The Flames have gone for ‘obvious’ picks in the first round
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike11 months ago
The 2022 NHL Draft will be the ninth for the Calgary Flames under general manager Brad Treliving. In the prior eight drafts, the Flames have made six first round picks and traded their first round selections away twice. (They have no first round pick this year, either.)
Here’s a look back at the six players the Flames have selected in the opening round. More often than not, they’ve gone the “obvious” route and taken the consensus best player available.
2014: Sam Bennett (centre, 4th overall, Kingston – OHL)
The Flames didn’t over-think it in 2014. After a fairly blah season – some fans jokingly referred to it as the “Sham for Sam” – the Flames had Bennett, the highest-rated North American skater by Central Scouting, fall into their laps at fourth overall. FC Hockey had Bennett third on their rankings. Bennett has turned into a good pro and though he had his challenges in Calgary, even in retrospect he seems like a prudent pick here.
(The Flames traded their first-rounder in 2015 to Boston as part of the Dougie Hamilton trade.)
2016: Matthew Tkachuk (left wing, 6th overall, London – OHL)
In their return to the first round in 2016, the Flames again went with the best available player. Tkachuk, the second-ranked North American skater, dropped to them and the Flames jumped all over the opportunity. FC Hockey had Tkachuk fifth on their rankings. Like Bennett, Tkachuk seemed like the logical pick at the time and his selection still holds up these days.
2017: Juuso Valimaki (defence, 16th overall, Tri-City – WHL)
The Flames went for a European import in 2017 and their first blueliner in the opening round under Treliving – and their first dating back to Tim Erixon’s selection in 2009. Valimaki was the 11th-ranked North American skater per Central Scouting and was ranked 12th by FC Hockey at the time.
A few players selected after Valimaki seem really smart picks now like Josh Norris (19th) and Robert Thomas (20th), but based upon the Flames’ needs at the time Valimaki was probably the right selection.
(The Flames traded their first-rounder in 2018 to the NY Islanders as part of the Travis Hamonic trade.)
2019: Jakob Pelletier (left wing, 26th overall, Moncton – QMJHL)
The Flames headed to the QMJHL in 2019, nabbing Pelletier at 26th overall. He was the 27th-ranked North American skater available and was ranked 20th by FC Hockey. At that point in the draft there were a few different players available, all good ones, and the Flames opted to grab the toolsy two-way forward.
2020: Connor Zary (centre, 24th overall, Kamloops – WHL)
For the fifth consecutive first-rounder under Treliving, and eighth first-rounder dating back to 2013, the Flames went for another Canadian major-junior player. This time it was Zary, the 15th-ranked North American skater and 17th-ranked player by FC Hockey. This pick was preceded by the Flames trading down twice and gaining a pair of third-round picks. Getting Zary as well as two additional picks was a tidy bit of work.
2021: Matt Coronato (right wing, 13th overall, Chicago – USHL)
The first non-CHL first-rounder by the Flames since Mark Jankowski in 2012, Coronato was renowned as a goal machine during his draft year. He was the ninth-ranked North American skater and ranked 20th by FC Hockey in his draft class.
It’s a bit early to tell if Coronato was the best pick available to the Flames, but he performed well at Harvard as a freshman in 2021-22 and his skillset seems to compliment the other forwards in the system.
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