Handicapping the Flames 2019 first round targets

For the first time since 2017, the Calgary Flames have a first round pick in the NHL Draft. There are several players that the club may be interested in selecting when they head to the podium on Friday night in Vancouver.

Prospective picks at a glance

Player Team Shot CSS Ranking
LW Egor Afanasyev Muskegon (USHL) L 16th (NA skaters)
C John Beecher USA U-18s (USHL) L 49th (NA skaters)
D Tobias Björnfot Djurgardens IF (SuperElit) L 7th (Euro skaters)
RW Bobby Brink Sioux City (USHL) R 19th (NA skaters)
LW Pavel Dorofeyev Magnitigorsk (MHL) L 12th (Euro skaters)
RW Simon Holmström HV71 (SuperElit) L 27th (Euro skaters)
D Anttoni Honka JYP (SM-Liiga) R 22nd (Euro skaters)
D Ryan Johnson Sioux Falls (USHL) L 33rd (NA skaters)
G Spencer Knight USA U18s (USHL) n/a 1st (NA goalies)
D Mikko Kokkonen Jukurit (SM-Liiga) L 10th (Euro skaters)
RW Brett Leason Prince Albert (WHL) R 25th (NA skaters)
C Connor McMichael London (OHL) L 24th (NA skaters)
C Ilya Nikolayev Yaroslavl (MHL) L 9th (Euro skaters)
LW Jakob Pelletier Moncton (QMJHL) L 27th (NA skaters)
LW Samuel Poulin Sherbrooke (QMJHL) L 22nd (NA skaters)
LW Patrik Puistola Tappara (Jr. A SM-Liiga) L 28th (Euro skaters)
D Matthew Robertson Edmonton (WHL) L 26th (NA skaters)
LW Nick Robertson Peterborough (OHL) L 17th (NA skaters)
D Lassi Thomson Kelowna (WHL) R 15th (NA skaters)
C Philip Tomasino Niagara (OHL) R 14th (NA skaters)
D Alex Vlasic USA U-18s (USHL) L 38th (NA skaters)

Handicapping the contenders

The Flames select 26th overall.

Based on a review, 20 players were ranked top 25 on the majority of the major rankings: Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Bowen Byram, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Dylan Cozens, Vasili Podkolzin, Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, Cole Caufield, Alex Newhook, Cam York, Ryan Suzuki, Matthew Boldy, Alex Kaliyev, Philip Broberg, Raphael Lavoie, Victor Soderstrom, Thomas Harley and Moritz Seider. The Flames likely won’t be able to select any of these players.

Four more players were ranked top 25 in around half of the survey rankings: Bobby Brink, Philip Tomasino, Nils Hoglander and Ville Heinola. (We included Brink and Tomasino in our rundown because of this quartet, they seem the most likely to slide to the Flames due to Hoglander and Heinola having some pro experience.) It’s also sounding increasingly likely that somebody selects Spencer Knight before the Flames can mull over drafting a goalie in the first round. (Yay.)

That effectively knocks 25 players off the draft board. Unless Brink or Tomasino slide – in which case the Flames should draft one of them – here’s my personal preference list of the remaining targets we profiled over the past few weeks:

  1. Tobias Bjornföt
  2. Samuel Poulin
  3. Matthew Robertson
  4. Lassi Thomson
  5. Ryan Johnson
  6. Nick Robertson
  7. Jakob Pelletier
  8. Pavel Dorofeyev
  9. Anttoni Honka
  10. Connor McMichael
  11. Alex Vlasic
  12. Egor Afanasyev
  13. Brett Leason
  14. Patrik Puistola
  15. Mikko Kokkoken
  16. John Beecher
  17. Ilya Nikolayev
  18. Simon Holmström

My general rule of thumb here is “how much stuff would they need to fix about their game to make it to the NHL?” Bjornföt, Poulin, M.Robertson, Thomson and Johnson are arguably the players with the least gaping holes in their games, and the ones they have the Flames have been able to work around in the past – their work with Andersson on his fitness and Kylington on his defensive game have given me some confidence that they can work around rough spots.

Regardless of who the Flames grab at 26th overall, they won’t get any immediate help but they should be getting somebody who could be ready to take a step towards the NHL within another season or two.

Who’s your preferred prospect of the 18 players likely available to the Flames in the first round? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Just.Visiting

    Assuming that none of the consensus top prospects falls, my preferences would be Tomasino, Leason and Matthew Robertson. I would tend to avoid US university bound players at this stage of the draft unless there was an overwhelming reason to take them. I would tend to avoid small because we have a full quota of smaller and play small players. I would tend to avoid a European DMen because of the probable wait and because we have three promising young puckhandling DMen now.

    • oilcanboyd

      Agree on most points, other than not choosing European Defensemen because of a probable wait. We can wait because of what we have now. If the player could be good , there is always assets for trade.

  • Baalzamon

    I’m kind of partial to Heinola (surprised you didn’t profile him tbh) and he seems more likely to be available than Tomasino (who you did profile).

    A U18 defenseman doesn’t post results like that in the SM Liiga by picking up bottle caps. He may not have Miro Heiskanen’s ceiling (okay; he doesn’t have Heiskanen’s ceiling) but he did post better results in the same league at the same age, and that isn’t nothing. In spite of that, his consensus ranking is in the mid-20s. He could easily be there at 26. I also like Hoglander, who was a confusing omission from your 18 since his consensus ranking isn’t even in the top 30.

    Out of the somewhat arbitrarily selected 18, I’m all about upside so I like Pelletier, Puistola, Dorofyev, and Thomson. Afanasyev and some of the others are not without their charms.

    Bjornfot is a player I don’t really know what to think of. I like mobile, skilled defensemen, but I just don’t really see a lot of ceiling with him. Of course, now that I’ve said that, he’s going to become the next Nicklas Lidstrom. I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if the Flames picked him, but it wouldn’t excite me.

    • FLT

      You’re right on Heinola, I actually thought he was a forward. Putting up over 0.4 ppg in the Liiga at age 17 is no joke. I’d be just fine with him at 26 too.

  • FLT

    There’s no way someone in the top 20 list + the 4 that are mentioned afterward doesn’t fall to 26. There are always surprise picks, and i think Knight will be taken ahead of 26. My bet is on one of Kaliyev, Brink or Tomasino to be available and I’d be happy with any of them.

    Of the remaining 18 I like Bjornfot, Pelletier and Lassi Thomson a lot more than the rest.

  • BigChefJeff

    I understand the aversion to taking goalies in the first round, but if Spencer Knight is available at 26 and a guy like Brink or another top guy hasn’t slid, you have to consider taking the goalie. Flames have one of the thinnest prospect pools in the league. They can’t afford to be taking the “safe” pick. I would rather them take big swings on guys with high upside and miss than to take the safe pick who is probably going to be an NHLer but will probably never end up being a core player.

    Knight is considered to be the top goalie prospect since Gibson. I doubt he will be available, but if he is, he should at least be at or near the top of the list. I’d much rather take a shot at a guy who could be the first franchise goalie this team has had since Kiprusoff and have it not pan out than to take another Morgan Klimchuk, Emile Poirer or even another Jankowski. This is generally the calibre of player available around 26–we can’t expect to grab someone who is going to step in and make a big impact any time soon.

  • everton fc

    If Tomasino is available at #26, you have to take him, but I think he’ll be long gone. The knock on Brink, outside his smallish stature, is his skating; “Not explosive.” I think Brink drops tot he 2nd round. I still like Pelletier. Leason’s going to be available, but I’d pass. Robertson’s another intriguing pick.

    If we could trade and get a second – so keep our first, and add a second – I’d seriously consider Kaliyev from Hamilton.

  • Garry T

    Mathew Robertson, Egor Afanasyev, or Sam Poulin. Poulin is a gifted scorer,
    Bleeds desire and can score from anywhere on the ice. If he is gone another option would be Raphael Lavoie from QMJunior. Another player like Poulin.
    I really think if we can manage 2 or 3 picks in the second, we could come away with a stash of very good players. That is based on moving Frolik and possibly Brodie. The Rangers have 3 picks in the 2nd this year. Ottawa would move their first second which is pick 31 or 32.

    • everton fc

      If we had a 2nd, Afanasyev would be another I’d consider. If Robertson’s available at #26, and Tomasino’s gone… If Tomasino’s gone, I like Pelletier and Robertson. No particular hard-preference, but I lean a bit towards Pelletier.

  • Shoestring

    Holmström, Poulin, Puistola, Dorofeyev, Pelletier. I am not a huge fan of the D on this list. Having a 2nd round pick would be nice when looking at who could be there as defenders.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I think people might be surprised at how far Suzuki falls. Unfortunately, I think Tomasino is gone earlier than expected. I would like to see us get an early 2nd rounder so we can target Fristov. I think he is a sleeper.

  • Derzie

    Ignoring the pundits and using simple NHLe type assessments, here’s my list of 1st round targets, in order:

    Jack Hughes (C)
    Brett Leason (RW)
    Alex Newhook (C)
    Arthur Kaliyev (LW)
    Alex Turcotte (C)
    Jakob Pelletier (LW)
    Pavel Dorofeyev (LW/RW)
    Hunter Jones (G)
    Bobby Brink (RW)
    Cole Caufield (C/RW)
    Dylan Cozens (C/RW)
    Trevor Zegras (C/W)
    Kirby Dach (C)
    Raphaël Lavoie (C/RW)
    Ryan Suzuki (C)
    Samuel Poulin (LW)
    Albin Grewe (C/RW)
    Connor McMichael (C)
    Philip Tomasino (C)
    Peyton Krebs (LW/C)
    Bowen Byram (D)
    Matthew Boldy (LW)
    Mads Søgaard (G)
    Nicholas Robertson (C/LW)
    Nolan Foote (LW)
    Robert Mastrosimone (C/LW)
    Yegor Afanasyev (LW)
    Jamieson Rees (C)
    Cam York (D)
    Thomas Harley (D)
    Spencer Knight (G)

      • Albertabeef

        He just turned 20 at the end of the season. He is considered to be closer to pro ready, which makes him a little more enticing. He is one of the few players you draft and sign to an ELC and have him in Stockton to start the year. His is big enough that if he does well at camp you could see him up with the big team. If we trade Frolik and the Flames don’t resign Hathaway, it will open some room for a Leason, Tuulola, and/or Dube. Not saying he would make the Flames right off the bat, but there are possibilities. Local kid who’s a right shot, big and mean, and has some skills. What’s not to like? Late bloomer? Big deal. He projects way better than Foo. I’d take him at #26.

  • deantheraven

    Now, don’t be angry with me, but if that young goalie makes it to 26, i say grab him.
    I know, I know, first rounders and goalies add up to voodoo crapshoot. I say what the hell?

  • How's She Goin'

    All things considered, I think the safe bet is Lassi Thomson at 26 based on the list of players above that will most likely be available . He’s the right balance between being relatively safe and still getting some upside potential. If you want to throw caution to the wind and swing for the fences then Afanasyev. Given how every player from 20 – 60 are practically interchangeable, I would trade down a few spots to pick up an extra late second round pick to maximize my chances of picking a winner if I were Treliving.

  • freethe flames

    For those liking Leason I worry about a 20 year old. He may be the most ready fro Pro hockey but he is two years older than almost everyone; has he already reached his ceiling? I don’t know I just worry about it.

    • Albertabeef

      Drafting is never guaranteed. However with no current 2nd rounder, taking a pro ready player who could maybe help sooner rather than later is worth the risk. Unless there is a better right handed right winger available Leason is a choice I can live with.