The Calgary Flames were busy in two eventful days in Florida at the 2015 NHL Draft. Overall, the club added an established NHL player and five prospects; they didn’t use their original nine draft picks but their activity did a lot to fill the organization’s holes.
The Flames began the weekend with the big splash of the Dougie Hamilton trade with Boston, leaving the club devoid of a first round selection and two of the three second round picks the team accumulated at the trade deadline.
When the Flames finally got to make a pick, they selected talented Swedish defenseman Rasmus Andersson at 53rd overall. An import into the Ontario Hockey League this past season with the Barrie Colts, Andersson scored just shy of a point-per-game pace while acclimating himself to the North American game. The club prepared itself to sit around for several picks, but jumped at the chance to move up to the late second round via a trade with Arizona in order to select the enigmatic Oliver Kylington. Once thought to potentially be the third or fourth overall selection, the Flames were able to nab Kylington at 60th. The big knock on the talented Swede is his consistency and team play – he’s been knocked by some scouts for trying to do too much himself – but he could be an excellent asset for the Flames moving forward.
After trading their third round picks to the Coyotes to move up to get Kylington, the Flames waited until the middle of the fifth round to select again. This time, they went local, grabbing Calgary Hitmen forward Pavel Karnaukhov. Born in Belarus and an import into the WHL this past season, Karnaukhov has a lot of potential as long as he can use his big frame consistently. And with the forward already playing in Calgary, the Flames can gauge his progress up-close.
When the Flames went back to the podium in the sixth round, they went for a talented if undersized forward in the form of Barrie’s Andrew Mangiapane. The 19-year-old went through the 2014 Draft without being selected, but he doubled his scoring output this past season – finishing 8th in scoring in the entire OHL. The downside? He’s skinny and not overly tall at 5’10” and 165 lbs. But as Johnny Gaudreau showed this past year for the Flames, size isn’t everything.
Of course, size is also helpful. Ask Calgary’s final pick in the 2015 Draft, seventh rounder Riley Bruce. The defender for the North Bay Battalion is 6’6″ and over 200 lbs. Not exactly a scoring machine with just five assists in over 100 OHL games, the 17-year-old projects as more of a shut-down, stay-at-home defender. That is, if he can improve his mobility a little bit. He’s a project, but he’s also incredibly young and represents a low-risk asset as a seventh round pick.
It’s hard not to be excited about the Calgary Flames’ 2015 Draft.
Through picks and trades they turned their own first three picks, along with Curtis Glencross and Sven Baertschi, into Dougie Hamilton, Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington. In one fell swoop, general manager Brad Treliving transformed an area of organizational concern – defensive depth – into an area that may turn into a strength, and did so without touching the NHL roster. Adding Hamilton to the NHL club potentially pushes third-year pro Tyler Wotherspoon into top-pairing duties with AHL Stockton next season, giving their young group a strong player to anchor them. Adding Andersson and Kylington to a diverse blueline prospect group that already includes Russian agitator Rushan Rafikov, Swedish giant Adam Ollas-Mattsson and NCAA sophomore Brandon Hickey gives the team many options, and reduces the risk to the club that any of these bets may not pan out.
The club didn’t grab a netminder, but their NHL tandem seems destined to be Jonas Hiller with Joni Ortio, while their prospect group includes NCAA star Jon Gillies and QMJHL netminder Mason McDonald, who was second in the Q in save percentage last season. Goaltending was an area that could have been improved, but it was hardly an area of need.
Finally, the team’s forward group got a little bit deeper with the additions of Karnaukhov and Mangiapane to the mix. The team already has a couple of large physical types in Austin Carroll and Hunter Smith, a strong finesse player in Emile Poirier, a good 200-foot player in Morgan Klimchuk, a tools-laden project in Mark Jankowski, and players like Markus Granlund, Bill Arnold and Garnet Hathaway that have pro experience and may challenge for NHL jobs soon. Diversity remains the key to the success of the Flames’ NHL forward group, and that is reflected in the diversity of their prospects as well.