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Their record isn’t spotless, but the Calgary Flames have found a lot of value in the first round of the NHL Draft

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
28 days ago
It goes without saying, but the first round of each year’s NHL Draft is the best time for teams to find high-end NHL talent. That’s not to say that great players aren’t found later – Johnny Gaudreau was a fourth-rounder, for instance – but the first round features the players with the most pedigree, the most hype, and who’ve gotten the most attention from scouts.
The Calgary Flames control two first-round picks in the 2024 NHL Draft: their own and Vancouver’s, acquired in the Elias Lindholm trade.
The Flames haven’t found a true superstar in the first round since selecting Matthew Tkachuk in 2016, but they have done a reliable job selecting good players and finding value early in recent years.

Their last five picks

Here are the last five first-round selections for the Flames:
YearPickPlayerTeam
202316F Samuel HonzekVancouver (WHL)
202113F Matt CoronatoChicago (USHL)
202024F Connor ZaryKamloops (WHL)
201926F Jakob PelletierMoncton (QMJHL)
201716D Juuso ValimakiTri-City (WHL)
The Flames traded their 2022 first-round pick to Montreal as part of the Tyler Toffoli deal – they sent the 2022 first-rounder, their 2023 fifth-round pick, Tyler Pitlick and the rights to Emil Heineman to the Habs for Toffoli.
The Flames traded their 2018 first-round pick to the New York Islanders as part of the Travis Hamonic trade – they sent the 2018 first-round pick, their 2018 second-round pick and their 2019 second-round pick to the Islanders for Hamonic and a 2019 fourth-round pick.
Of the last five first-rounders, four have played NHL games with the Flames and three of those players played games with the Flames last season. Heck, Zary became an NHL regular, Coronato showed a lot of progress and promise, and Pelletier… well, he had a tough year because of bad injury luck. (It happens.) Valimaki had similarly bad injury luck, which derailed his progression, cost him development time during his waiver-exempt seasons… and likely contributed to the Flames’ decision to waive him in favour of other players.
Hopefully Pelletier doesn’t land on that path.

Some historical hits

To date, the Flames have made 48 first-round selections. Of those, 43 have played NHL games, and 41 of those have played NHL games for the Flames. Ignoring Honzek – since he just got drafted – the last 11 first-rounders have played some games for the Flames.
Six Flames first-rounders ended up playing over 1,000 NHL games: Al MacInnis, Gary Roberts, Derek Morris, Brad Marsh, Dion Phaneuf and Cory Stillman. (Mikael Backlund will make it seven sometime early in 2024-25.)
Another 20 first-rounders ended up playing over 200 NHL games: Jacques Richard, Tom Lysliak, Richard Mulhern, Dave Shand, Paul Reinhart, Dan Quinn, Trevor Kidd, Chris Dingman, Denis Gauthier, Rico Fata, Oleg Saprykin, Chuck Kobasew, Eric Nystrom, Backlund, Sven Baertschi, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Tkachuk and Valimaki.
The Flames’ drafting in the first round has not been perfect, but they’ve had some good picks. Speaking of…

Some historical misses

We dove into the five most disappointing picks elsewhere, which included five first-rounders that barely made a dent in the NHL (or never even played a single game): Chris Biotti (1985), Bryan Deasley (1987), Niklas Sundblad (1991) Jesper Mattsson (1993) and Brent Krahn (2000). 1986 first-rounder George Pelawa unfortunately passed away in a car accident the summer after being selected.
Beyond those six, Vic Mercredi (1973) and Kris Chucko (2004) played two games apiece, while Morgan Klimchuk (2013) played just once. And Tim Erixon (2009) never played a game for the Flames, though they traded him to the New York Rangers in a swap that landed them two second-round picks and Roman Horak, so at least they got some value back. Erixon, though, never really panned out in North American hockey.

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