It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames don’t have a ton of picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. As a result of general manager Brad Treliving’s wheeling and dealing, the Flames won’t select a player until the fourth round (105th overall) – and that’s presuming Treliving doesn’t acquire an earlier pick. It’s easy to mope about no picks, but let’s remember two key facts: the two best Flames players right now are a fourth round selection (Johnny Gaudreau) and an undrafted defenseman (Mark Giordano). Good players get taken in every round of the NHL Draft.
With that in mind, let’s delve into a few of the names to keep in mind as the Flames prepare for the upcoming draft. To start things off we won’t need to go very far: Calgary Hitmen center Riley Stotts.
A product of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Stotts is a left-shot center that can play the wing. He’s not a huge guy, listed at 6’1″ and 171 pounds, but he’s not tiny either – for lack of a better term he’s a middleweight.
Stotts was a productive player as he worked through the bantam and midget ranks in the Winnipeg area, moving up to a higher level in three consecutive seasons while adapting and increasing his offensive productivity. He was selected by the Swift Current Broncos in the first round (10th overall) in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft and debuted for the Broncos in 2016-17, putting up a respectable 16 points as a rookie.
There aren’t many players that were blessed by being traded away from a championship team, but that’s exactly what happened to Stotts. The Broncos were the WHL’s best team this past season and made a series of moves throughout the first half to load up for a big playoff run. But after he got off to a slow offensive start – he had a goal in the season-opener then had a goal and an assist in his remaining 21 games as a Bronco – he was dropped down the rotation in favour of more veteran teammates.
He was one of the big pieces moved by Swift Current when they acquired Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn at mid-season. To be charitable, the Hitmen underachieved this season and new GM Jeff Chynoweth began a rebuild. For his part, Stotts was a beast once he arrived in Calgary: he had 41 points in 47 games. He was a fixture in the Hitmen’s top six and showed the progression from his rookie year that the Broncos expected to see earlier in the year.
If you’re looking for a comparison, I’d compare Stotts to Morgan Klimchuk in his draft year. Neither was a classical offensive powerhouse nor were they physical specimens. But Stotts, like Klimchuk, plays with pace, is aware and adept in all three zones, and generally just does a lot of little things to make his teammates better. There were five different viewings in the second half of the season where Stotts barely hit the scoresheet, but made smart plays in his own end to take away a scoring chance and spring a teammate for an offensive rush. There’s nothing showy about his game, but it’s very effective.
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As noted above, Stotts had two seasons: he had a 3.4 NHLe with the Broncos as a depth player and a 21.8 NHLe with the Hitmen. His time in Calgary pushed him to ninth among draft eligible WHLers in 5-on-5 primary points.
Fit and availability
The Flames own the Hitmen, so it goes without saying that they’re aware of Stotts and his strong finish to the season. While he’s a mid-sized forward from the WHL – and the Flames have quite a few similarly sized draftees of that ilk like Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips – Stotts is an age group asset and his two-way game is arguably something that the Flames don’t have a ton of in their system. Given his smarts and versatility, and the fact that he’ll get a ton of ice time with the Hitmen going forward, Stotts seems like a decent gamble.
In terms of availability, Stotts is all over the place in the major projections. He’s the 51st-ranked North American skater as rated by Central Scouting, but ISS Hockey has him 70th overall and Future Considerations has him 111th. You’ll hear this a lot, but this draft is a lot like 2012’s in that there isn’t a ton of drop off between the second, third and fourth round groups so draft lists likely vary a ton between the 31 NHL teams. Given that he’s not big, his game’s not flashy and he didn’t have gaudy offensive numbers all season long, there’s a decent chance that Stotts slides to the fourth round.
2018 fourth round targets
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