The Calgary Flames had a night of ups and downs at the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery. While the club didn’t win one of the three coveted lottery spots at the top of the draft order, they “only” tumbled one spot from their originally slated position of fifth overall down to sixth.
As it stands, the Flames are coming off one of their most successful draft weekends ever in 2015 where they wheeled and dealed their way into Dougie Hamilton and a several strong drafted players. With 10 picks on the docket for the 2016 cattle-call, including a conditional pick from Dallas which could become a late first rounder, there’s a good chance that another strong draft performance could help prime the Flames for their hopeful push to contention.
The reason? The Flames’ scouting and development staff has been quietly amassing young depth at nearly every position, and they could be close to reaching critical mass.
Here’s Calgary’s most obvious treasure trove of talent. The Flames had 19-year-old Sam Bennett, 21-year-old Sean Monahan and 22-year-old Johnny Gaudreau as regulars on their top two lines this past season. Bennett didn’t look out of place at all, while Monahan and Gaudreau built upon already impressive young pro careers. Gaudreau was 6th in the NHL in points, while Monahan was 28th, and they’re both likely to get even better in the next few years. In addition, Micheal Ferland has quietly become a fixture on the team’s bottom-six with his combination of size and speed. If he can somehow recapture the offensive touch he had in junior, he could become another useful young asset.
Outside of the NHL, the Flames have roughly seven young forwards that could become impact players at the next level. Emile Poirier has been a pro for a couple of season and has had cups of coffee at the NHL level. Morgan Klimchuk debuted as a pro this past season and quietly became a reliable two-way player for Stockton. Hunter Shinkaruk, acquired from Vancouver in the Markus Granlund trade, debuted with the Flames late in the season and looked at home with flashes of brilliance.
Aside from those three, four players are going pro in 2016-17 that should help Calgary’s forward depth down the line. 2012 first round pick Mark Jankowski became an offensive leader for the Providence College Friars and helped lead them to an NCAA championship two seasons ago. Andrew Mangiapane was a late-round pick in the 2015 Draft after breaking the 100-point barrier in the OHL, then topped that production this season. Daniel Pribyl signed with the Flames as a free agent after a few good seasons in the Czech Extraliga, while WHL graduate Brett Pollock was acquired from Dallas in the Kris Russell trade and has both size and versatility on his side.
Dougie Hamilton quietly found his game as the season wore on, and the Flames added Jyrki Jokipakka in the Kris Russell trade. The duo was teamed together late in the season and seemed to provide a solid secondary option behind Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, combining Jokipakka’s physicality to Hamilton’s ability to jump into the rush and stymie opposition defenders.
Beyond Hamilton and Jokipakka, the club has Tyler Wotherspoon, Brett Kulak and Oliver Kylington on the farm, all of whom have played spells in the NHL. Wotherspoon is a reliable two-way defender, while Kulak has a bit more offensive upside after a strong WHL career. A Swedish import, Kylington played a full AHL season as an 18-year-old in 2015-16 and made his NHL debut in the final game of the season. He didn’t look out of place and played with a lot of confidence. Beyond the established pros, the Flames have OHL standout Rasmus Andersson joining Stockton next season and college blueliner Brandon Hickey likely following in another season.
This is arguably Calgary’s weakest position on their NHL roster, but they have quietly amassed a few promising goalie prospects. Chief among them is former NCAA star Jon Gillies, whose first pro season was derailed early on by hip surgery. Behind him there is Canada’s most recent World Junior starter Mason McDonald, likely turning pro next season, and dark-horse WHL signing Nick Schneider. Schneider joined Stockton for their stretch drive and was rock-solid in net when pressed into service due to injuries to the team’s veteran netminders. If Gillies can translate his college success consistently on the pro level, the Flames may finally have a blue-chip netminder on their hands.
Presuming that Flames general manager Brad Treliving doesn’t wheel and deal this year and actually holds onto the vast majority of Calgary’s 10 draft picks, the Flames are likely to add several good young players to their stockpile of prospects. Considering the salary cap crunch the Flames could soon find themselves under with new contracts due to Monahan and Gaudreau this summer, cap implications alone virtually guarantee that several of the aforementioned youngsters will graduate to the NHL roster very soon. The long-team success of the franchise is dependent on Treliving and his scouting staff continually finding young players through the draft that can replace the NHL graduates.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.