drop off in potential and talent after Mangiapane. Maybe a sixth, but depends who’s on the board in the fourth round.

Right wings

Age League Contract term
Micheal Ferland 26 NHL 1 year
Michael Frolik 30 NHL 2 years
Troy Brouwer 32 NHL 2 years
Curtis Lazar 23 NHL 1 year
Garnet Hathaway 26 NHL RFA
Spencer Foo 24 AHL 1 year
Hunter Shinkaruk 23 AHL RFA
Emile Poirier 23 AHL RFA
Hunter Smith 22 ECHL RFA
Austin Carroll 24 AHL RFA
Zach Fischer 20 WHL No contract
Matthew Phillips 20 WHL 3 years
D’Artagnan Joly 19 QMJHL No contract
Eetu Tuulola 20 Liiga No contract
Jaromir Jagr 46 Czech-2 UFA

The Flames actually have the most depth at RW, although you generously have to expand the definition to guys like Ferland, Shinkaruk, and Poirier who can play both sides but have been forced to shift (I threw Jagr on there for giggles). The caveat is that they’re likely going to cut bait with a lot of the RFAs, mostly because they are not very good. There’s a lot to say when your best RW has 41 points, and your best right-handed RW is Troy Brouwer.

It’s no surprise that RW is an area of need, but how do the Flames actually address it in this draft? Joly and Phillips were both sixth round picks, so you can find some pretty good (yet uncertain) talent in later rounds. But they took a flyer on Fischer last year, and he’s likely not going to get signed in time after a so-so overage year in the WHL. It’s boom or bust, and an early peek at the draft eligible list indicates that there’s not a lot of boom.

I think they spend two picks on RWs, one in the fourth and maybe one in the sixth.

Centres

Age League Contract term
Sean Monahan 23 NHL 5 years
Mikael Backlund 29 NHL 6 years
Mark Jankowski 23 NHL RFA
Matt Stajan 34 NHL UFA
Nick Shore 25 NHL RFA
Dillon Dube 19 WHL 3 years
Glenn Gawdin 21 WHL 2 years
Brett Pollock 21 AHL 1 year
Linus Lindstrom 19 SHL No contract
Adam Ruzicka 19 OHL No contract

After making it a point of emphasis during the worst of the rebuilding years, it’s no surprise the Flames have both depth and talent down the middle. Who knows if Dube or Gawdin become wings or centres in the pros (Dube was a RW for his stint in Stockton, but mostly a C in Kelowna with a bit of LW. Gawdin has been a C in Swift Current), but they have a strong body of work as pivots in the WHL.

Can’t see the Flames spending a pick on a centre this draft. Adding Gawdin this year was probably their substitute for a draft pick.

  • Hockeyfan

    Just looking at sugarplum backs at 6 years gives me tremors of mediocrity for another 6 years on top of the 30 we have had already. but what a sweety, doesn’t matter he has no winning attitude or desire.

    • Off the wall

      Sugarplum Backlund had a goal and 3 assists in the 5-3 win against the Swiss.

      You’re right, he’s only the Captain. He obviously lacks winning and desire…

    • rusty_shakleforde

      Hockey fan… Did backlund run over your dog or something? And why is sugarplum even an insult? Your favorite word appears to be that and medicrity.

      Aside from those chirps, I think it’s safe to say his increased PIM this season was very much due to frustration. Also, he’s playing on a line that was literally designed and managed to just defend. After a good offseason, and maybe a nice chat with Rebar, I’m hoping he can have some different line mates, and maybe a new system to play. He can get 50 pts.

      • canadian1967

        What The Hell are you talking about?!!!

        Backlund played exclusively with Tkachuck who is already a better player than Backlund will ever be and is the only reason Backlund ever got anywhere near 50 pts and $6M/yr.

        Give your head a shake.

  • Off the wall

    Thanks for the breakdown Christian.
    The RW position needs a bit of a overhaul.

    I wonder if Phillips ends up as an over- ager for another year with the Royals or whether or not he starts his professional career this year?

    I hope it’s the latter.

    • JMK

      I really hope it’s that latter too, what more does he need to prove at the WHL level? Prior to this season my only question would have been his playoff performances; albeit on a mediocre team. But this year he quenched that concern.

  • Parallex

    I think they take Riley Sutter if he’s still around when their 1st pick comes around in the 4th round. You’re right they probably take a goaltender at some point this draft… other then those parameters I’d rather they just take homerun cuts on guys like Gaudreau, guys who’ve had huge success in their feeder league but get discounted for some reason or another.

  • buts

    While watching Team Canada and looking at all the offensive talent that Bill Peters has at his disposal and how low scoring they are….. even with Mcjesus, I’m very worried that BP is not the man. It looks like another low scoring team to watch at the dome. Then I watch LVGK with there team of castoffs, scoring, hustling, hitting, not protecting a lead and sitting back…..the D was pinching late in the third last night…..jealous that BT didn’t hire someone like Gallant. BP body of work is not impressive….what does BT see in him that makes him a better coach with the flames than from what he has done in Carolina and with team Canada…..mind boggling.

  • Jobu

    Jobu is much more interested in Free Agent Day than draft day. But please, PLEEEEASE don’t sign Rich Nash to a rediculous contract (Jobu saw #61 in his breakfast cigar smoke).

  • Honkydonk

    There are lots of opportunities and rumours out there.

    Montreal: Galchenyk or however you spell it and Pacioretty are somewhat available and what Montreal wants are a Centre or. Defender. We can get Galchenyk if we wanted by giving up Fox as an example.

    Verdict is I’m not so sure I’d want to make that trade but he does have upside.

    Toronto: They are an interesting bunch and I’m a little perplexed as to how they are going to let Van Riemsdyk walk while keeping much older Marleau. Either way I don’t see ya getting Van Riemsdyk as I think he goes to NJ, NY or similar and takes a big pay cheque.

    I do think Kappanen is in play and it will cost us something like Fox.

    Verdict: I’d consider this trade.

    Vancouver: Baertschi is apparently available for a second rounder. Virtanen seems available also. I would stay away from Baertschi but Virtanen i would trade for. Would you make this trade for Stone and Klimchuk?

    Verdict: I will take that gamble

    Buffalo: Only possible here is Reinhardt. It would cost us a fair bit like a Bennett and a Fox but would he gives us a scoring edge?

    Verdict: I really don’t like the thought of losing Bennett in any trade but you’d want to consider this one.

    Ottawa: There is the potential to land chucks brother but man would it cost us. It would be a hefty amount thus I don’t see this happening at all.

    There are plenty of additional options but if we want a balanced successful trade I think it comes down to Virtanen for Stone, Klimchuk and a fourth or Kappanen plus a fourth for Fox.

    • JMK

      No O’Reilly for Brodie trade options?? I hate giving up prospects in general but Kapanen for Fox?! Ooh that would make me uneasy; unless you had an inside scoop and thought Fox was trying to get away from signing with Flames.

      • Honkydonk

        I don’t see the flames making a trade for a centre by losing a defender.

        Only way I see ya getting ROR is if that trade involves Backlund going the other way. But it would be a plus plus trade which makes that hard to swallow given his cap.

        I see the potential in us trading Brodie for Pacioretty if we really want. It would be Brodie plus a fourth plus.

        If we really want Pacioretty I think we can get him.

      • Honkydonk

        At this point I would trade Fox. It’s not about him signing her or not. It’s about where this team is now and it’s eating up years of Johnny, Mony etc.

        Fox cannot impact this team for at least another two years as he finishes school. There will be plenty of good D prospects at drafts for two concesuctice years but in the meantime you get an NHL sniper with speed.

        The more I look at the the more I’m convinced it’s Brodie and Fox that we will and should be parting with to get us wingers we need and add balance to the team. We might not trade Brodie but do trade Fox. Or it could be both

    • BendingCorners

      Some good ideas in there. Bennett for Reinhart? In a heartbeat. Kappanen for a prospect? Ditto.
      A prospect for Galchenyuk? Won’t happen because Galchenuyk is worth more than that; probably Brodie. I would rather see Brodie for Gallagher (RHS), I don’t think it will happen but would be a big help.

  • Trevy

    I disagree on picking another goalie. While you make a valid point on the futures of what we currently have, I would soon go after a more established goalie on the trade front or even free agency as opposed to using a draft pick and wait another few years hoping this one is going to be the golden ticket. Urgency is of the essence and we can’t afford the time it takes for goaltenders to blossom

    • wot96

      Agreed. The point about Smith being on his last year and maybe neither of Gillies or Rittich being ready is well made. But picking a goalie this year doesn’t address those points.

        • freethe flames

          Drafting a goalie is always a risk sometimes I think we would just be better finding one as FA to be the back up here or even with the Heat. Last year they had Faranger and he kept the Heat in the race while Gilles and Rittich were up here.

  • freethe flames

    Christian: Probably of all the writers on this site you are the guy I most disagree with on a regular basis and today is no exception. Your view of our center ice position and mine differ tremendously; after Monahan, Backs and Janko we have no depth at center; Shore on a contending team is a 13/14th forward at best and likely a tweener. Dube was used as a LW for the Heat and they were desperate for a quality center. Gawdin has yet to play against men and is therefore a complete unknown. Pollock spent most of the last year playing LW even on a team devoid of centers. Lindstrom is from all accounts staying in Europe next year. If I’m BT I still draft BPA but if I’m looking at my depth I’m going 3 RHS Forwards preferably centers and a RHD; all things being equal.

    • “We have no depth at centre except for all those guys who played centre”?

      Dube playing RW (not LW) for the Heat for six games while Spencer Foo was in Calgary doesn’t really discredit all the time he spent in Kelowna for the past three years playing centre. You can make the “he hasn’t played against men” argument for every non-NHLer in this org, can’t see why it’s a negative for Gawdin and not for anyone else.

      • supra steve

        “You can make the “he hasn’t played against men” argument for every non-NHLer in this org”

        No, that’s not correct. If you’ve played in the AHL, you’ve played against men. It’s a fair comment on Gawdin, who has impressed as a 20 year old playing against younger kids. Gawdin’s performance next year, against men, will tell us what he may be able to develop into.

        • The AHL is mostly comprised of 20 and 21 year olds, though, and usually from the CHL. Do things really change if you’re a CHLer going from the CHL to the AHL if you’re just going to face a bunch of other CHLers who have done the exact same thing? Facing a bunch of 29 year old minor league journeymen isn’t going to do anything significant for your development, so it’s kind of silly to make that distinction.

          Besides the point, the criticism impacts pretty much everyone who has been drafted by the Flames in the recent history. It is quite meaningless because the majority of those players (Tkachuk and Parsons are the only exceptions) have yet to face “men.” Are they lesser prospects for it? No, because you assess on the basis of their production. Quality of competition factors in (among many other things), but it is not the end-all, be-all of prospect discussion.

          • Poor phrasing, but not false. Of the 697 skaters who played at least 20 AHL games, about 220 of them have graduated from the CHL in the past year (i.e. either jumped to the league because they were 19 or graduated after being a 21 year old). That’s the single largest intake block from all leagues for the AHL. It’s mostly comprised of youth, who are mostly comprised of CHLers. If you want to expand your definition and include college kids (haven’t played against men) and European from youth leagues (haven’t played against men), you have a higher number of people who haven’t played against men. The AHL is overrated as a pro league if you want to look at the “haven’t played against men” angle because it’s mostly kids who haven’t played against men playing against other kids who haven’t played against men. What’s so false about that?

            Again, it’s a bad way of assessing any prospect.

          • supra steve

            I started out thinking freetheflames was probably being a little harsh with you, now I tend to agree with him.

            Check out the Stockton Heat roster, look at the age of the players. How many that played more than a few games at the end of the season are 20 and 21? Is it more than half? No, it’s a lot less than half. Not “poor phrasing”, just 100% false.
            Check out the Rochester Americans, San Jose Barracuda, Grand Rapids Griffins, etc. They are all the same. The AHL is a men’s league, 20 and 21 year old’s are present, but the teams are not “mostly comprised of 20 and 21 year olds”.

          • I just went through all the data myself and provided figures, but I guess looking at four rosters is also a good indication.

            And it’s besides the point anyways. It’s bad analysis to judge players based on if they have played against “men” or not. Whatever the actual numbers break down to, no one in the AHL is facing off against players who are NHLers (hence why they are in the AHL). It doesn’t matter if they’re all fresh faced 20 year olds or 32 year old journeymen, AHL talent is AHL talent. You’re judging a prospect’s performance off of an arbitrary category that isn’t at all reflective of what actually matters in a prospect’s development. Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau never played against men before hitting the NHL and it turns out that they are very good. Tyler Wotherspoon, by your definition of the AHL, has been playing against men for five years and is still barely an NHLer. There’s way more Wotherspoons out there than there are Tkachuks and Gaudreaus, by the way.

            You primarily judge prospects by what they do. All the other stuff factors in later, but it’s primarily what they do.

          • supra steve

            I attended high school with an athletic kid who had been held back twice, so as a senior he was 19 playing football against kids that were 14-17. He looked pretty good, league all star etc. At U of Sask he didn’t stand out as a 20 year old playing against 18-22 year old competition.
            A 20 year old is at an unfair advantage playing in the CHL, which is why most of the really talented 20 yr old players move on to the AHL rather than playing that 20 year old season in the CHL. Gawdin may excel at the next level, I really hope he does, but if he does not…I won’t be at all surprised.

  • Franko J

    With a very limited amount of selections I would hope the the Flames do not pick a goalie.
    I agree I still think there is a pressing need for RW.
    Too bad they don’t have a first round pick, just for argument sake i would have taken Serrin Noel. I think he would have complemented the lineup in a few years nicely.