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.