Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving has never shied away from making big moves at the NHL Entry Draft. This year’s draft, scheduled for July 23-24, likely won’t be an exception. Let’s look at several approaches Treliving could take in the 59th NHL Entry Draft:
Trade Up in Draft Position
The Flames are slated to select 12th in the first round. One proposal being bandied about is to shop around a trade package consisting of Sean Monahan, a first-round pick and possibly a first-rate prospect to draft in the 10th spot or higher. Whether the Flames could catapult themselves high enough to select one of the top five rated prospects is open for debate, but if they could, they would probably have a crack at one of Matt Beniers, Owen Power, William Eklund, Brandt Clarke and Fabian Lysell.
At right-wing, Lysell could eventually fill a big hole in the Flames’ forward ranks. Yet so too would Dylan Guenther who, while not ranked among the top five prospects, is still considered among the very best in this year’s crop of young talent. Very little talent at right wing is up for grabs on the free agency market this year, making these two youngsters even more valuable.
Even moving up to into seventh or eighth spot would mean a credible shot at acquiring centres Mason McTavish or Kent Johnson. Both prospects are likely to impress Flames head coach Darryl Sutter since he fancies speed and size down the middle.
Treliving is also likely to be thinking about ways he could move up in the draft selection order in the second round. He did that in 2015 when he traded two third-round picks to jump back into the second round, where he snagged defenseman Oliver Kylington.
While not common, another approach the Flames could take is to trade down in the first round in exchange for higher picks in the second- or third-rounds. That strategy worked brilliantly for Treliving in the 2020 Entry Draft when he took a later pick in the first round in exchange for two third-round picks he didn’t have that year. Despite that, he managed to pick up Connor Zary in the first round.
Draft at 12th
It is quite possible that Treliving could simply pick at Calgary’s allotted 12th spot in round one. While 12th is unlikely to yield a future superstar, it’s important to remember many memorable NHLers were selected there, including Flames great Gary Roberts in 1984.
To get their hands on Roberts, the Flames passed on Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull. Other NHL luminaries to go 12th overall include four-time Stanley Cup winner Mario Tremblay (Montreal Canadiens, 1974) and Marian Hossa (Ottawa Senators, 1997).
Related: Calgary Flames Great Gary Roberts
There are likely to be plenty of high-quality picks still available by the time Calgary’s turn comes around including Corson Cuelmans, Cole Sillinger, Chaz Lucius and Aatu Raty.
If Treliving does decide to select at 12th spot in the first round, he’s likely to ignore the position of a young prospect. While it’s true the Flames are desperate for help at right-wing, he’s on record as preferring to select the best player regardless of position.
Trade Picks and Prospects for a Roster Player
Calgary seems to feel its time to win is now. After all, Sutter didn’t agree to scrape the cow dung off his boots and move from his ranch to the Stampede City just to babysit a long rebuild. Not only that, but Treliving has never hesitated to use first-round picks and prospects to acquire badly needed roster players.
Many hockey gurus reckon this year’s entry draft is thin gruel. If that’s Treliving’s judgment too, then there’s less to lose when it comes to bartering picks along with a prospect or two for proven talent. Treliving did that in the 2015 entry draft swapping his first and second-round picks for Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins.
Trading picks and prospects is regarded by many as mortgaging a team’s future, but that was never Calgary’s view. The Flames have never met much success building via the draft. To acquire talent, they have preferred the free agency market (witness Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom), undrafted players (see Mark Giordano), and trades (Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin).
Picks for Picks
In theory, it’s possible that Calgary could move up in the draft selection this year by trading picks for picks. But that could prove ruinously expensive with potential trade partners demanding Flames’ first-round picks in future years.
That could be particularly risky this year since the COVID-19 pandemic has meant scouts did not see many highly touted draft picks in action. A case in point are prospects from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) whose players didn’t see action in a single game this year (think McTavish).
What Will Treliving Do?
Some of the biggest moves Treliving has made in his tenure with the Flames have been in the entry draft. If the past is any guide, he will keep his options open until the very last moment and then opt for the one that improves the current team the most. The only approach to which he is wedded, is the one that brings the team closer to the Stanley Cup in the next two years.
Paul covers the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators and the OHL’s Ottawa 67s for The Hockey Writers (THW). He also hosts the Flames Faceoff show for THW’s Podcast Network.
Paul has been sought for media interviews for the thoughtful pieces he has written on hockey’s response to the major social and political issues of the day including the place of gay players in the game. Paul is also known for his interesting perspectives on the key issues and challenges facing the teams he follows.
Of his work with THW, Paul says, “I love to tell stories about the game of hockey and the personalities – both past and present, who have made it the greatest game on the planet!”
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