Five players the Flames could take with their first rounder (if they don’t trade it)

Barring a massive collapse, the Calgary Flames will select late in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Well, unless they trade their pick. To get a sense of what exactly the Flames would be giving up, here’s a rundown of five players the Flames could pick in the first round (if they keep the pick).

D Ville Heinola

A 5’11, 176 lb. left-shot defender from Finland, Heinola has spent the majority of 2018-19 playing with Lukko of SM-Liiga. He has six points in 23 pro games.

Heinola is a talented offensive defenseman. Despite not having blazing top speed, Heinola is a great skater. His edge work is amazing. He’s a very smart player with good vision and passing skills. He also has pretty impressive one-on-one skills. Because of these talents, he can move the puck and also skate it up the ice himself. His shot isn’t the most powerful you’ll see out there but it’s good, and he’s very good at finding open lanes to get pucks to the net. – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects

Juuso Valimaki definitely has more upside, but Heinola projects as a similar style of player. As an under-18 player he played on Finland’s World Junior team, so he can hack it at a high level.

C Brett Leason

In scouting circles, and especially among those that follow the Canadian junior scene, Leason has been the story of the 2018-19 season. A third-time draft eligible player, he’s transformed from a pretty middling junior player into one of the top players in the WHL with the powerhouse Prince Albert Raiders.

Leason has good size and plays a power game. He is willing to battle along the boards and get to the front of the net. Once he gets there, he has a good wrist shot and quick release. He also has the ability to get tip-ins, pounce on rebounds, and make plays in tight to the net. Leason also has good vision and passing skills, protecting the puck in the cycle game and making plays for his teammates. He has made real improvements in his skating over the off-season and this has been a big reason that he has been able to put it all together this year. However, he still needs work on this aspect of his game. – Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports

He’s big, 6’5 and 198 lbs. He’s fast. He’s a right-shot center who uses his size well, but doesn’t play a style where his success is dependent on it. He’s the offensive engine for the WHL’s best team and while he’s older than most prospects, he’s legit.

C Connor McMichael

A 6’0, 170 lb. left-shot center with the London Knights, McMichael is a pretty solid all-around forward. The book on him is that he might not have any elite level attributes, but he’s pretty good at everything.

McMichael offers a pretty complete package; he checks a lot of boxes. Skating ability. Check. Ability to play in all three zones. Check. Hockey sense. Check. Goal scoring ability. Check. He’s also a tenacious player in the offensive zone who does a very good job controlling the boards despite not being the biggest kid (6’0, 170lbs). Sure he may not be the flashiest or most dynamic player with the puck. But his efficiency is through the roof. Much like Hayton and Dellandrea last year (similar types of players), McMichael should climb draft rankings in the second half and be in consideration for the Top 20 by June. – Brock Otten, OHL Prospects

McMichael won’t be confused for Connor McDavid, but he’d be a pretty good pickup.

LW Samuel Poulin

A 6’1, 207 lb. left-shot left wing from Quebec’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, Poulin really impressed at the Top Prospects Game with his combination of speed, smarts and poise.

Continuing a trend over recent years, the son of former NHLer Patrick has a high compete level matched only by his work ethic. While he may not be as skilled as some on this list, he will likely remain in the top 31 because of his size, pedigree and work ethic. – Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet

As Cosentino mentioned, his skill level isn’t sky high but his entire game is elevated by how hard he works.

D Alex Vlasic

Finally, Vlasic is a big, big dude. A left-shot defender for the U.S. National Development Program, he’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s cousin and just a gigantic young man at a listed 6’5″ and 195 pounds.

The towering defender already uses his size effectively to clear the front of the net and win battles on the boards. His long stick helps him to take the puck off of opponents and cut down passing lanes. However, he could be even better if he can add muscle to his frame and become even more powerful in these areas. – Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports

As would be expected given his size, Vlasic’s skating is apparently a work in progress. But he’s a big, burly defensive defender with still developing offensive touch.

In other words…

The Flames’ first round pick will probably be late in the round. The 2019 class drops off around 16th or 17th overall, so picks in the late 20s will be players who are projects or will take a bit longer to develop.

The five players mentioned here aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it’s more or less a cross-section of the quality of players available when the Flames likely pick – and what they’d give up if they moved the pick to load up for the 2019 playoffs.

  • cberg

    My one off impressions after reading is:
    Heinola sounds like Brodie
    Leason like what we hope Ruzicka can become at a higher level
    McMichael like Klimchuk
    Poulin like Foo/Dube
    & Vlasic like nothing the Flames have…

    Based on skill and upside I’d maybe go for 1, 2 and 5

  • Skylardog

    After some reflection, and contrary to most, I have a better feeling about the goal-tending since Thursday’s loss where Rittich had a horrible start, and Smith let in three, including the very first shot he faced. Rittich will rebound, of that I am quite certain. I would also speculate that Peters has developed a firm understanding of Rittich’s mentality, and is fully aware of how he will react following a quick and controversial hook. Good coaches figure these “mental” things out. If Ritter comes apart, and I find that highly unlikely, then his decline should and will be on Peters.

    Smith is okay. His rebound control frankly stinks, but with a renewed focus on defense, I believe the team can help clean up the pucks. He has been to making most of the first saves for a while now.

    Smith has a 0.901 with a 2.74 GAA and is 9-4-0 since November 16th. That is good enough as a backup. A backup, after all, is just insurance. The starter in a clear 1-2 role is not getting a single start in the playoffs, barring injury. With the current tandem, we are in a clear 1-2 role.

    Having said that, if the right opportunity came up at the deadline, to replace Smith with a young, good back up, you take it. No first rounder going out on this deal, just a 3rd, either Mangi or Czar, and if needed, a forward prospect not named Phillips, Lazar, or Quine. The guy must sign or be signed for $2.5 million or less for the next 2 seasons. I believe the list of guys that fit that bill is fairly long. They must have a 0.909 or better in at least a decent body of work. No 30 year olds or older please.

    If the Flames believe they are not in a clear 1-2 situation, then they better swing for the fences and replace Smith with a guy capable of being a starter. It doesn’t feel like we are there to me though.

    • Honkydonk

      Ummm no! Rittich is top ten in wins and top ten in save percentages but he has only faced the 23rd most shots all year.

      For that reason I am not that high on Rittich being our goalie savour.

      To me it’s more about this team manages to win with either goalies in net.

      • freethe flames

        So I have gone through all 30 teams twice and I am wondering who you are thinking of. Here’s the list of guys who fit your criteria and many of them are currently the number 3 on teams and in the AHL: Wedgewood, Hutchinson, Lindgren, Condon and Nilsson. Am I missing someone?

  • L.Kolkind

    Some sound more intriguing than the others, but the best option will likely be a slide or someone like Debrincat who went 35th and was just kept out of the 1st because of his height.

  • cjc

    Obviously you take the best player available, but that gets pretty subjective by the late 20’s and what’s really missing from an org perspective is a RHD. Brodie and Hamonic will be commanding pretty big raises when they hit free agency, and with the trade of Fox the team doesn’t really have anyone in the ranks there. I kinda think there will be a swap in the offseason to address it, rather than at the deadline, but if they keep their first I could see them going for a right-side D.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Underwhelming when you think of these names as a 1st rounder. Some other team will be in love with someone available at our slot and will trade us two seconds to get this pick. I’d take that.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      I remember the Flames doing this the year they traded down for Jankowski. They traded a mid to low 1st for a low 1st and a 2nd. I believe the 2nd turned out to be Seiloff so not a winner but still a worthwhile pick.

      • mrroonie

        That trade was made at the cost of not picking Hertl, Teravainen, or Vasilevskiy. No thanks on trading down for extra lower level picks. Keep the pick and take the best player available.

  • Stockton's Finest


    The cupboards are bare on the farm. And after blowing a 2-0 lead in Colorado last night and losing 4-2 (thanks again Jon Gillies), the defensive prospects pool is an anorexic. Having a guy named Vlasic could (should) be a good start to rebuilding the defense.

    • freethe flames

      SF: Let’s remember SF that if we draft out of the CHL; it’s either CHL or NHL they can’t play for the Heat for a coupe of years. The way to rebuild the Heat defence in the short term and I agree it needs to be done is through trades that include an older prospect, CHL graduates, NCAA graduates and FA tweeners. However if the Flames can add some longer term prospects via the trade I am all for it.

      But if you look at our poor late first round drafting and compare it to our later round success I would almost be willing to trade the first. Again I hate the idea of trading the first strictly for a rental that we will likely not resign.

      • The Beej

        @free the flames

        And I think that is a problem with the way the debate has been framed by the writers here – that if we trade the pick it is for a rental only.

        This keeps the debate pretty narrow when in reality there are many possibilities. Look at the Preds trade for Hartman last season.

        We have a whole summer to short out the cap situation so trading our first doesnt necessarily mean it is for a rental.

        Obviously this depends on who is available and who they may trade for… but the discussion about it doesnt have to be so narrow and one track.

        • freethe flames

          Beej: I agree with you. But generally speaking teams and writers begin with the UFA class at around the TDL. Making a hockey deal around this time is a little more difficult; teams that think they are a contender are worried about the team chemistry. (not saying it’s the only criteria but it is one of them) I like to explore the ideas of guys with at least 1 year left and or some kind of package for maybe two needs if we are giving up the first rounder.

        • MDG1600

          IMHO there is little point in adding a longer term roster player other than a goalie. The reason I say that is Calgary already has more quality assets than it can protect in the upcoming expansion draft. This is why we need to draft talent that won’t need to be protected.

      • Stockton's Finest

        @ free, I know there will be no immediate help, but who is currently in the pipeline for two, three years away? Need to have a long vision plan as well as short term. Knowing someone like Vlasic won’t be in the AHL until 2021 or 2022 is fine. By then, our current defense, if held intact, will sport a few in their 30’s.

        • freethe flames

          Agree. But in thinking of immediate help I think the flames need to explore all their options; especially if they plan on building a deep organization. If the first rounder can’t get you what you need to win right (again not a pure rental) then use the draft pick wisely. The debate always goes take the best player available but I have always been of the opinion that b/c many prospects are so close on your books don’t be afraid to draft for long term organizational needs. If we look at our immediate non pro prospects it is clear we have plenty of forward prospects(how good they are only time will tell) but no d prospects. I would look to add the best D available.

        • MDG1600

          Stockton has a GM who is supposed to bring in savvy veterans to fill those D spots – clearly that hasn’t happened. Stockton management has clearly completely misread their defensive and goaltending assets.

  • meat1

    Rusty that’s a very fair question and I left myself open to it…my answer is that hopefully there are more exciting options out there when it comes our turn to select.

    • Greg

      Include Neal and there’s a chance you could afford to keep Stone beyond this season too. I’d be willing to give up 2 firsts if it’s a sign and swap deal. The top 6 we’d have for the next 3-4 years would be unreal.

    • freethe flames

      So what would you propose as the package? Here is the package I would start with: our first this year,
      our third next year, Czarnik, and Kylington for NYR 2nd this year, Kreider and McQuaid.

  • meat1

    I don’t see us getting enough of a return with just our first round pick. I think we would need to add to it with a player or prospect to get any of the big names that might help. I like the Kreider option a lot because he would give us two playoff runs before his contract comes up. He would obviously cost more than our first but what about this scenario if Tre wants to indeed move our pick….Our first PLUS Sam Bennett for Chris Kreider and Adam McQuaid?

    • cjc

      I’m not saying it’s a terrible deal, but why not aim higher than Kreider if we are trading our first and a solid NHLer? Plus, he’s a LW – we are good at that position.

    • FLT

      The Flames should do that deal in a heartbeat if it’s available, but I think they’d have to sweeten the pot. You’ll get some trashes because of Bennett’s popularity, but Kreider is the vastly superior player. Mcquaid nothing more than a playoff rental.

      • Getpucksdeep

        And you can keep Krieder for the second year at age 27. If Bennetts the traded player plus whatever else, we could do worse. Kreider would be an upgrade. However Treliving’s so close to the vest with his cards and so poker faced a Kreider trade is pure speculation.

        • Em Durp Em Hrudey

          The only speculation for Kreider so far has been from me unfortunately. As far as I have heard he is not on their list. At last trade deadline I was pushing hard for Lindholm……people said Carolina would not trade him…..he seems to be working out. May not have been at the deadline but they got him. Kreider and McQuaid = grit and toughness with the added bonus of scoring. Bennett, Czarnik, a first and a third if Calgary resigns Kreider for Kreider and McQuaid And NY’s 6th.

      • Eggy

        Bennett is the grit on this team a bit of sandpaper. He also by the eye is one of the most skilled player on flames but chooses only to show that on occasion unfortunately

        • Em Durp Em Hrudey

          Bennett is grit, but he only showcases it sporadically. If you watch Kreider you will realize quickly what grit really is. I am a Bennett fan, but in my honest opinion Kreider is a more valuable asset going forward. Having cap friendly term left on his contract does not hurt either.

  • Retire#14

    Very underwhelming group there. Lesson is the only intriguing player I’d consider and I wouldnt use a 1st on him unless it was my teams second 1st of the draft. This pick needs to be packaged to toughen up and bring in some skill.

  • MDG1600

    I can’t believe how many people want to trade the pick. There is zero evidence that you can win without great drafting. Washington won the Stanley Cup last year with 14 players on their roster that they drafted including 7 first round picks. Two of their best players were Kuznetsov and Karlsson. Kuznetsov was taken 26th overall and Karlsson was taken 27th overall. Burakovsky was taken 23rd overall. Holtby was a 4th rounder.

    • withachance

      Its the recency fan bias my friend. Every armchair GM wants the shiny new toy that can slot in the lineup right now instead of a 2/3 year prospect. Long term planning really isnt on anyone’s mind with this great run the team’s on right now

      • freethe flames

        So if this is our best chance at winning in the last 30 years you don’t want BT to explore the chance of upgrading the team? Personally I think we are better positioned this year than we will be next year. My main reason for saying this is that I believe BT will move 1 if not both TJ and Hamonic next year prior to the TDL and our D will not be as good. (yes I understand that the kids will be better next year but not as likely enough to make up for losing 2 RHD). You can make up for losing this pick by trading for picks, by the CHL overagers and unsigned NCAA grades. The likelyhood of the 25-31 being NHL ready next year is rather small; generally you can project most of those guys might be ready in 3-5 years and many may never be NHler’s(think of Poirier, Klimchuk, Shinkaruk, Lazar all guys drafted in that range) So would I trade a chance at winning the cup for any of these guys; yes.

        • withachance

          Hey Im not saying dont explore the upgrades, but TDL is notorious for some overpaid rentals and some highway robbery depth deals. I just prefer if BT does the latter. Im in the camp of acquiring someone like Hagelin, Kronwall type than a Kreider, Stone, Duchene type player, where itll be hard to keep them under the cap next year.

          Good depth players dont require that first rounder, when a big splash does. This team doesnt really need a big splash signing… I mean if you can fleece a GM involving a 1st, then do it, but dont do it for half, or a season of a player.

          • freethe flames

            We actually agree; I have been saying for a long time don’t trade the first for rental; it needs to be someone who has more term or someone we can likely resign or a couple of depth pieces. There are some guys out there that would help.

          • withachance

            @freethe flames: My issue with signing players with term is that i just dont see a player (ie stone, duchene) who has term that can be signed along with Tkachuk and Bennett and still be under cap. Any player with a cap hit like that wont require the 1st to be gotten (a Hartman type of player) – hence my conclusion, theres no need to trade the pick.

        • SgtRoadBlock

          yes r 7 Dman core will be look way different when Seattle joins, i see 2 of the 3 gone, Stone ,Tj and Hamoic ..need the Cap for Ras, Kylington and soon Juuso .
          we only have 5 of 9 picks left in this year draft .. So if we trade move picks away we will even have less to draft. and then we not going to toss picks away again at Seattle in that year Draft to keep a player,we have toss a lot Draft picks away since BT has been Gm so the Farm team has taking a hit for it..

          a good GM plans for next year too or they will be fired.. a bad Gm just hand out long term deals with big $ and only worry about year by year…poor Oilers lol and soon Leafs 🙂


        • Eggy

          For the most part I’m only interested in giving away pick if a player 24 or below come back but that’s not set in stone just idea. I love watching the draft as well I’ll probably be at draft in person since it’s in Vancouver this year and hate not seeing the flames draft there

        • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

          I kind of disagree this is the first year of a 4-5 year window for us and we will really need cheap young talent in a couple of years, losing this first round pick like last years will be missed if we give it away. Noah Dobson (I actually would have taken Ty Smith, but both look legit now) is going to be a better NHLer than Hamonic in two years tops and he will be cheap. Do we want to let another one go like that? Jakob Pelletier for example could slot in to our middle six in two years for cheap and that would be missed if he’s traded for a rental.

    • Retire#14

      No. It’s the long time fans that have watched the flames keep bad picks and make worse choices. Niklus Sundblad, Jesper Mattson, Chris Dingman, Rico Fata, Daniel Tzckuck,Brent Krahn, Chris Chucko, Matt Pelech, Leland Irving, Greg Niemisez, Tim Erixon, Emilie Poirer, and Morgan Klimchuck. Very underwhelming. This is since 1991. Not a very good track record for 1st rounders.

      • SgtRoadBlock

        Well During the Sutter Gm time he didn’t care about the draft, it was about big vets to the roster..Feaster was a bit better but he was push to draft Alberta boys or to sign them ..BUT… BT and this new Scouting team trying something different and Drafting a lot Sweden players and outside the box players and it working…
        And i’m happy about, the old old Gm didn’t listen to scouting on Eu players..

      • withachance

        All of these players were drafted like 5 years ago…. I trust the current scouting team, look at the undervalued prospects they’ve drafted since:

        Brodie, Dube, Mangiapane, Gaudreau, Andersson, Kylington, Pettersson

        • Eggy

          Ya agree, look at how other teams like Anaheim with Perry getslaf and Rakell. Those were late first rounders we haven’t got to choose in that position much with BT yet we gitbto choose in second round for Dube who looks good and vali at 16 and that pick looks really solid

      • MDG1600

        Agree we don’t have good track record of first rounders – which is exactly why the team has not been a cup contender. Funny how the addition of Tkachuk, Monahan and Gaudreau (all drafted) seems to have turned the teams fortunes around. If you want this team to actually win a Stanley Cup then they need to draft well.

  • withachance

    The thing with an article like this is that no prospect at this range will excite fans. They are good prospects, but not those A+ prospects. So everyone on this forum will undoubtedly lean towards trading the pick.

    No one, including the scouts, can be confident in how these prospects will turn out. Boeser, Pastrnak, Rackell, Pearson were all drafted in the 20s, but none of them were touted prospects. If they were on a list like this in their draft year, doubt anyone would be excited to draft them… Kind of a pointless exercise

    • Getpucksdeep

      Also worth noting that even at the top of the draft there are 31 teams with different orders. Same in the bottom half. Its amazing how many lists will be published soon by reputable groups and all come out with totally different orders. I’d like to think the Flames scouting has been pretty good and it’s still likley a solid chhoice for Calgary at the very least.

  • Baalzamon

    McMichael sounds interesting. If this is the knock on him:

    The book on him is that he might not have any elite level attributes, but he’s pretty good at everything.

    I say take him and run laughing. People said the exact same thing about Elias Pettersson (I’m being completely serious. When that draft came around I posed the question of why he was ranked so low–generally early to mid teens–in spite of posting such good results at such a high level. The above quote about McMichael is pretty much word-for-word the answer I was given).

    • Baalzamon

      I also think people should brace themselves for the Flames taking Spencer Knight (USNTDP goalie; really good). It’s been a while since they’ve drafted a goalie and they’re picking late this year (if at all). It is definitely a possibility.

      • Beer League Coach

        Marty Brodeur was picked in the first round about the same spot the Flames could be picking in June. That was a trade that worked for the Devils and backfired on Flames. Flames traded up to pick Trevor Kidd and Devils moved down and used the pick acquired from Flames to take the future HOFer.

        I am also quite interested in Spencer Knight even though their first, and most obvious need, is to restock the d prospects. Vlasic is a cousin of the Sharks vet that they chose with the draft pick we gave them for Kipper. If he has the same talent level as Marc Eduard, he would definitely be a great asset to the Flames.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      McMichael won’t last past pick 15. London players always go real high and he was great in the CHL Top Prospects Game. I saw a TON of elite talent from him there. He is kind of like an Elais Petterson for me. Wiry, yet athletic modern day scoring forward. We’d have to trade up to get him.

  • Eggy

    Brett Leason is definitely the most interesting one for me would give us some real size (6’5) could still add weight to his 200 pound frame. He’s a right shot as a centre which we are usually pretty low on other than Ryan. He could probably jump onto roster a lot quicker than the others on this list. And has a nice shot 45 games played 33 goals and 78 points not bad at all even for being 19 years old

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      Brett Leason would be a really cool fit. He’s 19 years old, but he is starting to put up generational numbers for a 19 year old in the WHL (NHLe is above the elusive 40+). He was a stud back in the day in Midget, so for most in minor hockey circles around the city they aren’t that surprised.

    • Beer League Coach

      Leason could also be another Glenn Gawdin putting up good numbers in his last year of Jr. Not giving up on Gawdin just yet, but he is not the dominant player in AHL that he was in his final year of Jr. Also think the number 1 priority should be to restock the d pipeline. Stockton Heat are showing how a season can go down the tubes when the talent level is just not there in that position. Can’t expect to win most games by scoring 5 or 6 or more goals per game.

  • Flamesforever

    I could see BT taking Vlasic if he’s still there, the club is in need of that style dman. Or he might go completely of the list and draft a undervalued Swede, whatever happens I trust in Treliving.

  • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

    Connor McMichael is going to be a Top. 15 pick he’s a stud.

    Ville Heinola is an intriguing option. I like Jakob Pelletier as well as a pure finisher. Thomas Harley, Nathan Legare, Bobby Brink and Phillip Tomasino are also great options. Two big sleepers right now are Alex Beaucage and Harrison Blaisdell. I would love to see an Arthur Kaliyev, Payton Krebs or Alex Newhook fall, but that’s doutbful.

  • Seabass

    Unfortunately Heinola will most likely be gone by the time we are picking (fortunately when you look at it that we performed well and never traded the pick). I would be happy with a player like RHD Moritz Seider, LW Jakob Pelletier, or LW Nicholas Robertson. Seider is a large RHD playing against men at 17 years old and playing well in the DEL. Dominated at the D1A World juniors to put Germany back in the world Juniors next year. Pelletier and Robertson are both undersized LW, but have great speed, hands, excellent vision and already play a strong 2 way game. Robertson was the best player imo at the top prospects game and leads his team in scoring. Pelletier is lighting up the Q. However, if by chance Spencer Knight falls to Calgary’s draft spot, he would be my pick, very doubtfull he does though.