Going into the 2018 NHL draft, the Flames don’t have a lot going for them: they have few picks, and all in later rounds. It’s not conducive to drafting an NHLer, let alone players who can help elevate a team to championship level one day.
However! That’s not always the case.
Assuming no further trades (perhaps a big assumption), the Flames’ four picks fall at 105th, 108th, 167th, and 198th overall. Believe it or not, a number of NHLers have all been drafted around those spots, with some success stories coming from the Flames themselves – including probably the best player on this list.
Going back a decade, here’s a look at the players who made it (or appear to be well on their way) who had to wait a while in the draft to even be selected to begin with. To establish parameters, I’m only looking at players chosen within 10 picks of the Flames’ 2018 selections, and those who played in the NHL in 2017-18: this gives us a decent range, because the strong majority of these guys will never make it, it all turns into a crapshoot anyway, and 10 is a nice number – though it does end up arbitrarily excluding some guys, Mark Stone most egregiously.
The numbers naturally thin out as we get closer and closer to present time; many of those recently selected in late rounds are still developing. Most probably won’t make the NHL, and even those that do aren’t guaranteed to be particularly good – but if you can find it, there’s good value to be had.
- 111th overall: Dale Weise. He’s been in the NHL since the 2010-11 season, though he’s played for five different teams over that time. He’s never been a big point scorer, with a career high of 29 and just 104 over his career, but the 439 games he’s played over his career are pretty impressive.
- 114th overall: TJ Brodie! In the NHL from the 2011-12 season on, Brodie quickly worked his way up into the Flames’ top four, and hasn’t looked back. His career high in points is 45, and he has 213 over 491 games. Say what you will about this past season – and there’s been plenty to say – but he still turned out to be absolutely exceptional for a fourth rounder. No other 2008 fourth round pick has played in the NHL as much as he has.
- 157th overall: Cam Atkinson. He’s been in the NHL since the 2011-12 season, playing exclusively for the Blue Jackets. His career high in points is 62, and he’s got 273 over 447 games.
- 177th overall: Tommy Wingels. He started breaking into the NHL proper during the 2011-12 season, and stayed with the Sharks until the 2016-17 season; he’s been on three other teams since then, which isn’t great, but we’re still talking a career high 38 points, and 143 in 448 games from a late sixth rounder.
- 190th overall: Matt Bartkowski! Seventh rounder who had a couple of solid seasons and has played 253 NHL games for three different teams.
- 98th overall: Craig Smith. Smith broke into the NHL during the 2011-12 season, and has played exclusively for the Predators since. He has two 50-point seasons under his belt, and 261 points over 516 games is a pretty good look.
- 100th overall: Chris Wideman. Since being drafted, Wideman has played in the NCAA, ECHL, and AHL, until finally making the Senators in the 2015-16 season. He’s amassed 156 games for them over the past three years.
- 102nd overall: Mattias Ekholm. He made the NHL full-time in 2013-14, where he’s been a part of an impressive Predators defensive corps ever since. He has a career high of 35 points in a single season, and 119 total over 390 games played.
- 104th overall: Marcus Foligno. Making the NHL full-time in 2012-13, Foligno played exclusively for the Sabres until he was traded to the Wild for the 2017-18 season. He’s consistently been a 20-point guy, and 139 total points over 424 games certainly brings value to him as a fourth round find.
- 106th overall: Sami Vatanen. The Ducks have been great at drafting defencemen, and Vatanen was one of them. He made the NHL in the 2013-14 season, and played with the Ducks until he was dealt for Adam Henrique mid-season this past year. The defender has a career high of 38 points; he has 154 total over 337 games played.
- 161st overall: Darcy Kuemper. The goalie has bounced between leagues a bit here and there, and since leaving the Wild in 2016-17 he’s played for both the Kings and Coyotes, but a .912 save percentage over 131 games is a decent find.
- 198th overall: Nic Dowd. He didn’t really make the NHL until the 2016-17, but the Kings – and, partway through this past season, the Canucks – have gotten 131 games out of this late seventh round find.
- 99th overall: Joonas Donskoi. The Panthers selected him, but the Sharks ended up signing him as a free agent after five years of playing in Finland. In his three years in the NHL since, breaking in during the 2015-16 season, he has two 30-point seasons, and 85 points total over 203 games.
- 110th overall: Tom Kuhnhackl. Kuhnhackl toiled away in the AHL for years before getting called up during the 2015-16 season. A part of the Penguins’ “what if we had good depth players?” revelation that helped lead to a couple of Stanley Cups, Kuhnhackl has spent the past three seasons in the NHL, amassing just 39 points over 168 games, eight years after being selected in the fourth round.
- 112th overall: Philipp Grubauer. He’s been the Capitals’ backup since the 2015-16 season, he has a career .922 save percentage in 102 games, and he just won a Stanley Cup. Though he had a poor showing in the playoffs, his part in helping limit Holtby to just 54 games over the regular season probably helped.
- 157th overall: Jesper Fast. Fast started regularly playing in the NHL in the 2014-15 season. He’s only played for the Rangers, the team that drafted him; he’s done a pretty decent job of it, too, with 98 points in 287 games.
- 162nd overall: Brandon Davidson. In the NHL since the 2014-15 season, he’s played for three different teams – and managed to do so in just the 2017-18 season alone – and has amassed 152 games.
- 96th overall: Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Consistently an NHL presence since the 2014-15 season, Pageau was drafted by the Senators and has played exclusively for them. He has a career high of 43 points, and a total of 130 over 329 games.
- 104th overall: Johnny Gaudreau! Twenty-nine other teams passed on this kid because he’s very small and they’re very stupid. After playing three seasons at Boston College, he has never failed to score at least 60 points since officially breaking into the NHL for the Flames in the 2014-15 season; has a career high of 84 points; has 288 points in 312 games; and is the fourth highest scorer out of his draft class (and climbing – he’s 25 points back of the first overall pick in 145 fewer games played).
- 114th overall: Tobias Rieder. He made the NHL in the 2014-15 season after the Oilers, who drafted him, traded him to the Coyotes for – checks notes – Kale Kessy?? He has two 30-point seasons, and 117 points overall in 312 games. The rebuilding Coyotes traded him to the Kings this past season.
- 160th overall: Josh Manson. Once again, Anaheim proves great at finding defencemen in the draft; Manson became a full-time NHLer in the 2014-15 season, and broke out with a career high 37 points this past year. He already has 261 NHL games under his belt.
- 188th overall: Anton Forsberg. He’s played 45 games total, 35 for the Blackhawks this past season, with a .908 save percentage – the best of his career to date.
- 204th overall: Ryan Dzingel. Dzingel only broke into the NHL partway through the 2015-16 season, but he did pick up 41 points this past season, and has 82 total over 190 games.
- 208th overall: Ondrej Palat. The real gem of extremely late finds, Palat has been playing for the Lightning – who drafted him – full-time since the 2013-14 season. His career high is 63 points; he’s got 253 in 363 games. Not sure there’s a whole lot more you could ask out of the fourth last pick of the draft.
- 95th overall: Josh Anderson. Drafted by and playing for the Blue Jackets, Anderson’s first full NHL season came in 2016-17. He scored 29 points then, and 30 this past season. The fourth rounder is on his way to an NHL career: he has 64 points in 159 games played so far.
- 101st overall: Cedric Paquette. Paquette has been an NHL regular for the Lightning, who drafted him, since the 2014-15 season. He’s not a big point-getter – just 50 in 236 games – but that’s also 236 games played from a fourth rounder.
- 105th overall: Brett Kulak! Kulak finally became a full-time NHLer this past season, after being demoted to the ECHL soon after going pro and bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL the past couple of years. He’s already at 101 games played, and hopefully 2017-18 was just a sign of things to come for him.
- 110th overall: Andreas Athanasiou. Breaking into the NHL in 2015-16, Athansiou has played exclusively for the Red Wings, who drafted him. He registered a career high 33 points this past season, and now has 76 in 172 games.
- 161st overall: Jake Dotchin. He broke into the NHL for the Lightning two seasons ago; he’s had back-to-back 11-point years, giving him 22 over 83 games so far.
- 169th overall: Vince Hinostroza. He’s only regularly started playing in the NHL since the 2016-17 season, but is already up to 106 games for the Blackhawks, with a 25-point season under his belt in 2017-18.
- 175th overall: Matt Benning. Selected by the Bruins but signed by the Oilers as a free agent, Benning has played 135 games over the past two seasons, establishing himself as a full-time NHLer following three seasons in the NCAA.
- 195th overall: Christian Djoos. He stayed in Sweden after being drafted before coming to North America. After playing two full seasons in the AHL, Djoos made the Capitals this past season, playing 63 games, winning the Stanley Cup, and being the subject of a shirt TJ Oshie literally got off a guy’s back before the Caps drunkenly ran rampant through DC Saturday.
- 198th overall: Joakim Ryan. He played his first NHL season this past year, getting 62 games in for the Sharks as a rookie.
- 99th overall: Juuse Saros. He’s only been in the NHL for two seasons as a backup, but a .924 save percentage over 52 games is outstanding.
- 100th overall: Miles Wood. Two full seasons in the NHL so far, and 49 points over 137 games for the defenceman: he’s off to a great start.
- 104th overall: Andrew Copp. He’s been an NHLer for the Jets for three seasons now, and though he hasn’t scored much – a career high of 28 points this past year – he does have 59 points over 224 games. The Jets have already gotten some pretty good mileage out of him.
- 108th overall: Ben Harpur. The defenceman made the NHL this past season, appearing in 41 games for the Senators.
- 206th overall: MacKenzie Weegar. Drafted by the Panthers, the defenceman appeared in 60 games for them this season.
- 112th overall: Viktor Arvidsson. After spending a season in the AHL, Arvidsson became a full-time NHLer in 2015-16 for the Predators after they drafted him. He has back-to-back 61-point seasons, and 138 in 220 points overall, which is extremely good, and exactly the kind of player the Flames should be crossing their fingers for.
- 116th overall: Danton Heinen. Drafted by the Bruins, the rookie made them this season, and did it with 47 points over 77 games.
- 171st overall: Kevin Labanc. A former teammate of Andrew Mangiapane’s in junior, Labanc is already up to 60 points in 132 games after making the Sharks two seasons ago.
- 205th overall: Ondrej Kase. Taken late in the seventh round, Kase had a career high 38 points this past season, and has 53 over 119 games thus far.
- 102nd overall: Denis Malgin. He pretty much made the NHL once coming over to North America, and is already up to 98 games over the past two seasons for the Panthers, who drafted him. He’s got 32 points, too.
- 189th overall: Markus Nutivaara. The Blue Jackets are getting early returns on him; he made the NHL in the 2016-17 season, and is up to 30 points over 127 games thus far.
- 100th overall: Victor Mete. Two years after being drafted and he’s in the NHL; he played 49 games for the Canadiens this past season.
- 162nd overall: Jesper Bratt. How often does a sixth round pick jump in the NHL this quickly? He made the Devils in his first North American season this past year, scoring 35 points in 74 games already.
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