After a year away, the Calgary Flames are back selecting in the first round at the 2019 NHL Draft. Selecting at 26th overall, there are a lot of players that the Flames may be interested in picking.
With an interest in shedding some light on the Flames’ first round pick, we’ve dug in a bit and found some answers to the bigger questions surrounding the 26th overall selection.
Is this a deep draft?
Flames director of amateur scouting Tod Button answered this to CalgaryFlames.com’s Ryan Dittrick earlier this month (during the team’s scouting meetings):
I think we’re going to get a good player at 26. I think it’s a deep draft. Our job isn’t to figure out whether or not it’s a deep draft or try to take ourselves off the hook – our job is to find a good player, and there are plenty of good players that will be there at 26 and past 26. That’s what the meetings are about now, getting them in order. The higher guy we can get at 26, the better off we’ll be. It’s a good draft, a deep draft, and going into the later rounds, the guys are excited about some of the guys we’ll have a chance to get there, too.
Speaking to scouts around the league and from some of the independent services, the draft has a well-defined top two, then a pretty solid next 6-12 players. After that, it sprawls out a bit. Conceivably, the quality of player the Flames will take at 26th overall won’t be terribly different from somebody taken around 45th overall.
That said, there will be some high quality players available for the Flames in the first round.
Who will be gone when the Flames pick?
The simplest way of figuring out who will be available when the Flames head to the podium is by figuring out who won’t be. With that in mind, we skimmed eight recently-published draft rankings to see who will likely not be on the board at 26th overall.
The rankings used were from Sportsnet, the International Scouring Service, Dobber Prospects, the Sporting News, The Hockey Writers, McKeen’s, and the Athletic’s Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler. The rankings skim revealed 16 players that were unanimously off the board at 26th overall and six more that were off the board on a majority of these rankings.
- Unanimously unavailable were Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Bowen Byram, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Dylan Cozens, Vasili Podkolzin, Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, Cole Caufield, Alex Newhook, Cam York, Arthur Kaliyev, Ryan Suzuki, Matthew Boldy and Philip Broberg.
- Generally unavailable were Victor Soderstrom, Thomas Harley, Raphael Lavoie, Ville Heinola, Moritz Sieder and Nils Hoglander.
That’s 22 potential prospects most likely off the board before the Flames pick, so it’s probably best not to get emotionally attached to any of them. (But we’ll be taking a look at a few that could slide close to 26th overall a little bit closer to draft weekend.)
What do they need?
The Flames tend to draft the best player available – they were already pretty chock full of good young defensemen in 2017 when they drafted Juuso Valimaki – rather than focusing on a particular need. But in the event that they’re torn between two equally talented players, they may err on the side of shoring up a weak position.
Here are the Flames prospects that are in the entry level system or are currently unsigned draft picks:
- Goaltenders (3): Nick Schneider, Tyler Parsons and Artyom Zagidulin
- Left Shooting Defense (4): Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington, Carl-Johan Lerby, Andrew Nielsen
- Right Shooting Defense (2): Rasmus Andersson, Alexander Yelesin
- Left Shooting Forwards (9): Dillon Dube, Adam Ruzicka, Martin Pospisil, Emilio Pettersen, Demetrious Koumontzis, Linus Lindstrom, Mitchell Mattson, Milos Roman, Filip Sveningsson
- Right Shooting Forwards (5): Luke Philp, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, Eetu Tuulola
Across the board, the high-end depth is a bit shallow – particular in goal – and they’d probably prefer to give themselves a few more right shooting options both at forward and on defense.
What do they value?
On the April 1 edition of Boomer and Warrener in the Morning on Sportsnet 960 The Fan, Flames general manager Brad Treliving discussed what the team looks at when they’re acquiring young players:
When we came in, we set our criteria. The two things we look at more than anything is hockey sense, how you think the game. You need a speed and skill package, but you need to be really ultra-competitive. And if you’re smart, and you compete, I don’t care how big you are because you’ll find a way to maximize whatever skill-set you have. So we’ve gone in with that pretty consistent theme and criteria for how we look at our guys.
In other words, speed and skill are important, but what sets prospects apart in the team’s eyes are their hockey sense and their competitiveness.
What places do they typically draft from?
Since Treliving joined the Flames, they’ve drafted 30 players. The team’s most successful areas for drafting thus far have been the Ontario Hockey League (Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane) and the Western Hockey League (Juuso Valimaki, Dillon Dube).
Last year’s draft was heavy on American-based players – two from the United States Hockey League and one from Minnesota high school. This year’s draft is considered a strong one for the WHL and USHL, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Flames go heavy on those two leagues.
With all of this framing done, we’ll be spending from now until the draft examining several potential first round draft selections in the lens of what the Flames have and what they value.