A year ago, the Calgary Flames were riding high coming off an improbable two-round run in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. They added Dougie Hamilton in a bold draft weekend move and seemed prime for a big step forward in 2015-16. That step forward didn’t materialize and they’re at the 2016 NHL Draft with the sixth overall selection – a product of a wholly underwhelming year in southern Alberta.
Does general manager Brad Treliving have another bold move up his sleeve or will he merely be making several trips to the podium in Buffalo?
Heading into draft weekend, the Flames have 10 picks.
- 6th overall in the 1st round
- 35th overall in the 2nd round
- 54th overall in the 2nd round (acquired from Florida for Jiri Hudler)
- 56th overall in the 2nd round (acquired from Dallas for Kris Russell)
- 66th overall in the 3rd round
- 96th overall in the 4th round
- 126th overall in the 5th round
- 156th overall in the 6th round
- 166th overall in the 6th round (acquired from Minnesota for David Jones)
- 186th overall in the 7th round
The six selections in the first 100 picks in the draft could be a precursor to Treliving wheeling and dealing once again, or he could hold onto the picks and allow his scouting team to restock the cupboards. Of note: the 10 selections is the most the Flames have entered a draft weekend with since the draft went to seven rounds after the 2004-05 lockout, and the first time in a couple decades that the Flames haven’t traded away any of their own picks before the draft.
WANTS & NEEDS
Through some savvy trading, drafting and development over the past five (or so) years, the Flames have quietly accumulated a lot of young talent in several key positions that will seemingly set them up for the future.
At center, they’ve got Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Mikael Backlund and veteran Matt Stajan set for the NHL roster. Pending unrestricted free agent Derek Grant looked good in a late-season audition, while Bill Arnold, Freddie Hamilton and 2012 first rounder Mark Jankowski could push for jobs in the near-future.
In addition, the team is just lousy with left-shooting wingers. The NHL roster has Johnny Gaudreau, Michael Frolik, Lance Bouma, Joe Colborne and Micheal Ferland, while the farm system has Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk, Emile Poirier, Andrew Mangiapane, Brett Pollock and Kenny Agostino. Shinkaruk and Poirier are arguably closest to full-time NHL duty.
The team also has many, many defenders: Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, Jyrki Jokipakka, Dougie Hamilton and Ladislav Smid, while on the farm there is Oliver Kylington, Tyler Wotherspoon, Rasmus Andersson, Brett Kulak, Ryan Culkin, Kenney Morrison, Patrick Sieloff and collegiate blueliner Brandon Hickey. Should a job open up through a veteran departure, likely Wotherspoon and Kulak would fight for the opening.
What don’t they have? They’re fairly light on right-shooting defensemen – Hamilton, Engelland, Wideman, Morrison and Andersson are surrounded by many left-shooting options – and their list of established NHL goaltenders is empty, with Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider (in that order) vying for the “goalie of the future” label.
Tod Button has been the club’s head of scouting since the 2001-02 season, having been promoted into the role by his brother Craig when he was Flames general manager. This will be his 15th draft as head of amateur scouting.
The last three years of Flames drafting has seen the club take four first-round selections – Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk in 2013 and Sam Bennett in 2014. They traded their 2015 first round pick to acquire Dougie Hamilton from Boston, but also managed to acquire 2013 Vancouver first round selection Hunter Shinkaruk in a trade-deadline swap last season.
Between 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Flames have made 19 selections: one goaltender, nine defensemen and 10 forwards. They’ve selected six players from the Ontario Hockey League, five from the Western Hockey League, two from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the rest from a mixture of other leagues.
TARGETS & FITS
It’s easy to imagine the Flames being happy with “settling” for whichever of Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois or Alexander Nylander falls to them at sixth overall – and it seems likely that Nylander may be the player that they end up with. Nylander is a right-shooting winger that can play either side of the ice, and would give the Flames some versatility in their offensive attack. Oh, and was born in Calgary while father Michael was playing for the Flames.
Beyond the first round, the Flames glut of picks allows them to either go for a breadth approach and have them take a little of everything, or to target specific players and trade up to grab them (as the did last year when they moved up to grab Oliver Kylington at the end of the second round). The organization values players with established goal-scoring abilities, size, and the ability to move the puck up the ice efficiently.
Players that could fit the bill for the Flames’ needs include University of Connecticut winger Tage Thompson (whose father was born in Calgary), Moose Jaw goaltender Zach Sawchenko and center Noah Gregor, smooth-skating London defender Victor Mete and center Cliff Pu, and Kelowna defenseman Lucas Johansen. Given their proximity to the WHL, it’s feasible to see them taking a chance on high-scoring overage forwards Adam Brooks (of Regina) and Brayden Burke (of Lethbridge) given how many looks their scouting staff are likely to have gotten this past season.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.