Over the last 20 years, the Calgary Flames have been an okay team, with some very good seasons and some flat-out bad ones. They made the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 but were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since then, they have tried to make it back but without success. Much of that has to do with their drafting. Though they have had some good picks over the years, they have also had some very bad selections. Here are the worst first round-picks they have made in the last 20 years.
Tim Erixon, D
- Draft Information: 2009, 23rd overall
- Career stats: 93 games, 2 goals, 12 assists
The Flames had high hopes when they selected defenceman Tim Erixon in the first round of the 2009 Draft. The Swedish defenceman, who is the son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, was expected to be a big-time player. However, he never signed with the Flames as he was not confident he would be able to make the roster, and management was forced to trade him to the New York Rangers as a result.
This trade turned out to be a blessing for the Flames, as Erixon never panned out. (from ‘Flames notes: Erixon trade a blessing in disguise,’ Calgary Herald, 12/15/2014) He played just 18 games with the Rangers, and also had short stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite solid numbers during his time in the AHL, he was never able to pull it together at the NHL level.
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Erixon last appeared in the NHL during the 2014-15 season. He played in the AHL until this season when he went overseas and suited up for Vaxjo HC of the SHL. Assuming his NHL career is over, which seems likely, he played just 93 games and put up an extremely underwhelming 14 points.
Greg Nemisz, C
- Draft information: 2008, 25th overall
- Career stats: 15 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
With the 25th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames selected center Greg Nemisz from the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. He had just finished an impressive year with the Spitfires when he scored 34 goals and 33 assists in 68 games. He played an additional two seasons with the Spitfires after he was drafted, and put up a combined 147 points in 116 games. His junior career was quite successful, but as it would turn out, his professional one left a lot to be desired.
Nemisz spent most of 2010-11 in the AHL with the Abbotsford Heat and had an okay rookie season with 33 points in 68 games. However, that was his career-high in the AHL. He played two and a half more seasons for Abbotsford until he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for enforcer Kevin Westgarth. He was able to play in 15 games with the Flames but put up just one assist. Nemisz went on to play 35 games for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL and retired after the 2014-15 season.
This pick certainly wasn’t what the Flames had hoped for, though it’s hard to blame the now 29-year-old Nemisz. He suffered many major injuries during his time as a professional player which likely played a part in his struggles. Regardless, a first-rounder who plays in just 15 career games is the definition of a bust.
Leland Irving, G
- Draft information: 2006 26th overall
- Career stats: 13 games, 3.25 goals-against average (GAA), .902 save percentage (SV%)
The Flames had high hopes for goaltender Leland Irving when they selected him with their first pick at the 2006 Draft. At the time, he had just wrapped up his second season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, posting an incredible 1.91 GAA and a .925 SV%. After he was drafted, he played two more successful seasons with the Silvertips. He finished his junior career with 107-63-11 record.
The 2008-09 season marked Irving’s first as a professional player, and he suited up for 47 games with the Quad City Flames of the AHL. He had a good rookie year, appearing in 47 games with a 2.23 GAA and a .912 SV%. He then spent the majority of the next three seasons in the AHL before he finally received his first NHL call-up during the 2011-12 season. He appeared in seven games with the Flames that season and wasn’t impressive with just a 3.19 GAA and a .912 SV% along with a 1-3-3 record.
The following year, 2012-13, was the lockout-shortened NHL season. Irving started in the AHL but made the Flames as their backup once the NHL season resumed. He got a chance to prove himself early on as starting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was out with an injury. Unfortunately, Irving struggled to fill in as the Flames’ starter. In six games, he posted a 3.33 GAA and a .883 SV% to go along with a 2-1-1 record. The Flames decided they had seen enough and sent him back to the AHL. (from ‘Flames goalie Leland Irving demoted after poor showing,’ Calgary Herald, 02/17/2013)
That was Irving’s last opportunity at the NHL level. Since that season, he has spent time in many different leagues, including the KHL and SM-liiga. He is now playing in Austria, where he has spent the past three seasons. He amassed just 13 NHL games in his career, posting a 3.25 GAA and a .902 SV%. This was a very bad pick by the Flames management.
Matt Pelech, D
- Draft Information: 2005, 26th overall
- Career stats: 13 games 1 goal, 3 assists
Just a year before the Flames selected Irving at 26th overall, they chose defenceman Matt Pelech at the exact same slot. This pick seemed questionable right from the get-go, considering Pelech had just six points during his draft year with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. He played two more seasons of junior hockey after he was drafted and put up a much more respectable 35 points in 58 games with the Belleville Bulls during the 2006-07 season.
The following year Pelech made his professional hockey debut, suiting up for 77 games with the Quad City Flames. He put up big numbers, just not in the scoring department; he racked up just nine points but had 141 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut with the Flames a season later, playing in five games and posting three assists.
Those five games turned out to be the only ones he would play with the Flames, despite being a part of their organization for four seasons. After the 2010-11 season, Pelech became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the San Jose Sharks. He spent three seasons with the Sharks organization, mainly in the AHL. However, he appeared in two games during the 2012-13 season, and six during the 2013-14 season, which was the last time he played an NHL game.
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Pelech, 32, is still playing professional hockey, most recently he finished the season with the Belfast Giants of the EIHL. His stat line, despite playing overseas, has remained similar. He doesn’t produce much offence but he is not afraid to drop the gloves, racking up over 100 penalty minutes in each of the last five seasons. This pick was a complete mistake by the Flames, as he played just 13 career NHL games.
Kris Chucko, RW
- Draft information: 2004, 24th overall
- Career stats: 2 games, 0 goals, 0 assists
The good news is that all of these failed picks came late in the first round. However, you still hope to draft a player who goes on to have a successful NHL career with your first pick. That did not happen for Kris Chucko, who the Flames selected 24th overall at the 2004 Draft.
Chucko wasn’t well known at the time of the draft as he played Junior A in British Columbia rather than going the Major Junior route. He had a fantastic season nonetheless with 87 points in 53 games. After that season, he started his college career with the University of Minnesota, but it didn’t go as hoped. He put up just 21 and 13 points during his two seasons with the program, which were very disappointing totals for the first-rounder.
After his second season at the University of Minnesota, Chucko decided to sign with the Flames and spent the 2006-07 season with the team’s then AHL affiliate Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. He struggled offensively during his first two seasons, but broke out during his third season with the club and was called up to the Flames on Mar. 5, 2009 as a result. He played in just two games and recorded zero points before he was sent back to the AHL.
After failing to make the team out of training camp again in the 2009-10 season, Chucko spent the first half of the campaign with the Flames’ new AHL team, the Abbotsford Heat, before he suffered a season-ending concussion. He recovered over the summer but suffered another concussion early the following season with the Heat. That final injury forced him into retirement. (from ‘Concussions end Kris Chucko’s hockey career,’ The Globe and Mail, 10/20/211)Although his career ended in an unfortunate way, it doesn’t change the fact that this was a very bad draft pick by the Flames.
Brent Krahn, G
- Draft information: 2000 9th overall
- Career Stats: 1 GP, 9.00 GAA, .667 SV%
The only real big miss by the Flames with a high first-round pick throughout the 2000s was Brent Krahn. That is props to their scouting team, however, this pick could not have worked out any worse. The six-foot-five goaltender was drafted following his second season in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen. He remained in the WHL for two more seasons after he was drafted, but was limited to just 46 games during due to a recurring knee injury.
In 2003-04, Krahn made his professional debut, splitting time between the ECHL and AHL. He remained with the Flames organization until the end of the 2007-08 season, but never appeared in an NHL game. It isn’t fair to put all the blame on Krahn however, as he put up solid numbers in the minors during his time with the organization but was often unable to play due to his knee.
At the end of the 2007-08 season, Krahn signed a contract with the Dallas Stars. He received his first and only NHL call-up in February 2009 and made his debut on Feb. 14 when Marty Turco was pulled after the second period. He played the final 20 minutes of the game, allowing three goals on just six shots.
Those twenty minutes were the only ones Krahn had in the NHL. He played just two more seasons with the Texas Stars of the AHL before retiring. He wasn’t the only bust of his draft class, as the New York Islanders selected one of the biggest busts of all time when they took goaltender Rick DiPietro first overall. Regardless, the Flames made a mistake wasting the ninth overall pick on a goaltender who never made a single NHL start.
Flames Drafting Has Improved
Despite these poor picks, thankfully, the Flames have also drafted some very good players over the years as well. There are many teams whose management would like a do-over with some of their draft selections and this list goes to show that the Flames are no different. The team’s scouting staff has vastly improved, as the most recent draft pick on this list came in 2009.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.