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Photo Credit: Alaney2k/Wikimedia commons

Visualising the entire history of Calgary Flames draft picks

The Calgary Flames have been a part of the NHL Entry Draft now for what will be the 38th year. Over the history of the franchise, there have certainly been superstars as well as disappointments. That begs the question: how have the Flames’ drafts looked overall?

In almost four decades, the Flames amassed 367 prospects at the entry draft: 339 skaters and 28 goaltenders, all of which have donned the Flaming C on their fateful days over many Junes. Since then, countless iterations of the Calgary Flames have come and gone, but the stories and memories are far from forgotten.

To breakdown the entire Flames draft class, a few high-level measures were looked at: draft selection and draft year compared to career points and games played. At the very least, this should give an idea of how often the Flames have succeeded with their drafting, as well as highlight some unique standout players.

The following charts detail the NHL careers of all Flames draft picks, not including goaltenders. Each chart indicates a player’s career total (shown in grey) as well as how they fared during their time as a Flame (shown in red). A single point with no connecting line indicates that a player was or has been a Calgary Flame for the entirety of their career.

Draft selection order

The Flames have picked as early as fourth overall and as late as 279th. It should be expected that higher draft picks should ultimately see more time at the NHL level, and that holds true for the Calgary Flames.

The higher density of points on the left side shows that indeed more players who were drafted early are more likely to find success at the NHL level.

Still active

The Flames have drafted 30 players that went on to score at least 200 points over their career. Among those players, four are still active on the Flames roster.

Player Selection Round Points
Sean Monahan 6th 1st 281
Mikael Backlund 24th 1st 273
Johnny Gaudreau 104th 4th 288
TJ Brodie 114th 4th 213

Elsewhere in the league, only one remaining Flames draftee with more than 200 points still plays NHL hockey.

Player Selection Round Points [as a Flame]
Dion Phaneuf 9th 1st 488 [228]

500-point club

Ten players drafted by the Flames surpassed the 500-point total, nine of which were drafted in the 80s, with Cory Stillman being the odd man out, drafted in 1992.

Player Selection Round Points [as a Flame]
Cory Stillman 6th 1st 727 [235]
Gary Roberts 12th 1st 909 [504]
Dan Quinn 13th 1st 685 [191]
Al MacInnis 15th 1st 1274 [822]
Joe Nieuwendyk 27th 2nd 1126 [616]
Brian Bradley 51st 3rd 503 [29]
Robert Reichel 70th 4th 630 [354]
Brett Hull 117th 6th 1391 [51]
Theoren Fleury 166th 8th 1088 [830]
Gary Suter 180th 9th 845 [565]

The highest scoring Flames draftee of all time was in fact Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull, drafted 117th overall.

Late gems

As the draft position gets later, only a handful of Flames draft picks has seen success regarding point production. After the 150th pick, only six players have broken the 200-point threshold over their careers. Hakan Loob was the only player to do so all while playing for Calgary.

Player Selection Round Points [as a Flame]
Theoren Fleury 166th 8th 1088 [830]
Gary Suter 180th 9th 845 [565]
Hakan Loob 181st 9th 429
Jonas Hoglund 222nd 10th 262 [49]
Sergei Makarov 231st 12th 384 [292]
German Titov 252nd 10th 377 [228]

When looking at the games played chart, a more sizeable amount of players had NHL careers despite being drafted much later in the entry draft. The spread is consequently larger, however, as players don’t necessarily have to be point scorers to be NHLers.

Longevity

Playing 1,000 career games is a rarity in the NHL; only 322 players have made it to that milestone. Nine Flames draftees did so, but none of them did it all as a Flame.

Player Selection Round Games Played [as a Flame]
Al MacInnis 15th 1st 1416 [803]
Brett Hull 117th 6th 1269 [57]
Joe Nieuwendyk 27th 2nd 1257 [577]
Gary Roberts 12th 1st 1224 [585]
Gary Suter 180th 9th 1145 [617]
Derek Morris 13th 1st 1107 [343]
Theoren Fleury 166th 8th 1084 [791]
Cory Stillman 6th 1st 1025 [393]
Paul Ranheim 38th 2nd 1013 [354]

Al MacInnis played the most NHL games as a Flames draftee and also leads the way with games played as a Flame. Mikael Backlund is currently the most likely draftee to catch MacInnis, having logged 543 games.

Draft year

When plotting the Flames draftees by draft year, interesting observations can be made regarding entire draft classes, as well as the drafting strength of the organization.

In many cases, only a couple of prospects turned into NHLers, and even fewer turned into point scorers.

The only draft year that has seen all prospects get NHL time was 2011 – including Laurent Brossoit (not shown on the plot as he’s a goaltender).

Player Year Points [as a Flame] Games Played [as a Flame]
Johnny Gaudreau 2011 288 312
Sven Baertschi 2011 122 [28] 259 [66]
Markus Granlund 2011 75 [28] 224 [86]
Tyler Wotherspoon 2011 5 30

In all other years, at least two draft picks did not make it to the NHL.

The bust

The worst draft year in franchise history was 1982, when out of 14 selections (13 skaters and one goalie), 11 played zero games in the NHL. Here are the three players from the 1982 draft that ultimately saw NHL time.

Player Year Points [as a Flame] Games Played [as a Flame]
Mark Lamb 1982 146 [0] 403 [1]
Richard Kromm 1982 173 [104] 372 [189]
Dave Reierson 1982 0 2

If not for Kromm, the Flames would have received a total of three NHL games from their entire draft class. It’s easy to conclude that the 1982 draft was a failure of astronomical proportions. The other players a part of that class were: Jim Laing, Dave Meszaros (goaltender), Lou Kiriakou, Jeff Vaive, Mats Kihlstrom, Brad Ramsden, Roy Myllari, Ted Pearson, Jim Uens, Rick Erdall, and Dale Thompson; all household names in NHL folklore.

Sutter Era woes

More recently, there’s been a few bad draft years in the 2000s, particularly during Darryl Sutter’s tenure as general manager of the Flames. From the 2003 entry draft through to 2010, the Flames selected 54 skaters.

Among them, Backlund, Brodie, and Micheal Ferland are the only Flames still on the NHL roster. Removing these three, as well as Phaneuf, the aggregate point total of the remaining 50 players is 398, and as Flames, that number drops to 169. Not a great result for eight years of drafting.

The present and the future

Suffice to say, some of the most exciting drafts for the Flames have come in recent years. A lot of the drafting that Calgary has been a part of has been exponentially better. With many drafted prospects either playing in the NHL full-time or excelling elsewhere in the system, one could easily expect that these charts would update with a few higher points in the coming years.

Easter eggs

  • Sean Monahan has played 393 career games, which perfectly lines up with fellow sixth overall pick Cory Stillman, who also played 393 games as a Flame.
  • The Flames have picked twice at 279th, the latest picks in franchise history: Pavel Torgachev in 1994 and Adam Cracknell in 2004.
  • Jarret Stoll was drafted 46th overall in 2000, but couldn’t come to terms with the Flames. He re-entered the draft after a trade between the Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs fell through by not making the trade deadline in time. The Edmonton Oilers then selected him 36th overall in 2002.

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  • Baalzamon

    I’d argue that 2006 was the worst draft in franchise history. Out of 8 players, the only one to play in the NHL at all was Leland Irving–13 games.

    Someone on M&G wrote an article last year claiming that 2012 was the worst… which is a real “hot take” since there are at least two full-time NHLers (possibly three if Gillies makes it) from it.

    • cjc

      I think ’82 was worse since they missed on so many picks (13/14 basically).

      1997 was a disaster, too – only 81 games and 8 goals between 12 picks, only 31 GP for the Flames. 4 of those picks were in the first 2 rounds.

      1991 was bad – but one player did make it, Sandy McCarthy, if you like old-school face punchers. Otherwise the Flames got 37 games from their remaining 13 picks, most of those from Andrei Trefilov.

      1988 didn’t produce any regular NHLers, just 134 games scattered across 12 players.

      On the plus side, 1984 could be considered one of the better drafts by any team ever. Roberts, Ranheim, Hull, Suter and Hrdina (who had a great year during their cup run). Of course they traded Hull for a middle pairing D and a backup goalie, but still won the cup with Ramage and Wamsley in ’89, so all’s well that ends well I guess.

    • aye

      As I posted elsewhere before, history suggests that rarely do all highly ranked brothers turn-out to be impact players, usually only one. And honestly, I don’t see what the big fuss over Brady is about, his stats hardly supports him being so highly ranked.

      • piscera.infada

        And honestly, I don’t see what the big fuss over Brady is about, his stats hardly supports him being so highly ranked.

        Agreed. He seems pretty overrated in terms of draft stock at the moment.

        • Baalzamon

          Yup. He’s far more comparable to Matt Nieto than he is to Matthew Tkachuk.

          Better, yes, but not by much. He was outperformed with USNTDP by Adam Fox at the same age.

          • Kevin R

            Small sample size & considering age, understandable for small sample size. But I did watch that last WJC & what I saw was a give a crap effort every shift & he looked like a keeper amongst his very talented piers in this tournament. In fact I noticed Brady more than Fox in that tourney. Not sure why the venom by you & piscera toward acquiring Brady. As much as I dont see him going in the top 5, I would be ecstatic to add him on to our list of bluechip prospects.
            I see Vancouvers #7 pick on the tSN tradeboard. If #7 comes up, would love to see what it would take to pry that pick out of Vancouver. They are hurting pretty bad on the blue line, especially with the Juelovi surgery. Maybe a deal can be made.

          • Baalzamon

            Venom? It’s not venom to say that an overrated prospect is overrated.

            Maybe you don’t realize how bad it’s gotten. People (including, somehow, scouts) frequently say that Brady is a better prospect than his brother. Never mind that Matthew had vastly superior results at literally every level.

            It’s not that Brady Tkachuk isn’t a good prospect. It’s that he shouldn’t go top 10. We see it happen in every draft: someone gets the power forward label and is immediately heralded as a superstar in the making in spite of mediocre or worse on-ice results. Pavel Zacha, Lawson Crouse, Jake Virtanen… the list is very, very long, and no one ever seems to learn.

          • oilcanboyd

            Agreed. A lot of hype based on what our Byng has accomplished. Even the Tkachuk family all say that Brady is much better than M…all to get Brady closer to the top of the draft an bigger bucks…

          • Baalzamon

            Yeah families often seem to do that. The Staals all said Jared was the most talented of them, and he never made the NHL. PK Subban said Jordan was better than him, Mark Jankowski said that about David…

    • Fat Tony

      Honestly it would be cool to have him, but I don’t want to give anything up to get him. I believe we already have the Tkachuck on our squad that makes all other teams envy us.

  • buts

    With drafting being a strength of BT’s it’s weird that he has traded away most of this years picks and paid to steep a price for Hamonic. I’m sure some picks will be coming our way next week, just worried that BT overpays to get those picks back.

      • oilcanboyd

        I read that your Chia pet is working the phones overtime to try and dump the salary and long term contract of Melanie Lucic…you oiler trolls hyped this over-rated UFA acquisition when all on FN said what a loser deal for the oilers! Melanie also wants out of Edmonton and get away from the McDavid circus.

    • supra steve

      Tre traded away those picks because he thought the team’s window to win was opening. That being the case, why would he be looking to add picks now? Has the window closed due to a poor 2017/18 season? Do we want him trading Brodie or another valuable asset for picks, or do we want him to fill in some of the holes in his roster?

    • T&A4Flames

      But that’s exactly why he could afford to make those trades. He’s stocked the cupboards and has a couple of years before he really needs to add potential high impact prospects, usually found in the 1st and maybe 2nd rounds.

  • Bikeit

    You know I see a lot of similarities between Cory Stillman and Sam Bennett. 5-6 years in the flames and fans were asking if Stillman is really going nowhere as expected by his draft position. After leaving the flames he went on to having a very good career and 2 Stanley cups in a row. Do not move on from Bennett, be patient.

      • cjc

        Savard isn’t really a good comparable. IIRC the big issue was that Savard and Button/Gilbert did not get along. Savard was producing – he was the top scoring C for Calgary in 2000 and 2001, and was fighting injury in 2002/2003 before they traded him. Savard was sent packing too early for too little (Ruslan Zainullin!!??) and was 25 when he was traded.

        Nor is Stillman . He had also established himself as a top-sixer before he was traded (and he was 28 years old!). The return was Craig Conroy – a centre who worked very well with Iginla – and David Moss, who was a useful depth guy for the Flames. That trade was funny, because Conroy was key to Calgary’s run in 2004, but they lost to Stillman and the Lightning in the final. Stillman wasn’t much of a factor in those playoffs – just 7 points, and one assist in the final [it was on the eventual cup winner, but a bit of a garbage assist]. Conroy had Calgary’s lone goal in the game.

  • The Beej

    Wow. Hate to hijack this thread but have a read of Trevor Shackles (OTT) latest blog over on Hockeybuzz.

    Thinking maybe we should avoid Hoffman altogether. Our team does not need this kind of drama.

  • Franko J

    I know the article was mainly written with the focus on forwards and defensemen due to the high measurable’s of points to games, I noticed under the games played as a player drafted by the Flames there were no goalies mentioned. Well I guess the only one who would make the list is Mike Vernon. 527 games played. The only other goalie with over 500 games as a goalie was Kipper, however, he doesn’t count due to the fact he wasn’t a Flames draft pick.

    I guess it just shows judging by this article how difficult it is to draft and develop a quality goaltender for this organization.
    In the history of this franchise to draft and develop really only one goaltender with more than 400 games, just indicates that

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Name me one NHL club in the last 25 years that has had a history of drafting and developing elite goaltenders? Yeah, the list is pretty short. As bad as the Flames have been in growing their own, it has been a lot worse in Philly.