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The Calgary Flames have done pretty well with their recent first-round selections

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
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Regardless of how good a hockey club’s scouting staff is, by definition a team’s best chance at landing a great player in the annual NHL Draft comes in the first round. As such, first-round selections are highly valued commodities, both as trade chips and as picks to select players.
The Calgary Flames own their first-round pick, 16th overall, in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Their last five picks

Here are the last five first-round selections for the Flames:
  • In 2021, the Flames selected forward Matt Coronato from the USHL’s Chicago Steel.
  • In 2020, the Flames selected forward Connor Zary from the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.
  • In 2019, the Flames selected forward Jakob Pelletier from the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.
  • In 2017, the Flames selected defenceman Juuso Valimaki from the WHL’s Tri-City Americans.
  • In 2016, the Flames selected forward Matthew Tkachuk from the OHL’s London Knights.
The Flames traded their 2022 first-round pick to Montreal to acquire Tyler Toffoli. They traded their 2018 first-round pick to the NY Islanders to acquire Travis Hamonic.
Tkachuk played six seasons (431 games) for the Flames between 2016 and 2022. He was traded to Florida in 2022 for a big haul that included Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round pick.
Valimaki played parts of three seasons (82 games) for the Flames between 2018 and 2022. His development was hampered by a pair of major injuries – a high ankle sprain and an ACL tear – and he was claimed off waivers by Arizona in 2022.
Pelletier, Zary and Coronato have all signed entry-level deals and remain in the Flames system. Pelletier and Coronato both made their NHL debuts during the 2022-23 season.

Some notable selections

The Flames have cashed in big during the first round in the past. Of the 47 first-round selections the club has made to date, 42 have played NHL games, and 40 of those played games for the Flames franchise. (We’ll get into the two that didn’t later…)
1981 first-rounder Al MacInnis (15th overall) won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe with the Flames in 1989, and was the club’s all-time points leader (with 822 points) when he left the club via a trade with St. Louis. He ended up with 1,274 career points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
1984 first-rounder Gary Roberts (12th overall) was another 1989 Stanley Cup winner. He battled injuries but still amassed 505 points with the Flames. His commitment to fitness helped him avoid injuries later in his career, and he ended up with 910 points overall. (His resume falls short of the Hall of Fame, but he’s still a very good pick.)
1992 first-rounder Cory Stillman (6th overall) never quite reached the lofty individual point production that MacInnis or Roberts did, but he was a really useful centre for many years. He won Stanley Cups with Tampa Bay (in 2004) and Carolina (in 2006), odd enough defeating an Alberta team in the final each time.
2003 first-rounder Dion Phaneuf (9th overall) arguably peaked too early in his career, garnering Calder and Norris Trophy consideration in his first few seasons in the NHL. His point production didn’t sustain itself, but he remained a useful NHL blueliner for several teams for awhile. He played over 1,000 NHL games.
2007 first-rounder Mikael Backlund (24th overall) has played more games for the Flames than any other Flames-drafted player, finishing 2022-23 with 908 games under his belt. He’s emerged as a very useful 200-foot player and consistently receives Selke Trophy consideration.
While arguably not quite as notable as the previous five players, Brad Marsh (1978) and Derek Morris (1996) played over 1,000 games apiece over lengthy, productive NHL careers. Marsh even served as the first captain after the Flames moved to Calgary from Atlanta in 1980.

Some notable misses

Four first-rounders never played a single NHL game: Chris Biotti (1985), George Pelawa (1986), Bryan Deasley (1987) and Jesper Mattsson (1993). Pelawa tragically passed away in a car accident the summer after being selected, but the other three were players whose development didn’t pan out.
Vic Mercredi (1973), Niklas Sundblad (1991) and Kris Chucko (2004) each played just twice. Morgan Klimchuk (2013) played once.
Two first-rounders played games, just never for the Flames: Brent Krahn (2000, 9th overall) and Tim Erixon (2009, 23rd overall).

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