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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson / USA TODAY Sports

The comprehensive history of the Flames drafting goalies

If there’s one glaring, organization-wide weakness for the Flames, it’s goaltending. As of this writing, there’s only one signed goalie that everyone agrees can play in the NHL, and there’s five that everyone agrees isn’t ready yet. It’s not a tenable situation, and it’s one the Flames could try and rectify later this month.

There’s some deserved wariness about drafting goalies; it rarely works out, and doubly so for the Flames. They’ve tried picking them early, rolling the dice in the later rounds, and even selecting multiple goalies a year, and it’s never worked out.

Is that justified? Well, here’s the complete history of all 25 goalies the Flames have drafted since they moved, so you get to be the judge.

1981- Mike Vernon, 56th overall

The Flames kicked off their 1981 draft by picking Al Macinnis in the first round, and followed it up with another cornerstone of the 1989 club by selecting Vernon with their next pick. A solid, homegrown goalie for the fans to call their own,  Vernon’s star quickly rose, winning the WHL MVP in back to back years post draft.

For the bulk of the 1980s, Vernon was the starting goalie. The 1985-86 season was a grand arrival for him, stepping in late in the season after spending the majority of it off the ice and in the minors, backstopping the team to their first Cup appearance. From there, he took firm control of the starting net, and played a key role in the 1989 championship season.

Eventually, the Flames and Vernon parted ways, with the Flames shipping their #1 goalie to the Red Wings for Steve Chiasson. He won a second Cup and a Conn Smythe with Detroit, played two and a half seasons with the Sharks (and a cup of coffee with the Panthers), before winding up back in Calgary for two seasons to end his career. The Flames later retired his number, only the second retired number at the time.

Warning: things get bleak from here on out. I don’t blame you if you close the article now.

1982- Dave Meszaros, 65th overall

The Flames picked up another goalie the next year, drafting Meszaros with their fourth pick in the draft, the third goalie off the board in the draft. He was a starting goalie in the OHL, so he was worth a shot.

Meszaros burnt out immediately, taking sideways steps in the OHL, and playing just 45 games in the Flames minor system before being booted. He landed the next season in the Ontario Senior A league, playing for the Dundas Real McCoys.

1983- Grant Blair, 111th overall

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A standout at Harvard, the Flames drafted Blair with their sixth round pick in the 1983 entry draft. After going the distance with the Crimson, including an appearance in the NCAA finals and an All-American nod in his senior season, Blair joined the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the IHL. He didn’t last long, was traded to Kalamazoo the next season, and disappeared after.

1983- Jeff Hogg, 131st overall

Clearly unsatisfied with picking just one goalie, the Flames went with Hogg in the seventh round of the 1983 draft, drafting with their next pick after Blair. A backup for the Oshawa Generals, Hogg didn’t even make the pros, returning to Jr. B when he ran out of CHL eligibility.

1986- Warren “Scott” Sharples, 184th overall

After taking a relatively long break from drafting goalies, the Flames went with the University of Michigan’s Scott Sharples. After a so-so four years in the NCAA, he became the 1B goalie for the Flames’ IHL affiliate.

He’s the second goalie on this list to actually play an NHL game, stopping 36 of 40 shots in a 4-4 tie against the Vancouver Canucks on April 16th, 1992, the final game of that season. That one game was pretty significant, as it made him eligible for the upcoming expansion draft, allowing the Flames to expose him. Neither the Anaheim Mighty Ducks or the Florida Panthers selected him, but the Flames cut ties with him anyways. He proudly boasts of being the only undefeated goalie in Calgary Flames history.

1988- Jason Muzzatti, 21st overall

After years of misses on drafting goalies, the Flames went big in 1988, selecting the #1 ranked goalie in Muzzatti. After a strong freshman season at Michigan State, Muzzatti figured to be the future when Vernon inevitably moved on.

Muzzatti’s college years were fine, at least by 80s goaltender standards, but not good enough as many would expect from a goalie as hyped as he. His senior season saw a major regression where his save percentage dropped to .859 and he lost the starting position he held since he was a freshman. When he hit the pros, things weren’t that much better, struggling in the IHL and with Team Canada.

He played 69 total minutes for the Flames, getting shellacked in his first start to tune of eight goals, and playing cleanup duty once. Left unprotected in the 1995 waiver draft, he was claimed by the Hartford Whalers where he at least stuck around in the NHL as a backup, albeit not a great one. He bounced around from team to team before heading over to Europe.

Muzzatti probably could’ve reinvented himself as a goon, if he really wanted to.

1990- Trevor Kidd, 11th overall

It’s our old pal, Trevor Kidd. If you would like a full write up on Trevor Kidd and the emotions he inspired, click over here for a FlamesNation classic.

To summarize the article, Kidd came to Calgary with high expectations, stunk it up, whined about it, and left briefly after that. With plenty of hardware – a Memorial Cup, a WHL championship, two WJC golds, an Olympic silver, Goaltender of the Year for both the CHL and WHL – on his shelf before having ever played a game for the Flames, there was a lot to get excited for. The Flames traded up in the first round to get him, so there was plenty at stake.

Like the stories of many of these goaltenders, his promising junior numbers didn’t transform into anything meaningful in the pros. But the Flames handled Kidd a bit differently. Instead of tossing him to the curb like the others, the Flames tried to get him in his groove, naming him the starter for four seasons during the mid 90s. With Muzzatti’s failure fresh in mind, and considering what they gave up to get Kidd, they probably felt that failure wasn’t an option.

Despite a poor rookie pro debut in the IHL, where he served as a backup, he quickly ascended to being Vernon’s backup in 1993-94. The next season, he was the starter, a spot he held until his unceremonious exit with the club. He was traded alongside Gary Roberts to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrew Cassels and Jean Sebastian Giguere.

Oh, and the pick they traded to get Kidd wound up becoming Martin Brodeur. They could’ve done nothing and had one of the greatest goalies of all time. Just in case you didn’t know that.

1990- Shawn Murray, 167th overall

The other goalie selected in 1990 was Minnesota’s Shawn Murray. He went to Colgate University, but wasn’t good enough to be a starting goaltender. The Flames didn’t sign him.

1991- Jerome Butler, 107th overall

Another college goalie, another flame out. Butler began at Minnesota-Duluth, lost his starting spot, and then dropped out to try his hand at ECHL hockey.

1991- Andrei Trefilov, 261st overall

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Selected as a 22 year old, Trefilov was a known asset to many NHL GMs. He had experience on the international stage, playing with Dynamo Moscow against NHL teams in the old Super Series exhibition games, showing off why he won the Russian Super League’s Rookie of the Year award in 1990. Trefilov was also Russia’s go-to for international tournaments, winning bronze in the 1990 World Championships.

In the 12th round of the draft, the Flames took a gamble on Trefilov. They would have to wait a year due to his contract in the RSL, but Trelifov showed plenty of promise, winning Olympic gold with the Unified Team in 1992. As soon as his deal was finished, Trefilov bolted across the ocean to join the Flames.

Trefilov was kind of a third goalie for the Flames, hovering somewhere between the AHL and NHL. He was often the best goalie for the Saint John Flames, but could never translate that to something more at the NHL level. He left for the Buffalo Sabres in 1995’s free agency, but still couldn’t see that much ice time.

He briefly returned to the Flames during their infamous seven goalie year, acquired to provide relief for an injured Giguere, but happened to get injured himself four games in. Trefilov never returned to the NHL after that.

1994- Patrik Haltia, 149th overall

Drafted at 21 years old, Haltia was establishing himself as a starter in the SHL. He came over to Saint John, played three games, and returned to Sweden. Injuries appeared to have ended his career early, as he retired at 25.

1997- Evan Lindsay, 32nd overall

In a pretty deep goalie draft, Lindsay came to the Flames as the fifth goalie off the board, despite being third in the Central Scouting rankings. He had two alright seasons in Prince Albert, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the Flames, and he reentered the draft. Montreal picked him up in 1999 at 107th overall, but he became ECHL cannon fodder.

1998- Dany Sabourin, 108th overall

The Flames actually found some longevity with Sabourin, who managed to last with the club until the 2003-04 season. Probably because he was the only decent goalie in the AHL, Sabourin got to stick with the club for much longer than his predecessors, and played a major role in helping Saint John win the Calder Cup in 2001. He played four games for the big club during the 2003-04 season, but wasn’t spectacular and moved on to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sabourin is notable as the guy who had to relieve Robert Luongo in playoff overtime when the future Hall of Famer had the runs.

1999- Craig Anderson, 77th overall

In their quest to find a long time starter, the Flames would eventually strike gold on Anderson, who is still playing to this day.

The issue was that he never suited up for the Flames. Upon completion of his OHL career, the Flames and Anderson were unable to reach a deal, which was shocking for one of the best CHL goalies at the time. He reentered the draft and was actually selected four spots higher by the Blackhawks, and he began a long career as a reliable starter. Truly, the one who slipped away.

(Editor’s note: There was some confusion about how the Flames came to have this pick, as some sources list this as the pick the Flames traded at the 1999 NHL Draft as part of a package that landed them Marc Savard and the 11th overall pick. The NHL clarified that the pick that was included in that trade was 90th overall, and that the 77th overall pick was never traded.)

1999- Matt Underhill, 170th overall

A compensatory pick for the Flames, Underhill was a starter at prestigious Cornell for four years. Despite two strong years to finish his career, posting a .928 SV% and a .922 SV%, he went unsigned and earned a contract with Boston’s AHL affiliate. He managed to sneak in one game for the Blackhawks in 2003-04, but didn’t do much else.

2000- Brent Krahn, 9th overall

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The Flames swung big at the 2000 draft. Hosted at the Dome, the club selected junior superstar Brent Krahn from the Calgary Hitmen after posting a spectacular .912 SV% in his rookie season. With goalie struggles plaguing the big club, he was projected to be the future long term #1. The team hoped he could live up to his potential, and that his familiarity with the Calgary fans would give them something to be excited for, which had never been the case during this era.

Krahn’s success turned out to be fleeting, as his SV% dropped under .900 for the rest of his WHL career. Despite a bounceback in his final season after a trade to the Seattle Thunderbirds, he was unable to put things together as a pro, being demoted to the ECHL in his rookie season. Although he put up a great season in the AHL during the 2004-05 lockout season, and followed it up with another solid campaign the following year, he still couldn’t crack the NHL and his performances dipped afterwards.

The Flames kept him around until 2008, finally letting him free. He had three more years of pro hockey in Dallas’ system, and even played an NHL game (letting in three goals in one period of action), but was out of the game shortly after. He stayed on board with the Flames in some capacity, acting as the emergency backup goalie.

2000- Levente Szuper, 116th overall

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A hockey oddity, the Hungarian Szuper was drafted at age 20 with two solid seasons of OHL hockey under his belt. The Flames bet that he could quickly develop in the AHL and become a serviceable NHL goalie shortly thereafter.

That plan didn’t work. Like Sabourin above, he was decent enough in the AHL, but was still a far cry from regular NHL action. He didn’t last long beyond his original contract, and was back in Europe four years after being drafted.

2001- Andrei Medvedev, 56th overall

The second ranked European goaltender in the 2001 draft, Medvedev had won two gold medals with Russia’s junior team. He never came over to North America despite great numbers in the Russian leagues, arguably because of his work ethic and commitment to athleticism, to put it politely. At times during his career, he regularly weighed in around 240 despite being drafted at a reported 210 lbs (eliteprospects has him at 249 pounds). He retired early at 22.

2002- Curtis McElhinney, 176th overall

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The original McBackup, Curtis was drafted after a strong but short freshman season at Colorado College, where he picked up a .918 SV% in just nine games. The Flames won the gamble on the small sample size, as he racked up All American honours and best goaltender honours throughout his final three seasons in college. In the AHL, he emerged as the best goaltender for the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights and the Quad City Flames.

Just as the Flames finally thought they had found the elusive backup to Miikka Kiprusoff, McElhinney flailed in the NHL. Despite having no competition, the Flames didn’t trust him to see more than 14 games in a season, starting in only five games compared to Kipper’s 77 during the 2008-09 season. The team flipped him for a more reliable veteran in Vesa Toskala, and McElhinney began the journeyman phase of his career.

Five teams, two trades, and two waiver claims later, McElhinney emerged as this season’s playoff surprise, helping backstop the Carolina Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals. Aged like a fine wine.

2004- Jimmy Spratt, 213th overall

A strong USHLer, Spratt struggled in college, showing up to Bowling Green dead on arrival. He never reached a SV% higher than 0.891, and went directly to the ECHL after his four NCAA years were over.

2005- Kevin Lalande, 128th overall

The Flames took a flyer on Lalande, who was the bright light for an aggressively mediocre Belleville Bulls team. Although he had his bright spots in the AHL, he was mostly just a  great ECHL goalie, and was out of the organization in two years.

2005- Matt Keetley, 158th overall

If there’s a living embodiment of peaking early on this list, it’s Keetley. Drafted with the next pick after Lalande, Keetley was a mere backup for the Medicine Hat Tigers, but emerged as a capable starter in his final two seasons with the club.

In his rookie season with the Quad City Flames, he proved to be a solid backup option to McElhinney, keeping things calm when McBackup was called up to do McBackup things. He even saw NHL action in his rookie season, playing all of nine minutes in relief, allowing no goals on two shots.

However, he quickly regressed to being a sub .900 SV% goalie, bouncing between the ECHL and AHL until he retired in 2012.

2006- Leland Irving, 26th overall

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The projected post-Kipper saviour, Irving was highly regarded as one of the better goalies in a deep goalie draft. He was the fourth goalie picked in the 2006 first round, thanks to a solid body of work in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips.

Upon graduation to the pros, the Flames were a bit more patient with Irving, letting him develop in the AHL for a while. He was the consistent starter for the Quad City Flames/Abbotsford Heat from 2008-09 to 2011-12, and made his first NHL appearances that year. A brief cameo in December 2011 saw him post a .951 SV% shootout loss in his debut, followed up by a .967 SV% win the next week. He had three more great games that season, and for once, the Flames looked like they had a homegrown goalie on their hands.

And it all fell apart the next season. During the lockout shortened 2012-13, he struggled heavily, losing the Abbotsford spot to Danny Taylor and Barry Brust. With his NHL competition being Joey MacDonald, a very aged Kipper, and Taylor, Irving couldn’t make a name for himself, posting a pretty putrid .883 SV%. He fled for Europe afterwards, with some brief cameo appearances for Minnesota and Anaheim’s AHL teams.

2009- Joni Ortio, 171st overall

The Flames took a gamble late on Ortio, who had some decent numbers in Finland’s junior leagues but couldn’t find success in the pro leagues. He ventured overseas for ten games in Abbotsford, fell flat on his face, and went back to Finland.

While that should’ve been the death of his prospect career, Ortio reinvented himself as one of the better goalies in the SM-Liiga. With no goaltending to speak of, the Flames gave him another call and he came back to Abbotsford.

This time was much more successful, as he became one of the AHL’s best goalkeepers in the 37 games he played for the Heat in 2013-14. Ortio even got a taste of the NHL for nine unspectacular games on one of Calgary’s least spectacular teams. Another strong campaign in 2014-15 coupled with a brief yet exciting six game NHL stint only built the hype up even further for Ortio.

But then the three headed monster happened. With the Flames unsure of which two of Ortio, Karri Ramo, and Jonas Hiller would be their goaltenders, they chose all three, creating a situation where no one would benefit (and losing Paul Byron in the process). Ortio had some highlights in the NHL in his first real taste, but nothing spectacular, and was bad more often than not. His AHL time didn’t suggest that he was destined for higher things either, as he finished below .900 SV% with Stockton. The Flames cut bait on all three and Ortio went back to Europe.

2011- Laurent Brossoit, 164th overall

A long term project that was going to need a bit of time, Brossoit was a bit of a question mark when he was picked by the Flames in 2011, but quickly developed into one of the best WHL goaltenders, helping lead the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup in 2013.

But the Flames were a bit impatient with Brossoit. He only last five games in the organization before the Flames decided 2013-14 Ladislav Smid was more necessary than waiting for Brossoit to come around, so they traded him in a rare Battle of Alberta deal. Brossoit recently signed an extension with the Winnipeg Jets after a great season as a backup.

2012- Jon Gillies, 75th overall

A USHL top prospect (and a rare goalie goal scorer), Gillies was a safe pick in the 2012 third round, but quickly exploded to being cream of the crop in the NCAA. As a freshman, he picked up All-Conference, All-Rookie, and All-American nods for a solid .931 SV% performance for Providence College. Two more seasons of that (and a National Championship plus Tournament MVP award), and the Flames couldn’t wait to get him into the pros.

And that’s where things went wrong. After a solid start to his Stockton career, he suffered a major hip injury seven games in and lost the entire season. Since then, he’s been so-so, looking at times to be ready for the NHL jump, but struggling with consistency and growth. He took a major downturn this season, finishing with a .889 SV%.

2014- Mason McDonald, 34th overall

The Flames stepped up to the podium in 2014 and selected McDonald, the consensus second best North American goalie in the 2014 draft. He was projected to go around that point in the draft, so it wasn’t that offensive of a pick, right?

Except for one minor thing: they passed over the far-and-away consensus #1 goalie, Thatcher Demko. McDonald may have had potential, but Demko was almost assured to be the real deal. As Demko took off in the NCAA, McDonald struggled in the QMJHL. After three ineffective pro season, McDonald’s time with the Flames is probably done.

2016- Tyler Parsons, 54th overall

While scouting Matthew Tkachuk, the Flames happened to take note of his netminder, Parsons. The poised American goalie didn’t take his powerhouse offence for granted, turning away shots at a .921 SV% clip. He stepped up his game in the playoffs, jumping to .925 SV% in the OHL postseason, and absolutely shutting the door at the Memorial Cup at .942 SV%. With goaltending being an imperative at the draft, the Flames picked Parsons with their third pick of the proceedings.

His pro career hasn’t been that great to date. Struggles with health, both mental and physical, has hampered his production.

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  • The GREAT WW

    Thank you Christian; I have been asking for this article for years.

    Can we all agree that drafting a goalie early would be an enormous mistake…..?!

    WW

  • The GREAT WW

    I told the good people at FN the day McDonald was drafted that it was a huge mistake.

    FN responses at the time;

    “I trust Flames management over WW’s opinion…”

    “We won’t know if this was a mistake for 5 years…”

    Well; here we are…..

    WW

    • Zorn

      Just for information on goalies drafted in 2012:
      Vasilevskiy – Tampa – 19th
      Subban – Boston – 24th
      Dansk – Columbus – 31st
      Stolarz – Philly – 45th
      Korpisalo – Columbus – 62nd
      Altshuller – Carolina – 69th
      Gillies – Calgary – 75th
      Driedger – Ottawa- 76th
      Paterson – Detroit – 80th
      Murray – Pittsburgh – 83rd
      Andersen – Anaheim – 87th
      That’s just the first 3 rounds – As you can see some are winners, some are losers. At this point Gillies appears to be in the loser category. This is at draft plus 7 years.

    • MiamiRedhawks

      Not too soon on Gillies. Haven’t see any development. Pretty much playing the same from his 7 game stint when started in Stockton. (I wasn’t impressed with him during that stint, even though his numbers say otherwise.)

  • Off the wall

    Do we rest our hopes on Parsons returning to form? Seems to me he was improving from February onward. I’m hoping for a strong season from him.

    Gillies, he’s been with us for what, 4 years now? His statistics look like a bad stock market. Up, down and everything in-between. Which goalie is going to take the reins in Stockton?

    ZAGIDULIN, 1 year ELC. Where does he fit?

    • everton fc

      I’m rooting for Parsons, as well. We all should be – not just because of hockey.

      I still think McDonald should be re-signed. I just have this feeling he may be finding himself…

  • redwhiteblack

    28 goalie picks and all meh, apart from Vernon. Since 81 we have never drafted and developed one. That says so much about the historical lack of success. Need a stud goalie to win a championship, period.

  • SGRietzey

    This is a record of futility I didn’t really want to be reminded of, but let me just say how glad I am that you included the Trevor Kidd Two Minutes Hate piece (which, let’s be honest – you probably could’ve just linked that under his section).

  • SeanCharles

    I remember watching Keetley and thinking he had the physical tools to be an NHL goalie.

    Problem is goalies need to be mentally stronger than anyone else on the ice. They are the last line of defence and as a goalie if you dont believe in yourself you’re screwed.

    I wonder how our org chart will sort it self out for next season:

    NHL:
    – Rittich
    – ?

    AHL:
    – Zagidulin
    – Parsons
    – Gillies (on loan? Or traded?)

    ECHL:
    – McDonald (or not re-signed?)
    – Schneider

    Alot of guys in the pipeline and only Rittich who is NHL ready.

    • Getpucksdeep

      It isn’t just mental toughness alone. Besides having to take a goal against in stride they also have to stay focused, completelly focused for 60 + minutes on the game. Everyone else gets to sit a while and can look away for a few seconds but not the goalie. They can’t drift off for even a few seconds when the puck is 180 feet away. They can’t take a break until the TV time outs. Most can’t do it. The very best can.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I think this is what could keep Parsons out of the show. He looked like a stud in the WJHC especially against Canada. Philly expedited Hart into the NHL despite average AHL stats. Calgary will need to take the same chance on Parsons. I am no expert on mental health but being a back up for the Flames could give him the jumpstart he needs to launch his pro career. Robin Lehner has demonstrated that with the right support system the illness can be managed.