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Digging into Flames drafting and development improvements

In a salary cap world, a key to long-term organizational success has been finding ways to backfill your big-league roster with good, cheap, young players. While the Calgary Flames aren’t in an ideal situation quite yet, they’ve given themselves some inexpensive depth by way of their improved drafting and development.

The organization, at a glance

The Flames have 46 players currently under active contracts. Seventeen of those players were originally Flames draft picks – including 10 on the active roster.  That doesn’t include another seven players that were recruited into the organization as amateurs and another three that were European pros that were brought to North America by the club.

The 17 drafted players that remain with the organization represent the 2007 (Mikael Backlund), 2008 (TJ Brodie), 2011 (Johnny Gaudreau), 2012 (Mark Jankowski and Jon Gillies), 2013 (Sean Monahan and Morgan Klimchuk), 2014 (Sam Bennett and Mason McDonald), 2015 (Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Andrew Mangiapane), 2016 (Matthew Tkachuk, Dillon Dube, Tyler Parsons and Matthew Phillips) and 2017 (Juuso Valimaki) draft classes.

It’s easy to point to the changes that Brad Treliving’s made as general manager for the team’s drafting success. But the general drafting philosophy has largely built upon the approach that predecessor Jay Feaster and former assistant GM John Weisbrod put in: define what you value in players, do your homework, build your list, and stick to your list when you’re on the draft floor.

The big changes Treliving has made, aside from adding scouts in a few key areas, have been on the development side. Since he joined the organization, Treliving has added Brian McGrattan in player assistance, Ray Edwards in player development, Matt Brown in mental performance, and added a second full-time assistant coach for their American Hockey League club.

For a snapshot of how the organization has done with drafting and development, here’s a look at the scouts Treliving has had to work with and the players they’ve selected broken down by region.

The United States

Picks:

  • D Adam Fox [2016; 3rd round; USHL]
    Rights traded to Carolina
  • F Mitchell Mattson [2016; 5th round; high school]
    Freshman at Michigan State University (NCAA)
  • F Martin Pospisil [2018; 4th round; USHL]
    Playing for Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
  • F Demetrios Koumontzis [2018; 4th round; high school]
    Freshman at Arizona State University (NCAA)
  • F Emilio Pettersen [2018; 6th round; USHL]
    Freshman at Denver University (NCAA)

(During the Treliving regime, the Flames also signed undrafted free agents Ryan Lomberg, Spencer Foo and Josh Healey.)

Scouts: Mike Addesa (p/t)(-2014), Frank Anzalone (-2017), Jim Cummins, Pierre Lamoureux (p/t) (-2015; now Fargo, USHL), Eric Soltys (p/t) (2014-), Billy Powers (2017-), Luke Strand (2016-17; now Sioux City, USHL), Mike Craig (2017-)

Resources: Treliving inherited two full-time scouts and a couple part-timers. Now it’s two full-time scouts and one part-timer. It’s also useful to have two former scouts as coaches in the USHL.

Performance: The Flames have drafted five Americans and have had six players play in the NCAA system (including Brandon Hickey). So far nobody from that group has signed with the Flames, though only Fox and Hickey have progressed enough to really merit signing. At the very least, though, they became tradeable assets. Ironically, the players that the team didn’t draft but ended up signing have fared better; Lomberg and Foo have played NHL games.

The West

Picks:

  • D Brandon Hickey [2014; 3rd round; AJHL]
    Went to the NCAA; rights traded to Arizona
  • F Austin Carroll [2014; 7th round; WHL];
    Signed entry-level deal, not qualified after initial contract
  • F Pavel Karnaukhov [2015; 5th round; WHL]
    Returned to Russia, now playing in the KHL
  • F Dillon Dube [2016; 2nd round; WHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Flames
  • F Matthew Phillips [2016; 6th round; WHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • D Juuso Valimaki [2017; 1st round; WHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Flames
  • F Zach Fischer [2017; 5th round; WHL]
    Signed AHL deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • F Milos Roman [2018; 4th round; WHL]
    Playing for the Vancouver Giants (WHL)

(During the Treliving regime, the Flames also signed Glenn Gawdin and Nick Schneider as undrafted free agents out of the WHL.)

Scouts: Brandon Benning (-2014; now with Canucks as scout), Rob Sumner, Brad McEwen (2014-17; now with Hockey Canada), Reid Jackson (2017-), Darren Kruger (2017-), Allister MacNeil (2016-)

Resources: The Flames began with a pair of WHL scouts, now they have three. McEwen is also a potential resource as part of Hockey Canada.

Performance: Aside from Karnaukhov going back to Europe a year after being drafted (and Hickey’s whole situation), the Flames have been pretty effective at drafting decent WHL players and turning them into decent pros. You would expect them to be half-decent at finding players from this region given that they own a WHL team, though.

Quebec

Picks:

  • G Mason McDonald [2014; 2nd round; QMJHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Kansas City Mavericks (ECHL)
  • F D’Artagnan Joly [2017; 6th round; QMJHL]
    Playing with Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
  • F Dmirtry Zavgorodniy [2018; 7th round; QMJHL]
    Playing with Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Scouts: Bob MacMillan (-2018), Ritchie Thibeau (-2017; now with Moncton, QMJHL), Corey Krakower (2015-17), Patrick Lachance (2017-)

Resources: The Flames began Treliving’s regime with two QMJHL scouts, they still have that many.

Performance: It’s hard to judge, as they’ve only drafted three Quebec prospects and the two they haven’t signed yet they still have time to decide on. That said, Joly and Zavgorodniy are at least good QMJHL players right now.

Ontario

Picks:

  • F Sam Bennett [2014; 1st round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Flames
  • F Hunter Smith [2014; 2nd round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, not qualified after initial contract
  • D Rasmus Andersson [2015; 2nd round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Flames
  • F Andrew Mangiapane [2015; 6th round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • D Riley Bruce [2015; 7th round; OHL]
    Not offered a contract, NHL rights lapsed
  • F Matthew Tkachuk [2016; 1st round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Flames
  • G Tyler Parsons [2016; 2nd round; OHL]
    Signed entry-level deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • D Stepan Falkovsky [2016; 7th round; OHL]
    Not tendered a bonafide offer, NHL rights lapsed, signed with the Los Angeles Kings
  • F Adam Ruzicka [2017; 4th round; OHL]
    Playing with the Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Scouts: Fred Parker, Tom Webster (-2014, retired), Terry Doran (2014-)

Resources: The Flames began with two OHL scouts and still have that many.

Performance: The Flames have signed all but two OHL draftees thus far – Ruzicka has a year of runway left before they have to make a decision – and four of their OHL-drafted players have played NHL games so far.

Europe

Picks:

  • D Adam Ollas-Mattsson [2014; 6th round; Sweden]
    Signed to AHL deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • D Oliver Kylington [2015; 2nd round; Sweden]
    Signed to entry-level deal, playing with the Stockton Heat
  • F Linus Lindstrom [2016; 4th round; Sweden]
    Playing with Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
  • F Eetu Tuulola [2016; 6th round; Finland]
    Playing with HPK (SM-Liiga)
  • F Filip Sveningsson [2017; 7th round; Sweden]
    Playing with IK Oskarshamn (HockeyAllsvenskan)

Scouts: Ari Haanpaa, Bobbie Hagelin, Petri Skriko (2016-17; now coaches in Denmark), Robert Neuhauser (2017-)

Resources: The Flames began with two European scouts and are now up to three.

Performance: They’ve drafted two European players that have come over to North America and three that they still have rights to that haven’t come over yet.

  • mrroonie

    “…the approach that predecessor Jay Feaster and former assistant GM John Weisbrod put in: define what you value in players, do your homework, build your list, and stick to your list when you’re on the draft floor.”

    I’d love to know what old Uncle Fester’s defined values were. Knowing your team was about to embark on a rebuild, trading away the 14th overall pick with players like Teravainen, Hertl, and Vasilevskiy available. Then going off the board with the 21st overall pick for a long-term project that most rankings said was a mid to late 2nd rounder, who didn’t play his second NHL game until his 6th post-draft season, and who now in his 7th post-draft season has been healthy scratched almost as much as he’s played. I like Janko, although I think even Mr. Whipple would think he’s too soft, but trading that pick was a massively boneheaded move and slowed the rebuild considerably. I referred to the combination of the trade and the pick as Feaster’s Folly at the time, and to date nothing has happened to change my mind.

    Outside of Monahan (total no-brainer pick) and Gaudreau (primarily Tod Button’s pick), Feaster’s draft history with the Flames was not good. Janko is borderline on making it and will have to up his game to stay in the league, Klimchuk is an AHL player who might be good as a temporary call up, and Gillies probably should never see another minute of NHL ice time unless he improves immensely. At least Tre was able to trade away Baertschi for the pick used for Andersson.

    • The Fall

      Great players get passed by all the time, I can accept that. What drives me nuts is reaching for players who will be available with later picks and in later rounds (thats what makes Jim Benning so fun to watch).

    • The Beej

      I think what Feaster valued was skating, puck skills, and hockey IQ. At least that is what he was saying at the time.

      Of course whether he actually stuck to his list or not we will never know. He had some good drafts but there were some eye brow raiser head scratchers there (Kanzig).

  • Stu Gotz

    Treliving has his scouting staff in order. Results to date are most encouraging. He now needs to secure, rather than trade his high level draft picks.

    Maybe I missed it but I believe Haken Loob is head of European scouting?

  • If you’re talking drafting and development improvement, what about your goaltending? I still can’t believe you passed on Demko in 2014 to draft McDonald, even though consensus was that Demko was the better goaltender. And when you do draft a decent prospect (e.g. Gillies, Parson), it feels like Stockton isn’t doing a good job of preparing them for the NHL (as evidenced by the lack of a successor to Kiprusoff).

  • Justthateasy

    Nice overview but who is doing the goalie research? Not just the future draft picks but who’s available in other systems that might be ready to blossom.? Who’s the brains with the expertise in goalies?
    What’s Kron doing these days other than the odd comedy appearance on the morning show?
    Sorry, maybe that’s too many questions.

  • MDG1600

    On the topic of draft success and development it really needs to be said that the Flames have been and continue to be dismal failures in the goaltending department. Off the top of my head I think the last quality goaltender the Flames drafted and developed who became a clear #1 goalie with the Flames was probably Mike Vernon. They drafted and gave up on a few others (Giguere, Craig Anderson). Flames goalie development = dumpster fire

  • Garry T

    I signed up for NHL hockey this season with Shaw. That gave me the opportunity to watch the Jets in their new sweaters which are terrific, and the Carolina Hurricanes. Peter Mrazek was at one end for Carolina and Laurent Broissot whom we drafted and later sent to the Oilers played in net for Winnipeg. What a game. Mrazek who some suggested we pick up and Broissot were absolutely lights out and made highlight real stop after stop all night long. Both played the stand up style I appreciate and in doing so, they made the game look both effortless and easy. Winnipeg picked up Broissot off the waiver wire as a backup. Seeing how he can play and with our goaltending scaring the crap out of me with their drop down styles, we really missed the boat on getting Laurent back. He was unbelievable..Carolina made the Jets work with a forecheck that was terrific and they must have put 50 odd shots on Broissot and he stopped all of them by playing great positional hockey. Now for some sad news . Ferland hit absolutely everything in sight all night long and the Jets had that Canucks playoff look in their eyes because he played one helluva game. He scored a beauty and assisted on another. The play by play guy said that goal was his fourth or fifth on the season playing first line hockey. The way he was playing, if he doesn’t get hurt he is going to score 40 and set up another 35 to 40. We are going to miss that boy, believe me! Carolina were undefeated going into that game with just a bunch of newbies who looked like a Tampa team. Good on them! By the way Winnipeg’s number one Goalie ahead of Broissot was Maclewheny . Sorry if I spelled that wrong.

    • HOCKEY83

      Ferland has 3 goals and 3 assists in 6 game. Lindholm has 4 goals and 2 assists in 5 games…not worried about that trade at all so far. Goalies have great games and equally bad games no matter what. Brossoit so far in the NHL is 8-13-3 so he had a rare good game. He’ll never be more than a back up. It seems like your talking about McElhinney but he’s never been a jet.

      • Stu Gotz

        Agreed Hockey83..I would like to see what Ferland does for an entire season. As much as I like the kid he was inconsistent, didn’t show up every game and has serious concussion issues that has eliminated his physical play for the most part. Of course this year he will be m aotivated UFA who wants to land a nice contract. I’ll take Lindholm over Ferland anytime.

    • R4anders

      Ferland scored 18 in the first 40 last year and ended up only scoring 3 more times. I’ll agree that he looks great so far but if the flames are better then last year the trade makes sense regardless of Ferland or Hamilton’s success in Carolina.

    • FlushedOut

      And Jeff Glass had a few great games at first when Chicago brought him up last year. Broissant needs more than one great game before you start talking about how we let him slip away.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I have also watched a few Carolina games, I want to see Ferland do well and to a lesser degree Hamilton. Ferland has looked great on the top line with Aho and Terroveinen. The other 3 lines have had its moments but they are similiar to the Flames last year where the outplay and outshoot their opponents but lose some games which the shouldn’t. Hamilton has not brought a lot of offence but has not looked that bad defensively. I seem to remember Carolina starting last season strong and then peetering out…time will tell.

    • FlushedOut

      And every team in the league passed on Johhny hockey till we drafted him in the 4th round. We traded up one year with Jersey to get Trevor Kidd and they took Martin Brodeur with our pick. Theo Fleury was a late round pick passed over by a lot of genius GM’s. Your dealing with 18 year olds who haven’t fully developed yet. You can find endless numbers of guys every GM should of picked in hindsight years later

  • JoelOttosJock

    Just take a look at past Flames first or second draft picks, especially from 2000 till 2013. Horrible, the lines of or..such busts as Brent Krahn..Kurtis Foster..Andrei Taratukhin..Andrei Medvedev..Eric Nystrom..Brian McConnell..Tim Ramholt. These are just a few of the names that most will be like..who? The Tim Ramholt 2nd round draft, he was the 2nd dman taken that draft after Dion..before the likes of Shea Weber, Matt Carle and Patrice Bergeron. Horrible track record until recent. Good to see some success and change!