The Calgary Flames are heading into Vancouver next weekend for the 2019 NHL Draft with five picks at their disposal. The good news is that they still have a selection in the fourth round because, during Tod Button’s tenure, they’ve been pretty effective at finding NHLers in that round.
The lean years
Things started out rough for Button’s scouting staff regarding their fourths:
- in 2002 the Flames drafted Yuri Artemenkov (112th overall), who never left Russia.
- In 2003 they selected Jamie Tardif at 112th; he never signed, but he ended up playing pro for awhile and played two NHL games with Boston one season.
- In 2004 they had two picks: Aki Seitsonen (118th) and Kris Hogg (121st). Seitsonen played pro in the Flames organization but never progressed past the ECHL level. Hogg never signed, went to Canadian university and then bounced around minor pro.
- 2005 pick J.D. Watt (111th) signed and was decent enough AHL depth, but disagreements with Flames management led to his contract being terminated and him bouncing around minor pro.
- 2006 pick Hugo Carpentier (118th) played his entry-level deal with the Flames to little fanfare, then went back to Quebec to play in the semi-pro LNAH league. (He’s still playing there.)
These guys combined for two NHL games.
Then they found some NHLers
The Flames had a two season hot streak in 2007 and 2008, grabbing two pretty good assets.
2007 saw the Flames take Keith Aulie at 116th overall. He developed into a strong AHL defender, then was traded to Toronto in the Dion Phaneuf trade. He bounced between the NHL and AHL with Toronto, Tampa and Edmonton, and he’s still playing in Europe. 2008 saw the Flames take Nick Larson at 108th. He never signed. But at 114th they found TJ Brodie, who did sign and has played over 500 games for the franchise.
The 2009 and 2010 drafts weren’t amazing. Henrik Bjorklund, their 111th pick in 2009, never signed but has been a consistently productive Swedish player – and his name is amazing. 2010 picks John Ramage (103th) and Bill Arnold (108th) both signed and played NHL games right out of college, but neither amounted to much and weren’t kept on once they finished their ELCs.
Johnny Gaudreau, taken 104th in 2011, is up there with Theoren Fleury as one of the best value picks the franchise has ever made. Selected as a small person who scored a lot in the USHL, he’s matured into… a small person who scores a lot in the NHL. He’s producing at just shy of a point-per-game clip after nearly 400 games. 2012 pick Brett Kulak wasn’t nearly as successful as Gaudreau, but he played NHL games and was able to step in and contribute during a period where the Flames needed to let Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington mature in the minors. Kulak’s play allowed them that time to not rush their top prospects.
The wait and see picks
Linus Lindstrom (96th overall in 2016) remains in Sweden under contract with IK Oskarshamn for the 2019-20 season, at which point he seems like a good contender to migrate to North America.
Adam Ruzicka (109th in 2017) and Martin Pospisil (105th in 2018) have signed their ELCs and will debut with the Stockton Heat (most likely) in 2019-20.
Demetrious Koumontzis (108th in 2018) is returning to Arizona State University for his sophomore season after helping his team make the NCAA’s championship tournament for the first time in their history. Milos Roman (122nd in 2018) is likely returning to the Vancouver Giants for his overage year after helping his team make it to the WHL’s championship series – though they lost in seven games to the powerhouse Prince Albert Raiders.