FlamesNation Mailbag: Welcome to draft week!

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
29 days ago
Friends, welcome to what could be a very important week in Calgary Flames history!
The Flames enter the week controlling nine selections in the upcoming 2024 NHL Draft, and they also have more than $20 million in cap space at their disposal. As the club attempts to kick-start their re-(verb) process, there’s no better place to move things along than the entry draft.
Onto the mailbag!
Last year, in the first draft with Craig Conroy as general manager, the Flames opted to prioritize a mix of size and skill. I suspect we’ll see that trend generally continue, though I don’t think they’ll necessarily leave skill on the table to select an appreciably less-skilled giant. Broadly-speaking, I suspect the Flames will make at least eight selections – I don’t rule out them packaging a pick or two to move up, but I wouldn’t count on it – and I would suspect they skew slightly towards forwards over goaltenders or blueliners.
A disclaimer: Uh… everybody lies before big events before the NHL Draft or the trade deadline. It does the Calgary Flames absolutely no good if Craig Conroy speaks his heart’s truth when speaking to members of the media prior to the draft. Try to think of the NHL Draft run-up as a bunch of general managers playing poker, with each one trying to bluff enough that it convinces one of the guys ahead of them to make a move that causes a great player to fall to them at their spot.
That said, Jarome Iginla told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis in a recent interview that Tij has been playing centre in the past – though, admittedly, he’s played less of it in the past couple seasons in the WHL. And yeah, Conroy has mentioned that the club might prefer a centre. So if we take everybody at face value, then maybe the Flames would take a centre at ninth overall if Iginla’s (a) already picked before their spot or (b) not the best player available. In that case, maybe they would prioritize somebody like Spokane’s Berkly Catton, Tappara’s Konsta Helenius or Medicine Hat’s Cayden Lindstrom – they’re all quite good hockey players.
But there’s also the possibility that we’re watching a very high-profile game of poker, where’s no incentive for teams to be entirely truthful about their intentions if it means that the player of their dreams could slide to their draft slot.
I don’t think the Flames will rule out anything that could improve their team. They’re going to have to balance quality and quantity in this year’s draft. It would probably cost a second-round pick (and maybe also a third-round pick) to move up from 28th until the teens. And yeah, doing that might mean being able to grab a player like Chicago Steel centre Michael Hage in the middle of the first round. But if they rolled the dice on that move, they would be turning down taking another two players later on.
The draft is a balancing act, so the Flames would need to determine what they feel are worthwhile risks to take.
I think the targets for the Flames will be players that can fill in some gaps and give some breathing room for their young players. Specifically, I would imagine they look for a “quad-A” goaltender type to play behind Dustin Wolf and Dan Vladar with the Calgary Wranglers. But depending on what other moves happen between now and the draft, they could look for a bit of veteran depth across the board – players that can play in the bottom six forward group or third pairing in the NHL, or could be big pieces for the Wranglers and help the young players there progress.
I haven’t heard anything, but I would recommend keeping an eye out for when the development camp roster comes out early in July. If there are number changes in the works, we usually get our first clues about them based on number assignments at that camp.
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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