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Saturday, June 14, 2014

From A to Z: A Calgary Flames Draft Primer (Part 2)

N - NHL-CHL Transfer Agreement

Last year, Sean Monahan could not be sent to the AHL. He either had to stay in the NHL with the Flames or be returned to Ottawa in the OHL. But next season he can be assigned to the minors, no problem (albeit, highly unlikely). Emile Poirier is also eligible to play in the AHL in 2014-15 yet Morgan Klimchuk cannot. Thus, the third member of that trio of heralded 1st round draft picks in 2013, is a virtual lock to return to the WHL. 


Confused? Don't be. It simply comes down to the year a player is born. 

If a player does not turn 20 by Dec. 31, he is not eligible to play in the American Hockey League that season. This rule, which NHL teams and their prospects would probably both like to see done away with, is part of a NHL-CHL transfer agreement that is intended to protect the player, but more than anything, benefits his junior team, which often can end up with a player that is ready to play at a higher level (i.e. AHL), but is not yet ready to play at the highest level (i.e. NHL).

From that 2013 draft, here is the breakdown of who can play in the AHL next season and who cannot:
  • Can - Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Eric Roy (but would have to sign a contract first)
  • Cannot - Morgan Klimchuk, Keegan Kanzig

Looking at the top-ranked players from the CHL for the upcoming draft, here is when they would be eligible to play in the AHL:
  • 2015-16 - Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, Nick Ritchie
  • 2016-17 - Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, Michael Dal Colle

I doubt this rule is going to influence which player a team is going to draft at the upcoming draft but at the same time, whoever drafts Sam Bennett -- as an example, could end up with an interesting dilemma come October 2015. I don't see a scenario where Bennett is ready and plays next season in the NHL. But one year from now, where he would then have three full OHL seasons under his belt, his team -- potentially the Flames -- are going to have to decide if he's ready to jump straight to the NHL or go back to the OHL for a fourth season.

In fact, this rule could result in Bennett beating Reinhart and Draisaitl to the NHL if only because for the latter two, their teams will have the option of breaking them in gradually at the AHL level in 2015-16 if they so choose -- an option Calgary won't have if they select Bennett.


O - One

Just once since 1991 when the NHL expanded to 22 teams have the Flames enjoyed the luxury of having five picks in the top 83 as they have in this year's NHL Draft. For 2014, Calgary is currently slotted to select 4th34th54th64th and 83rd. That previous instance was 1997 when they had five picks in the top 60 and six in the top 70 -- yet missed on all of them. 

If 2006 was the Flames worst draft (as I suggested in section "I" in part one), 1997 was a very, very close second and considering how high they were drafting that year -- three 2nd round picks to complement their 1st round pick at No. 6, the argument could be made that 1997 was even worse. Led by the infamous Daniel Tkaczuk, here are those top six squandered picks made by GM Al Coates, who were part of a total of 12 flops that year. Included is their NHL totals:
  • 1st round, 6th - C Daniel Tkaczuk 19 gm, 4-7-11 with Calgary
  • 2nd round, 32nd - G Evan Lindsay 
  • 2nd round, 42nd - D John Tripp, 43 gm, 2-7-9 with NY Rangers, Los Angeles
  • 2nd round, 51st - D Dmitry Kokorev
  • 3rd round, 60th - C Derek Schutz
  • 3rd round, 70th - C Erik Andersson 12 gm, 2-1-3 with Calgary

Perhaps it's no coincidence that Tod Button joined the Flames organization as a scout later that summer, after that dreadful draft.


P - Predators

The worst season in Flames history was 1997-98 under coach Brian Sutter when Calgary went a deplorable 26-41-15 and finished with 67 points. Only four teams finished worse -- Anaheim (65 pts), Vancouver (64 pts), Florida (63 pts) and Tampa Bay (44 pts).

Legitimately, that normally would have left Calgary in line for its first ever top five draft pick. However, the NHL expanded that summer, adding the Nashville Predators, and the NHL gave them third pick in the 1998 draft. That subsequently dropped the Flames down to No. 6. 

Conjuring up another bad memory from Flames drafting past, that was the year GM Al Coates chose Rico Fata after Anaheim selected Vitaly Vishnevski at No. 5. Fata failed to score a goal in 27 games with Calgary over parts of three seasons before eventually moving on to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Finishing with 230 NHL games, Fata was the only player of the top 10 draft picks in 1998 that failed to play in at least 450 NHL games.


Q - QMJHL

In 2012, Calgary drafted defenceman Ryan Culkin in the 5th round. What was unusual about that pick was it was the Flames first foray into the QMJHL for a player selection since that bad 2006 draft when Hugo Carpentier was selected in round four. Of course, the Flames went right back to the QMJHL last year and selected highly touted Emile Poirier with the 22nd overall pick.

(Here's my feature on Poirier from April as he talked about his huge year and I compare how similar he is in many ways to his favourite player growing up, Alexei Kovalev.)

In December, Poirier signed a contract with the Flames and Culkin signed his three-year entry level deal in March. So after a long hiatus, it's 'so far, so good' for Calgary's picks out of the 'Q' the past two years.

Here are the five most recent Flames QMJHL draft picks to make it to the NHL. Included are their career totals with the Flames:
  • 2004 - Round 6, 173rd - D Adam Pardy (147 gm, 4-22-26)
  • 2002 - Round 3, 90th - C Matthew Lombardi (347 gm, 65-102-167) 
  • 1998 - Round 4, 108th - G Dany Sabourin (4 gm, 0-3-0, 3.57 GAA)
  • 1996 - Round 2, 40th - LW Steve Begin (159 gm, 15-11-26)
  • 1995 - Round 1, 20th - D Denis Gauthier (384 gm, 13-45-58)

R - Rangers


As previously mentioned, the Flames have not had a top-five draft pick since relocating to Calgary in 1980 and are the only franchise that can claim that. Second on that list is the New York Rangers, who have had just one top-five pick over that same 34-year span.

Interestingly, like the Flames this year, that one Rangers top-five pick was also fourth overall. It came in the 1999 draft and there was a Calgary connection to their selection, which came right after Canucks GM Brian Burke stepped to the podium to announce Daniel and then Henrik Sedin as picks No. 2 and No. 3. Next, New York GM Neil Smith chose Pavel Brendl of the Calgary Hitmen. That mistake would be the low-light of Smith's last draft as he would be replaced by Glen Sather the following spring.

After an alluring WHL career with the Hitmen in which Brendl amassed an eye-popping 172 goals in 176 games, he scored only 11 goals in 78 NHL games split between Philadelphia, Carolina and Phoenix. Brendl is still playing professional hockey today although in a sign of how far he's fallen, he finished last season with Lausitzer in Germany's second division.

Fewest Top-Five Picks in the NHL Draft Since 1980:

1. Calgary - 0
2. NY Rangers - 1 (4th in 1999)
3. St. Louis - 2 (4th in 2008, 1st in 2006)
3. Nashville - 2 (4th in 2013, 2nd in 1998)
3. Minnesota - 2 (4th in 2005, 3rd in 2000)
6. Detroit - 3 (3rd in 1990, 1st in 1986, 4th in 1983)


S - Stralman

Speaking of New York, Anton Stralman makes the list also. Why? While he never appeared in a regular season game for the Flames, Stralman was once Calgary property. Late in training camp in 2009, Flames GM Darryl Sutter traded Stralman, 23, to Columbus in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2010. This came two months after Stralman had been acquired by Calgary in a trade that sent Wayne Primeau to Toronto. 

The significance of the 3rd round pick acquired from the Blue Jackets is it would be the Flames top pick in that 2010 draft because Calgary's 1st and 2nd round picks were traded away in deals for Olli Jokinen and Rene Bourque respectively. 

That 2010 year was notable in that it was:
  • One of only three times in Calgary history that the Flames didn't have a 1st round pick (also 1982 and 1989).
  • The only time in franchise history the Flames have never had a draft pick in the 1st or 2nd round.
  • The Flames lowest first pick in franchise history.

In what would be Sutter's last draft as Flames GM, Calgary selected centre Max Reinhart from the Kootenay Ice with that pick, which was 64th overall. While things weren't looking so good after his first pro season, Reinhart had a breakout season last year tripling his goals and points total with Abbotsford. 

(Here's my feature on Reinhart from April as he talked about his year, changes he had made, and looked ahead to the future.)

T - Tanguay

The last time the Flames traded a roster player on draft day (or the day before) to pick up another pick in that same draft was 2008 when Calgary dealt away Alex Tanguay to pick up a 1st round pick. It was that same busy day that the Flames had traded its own 1st round pick to LA to acquire Mike Cammalleri.

Here's the full list of established Flames players, who have been dealt at the draft in exchange for a draft pick (or player and a draft pick).
  • June 20, 2008 - Flames traded Alex Tanguay and a 5th round pick to Montreal for a 1st round pick (25th) in 2008 and a 2nd round pick in 2009.
  • June 22, 2007 – Flames traded Andrei Zyuzin along with minor leaguer Steve Marr, in exchanged for Adrian Aucoin and a 7th round draft pick.
  • July 29, 2005* - Flames traded Mike Commodore to Carolina in exchange for a 3rd round pick.
  • June 23, 2001 - Flames traded Valeri Bure and Jason Wiemer to Florida for Rob Niedermayer and 2nd round pick.
  • June 23, 2001 - Flames traded Fred Brathwaite, Daniel Tkaczuk, and Sergei Varlamov and a 9th round pick to St. Louis in exchange for Roman Turek and a 4th round pick.
  • June 26, 1993 - Flames traded Craig Berube for a 5th round pick
  • June 16, 1990 - Flames traded Joe Mullen to Pittsburght for a 2nd round pick
  • June 15, 1990* - Flames traded Brad McCrimmon to Detroit for a 2nd round pick
  • June 16, 1989* - Flames traded Rob Ramage for a 2nd round pick
  • June 15, 1985 - Flames traded Kent Nilsson and a 1986 3rd round pick to Minnesota in exchange for a 2nd round pick (in 1985) and a 2nd round pick in 1987.
  • June 9, 1982 - Flames traded Ken Houston and Pat Riggin to Washington in exchange for Howard Walker, George White, a 6th round pick (in 1982), a 3rd round pick in 1983 and a 2nd round pick in 1984
  • June 7, 1982** - Flames traded Willi Plett and a 4th round pick in exchange for a 2nd round pick, plus Steve Christoff and Bill Nyrop.
* Trade occurred the day before the draft.
** Trade occurred two days before the draft


The Flames distance from the salary cap floor for 2014-15 may preclude them from shipping away a veteran player for a draft pick at this year's draft coming up on June 27 and 28 in Philadelphia but you never know. There are also prospects like Sven Baertschi to keep in mind. 


Considering the recent arrival of another small left-wing in Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames management team's continually reiterated desire to get bigger. Also, given how last year went for Baertschi, nobody should be shocked if he's dealt at some point and maybe it could be soon if GM Brad Treliving gets an offer he likes. Perhaps it's an opportunity to move Baertschi and an existing pick in exchange for a higher pick.


U – Under-appreciated

Here’s a mind-blowing statistic for you. Going back to 1999 -- so that’s the last 15 years, the Flames have gotten exactly two goals from Calgary 2nd round draft picks. Two! Both of those were scored last year by Markus Granlund.

There are a couple reasons for this horrifying stat with the biggest being how under-appreciated and undervalued 2nd round picks have been by the Flames organization in recent years. 

During Darryl Sutter's tenure as GM in Calgary, it’s as if 2nd round picks were burning a hole in his pocket and he just had to unload them so he continually packaged them up in trades. He got rid of those 2nd round picks with the expediency that my 11-year-old unloads any spare change in her pocket when she spots a vending machine. 

During a seven-year span from 2004 to 2010, Calgary stepped up to the podium just once to make a 2nd round selection – Mitch Wahl in 2008. Last spotted in the ECHL, I suppose that pick wasn't exactly of the ilk that would deter the trading away of future 2nd round picks. The same could be said for the quality of 2nd round selections during the three years prior to 2004. Surely you will recall these names: Tim Ramholt (2003), Brian McConnell (2002), Andrei Taratukin and Andrei Medvedev (2001).

To his credit, Jay Feaster resuscitated the 2nd round pick and while it's still early, all three he made during his three-year tenure could turn out to be home runs.
  • 2012 - Round 2, 42nd - D Patrick Sieloff 
  • 2011 - Round 2, 45th - C Markus Granlund 
  • 2011 - Round 2, 57th - D Tyler Wotherspoon

In fact, with Sieloff coming on the heels of Mark Jankowski in the 1st round and Granlund/Wotherspoon coming after Sven Baertschi was grabbed in round one, you could say at this stage that these three 2nd round picks are tracking better than the 1st round picks over those two years.

Another under-appreciated reason why 2nd round picks are important is it provides a team with a second chance or a back-up plan should you get your 1st round pick wrong. Case in point -- the Flames. Without such a ‘Plan B’ available to try and help salvage those years when the Flames squandered their 1st round picks on Kris Chucko (2004), Matt Pelech (2005), Leland Irving (2006) and Tim Erixon (2009), the result was some very lean times on the prospect side, an impact which the organization is still feeling today.

If you look outside the Flames organization and look at the Los Angeles Kings roster, a quarter of their team during this mini dynasty they've built these past three years are 2nd round picks – Kyle Clifford, Jarret Stoll, Tyler Toffoli, Slava Voynov and Matt Greene.


V - Volek

In the role of European Pro Scout, former New York Islander David Volek is one of many employed by the Flames organization in a scouting capacity. The group is a mixture of former NHL players, former junior players/coaches and/or siblings of notable NHL players/executives. 

Here’s the full list of the Flames scouting staff and their areas of responsibility. They would all report up to Todd Woodcroft, Scouting Director, and Tod Button, Director of Amateur Scouting: 
  • Mike Adessa - High School, NCAA Scout
  • Frank Anzalone - NCAA Scout 
  • Brandon Benning - Western Scout (son of Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning)
  • Jim Cummins - USHL, High School, NCAA Scout (511 games with Det, Phi, TB, Chi, Phx, Mtl, Ana, NYI, Col)
  • Michel Goulet - Pro Scout (1,089 games with Que, Chi. Scored 548 goals)
  • Ari Haanpaa - European Amateur Scout (60 games with NYI)
  • Bobbie Hagelin - European Amateur Scout (older brother of NYR forward Carl Hagelin)
  • Steve Leach - Pro Scout (702 games with Wsh, Bos, Stl, Car, Ott, Phx, Pit)
  • Bob MacMillan - QMJHL Scout (753 games with NYR, STl, Atl/Cal, Col, NJ, Chi)
  • Fred Parker - OHL/QMJHL Scout
  • Steve Pleau - Pro Scout (son of long-time St. Louis Blues executive Larry Pleau)
  • Rob Sumner - WHL Scout
  • Ritchie Thibeau - QMJHL Scout 
  • David Volek - European Pro Scout (396 games with NYI)
  • Tom Webster - OHL Scout (454 NHL/WHA games with Bos, Det, California, NE, Det)


W – WHL

Talk about a Western bias. The Flames have drafted 17 players from the Canadian Hockey League over the past five years and 14 of them have come from the WHL. Sean Monahan is the only player Calgary has drafted from the OHL since 2009, despite the fact that pretty much every year, the OHL is the league from which the most players are drafted.

If you go back further, all the way to 2003 when Sutter arrived as the Flames GM, there have been 50 players selected by Calgary from major junior with this breakdown:
  • WHL – 33
  • OHL – 12
  • QMJHL – 5

Over that span, if you look at the players that have gone on to play 60+ games in the NHL, the disparity is far less: 
  • WHL – 4
  • OHL – 3
  • QMJHL – 1

If you were strictly number crunching, the suggestion here would be to not get too hung up on the province in which players are born. We love our prairie boys and all, but don't have blinders on.



X – X-Factor

The one thing we've learned is that while some teams are much better at it than others, the NHL Draft is hardly an exact science and is very much a crapshoot. You can review all the scouting information and statistical analysis you want but you never know for sure who is going to make it. Mark Giordano is one of the best examples of that. 

Giordano was arguably the Flames best player last season, he's the team captain, he was in the Norris Trophy conversation this year, he was also in the running to make the Canadian Olympic team. Yet, he wasn't drafted at all. In 2002 when he was first draft eligible, 89 defencemen were selected that year -- and he wasn't one of them. He was eligible again in 2003 when the names of another 85 defencemen were called. Again, no one took a chance on Giordano, who was playing for Owen Sound in the OHL.


He's not alone either. Flames alternate captain Curtis Glencross is another player that went undrafted. 


If you look back over the years, some of the Flames top draft picks were late round picks and guys that ended up having much longer and more distinguished careers compared to most of the 'can't miss' players taken long before them:
  • Theoren Fleury, 8th round
  • Brett Hull, 6th round
  • Gary Suter, 9th round
  • Hakan Loob, 9th round

Then there is that talented player you draft like Flames 1986 4th round pick Tom Quinlan. The right-winger, who was a star in high school, would go on to make it to the big leagues alright, only on a ball diamond instead. Quinlan played four seasons in the Major Leagues as a third baseman, including a stint for the Toronto Blue Jays.


Also not to be dismissed -- another x-factor, is the element of luck -- or bad luck as it would seem to be for the Flames.

  • George Pelawa - Drafted in the 1st round, 16th overall, in 1986. The big 6-foot-3 right winger, a three-sport star in high school in Minnesota -- who had also been scouted by the Minnesota Twins, died in an auto accident less than three months after being drafted.
  • Mickey Renaud - The Flames 5th round pick in 2007 was the captain of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. Tragically, the 6-foot-2 centre died suddenly on Feb. 18, 2008, the result of a rare heart condition.


    Y – Yuri

    Chances are, you've never heard of Yuri Artemenkov or Yuri Trubachev

    In Craig Button’s final two years in the GM chair for the Flames, these two forwards were two of six Russian players he selected in the draft, which included expending a pair of 2nd round picks in 2002 on centre Andrei Taratukhin and not-so-skinny goaltender Andrei Medvedev.

    As it turns out, the whole lot of them played a combined zero NHL games with Taratukin the only one that even made it to North America leaving Yaroslavl to play a single season in the AHL in Omaha, Nebraska. That 2006-07 season saw him play alongside the likes of Carsen Germyn, David Van Der Gulik, Warren Peters, Cam Cunning, Tomi Maki, Brett Palin and Kris Chucko. Brandon Prust and David Moss were also on that team. If playing ice hockey in Nebraska isn't an odd enough scenario in itself, how about doing so after playing your whole life in Russia. That had to be quite the culture shock.

    Given how badly the Russian strategy backfired, we should not be surprised that the Flames would not draft a Russian player again for the next 10 years. They finally dipped their toe back in the East Siberian Sea last year when Calgary used a 7th round pick on Russian defenceman Rushan Rafikov.



    Z - Zyuzin

    Calgary has never picked in the top five at the NHL Draft, but top-five draft picks have played for Calgary. In fact, there have been 15 of them over the years including four players that were selected first overall (which is an excellent trivia question you really must try out on your friends.)

    On this list, Andrei Zyuzin is unique in being the only 2nd overall pick that has ever played in Calgary. As mentioned in part one (under "L"), the Atlanta Flames selected second overall their first two years in the NHL -- 1972 and 1973, but neither Tom Lysiak or Jacques Richard were with the team still when it re-located to Calgary in 1980.   

    Here is the full list. Included is the year they were drafted, what year(s) they played in Calgary, and their career point totals in a Flames uniform:

    1st
    • 1992 - D Roman Hamrlik (05-06 to 06-07) 126 games, 14-50-64 
    • 1990 - RW Owen Nolan (07-08) 77 games, 16-16-32
    • 1979 - D Rob Ramage (87-88 to 88-89) 80 games, 4-19-23
    • 1975 - C Mel Bridgman (81-82 to 82-83) 142 games, 45-80-125

    2nd
    • 1996 - D Andrei Zyuzin (06-07) 49 games, 1-5-6

    3rd
    • 2002 - D Jay Bouwmeester (09-10 to 11-12) 279 games, 18-79-97
    • 1998 - D Brad Stuart (06-07) 27 games, 0-5-5
    • 1997 - C Olli Jokinen (08-09 to 11-12) 236 games, 59-106-165
    • 1972 - C Don Lever (80-81 to 81-82) 85 games, 34-42-76

    4th
    • 1986 - D Zarley Zalapski (93-94 to 97-98) 178 games, 21-55-76
    • 1982 - C Ron Sutter (00-01) 21 games, 1-3-4
    • 1973 - RW Lanny McDonald (81-82 to 88-89) 492 games, 215-191-406

    5th
    • 1995 - C Daymond Langkow (05-06 to 10-11) 392 games, 123-165-288
    • 1993 - C Rob Niedermayer (01-02 to 02-03) 111 games, 14-24-38
    • 1985 - D Dana Murzyn (87-88 to 90-91) 201 games, 16-39-55

    -------------------------------------------------
    This is a two-part feature. To read Part 1 -- the A-to-M portion, you can click right here.
    -------------------------------------------------

    Related Calgary Flames Reading:


    • Is Mikael Backlund a $5-million Player? He's not right now but I explain why he might very well command that type of salary come the summer of 2015 when his current two-year/$3-million contract expires. Have a read and you'll be convinced also.
    • AHL Graduation Day: In the past five seasons -- a sign of how thin the cupboards have been, just four Flames players have graduated from the AHL to the NHL. But next season alone, there could be as many as four or five. I take a closer look at who has the best chance.
    • Introducing the 2014-15 Adirondack Flames: I take an educated early guess at the make-up of the debut edition of the Flames AHL affiliate in Glens Falls, New York. Will Johnny Gaudreau be on that team or will he be in the NHL? How about Sven Baertschi? Markus GranlundJoni Ortio? Read and find out.

    4 comments:

    1. Thanks. Both of these articles were great. Depressing too.

      ReplyDelete
    2. Only one comment? Yikes, this deserves huge praise!! Great write-up, very thorough.

      ReplyDelete
    3. Thanks for the kind words. It was a big job compiling but lots of history -- not all good, but interesting nonetheless. As I've been telling fans, look at it as therepeutic. Perhaps 2011 was the beginning of a new era where the stories will not be as interesting but the on-ice results will be much better.

      ReplyDelete
    4. Darren I am just reading through your primers. Thank you for doing these!

      The 2nd round draft pick stat of just 2 goals since 1999 is depressing!

      Despite it all, I have high hopes for Treliving and company. Everything I have heard and read about the reorganization has sounded promising.

      ReplyDelete