The NHL Entry Draft (aka the most wonderful time of the year) is fast approaching, and for the lowest-ranked teams in the league, it is their chance to pick up just what they need the most: that X-factor who can help their team rise up the standings in the seasons to come.
But like any acquisition in the NHL, a team’s draft selection can be a hit or a miss, regardless of whether they went in the first round or the seventh.
Unfortunately for the Calgary Flames, it appears that the last five years have garnered more misses than hits (with the exception of their most recent first-round pick Sean Monahan, undoubtedly a major X-factor in the team’s first season in rebuild mode).
Names that generated a lot of buzz in their draft classes, entering the NHL with much expectation, have seemingly disappeared from the radar, or have just become a complete bust in general.
Here’s a look at a few of the unexpected draft duds the Calgary Flames have ended up with in the last five years.
1. Tim Erixon (2009 NHL Entry Draft, 23rd Overall)
Perhaps one of the more controversial busts in recent Flames draft history is Tim Erixon. Considered one of the top European skaters in his draft class, the Swedish defenseman seemed like a promising pick at the time, and the Flames opted to take Erixon over other notable young blueliners like John Moore or Simon Despres.
But they didn’t even get to test out their pick, as Erixon immediately demanded a trade from the team who chose to give him his first crack at the NHL. The decision, which came across as a giant slap to the face for the Flames franchise and fans alike, sent Erixon first to the New York Rangers (where he struggled and spent most of the season on their farm team) and then to the Columbus Jackets where he is suffering a similar fate.
With zero NHL goals to his name and only 13 in the AHL since being drafted, some wouldn’t just say Erixon turned out to be a bust for the Flames, but for any team who has had him since.
2. Mark Jankowski ( 2012 NHL Entry Draft, 21st Overall)
An underdog story from the start of his hockey career, Hamilton, Ontario native Mark Jankowski was overlooked in the 2010 OHL Draft due to his small stature, despite being the top scorer for the St. Catharines Minor Midget AAA Falcons. Undaunted, Jankowski played two seasons at a prep school in Quebec, where he continued to be a prolific scorer, notching a career-high 53 goals in 57 games in the 2011-2012 season at Stanstead College.
It was only after the young centerman went through a six-inch growth spurt that he was finally drafted into the OHL, and was selected in the seventh round by the Saginaw Spirit. In that same year, Jankowski was entered into the NHL draft, albeit rather low in standing (most scouts had him ranked 74th overall).
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Flames took a giant leap 0f faith in the now-giant Jankowski, selecting him in the first round, 21st overall. The decision caused quite a stir with Flames fans, and a lot of questions as to what the hell Jay Feaster was thinking. (Needless to say, Feaster did not last long as the general manager, as the Flames relieved him of his duties just over a year after Jankowski’s acquisition.)
Jankowski has yet to play a game with his NHL club, and his average stats with Providence College in the past two seasons are not helping him get there anytime soon.
However, at only 19 years of age, Jankowski still has a large timetable for development, and despite a lot of talk of his selection being a bust, could become an asset to the Calgary Flames yet.
3. Sven Baertschi (2011 NHL Entry Draft, 13th Overall)
With the Portland Winterhawks, Swiss winger Sven Baertschi was generating quite a buzz prior to the 2011 draft. In 66 games played with the WHL team, he had 34 goals and 51 assists, and at the end of the 2010-2011 season had cracked the top ten North American-based skaters list. Just after being selected by the Flames and attending their training camp Baertschi returned to the Winterhawks, where he racked up 33 goals and 61 assists in 47 games. Needless to say, his acquisition was an exciting one for the Flames franchise, who had high hopes for the young WHL all-star.
But improper cultivation in his first few seasons with the club has seemed to have hindered his growth as a player, and instead of becoming an offensive enigma for the team, Baertschi has been shuttled back and forth between Calgary and Abbotsford and has not enjoyed a 20+ goal season on either team since his departure from the Winterhawks.
Despite his struggles, the Flames and their fans continue to look back at what Baertschi has been capable of in the past, and the 21-year old still offers some promise to the young, rebuilding team.
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft marks the first time the Calgary Flames have landed a top 5 pick ever. And still riding the excitement of hitting the jackpot with Sean Monahan last year at the sixth spot, it’s safe to say the vibes heading into this year’s draft are mainly positive in Calgary, but as the luck of the draw goes, nothing is certain and only time will tell whether this season’s newest Flames rookie will end up as a stud or a dud.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.