The NHL Entry Draft was originally scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, but the NHL wisely decided to push it back until the 2019/2020 concludes. While unrestricted free agency gets more focus each summer, the draft is much more important to an organization’s long-term success.
This week across the Nation Network we are looking at the Canadian team’s best lineup of players they have drafted.
1. The player had to be drafted by the organization. Jarome Iginla was drafted by Dallas, so he won’t be on the Flames roster.
2. Players need to be slotted in the position they played the most. Mark Messier started at left wing, but he played centre the majority of his career.
3. We are picking the best possible lineup, similar to the Olympic rosters — players who had the best career, even if the majority wasn’t with the organization who drafted them.
4. For organizations like the Flames, who were in two different cities, their all-time roster includes players drafted by Atlanta and Calgary.
5. We only went with 18 skaters and two goalies.
Flames Forwards (Draft number and year)
Gary Roberts (12th, 1984) – Joe Nieuwendyk (27th, 1985) – Brett Hull (117th, 1984)
Johnny Gaudreau (104th, 2011) – Kent Nilsson (64th, 1976) – Theoren Fleury (166th, 1987)
Matthew Tkachuk (6th, 2016) – Tom Lysiak (2nd, 1973) – Hakan Loob (181st, 1980)
Eric Vail (21st, 1973) – Guy Chouinard (28th, 1974) – Sergei Makarov (231st, 1983)
The Flames scouts made some excellent late round picks on the right wing. Two Hall of Famers, and another (Fleury) who should be in (and might get in later today). The Atlanta Flames drafted well down the middle, and after a lengthy debate, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and Cory Stillman were left off the roster.
Flames Defence (Draft number and year)
Gary Suter (180th, 1984) – Al MacInnis (15th, 1981)
Paul Reinhart (12th, 1979) – Derek Morris (13th, 1996)
Dion Phaneuf (9th, 2003) – TJ Brodie (114th, 2008)
An incredible top-pair who played a major role in the Flames 1989 Stanley Cup. These choices were pretty much unanimous. Remember, Mark Giordano wasn’t drafted by any NHL club so he doesn’t qualify.
Flames Goalies (Draft number and year)
Mike Vernon (56th, 1981)
Craig Anderson (77th, 1999)
Two obvious choices as the only other two goalies with more than 70 NHL games played are Trevor Kidd (387) and Curtis McElhinney (237).
It is important to note the Flames scouts made some excellent mid-to-late round picks. Five of the Flames best 12 forwards were drafted in the fourth round or later, as well as Gary Suter on the blueline.
It is not a surprise that much of their 1989 Cup-winning team was drafted by the Flames: MacInnis, Suter, Nieuwendyk, Vernon, Loob, Roberts, Fleury, Jim Peplinski and Tim Hunter. You need good draft picks to build a winner.
However, between 1985-1991 their first round selections weren’t great. Kidd never became the goalie they expected, while the other picks combined to play 64 games. But they often made great picks later to make up for those with Nieuwendyk and Fleury being major catalysts to the 1989 Cup win, and Nieuwendyk’s trade to Dallas landed Iginla.
Another dark time of first round drafting occurred between 1997-2011, when Calgary’s first round selections included Daniel Tkaczuk, Rico Fata, Oleg Saprykin, Brent Krahn, Chuck Kobasew, Eric Nystrom, Kris Chucko, Matt Pelech, Leland Irving, Greg Nemisz, Tim Erixon and Sven Baertschi.
Kobasew was a solid NHLer, as was Nystrom, but neither produced much offence. Outside of Phaneuf in 2003, and Backlund in 2007, their first round picks didn’t provide much help for Iginla and company for almost a 15 year-span.
Recent picks of Tkachuk, Monahan and Sam Bennett have looked much better and Juuso Valimaki showed great promise before being injured. If the Flames could hit on more of their first rounders in the future, and maintain solid later round picks their chances of being competitive yearly will increase.
Who would be on your all-time Flames drafted roster?
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The Nation Network series launched this week.