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FlamesNation Mailbag: Teeing up the draft lottery with your (draft) questions

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
Folks, the 2024 edition of the National Hockey League’s trade deadline goes down on Tuesday, so we’ll get some clarity on where, precisely, the Calgary Flames will select in the upcoming entry draft. In the meantime, we have a bunch of questions in this week’s mailbag about the youngsters available in June’s draft!
Let’s assume that the draft order does not change – San Jose drafts first overall and Chicago second overall, and so on.
Tij Iginla was a big part of Canada’s Under-18 World Championship win. He had 12 points overall, including three points in the gold medal game. He really elevated his game during the tournament, and that performance could be the difference that pushes him decidedly into the top 10 of the 2024 draft. While a lot of teams could use somebody like Iginla, the Seattle Kraken are slated to draft eighth overall and they could be a concern. Why? Well, the Kraken heavily scout the Western Hockey League and Iginla’s played two seasons on the coast, the first with the Seattle Thunderbirds and the second with the Kelowna Rockets.
In short: the Kraken probably feel like they know him well and have depth across the board in their prospect system. They could feel pretty comfortable taking a gamble on him early.
If the Flames win the first lottery and go first overall, they take Macklin Celebrini without a moment’s hesitation. If they draft second overall, I imagine they probably try to decide between Russian winger Ivan Demidov and Belarusian blueliner Artyom Levshunov, who’s coming off a strong freshman year at Michigan State. (Personally I’d lean towards Levshunov because he plays a premium position and is already playing in North America, which would dispel any hand-wringing about a Russian prospect staying in Europe, but both players are really strong prospects.)
We’ll get into this in way more detail once the lottery cements the draft order. But looking at recent draft rankings, there seems to be a well-defined top nine in this year’s draft crop of Macklin Celebrini, Ivan Demidov, Artyom Levshunov, Anton Silayev, Sam Dickinson, Berkly Catton, Cayden Lindstrom, Zayne Parekh and Zeev Buium. It seems really unlikely that Celebrini, Demidov or Levshunov slide down the draft board. But it also seems fairly probable that Tij Iginla could work his way into the top 10 mix. The top part of the draft has a consensus group, but the order in which those players could go varies quite a bit from list to list – and probably from team to team.
Simply put: I think the Flames will get somebody pretty good at ninth overall, and I suspect they’ll merely work their list and take whoever the highest-ranked player is left on their list. Considering they need to add a lot to their prospect pool, keeping things simple and taking whoever the best player remaining is would probably be their best move. No need to get too fancy or over-think it.
I know it sounds like a cop-out, but I’m going with “it depends.” Do the Flames make any trades? Does Jacob Markstrom come back for the 2024-25 season as a member of the Flames? I suspect they’ll be looking for some value options – especially in terms of two-way centres or blueliners – but I also don’t think they’re going into the free agency market necessarily looking to make a splash. They have a ton of salary cap and roster flexibility, and I suspect they’ll want to maintain that flexibility unless a bargain – in the trade or free agency markets – falls into their laps.
Got a question for a future mailbag? Contact Ryan on Twitter/X at @RyanNPike or e-mail him at Ryan [at] TheNationNetwork.com! (Make sure you put Mailbag in the subject line!)

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