The Calgary Flames draft from the Western Hockey League quite a lot. The tendency makes sense, given they own a WHL club that they share a building with and so it’s really, really easy for them to get additional viewings of Dub prospects without even leaving their offices.
One player the Flames should consider in the fourth round is a player they may be even more familiar with than other WHLers: Saskatoon Blades forward Eric Florchuk.
A product of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Florchuk is a left-shot center that can also play the wing; he primarily played the wing in the WHL until recently. He was a very offensively productive bantam player – he doubled his first-year offense in his second season – and was a first round WHL Bantam Draft selection by the Victoria Royals in 2015.
After a pretty strong first season in midget, he made the jump to the WHL full-time with the Royals in 2016-17. He only had nine points as a WHL rookie, but he impressed scouts with his ability to process the speed of the game – the Royals were stacked enough that he didn’t get used much in offensive situations, other than scoring the Teddy Bear Toss goal. He played for Canada at the Under-17 Hockey Challenge, though, capturing silver.
Florchuk had an up and down season. He was a much bigger part of the Royals offense due to a few graduations, putting up 28 points through 43 games – and he scored the Teddy Bear Goal for the second season in a row. But with the Royals part of a very tight Western Conference playoff race, they hedged their bets a bit by flipping Florchuk to the Saskatoon Blades for two first round picks and a fourth rounder.
While the Royals enjoyed their draft picks, Florchuk’s game went up a notch with the Blades. He had 21 points through the final 28 games of the season with the Blades and was a bigger part of their attack, even if his scoring wasn’t markedly increased. While he was primarily used as a winger in Victoria, he was back to his natural spot as a center with Saskatoon.
Future Considerations scout Logan Fossum shared these thoughts on Florchuk’s performance shortly after his arrival in Saskatoon:
Florchuk is dangerous with the puck. He possesses a very smooth stick handling ability that can elude defenders, all while he’s looking for lanes to pass through and create plays. He uses his speed and size to keep defenders back and create space for himself. Doing this, he possesses the puck a lot while on the ice, carries and paces the play. He isn’t an explosive skater, but he’s very smooth and controlled. If he can add some strength to the quality foot-speed and lateral movement he possesses, he will soon be a dominant scorer in the Western League. Eric’s defensive play is a work in progress. He’s often times in the right position but routinely is caught puck watching which can put him half a step behind the play. He’s fortunate he’s got fantastic reach and good feet underneath him, or else he’d find himself in more trouble in his own zone.
If he can increase his output a bit next season, he could be a good get in the fourth round.
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Florchuk was sixth among WHL first-year draft eligibles in five-on-five points, seventh in primary points and eighth in five-on-five primary points and overall points.
If you extrapolate his Saskatoon production over a full season, it would be 54 points and a 17.8 NHLe. He’ll need to ratchet that up a bit to become a bonafide NHL prospect.
Fit and availability
Florchuk is an Alberta kid playing in the WHL, so the Flames probably have at least some interest in him. He also played on the same team as offensive dynamo Matthew Phillips for a year and a half, so it’s probable that the Flames have a larger book on Florchuk than they do on most of the 2018 draft class. He seems like he has untapped offensive potential, and buying low on that level of skill seems like a prudent move that Brad Treliving’s scouting staff would make.
Florchuk’s likely to fall to the fourth round, but perhaps not all the way to the Flames at 104th. He’s ranked 78th by ISS Hockey and 96th by Future Considerations, but he’s the 110th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting. If he slides to them, he’s the exact type of player they’ve been drafting in recent years.
2018 fourth round targets
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