Flames’ 2019 Draft Class Update

The Calgary Flames did not have a secondround pick in 2019, which meant they needed to make the most of the selections they did have. Despite a few question marks, there exists promising potential in the players selected by Calgary at the draft last summer. We are now closing in on the midpoint of the hockey season, with the 2020 NHL All-Star game on the horizon, so how are a few of the Flames’ 2019 draftees performing in their respective leagues so far?

LW Jakob Pelletier (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)

The Flames 2019 first-round selection, Jakob Pelletier, is currently in his third season with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and is showing why he was the 26th-overall pick.

It was a widely regarded opinion at the end of the 2018-19 season that the Flames were in need of more size and grit up-front, so it was disconcerting to some when they selected a 5-foot-9, 160-pound winger. The Flames, historically have not been afraid to draft smaller forwards, and have found success with the likes of Theo Fleury (5-foot-6) and Johnny Gaudreau (5-foot-9).

Pelletier is averaging 1.7 points this year with the Wildcats, scoring 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists) so far, and sits tied for sixth in scoring in the QMJHL. The 18-year-old left-winger has also put up an elite level plus-minus rating in 2019-20, currently at plus-27, and is a career plus-61 in the QMJHL. He has shown ‘clutch’ capabilities, as well, scoring timely goals for the Wildcats this season, sitting tied for second-most ‘insurance goals’ in the league with four so far this season.

Calgary Flames Jakob Pelletier Draft
Calgary Flames select Jakob Pelletier during the first round NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Friday, June 21, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Pelletier was an invitee to the Team Canada selection camp for the recent 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship but ultimately, due to concussion issues, he was not among the names called to represent Canada in the Czech Republic.

C Ilya Nikolaev (Yaroslavl, RUS-JR.)

Ilya Nikolaev is a defensively responsible two-way center with considerable offensive upside, currently playing with his hometown of Yaroslavl (MHL) in Russia. The Flames selected Nikolaev 88th overall in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, BC and would be pleased if the self-proclaimed comparison to Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron turned out to be accurate.

The 18-year-old is described as a smooth skater who features a high-tempo style to his game. So far this season Nikolaev has 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 38 games, living up to his label of ‘playmaker.’

Nikolaev competed in the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, showing his leadership potential as an alternate captain, helping Russia win a bronze medal. He was also a member of the Russian U18 World Championship team in 2019, scoring six points and winning a silver medal.

LW Lucas Feuk (Sodertalje/AIK (SWE-JR.)

Lucas Feuk was selected with the 23rd pick in the fourth round of the draft (116th overall). The 18-year-old winger is projected to possibly fit into a bottom-six role in the future. There is still a lot of development needed from Feuk who has struggled offensively this season. In 27 games split between Sodertalje SK and Swe-1 AIK, he has notched just two points, (one goal, one assist).

Feuk has an offensive element to his game and has displayed steady growth in the past. He averaged a point per game last season, scoring 43 points (21 goals, 22 assists) in 43 games. While there are some questions as to his defensive attributes, Feuk has shown grit to his game, using his size and speed, wracking up a hefty 84 penalty minutes last season.

C Josh Nodler (Mighigan State. NCAA)

Josh Nodler was the Flames fifth-round selection (150th overall) in 2019. He performed well in his draft year, playing 54 games for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League (USHL) scoring 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists.)

Nodler took part in the Flames development camp in the summer, gaining invaluable experience while getting to know his fellow Flame hopefuls. While discussing his commitment to Michigan State University (NCAA) he explained, in an interview on Flames TV, that he is focused on his skill development in college, with hopes to one day play professional hockey.

“Obliviously the main goal is to become a Flame one day and that’s been my dream since (I was) a young kid. But I definitely want to enjoy my time in college and try to get better each and every day and keep developing and hopefully in a few years be ready to make that jump.”

Josh Nodler in a 2019 interview with Flames TV.

When asked to describe his playing style Nodler described himself as a “reliable two-way center, who has a high hockey IQ and likes to use his hands to make plays.” The 18-year-old is playing in his first year at Michigan State University and has 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points in 22 games so far.

G Dustin Wolf (Everett WHL)

Drafting goaltenders is a ‘hit and miss’ process, something the Flames know all too well. They hope, however, that their seventh-round selection (214th overall) Dustin Wolf will be an exception.

It has been speculated that Wolf’s size (6-foot, 156 pounds) was a big reason that he slipped to the seventh round, where the Flames eventually claimed him. Despite the doubters, Wolf (Gilroy, CA) has put together impressive numbers in his third season with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 26 games this season, he has posted a 17-8-1 record with a 2.13 goals-against average (GAA) and a .933 save percentage (SV%).

Wolf is described as an intelligent hockey player who has shown an ability to keep calm, cool and collected between the pipes. It’s important for a goalie to be controlled emotionally and Wolf is one of those players with “ice in his veins.” His composure in net has netted positive results this season as the 18-year-old currently ranks first among WHL goaltenders with five shoutouts, is second-ranked in GAA (2.13) and SV% (.933), and is fourth in wins with 17.

Dustin Wolf Everett Silvertips
(Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips) Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips.

Wolf is the lone Flames prospect from the 2019 Draft who had the opportunity to play in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, as a member of Team USA (from ‘Flames prospect Dustin Wolf spending holidays with U.S. world junior team,’ Calgary Sun, 12/23/2019). Despite the disappointing fourth-place finish for the Americans in the tournament, Wolf performed well in limited showings, picking up a win.

Early projections of the 2019 draft class would suggest the Flames still have some questions that need answering from their middle picks in Nikolaev, Feuk and Noddler, but the organization may have done well with their first and seventh selections, specifically. While both Pelletier (first round) and Wolf (seventh round) are described as ‘undersized’ players, they contain considerable hockey I.Q. and bring energy and enthusiasm to their respective junior clubs. Will they have the chance to display their skills with the Flames in the future? Only time will tell, but for now, the future seems bright.