The Calgary Flames were the second-best regular season team in the National Hockey League in 2018-19. Heading into the 2019 NHL Draft, general manager Brad Treliving likely hopes to make moves – picks and otherwise – to keep that momentum rolling.
The good news is that the Flames were able to back-fill their roster with drafted players in 2018-19 – Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane graduated to the NHL roster, with Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki pushing for jobs in 2019-20. The challenge will be to replace those promising youngsters to keep the pipeline flowing.
Heading into draft weekend, the Flames have five picks:
- 26th overall in the first round
- 88th overall in the third round
- 116th overall in the fourth round (originally the NY Islanders’ pick, acquired in the Travis Hamonic trade)
- 150th overall in the fifth round
- 214th overall in the seventh round (originally Carolina’s pick, acquired in the Eddie Lack trade)
The Flames made only one selection in the first three rounds of the 2017 and 2018 NHL Drafts combined – Juuso Valimaki in the first round in 2017. They’ll really need to hit on the first and third round picks to keep their prospect cupboards stocked.
Wants and Needs
The Flames have depth at virtually every position. But once Dube and Valimaki graduate, they don’t have a ton of high-end prospects waiting in the wings. They need one or two blue-chippers to help move the needle in their minor league system, but they already have fairly good positional minor league depth.
Their major positional need may be in goal, though. While David Rittich came in as a free agent and progressed through their developmental system, draft selections Mason McDonald, Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons have struggled to gain much traction. They’ve added Russian netminder Artyom Zagidulin to their stable, but they have a gap in the junior ranks that needs to be filled.
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 18th draft as head of amateur scouting – spanning four different general managers (and interim GM Brian Burke).
After some iffy results early in his tenure, Button’s staff has found a lot of promising prospects in recent years that have at least turned into useful assets – and some into reliable NHL players.
- Their last three first rounders (Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk and Juuso Valimaki) played for the NHL team last season.
- Notable second rounders include Andersson, Dube and Kylington.
- Notable recent fourth rounders include Johnny Gaudreau.
- Notable sixth rounders include Mangiapane and Matthew Phillips
The team’s approach for the past few drafts, dating back to around 2011, has focused on hockey sense, offensive ceiling and competitiveness. 12 Button draft picks played for Flames in 2018-19, along with another four players that the amateur scouting team found and signed as free agents (including captain Mark Giordano).
The Flames’ general drafting tendency under Treliving has been to skew towards forwards – they’ve taken two goalies, eight defensemen and 20 forwards – with a habit of selecting players from the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Sweden. The team’s results from the OHL and WHL have been strong enough in recent years that area scouts Fred Parker and Rob Sumner were promoted a year ago to being assistant scouting directors.
Targets and Fits
The Flames’ likely approach in the first round, where they select 26th overall, is to nab the best player available. The nature of this year’s draft is that a handful of strong players might slide to the late 20s. The Flames can’t afford to be positionally-picking, so they’ll likely just grab the best player that slides to them.
In terms of players that would fit their style and drafting tendencies, Finnish defender Ville Heinola, Swedish defender Tobias Bjornfot, OHL forwards Connor McMichael and Philip Tomasino, and WHL forward Brett Leason would likely be the best fits for the Flames.
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.