Brad Treliving took over as the general manager of the Calgary Flames on April 28, 2014. He’d earlier served as the assistant general manager of the Arizona Coyotes and the GM of its AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. As of the 2020-21 NHL season, Treliving has helmed the Flames at seven NHL Entry Drafts.
A history of Treliving’s drafts with the Flames mostly reveals quality results in the early rounds as well as some later-round gems. The GM’s willingness to trade picks to acquire roster players has limited the potential of draft day in some years, however. In what follows, I offer a review and grade each of Treliving’s seven drafts as GM of the Flames.
Flames 2014 Draft: Bennett, Franchise History on Draft Day
Treliving landed his position with the Flames in the 2014 offseason. He succeeded Brian Burke, who had served as the acting GM after Jay Feaster was relieved from the position in December 2013. Treliving had a few months to settle in before the 2014 draft, which was held on July 27.
As it turned out, his first selection as GM was a historic one. In 2014, the Flames drafted fourth overall, which was the highest pick in franchise history. Prior to that, the Flames had selected no higher than sixth overall since the team relocated from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980.
Related: All-Decade NHL Draft – 2010 to 2019
The new GM called Sam Bennett to the stage with that fourth-overall pick. Bennett made his NHL debut in the final game of the 2014-15 season and was a regular in the line-up during the playoffs. Unfortunately however, he failed to develop into the top six forward the Flames had envisioned on draft day.
In 2015-16, his rookie season, Bennett posted 36 points. He hasn’t reached even 30 points since, and as a result was traded to the Florida Panthers at the 2021 trade deadline.
Picks that immediately followed Bennett have produced similarly middling results. These include Michael Dal Colle (fifth), Jake Virtanen (sixth), and Haydn Fleury (seventh). But multiple stars were also chosen later in the first round, including William Nylander (eighth), Nikolaj Ehlers (ninth), Dylan Larkin (15th), and David Pastrnak (25th).
The remainder of the team’s 2014 draft group included Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith, Brandon Hickey, Adam Ollas Mattsson, and Austin Carroll. Not one of these players has made their NHL debut. Treliving’s first Flames draft – which includes the highest draft pick in franchise history – is a clear disappointment given Bennett’s struggles paired with the fact no other draftee has suited up for a single NHL game to date.
Flames 2015 Draft: Andersson, Kylington, Mangiapane
Treliving’s second draft presents virtually the polar opposite of his first. In 2015, the Flames went without several high-round picks as a result of trades, but the GM made astute selections in the later rounds.
Ahead of this draft, Treliving had dealt the team’s first-round pick to the Boston Bruins as part of the Dougie Hamilton trade. They also lacked a third-rounder – which was moved in a multi-draft pick swap – and a fourth-rounder – which left in an earlier trade made by Jay Feaster. But with just five selections in total – two in the second round, and one in the fifth, sixth, and seventh – Treliving found two mainstays for the current line-up and another who’s on the verge of becoming an everyday player.
The GM’s first pick in the 2015 draft was Rasmus Andersson at 53rd overall. He quickly earned a spot with the team and has emerged as a top-four defender. Oliver Kylington then followed at 60th overall, also in the second round. He’s played in close to half of the team’s games in both of the last two seasons, filling the role of the sixth or seventh defenseman.
Treliving later got a draft-day steal when he picked Andrew Mangiapane in the sixth round, 166th overall. Mangiapane has rapidly risen in the team’s depth chart and enjoyed a breakout season on the second line in 2019-20. The other picks in this draft were Pavel Karnaukhov, in the fifth round, and Riley Bruce, in the seventh. Karnaukhov has remained in the KHL, while Bruce currently plays for the University of Toronto.
Treliving sacrificed in trades several key picks in the 2015 draft, but he countered those moves with resourceful selections on draft day. The GM also dodged a bullet, as the Bruins used the Flames’ first-round pick to select Zachary Senyshyn (15th) right before successive selections of Mathew Barzal (16th), Kyle Connor (17th), and Thomas Chabot (18th). To date, Senyshyn has only played in 14 NHL games, while the other three are established stars in the league.
Flames 2016 Draft: Tkachuk, Dubé, Fox
After a disappointing 2015-16 season saw the Flames miss the playoffs, Treliving stockpiled nine draft picks ahead of 2016 draft day. The GM didn’t miss with these picks, either.
He started off draft day with the pick of Matthew Tkachuk, a steal at sixth overall. In five seasons with the Flames, the high first-round pick has established himself as a premier talent and agitator in the league. The team was fortunate that he fell to sixth, also, seeing as Jesse Puljujarvi (fourth overall) and Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) haven’t truly established themselves with their Pacific Division rival teams.
The second round was also a success for the Flames, as they chose Tyler Parsons at 54th overall and Dillon Dubé at 56th. While Parsons stock has fallen a bit recently, he still shows some promise. Dube on the other hand is a very exciting young player and has a chance to be a big contributor for the Flames going forward.
The GM also selected 2020-21 Norris Trophy winning defenseman Adam Fox in the third round. Fox chose not to sign in Calgary following his collegiate career, but he later formed part of the package that brought Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Flames.
Related: NHL’s 5 Best Agitators of the Decade
The 2016 draft also produced Linus Lindstrom, Mitchell Mattson, Eetu Tuulola, Matthew Phillips, and Stepan Falkovsky. Falkovsky is no longer with the organization, and Mattson is playing college hockey. Lindstrom currently plays in the Swedish Hockey League. Both Phillips and Tuulola are gaining experience at the AHL level. Phillips, the sixth-round pick, was able to make his NHL debut during the 2020-21 season.
This draft added key pieces to the Flames’ current roster and, realistically, could continue to shape it in the years to come. It stands out as Treliving’s strongest performance at the draft to date.
Flames 2017 Draft: Valimaki, More Traded Picks
Ahead of the 2017 draft, Treliving had surrendered a second-round pick in a forgettable deal for Curtis Lazar and a third as part of a package to acquire Michael Stone. Hence, the GM needed to make his first-round selection in 2017 count.
In a draft year that produced only moderate success in the first round, the Flames GM made a pick that all signs would suggest was a success: Juuso Valimaki, at 16th overall. He’s now 22 years old and despite struggling at times during the 2020-21 season appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Picks that followed Valimaki in the later rounds were Adam Ruzicka, Zach Fischer, D’Artagnan Joly, and Filip Sveningsson. Ruzicka, a fourth-round pick, made the jump to the AHL in 2019-20 and is viewed as the best of the bunch outside of Valimaki. Like Phillips from the draft prior, he was able to make his NHL debut this past season.
Flames 2018 Draft: Hamonic, Smith Trades Take Their Toll
The Flames’ 2018 draft faced slim odds of success, considering their first selection wasn’t until the fourth round. Treliving had sent out the team’s first and second-rounders to the New York Islanders for Travis Hamonic, and its third in the trade that acquired Mike Smith one year earlier.
So far, the 2018 draft has unsurprisingly made no impact at the NHL level – for the Flames, at least. With the team’s first-round pick, the Islanders selected Noah Dobson 12th overall. He stepped into their line-up as a 19-year-old in the 2019-20 season.
But there’s still hope for the Flames’ picks, who all went between the fourth and seventh rounds. Martin Pospisil, Demetrios Koumontzis and Milos Roman were all fourth-round selections, Emilio Pettersen was a sixth, and Dmitry Zavgorodniy went in the seventh round.
Pospisil graduated to the AHL’s Stockton Heat in 2019-20. Zavgorodniy also upgraded his status with a dominant 2019-20 season on a line with Alex LaFrenière in the QMJHL, but struggled in 2020-21 as his first season as a pro with Stockton, similar to Pettersen who also struggled at times as a rookie this year. This past season, Koumontzis played college hockey with Arizona State. Roman on the other hand went unsigned by the Flames and is now a free agent who spent the 2020-21 season in the Czech Republic.
When Treliving’s trade strategy involves parting with high-round picks, it can place unreasonable expectations on the later-round selections. But this draft group still has room to grow in the coming seasons despite its uphill climb.
Flames 2019 Draft: Pelletier, Wolf
The Flames received the 26th overall pick in the 2019 first round after a strong 2018-19 regular season ended with a first-round playoff exit. Treliving used that pick to select Jakob Pelletier, who was followed by Ilya Nikolayev, Lucas Feuk, Josh Nodler, and goaltender Dustin Wolf.
Pelletier has continued to excel in junior since 2019 draft day. At 5-foot-9, he’s on the smaller side, but he says he’s “going to play big.” In 2020-21, he was one of the three nominees for MVP of the QMJHL with 13 goals and 43 points in 28 games as a member of the Val d’Or Foreurs.
The ceiling for the other skaters remains somewhat unclear as we are just two years removed from this draft. Nikolayev had a fairly impressive 2020-21 season split between the MHL and VHL leagues in Russia. Both Feuk, who’s in the Swedish Hockey League, and Nodler, who just played his second season of college hockey, had underwhelming offensive outings in 2020-21 and don’t appear to be very promising prospects at this time.
Wolf, on the other hand, appears at this point to be the biggest steal of this draft. The 20-year-old posted ridiculous numbers throughout his four seasons in the WHL, including a 1.80 goals against average along with a .940 save percentage in 22 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2020-21. He was also able to appear in his first three ever pro games with Stockton and didn’t appear out of place whatsoever. He will be with Stockton full time next season and look to continue his dominating play.
Flames 2020 Draft: Zary, Francis
Heading into the 2020 draft, the Flames had the 19th overall pick but instead moved down to 22nd after a trade with the New York Rangers, and moved down once again to 24th after another deal, this time with the Washington Capitals. When they finally did get to the podium, they selected Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers. After Zary they selected Yan Kuznetsov, Jeremie Poirier, Jake Boltmann, Daniil Chechelev, Ryan Francis, Rory Kerins, and Ilya Solovyov.
Zary looks like a very promising prospect at this point. In just 15 games with the Blazers this past season he put up 24 points, but perhaps even more impressive was that in nine games with Stockton he was able to record seven points. Kuznetsov played in his second season of college hockey this year but finished off the season with Stockton, meaning his college career is over. It is unclear as of now whether he will play pro next season or perhaps go to the QMJHL as he was selected in the CHL import draft by the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Poirier is another defenceman in the QMJHL who is as offensively gifted as they come but leaves plenty to be desired when it comes to play in his own end. Boltmann hasn’t shown much to this point and struggled in his first season at college, while Chechelev still remains very unknown after splitting the 2020-21 season between the MHL and VHL in Russia.
Aside from Zary, Francis may be the most intriguing prospect of this bunch. The undersized forward who was taken in the fifth-round has put up big numbers in the QMJHL and clearly has tons of offensive skill. Due to the pandemic, Kerins hardly played at all in 2020-21, suiting up for just four games in Stockton, but did score 30 goals in the OHL a season prior. Solovyov played as a rookie in the KHL this year and while his numbers don’t jump off the page he was able to hold his own at just 20 years old. He could end up being a very nice find for the Flames in the seventh-round.
Treliving’s Draft History: A Final Grade
Current Flames roster players drafted by Treliving:
- Forwards: Mangiapane, Tkachuk, Dubé
- Defensemen: Andersson, Kylington, Valimaki
As GM of the Flames, Treliving has largely found an effective balance between trades of high draft picks – which have brought in established players – and being sure to replenish the team’s prospect pool. In certain years, his strategy has faltered, such as in the 2018 draft, but he and the scouts have also routinely made impressive later-round selections, such as in the 2015 and 2016 drafts (Andersson, Kylington, Mangiapane, Dubé, Fox, and Parsons).
When he has kept his first-round picks, the Flames GM usually makes the most of them. His tenure as GM didn’t get off to the best of starts with the pick of Bennett, but he’s at least been an NHL regular since his age 19 season. Tkachuk was a glowing success, and Valimaki, Pelletier and Zary look to be on their way to showing what they’ve got at the NHL level – as picks in the latter half of the first round, at that.
Treliving’s six-year draft history has added core and complementary pieces to the Flames’ current line-up and its minor league system. At the AHL level, these drafts have yielded a set of young forwards (Phillips, Tuulola, Ruzicka, and Pospisil) who could contribute in the NHL in the years to come. Parsons, and even more so Wolf, remain promising goaltending options for the team’s future.
Overall Grade: B+
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: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, 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.