The 2011 NHL Entry Draft was the 29th in league history. This draft marked the second-straight season the Edmonton Oilers selected first overall, using the pick on Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He headlined what can be considered an extremely successful draft, as an astounding 59.2% of the players have gone on to play at least one game in the NHL.
Related: Flames Draft For Skill Over Size
The Calgary Flames came into this draft with just five picks, which included a first-round pick, two seconds, a fourth, and a sixth. It was an extremely important draft, as they had just missed the playoffs for the second-straight season and needed to make these picks count in order to get back on track.
Early Rounds (1-2)
Round 1, 11th Overall
Sven Baertschi, LW (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
With the 13th-overall selection, the Flames chose Swiss forward Sven Baertschi. He had just finished his first season in North America, where he absolutely lit it up for the Portland Winterhawks, posting 34 goals and 85 points in just 66 games. At the time of his draft, Baertschi was seen as an undersized but extremely skilled winger. He was even referred to by some as a “mini Hossa”.
After going to the Flames training camp that fall, he was assigned back to the Winterhawks, which came as no surprise. He continued where he left off the previous season, posting 33 goals and 94 points in 47 games. That same season, the Flames had many injuries and recalled Baertschi on an emergency basis in early March. He played in five games with them that season, scoring three goals. It appeared at the time that the Flames had an up and coming superstar on their hands.
The next season was the beginning of Baertschi’s professional career. He started the 2012-13 season with the Flames AHL affiliate Abbotsford Heat, putting up an impressive 26 points in 32 games. Later in the season, he earned himself a call up to the Flames where he managed 10 points in 20 games. Unfortunately for him and the team, it started to go downhill shortly thereafter. Baertschi went through a couple more seasons of going up and down between the Flames and the Heat.
Although his numbers in the AHL were impressive, he struggled to produce at the NHL level with just two goals and 15 points in 40 games over parts of two seasons. The Flames decided they had seen enough of Baertschi and traded him to the Vancouver Canucks on March 2, 2015, in exchange for the Canucks second-round pick at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Baertschi is still currently a member of the Canucks organization, albeit in the AHL with the Utica Comets. It is Baertschi’s first time in the AHL since being traded by the Flames five seasons ago, in what came as a bit of a surprise move when he was sent down before this past regular season began. Despite having a few decent seasons with the Canucks, his career has been quite disappointing considering the promise he showed early on.
Missed Opportunity: John Gibson, G – Drafted 39th overall by the Anaheim Ducks
Miikka Kiprusoff, who had been the team’s franchise goaltender for years, only played two more seasons after this draft before calling it a career. Had they taken John Gibson with their first-round pick instead of Baertschi, they would have been able to transition from one elite goalie in Kiprusoff to another in Gibson.
The 26-year-old American netminder has appeared in 286 regular-season games, putting up a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA) and a .918 save percentage (SV%). He has been the Anaheim Ducks number one goalie for five seasons now and is highly regarded as one of the best in the world. There is no doubt he would be an upgrade over the current duo of David Rittich and Cam Talbot.
Round 2, 45th Overall
Marcus Granlund, C (HIFK Helsinki, SM-liiga)
The Flames used their first of two second-round selections on another forward, this time taking Finnish center Markus Granlund. Markus is the younger brother of now Nashville Predators forward Mikael, who was taken ninth overall by the Minnesota Wild one year prior. After being drafted, Markus played two more seasons in Finland. At age 20, he played his first professional season on North American soil, suiting up for 52 AHL games with the Abbotsford Heat, putting up 46 points.
Much like Baertschi at the time, it looked like the Flames had another stud in Granlund. However, yet again much like Baertschi, it soon went downhill. Though the next season he produced at nearly a point per game again in the AHL, he struggled when called upon by the Flames posting 18 points in 48 games, followed by just seven in 31 the next year. They decided to move on from Granlund, and just like they did with Baertschi, they traded him to the Canucks. In return, they received Hunter Shinkaruk.
During his time with the Canucks, Granlund posted respectable yet unspectacular numbers. He set career highs during the 2016-17 season, with 19 goals and 32 points. After the 2019-20 season, he became a free agent and inked a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. It hasn’t worked out well since, as he had just four points in 34 games this season and is now playing in the AHL for the Bakersfield Condors.
Missed Opportunity: William Karlsson, C – Drafted 53rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks
Though William Karlsson’s career got off to a slow start with both the Anaheim Ducks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, everything changed when he got taken in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights.
In his first season with the new team, he scored 43 goals and 78 points. In his last three years, he has put up 180 points, which is 79 more than Granlund has put up in his entire career.
Round 2, 57th Overall
Tyler Wotherspoon, D (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
For the Flames’ third pick of the draft, they selected another Portland Winterhawk, this time taking a defenceman in Tyler Wotherspoon. At the time, he was seen as a player who was solid in his own end but needed to work on his offensive game, which was evident from his stat line of two goals and 12 points that season.
After being drafted, Wotherspoon played two more seasons with the Winterhawks where he began to produce more offensively, as he put up 37 points in his final season. He also played for Team Canada in the World Junior’s that season and put up one goal and one assist in 6 games. Unfortunately, Canada did not medal at the tournament, finishing in fourth place. Next up was his first professional season, in which he mainly spent with the Abbotsford Heat. He did, however, play 14 games with the Flames that season, registering four assists. That has turned out to be the most games he has played in a season to this point, as he managed just 16 regular season games throughout parts of three seasons after that.
Wotherspoon left the Flames organization at the end of the 2017-18 season, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the St. Louis Blues. He spent the entire season in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage, posting 22 points in 70 games. Once again, he was a free agent and this time elected to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers on a two-year, two-way deal. He has yet to appear in an NHL game with the Flyers.
Safe to say, the Flames regret this pick. He still hasn’t developed into the shutdown defenceman they had envisioned back on the 2011 draft day and considering his age of 27, it seems safe to say he never will. Of course, many players taken near his position in the draft never turn out as hoped, so it wouldn’t normally be a big deal. However, when you see who was selected with the very next pick …
Missed Opportunity: Nikita Kucherov, RW – Drafted 58th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning
This one stings for the Flames. Tampa Bay struck lightning in the bottle getting Kucherov late in the second round, pun absolutely intended.
The 26-year-old Kucherov has amazed year after year since his NHL career began, especially last season where he brought home the Art Ross, Hart, and Ted Lindsay trophy after an incredible 128 points. Despite getting off to a slow start by his standards this season, he is still on pace to put up 103 points which marked his third straight triple-digit point campaign. The Flames missed out big time here, as he is on track for a Hall of Fame career.
Mid to Late Rounds (3-6)
Round 4, 104th Overall
Johnny Gaudreau, LW (Dubuque Fighting Saints, USHL)
Though they missed big on Kucherov, the Flames got a huge steal of their own as they took undersized winger Johnny Gaudreau midway through the fourth round. This was considered a risky pick as many teams chose to avoid him due to his size despite the undeniable skill he had. His next three seasons after being drafted were spent playing for Boston College. During this time, he started to really put his name on the hockey map as he registered 175 points over those three seasons. His last season, in particular, had people talking, as he put up 36 goals and 80 points in 40 games, which won him the Hobey Baker. He made his Flames debut on the day he won the prestigious award and scored his first NHL goal.
Non-surprisingly, Gaudreau made the Flames roster out of camp the following season. His rookie season helped him prove many who doubted his size wrong, as he recorded 64 regular-season points and added nine more in 11 playoff games. Even though it was early, it had become very clear that the Flames had found a diamond in the rough. Since then, Gaudreau has continued to fascinate, as he has put up no less than 61 points in his first five full seasons. He won the Lady Byng Trophy during 2016-17, but was at his best last season setting career highs in goals and points with 36 and 99.
After missing on the first three picks, the Flames saved themselves when they selected Gaudreau. Considering how much he has accomplished, Gaudreau could have been taken first overall and would still be considered a great pick. Though there have been some trade rumours lately, he was still a fantastic pick and can prove that even further if he is able to elevate his play this coming postseason and help his team go on a run.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 6, 164th Overall
Laurent Brossoit, G (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)
For their fifth and final pick of the draft, the Flames went back to the WHL for the third time where they selected Edmonton Oil Kings goaltender Laurent Brossoit. The now 26-year-old had just wrapped up his rookie season with the Oil Kings and compiled a 3.32 GAA along with a .887 SV%. This was certainly a pick that was considered a long-term project, but there was no question he possessed real talent, and that enticed the Flames.
Brossoit returned to the Oil Kings for two more seasons, which were both extremely successful. In his first season back, he won a WHL championship and as a result, played in the 2012 Memorial Cup. Although his final season with the team did not result in another championship, he was incredible as he posted a 2.25 GAA along with a .917 SV% and a 33-8-6 record. Fans and management alike were starting to get quite excited about him.
His professional career with the Flames ended up being extremely short, as he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers along with forward Roman Horak for defenceman Ladislav Smid and goaltender Olivier Roy. Brossoit went on to spend that season and the following two in the AHL, before being promoted to the Oilers midway through the 2016-17 season. Despite having played in six NHL games the past two seasons, it was made clear that this time he was up for good.
That 2016-17 season marked the first time the Oilers had been to the playoffs in 11 years. Though Brossoit didn’t see much playing time due to the strong play of Cam Talbot, he was very sharp when called upon with a 1.99 GAA and a .928 SV%. Thanks to his strong play, he had penciled himself in as the backup for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, that next season didn’t go as planned for both the team and Brossoit. He struggled in through the gate with a 3-7-1 record and a goals-against of 3.24 and a .883 save percentage. Management had seen enough at this point and acquired goaltender Al Montoya from the Montreal Canadiens, which signaled the end for Brossoit’s career in Edmonton.
Soon after acquiring Montoya, the Oilers sent Brossoit back down to the AHL where he remained for the rest of season. After that 2017-18 season, he became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. On the first day of free agency, he decided to stay north of the border, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the Winnipeg Jets. Despite the deal being a two-way contract, he played well enough to start the season as the team’s backup behind Connor Hellebuyck, a position which he kept all season long. They were clearly happy with his play, as on May. 25, 2019, they signed him to another one-year deal.
It doesn’t seem likely that Brossoit will ever develop into a starting NHL goalie, but for a sixth-round pick he has panned out quite nicely, just not with the Flames. To this point in his career, he has appeared in 68 games. He has struggled throughout some points of this season, but overall has been a fairly reliable backup for the Jets and should be able to find work in a similar role next season, whether that be back in Winnipeg or another team. This was a solid draft selection by the Flames.
Missed Opportunity: Ondrej Palat, LW – Drafted 208th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning
As you can see, the Lightning had some fantastic picks at the 2011 draft. Ondrej Palat isn’t nearly as good of a player as Kucherov, but the fact that they were able to grab him with the fourth last pick in the draft is truly remarkable. In his full seven seasons so far, he has broken the 50-point barrier three times, including a career-high 63 set in 2014-15.
If not for injuries he likely would have a few more 50-point seasons as well. Palat brings a lot of different elements to his game and would certainly be a beneficial player on the Flames roster if they would have taken him with their sixth-round pick.
Draft Grade: B-
This draft was close to being a complete train wreck for the Flames, who were only able to save it by scooping up Johnny Gaudreau. That pick gave them their franchise player and for that, they receive a B-. Sure, their three first picks weren’t great, but there have certainly been worse over the years.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.