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Monday, June 30, 2014

Taking a Closer Look: The Polarizing Selection of Goaltender Mason McDonald

For many Calgary Flames fans, a Friday evening filled with revelry and celebration came crashing to a screeching halt early Saturday morning. If the drafting of Sam Bennett at No. 4 was the bachelor party, the selection of Mason McDonald at No. 34 was waking up on the bathroom floor the next day with a wicked hangover.

However, despite the despair, fury and widespread outcry from  a large percentage of Flames supporters over picking a goalie that early in in the NHL Draft, I'm here to tell you that Calgary's second pick is not necessarily the mistake so many think.

Getting back to the party. Friday night really was a moment of elation for Flames Nation as NHL Central Scouting's No. 1 ranked North American skater was drafted by the Calgary Flames at No. 4. Bennett will become the most highly touted prospect of all-time to put on a Flames sweater. And, by drafting another potential superstar centre on the heels of the selection of Sean Monahan last year, Calgary GM Brad Treliving showed that the foundation of the rebuild is strength up the middle and as I explained in this piece from Saturday, that is absolutely the right approach. Soon, the Flames will enjoy the kind of homegrown depth at centre they haven't had in over 20 years.

But, then came Saturday and for many, a sobering crash back to reality when much of the goodwill built up by the club on Friday went out the window with the selection of -- oh god, no, a goaltender with the Flames first pick of the 2nd round. There were instantly tweets of anger and frustration as passionate fans threw up their arms and for some, their breakfast also, over the controversial selection of the Halifax-born McDonald.

To be completely honest, my initial reaction was one of surprise also. Due to goaltenders' reputation to develop late and unpredictably, the general unwritten rule is you never draft a goalie in the first round. In that case, shouldn't drafting a goalie four picks into the 2nd round also be frowned upon?

However, given 24 hours to digest and assess, I've completely changed my mind. Not only do I understand why the hockey club made the decision to draft McDonald at that point, but I heartily endorse it.

There are a lot of strong opinions about what happened and I'm not here to change your mind, but I do encourage you to have an open mind as you review my reasons why I don't think this was nearly as bad of a pick as many might think.

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10 Reasons to Like the Selection of Mason McDonald 


1. Myth: It's Best to Draft Goalies Late

Because many goalies taken early in NHL drafts never pan out, some have interpreted this to mean you might just as well wait until late in the draft to find your goalie of the future. The perceived effectiveness of this approach was perpetuated this spring thanks to the play of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who -- as it was constantly pointed out, was a 7th round pick in 2000.

Well I'm here to tell you that waiting and hoping you can get a Lundqvist in the late rounds is about as wise of a draft strategy as counting on winning the lottery for your retirement income.

In a 17-year span from 1995 to 2011, Lundqvist is the only impact starting goalie to come out of the 7th round and there have been 65 drafted during that time. There were a handful of guys that made brief cameos as NHL No. 1 goalies -- Cristobal Huet (LA, Mtl, Wsh, Chi) the most notable, but the body of work for Huet or others like Fredrik Norrena (Clb) or Johan Holmqvist (TB) was generally ineffective.

Next, I widened the sample size to include rounds 4-9 (draft was nine rounds long from 1995-2004) and in addition to Lundqvist, you can then add in Braden Holtby (2008, 4th round), Ryan Miller (1999, 5th round), Mike Smith (2001, 5th round), Karri Ramo (2004, 6th round), Pekka Rinne (2004, 8th round) and Jaroslav Halak (2003, 9th round) for a total of seven projected 2014-15 starters. But, that's also just seven out of 298 goalies selected in the 4th round and beyond over that span.

I will also add in Miikka Kiprusoff (1995, 5th round) and Evgeni Nabokov (1994, 9th round) to the list of impact goaltenders from rounds 4-9 but still, you're looking at just nine out of 298 goalies becoming solid No. 1 goalies, which works out to a minuscule 3%.


2. Myth: You Shouldn't Draft Goalies Early

Once you start digging into it, you quickly realize that perception isn't reality. Look around the NHL and assess team's depth charts heading into 2014-15 and you'll find that a majority of the NHL's No. 1 goalies are high draft picks. From what we know right now and yes, there will be goalie battles that will go into training camp (e.g. Ottawa, St. Louis, Carolina), it is quite possible that 17 of the NHL's 30 starters next season will have been 1st or 2nd round picks.
  • 1st Round (9) - Jonathan Bernier Tor, Semyon Varlamov Col, Carey Price Mtl, Tuukka Rask Bos, Cory Schneider NJ, Marc-Andre Fleury Pit, Kari Lehtonen Dal, Cam Ward Car, Roberto Luongo Fla
  • 2nd Round (8) - John Gibson Ana, Robin Lehner Ott, Jake Allen Stl, Jhonas Enroth Buf, Ondrej Pavelec Wpg, Corey Crawford Chi, Jimmy Howard Det, Josh Harding Min

Add in others from rounds 1 and 2 that had prolonged stints (i.e. four or more years) as starters like Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Marty Biron and in total, 22 out of 85 goaltenders drafted in rounds one or two from 1995 through 2011 are either a No. 1 goalie right now, or once were a bonafide No. 1 goaltender. That's a success rate of 26%, considerably higher than the aforementioned 3% from those drafted in rounds 4 and beyond.


3. NHL Teams Draft Better Than They Used To

I just roll my eyes these days every time I hear a draft reference to Alexandre Daigle. People, that was over 20 years ago! At some point, you have to acknowledge how different the player evaluation landscape is now and throw out that moldy, old historical data -- especially in respect to the early rounds. Yes, there is still a component of luck, for sure, but the NHL Draft is not the same degree of a crap-shoot as it once was. Recently, Eric Duhatschek wrote in The Globe and Mail how the age of a total miss at the top of the draft is becoming a rarity.

Personally, I attribute this improvement league-wide in player evaluation and development to a variety of factors including the overwhelming access of information we have now such as:
  • Increased Opportunities to View Players -- Before, we had the playoffs to evaluate players in high competition. Now, we also have prospect games, national team development camps, national team programs, exhibition series against teams like Russia, international tournaments that are so much more scrutinized now at the younger ages like U-17 and U-18. 
  • Ability to View Almost Any Game -- Whether it's major junior, college, junior A. Without setting foot outside your home office, scouts can watch and re-watch almost any player as much as they choose. 
  • Availability of Statistical Analysis -- As the burgeoning advanced stats community continues to grow and with teams showing an increased interest in leveraging additional player data, the types of statistics that are becoming more common in the NHL are now starting to also show up in other leagues.

The good news is that the general trend of teams drafting better in recent years includes the drafting of those enigmatic goaltenders. I took the above figure that 26% of goalies drafted in rounds one or two since 1995 are (or were) No. 1 goalies and split the sample period in half.  Sure enough, there's been an even greater success rate lately. If you go back only as far as 2003, 33% of goalies drafted in rounds one or two between then and 2011 are expected to be NHL starters next year. That compares to 20% in the eight years prior to that.
  • 2003 to 2011 - 13 out of 40 (33%, or 1-in-3)
  • 1995 to 2002 - 9 out of 45 (20%, or 1-in-5)


4. Franchise Goalies Go Early

If you look around the NHL at who most of the top goalies are -- Price, Rask, Varlamov, most are early draft picks. There are exceptions with guys like Jonathan Quick and Lundqvist, but your best bet if you're looking to luck out on a stud No. 1 keeper is to roll the dice on one early.

The aforementioned trio were three of the top four finishers in this year's Vezina voting and each were among the first three goaltenders selected in their draft year.
  • Rask - The winner, was the 2nd goalie picked in 2005.
  • Varlamov - The runner-up, was the 3rd goalie drafted in 2006
  • Price - The 4th place finisher and Canadian Olympic team goaltender, was the 1st goalie taken in 2005. 


5. Flames Rarely Take the First Goalie

While the Flames have a reputation, especially around Calgary, as blowing it whenever they choose a goalie early, it's not nearly as chronic of an issue as it seems. You need to go all the way back to 1990 and the selection of Trevor Kidd at No. 11 to find the last time the Flames were the first team to select a goalie in the draft. While that pick is often chastised in these parts as a terrible pick because Martin Brodeur was the second goalie selected, Kidd was not a flop. He did have a lengthy NHL career that included being a starter for five seasons.

The only other time Calgary was first to pick a goalie was in 1988 when GM Cliff Fletcher made Jason Muzzatti the final pick of the 1st round.

Over the weekend, Leland Irving was the name most frequently brought up in respect to McDonald when discussing highly drafted goaltenders by the Flames, who didn't pan out. However, I don't think that's a fair comparison when discussing McDonald as Irving was not the No. 1 ranked goalie. Irving was the 4th ranked goalie according to NHL's Central Scouting and indeed, three goalies were already taken ahead of him when Calgary selected him 26th overall.

Also of note, the selection of Irving is the only occurrence of the Flames taking a goalie in the first two rounds since 2003 when as documented above, the success rate for drafting goalies in the NHL has greatly improved.

Prior to that, Calgary's success rate when drafting a goalie was 1 in 5, or exactly what the NHL average was during that period.
  • 2006, round 1, 26th - Leland Irving (GM Darryl Sutter), 4th goalie taken
  • 2001, round 2, 26th - Andrei Medvedev (GM Craig Button), 5th goalie taken
  • 2000, round 1, 9th - Brent Krahn (GM Craig Button), 2nd goalie taken
  • 1997, round 2, 6th - Evan Lindsay (GM Al Coates ), 5th goalie taken
  • 1990, round 1, 11th - Trevor Kidd (GM Cliff Fletcher), 1st goalie taken
  • 1988, round 1, 21st - Jason Muzzatti (GM Cliff Fletcher), 1st goalie taken

6. No Such Thing as a Safe Bet

The other popular assumption people want to make is that by selecting a goalie early, you're missing out on a 'can't miss' position player. This type of speculation was certainly rampant this weekend.

Sure, guys like Ryan MacInnis, Brett Pollock, Roland McKeown and Jack Dougherty appear to be great prospects the Flames passed on at No. 34 in order to draft McDonald. But it will be many years before we know for sure. Further, history has shown that the Flames selection of goalies over position players over the past two decades has hardly been an exercise fraught with regrets.

As you'll see -- and I define "NHL regulars" as having played in at least 250 games, there's not much credence to the claim that the Flames would have been any better off by selecting a position player than when they did select a goalie in the first or second round:
  • 2006 - Right after Irving, Dallas chose D Ivan Vishnevskiy (5 gm, 0-2-2). Only 1 of the next 8 (or 2 of the next 16) position players drafted became NHL regulars.
  • 2001 - Right after Medvedev, St. Louis chose C Jay McClement (682 gm, 75-129-204). Only 1 of the next 13 position players drafted -- that being McClement -- became an NHL regular.
  • 2000 - Right after Krahn, Chicago chose C Mikhail Yakubov (53 gm, 2-10-12). Only 1 of the next 8 position players drafted became an NHL regular.
  • 1997 - Right after Lindsay, Tampa Bay chose D Kyle Kos (did not make NHL). None of the next 13 position players drafted became NHL regulars.

7. Start a Run, Don't Finish a Run

Treliving said it himself afterwards. If they wanted to take the best goalie on their list, they had to do it right then at No. 34. NHL managers talk, there's plenty of intel out there on the draft floor and once you also factor in history and common sense, you know that the Flames would have had no shot at McDonald had they tried to wait until their No. 54 pick to grab him.

Sure enough, the run of goalies -- four in a span of six picks -- started right after the selection of McDonald. Had Calgary waited until their other 2nd round pick and assuming the other team picks unfolded the same way, the Flames would have been the 4th team to choose a goalie. Had they waited until their 3rd round pick at No. 64, their would have been five goalies gone by that point.

While goalies can develop late, you still would much rather have the No. 1 ranked player on your list instead of the 6th ranked player so drafting the No. 1 guy at the goalie position and doing so with a 2nd round pick makes good sense. Washington chose just five picks after the Flames and by then, the Capitals were quite possibly settling for the fourth-ranked guy on their goaltender list.

It's actually a scenario not unlike the Emile Poirier situation last year. The Flames passed on a few highly-touted players to draft Poirier at No. 22, which seemed early. At the time, many wondered why, considering how far down Poirier was ranked, Calgary didn't wait until 28th pick to grab him. Again, GMs talk, teams know what's going on and the speculation last year was Poirier would not have made it past Montreal at No. 25 as they had interviewed him in-person also and were reportedly very interested. Thus, Calgary struck when it did. It was the same with McDonald, they liked him and in order to get him, they had to take him right then.


8. Flames Badly Needed a Goalie

One problem teams will never complain about in the NHL is having too many top, NHL-ready goalies. While the future appears bright with past draft picks Jon Gillies and Joni Ortio in the pipeline, you just never know.

Gillies looked phenomenal for the first half of his second NCAA season last year but after a tough go with Team USA at the World Junior Championships, he had a rather ordinary second half. Ortio looked fine in nine appearances with the Flames last year but he's only got one full season in North America under his belt. He is not yet a sure thing either. In fact, even Ramo -- a pending UFA after this season, is a wild card still when it comes to his future with the club.

Factor in the fact that Ortio is 23 and Gillies is six months away from his 21st birthday and the Flames badly needed an 18-year-old top-rated goalie prospect to add to the depth chart and in such a situation where you have a critical positional need, why not add the guy your scouts feel was the best goaltender in the draft rather than settling for a goalie further down your list you aren't nearly as high on.


9. Goalie is the Most Critical Position

If there's one position on a team where you can justify taking a chance on a guy early it's at goaltender. If they pan out, they can be the backbone of your franchise for over a decade. Yes, the risk is higher but the reward is also significantly higher.


10. Flames Recent Draft Record is Much Improved

Perhaps I need to take some of the blame for the stigma that the Flames have always been a bad drafting team. After all, I awakened so many bad, haunting memories when I wrote my From A-to-Z: Calgary Flames Draft Primer. However, while referencing names like Rico Fata, Niklas Sundblad, Greg Nemisz and Tim Erixon is still a popular pastime, you're not paying very close attention if you haven't noticed the vast improvement in the Flames drafting the previous four years.

Since 2010, which was Sutter's last year as GM and a year in which Calgary didn't make its first pick until round three, right through Feaster's solid three years at the helm -- despite the still uncertain Mark Jankowski selection, the Flames have enjoyed some tremendous results at the draft table with many of the players tracking towards being good NHL players.

  • 2010 - Max Reinhart (3rd), Bill Arnold (4th), Michael Ferland (5th)
  • 2011 - Sven Baertschi (1st), Markus Granlund (2nd), Tyler Wotherspoon (2nd), Johnny Gaudreau (4th)
  • 2012 - Patrick Sieloff (2nd), Jon Gillies (3rd), Brett Kulak (4th)
  • 2013 - Sean Monahan (1st), Emile Poirier (1st), Morgan Klimchuk (1st)


You can't deny how much better stocked the prospect cupboards are now compared to the past couple decades when the quantity of players graduating from the AHL to the NHL and nore so, the quality of player being promoted as I wrote about here, was underwhelming.


Conclusion

Mason McDonald may never play in an NHL game. Even based on the improved success rate of late in the NHL when using a high draft pick to select a goalie, there is still a 67 percent chance that McDonald's career will turn out more like Irving's than Mike Vernon's.

But regardless, I won't change my mind that given the situation they were in, the factors I've detailed above, taking that opportunity at No. 34 to draft who the Flames thought was the best goaltender available in the draft was the smart thing to do.

As for those of you, who agree with taking a goalie when they did but do not agree with the particular goalie they selected, we'll leave that debate for another day.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rebuilding Up the Middle

In the decade-and-a-half leading up to Mikael Backlund's rookie season in 2010-11, the Calgary Flames missed the playoffs eight times and were eliminated in the first round in six others.

It's not a coincidence that over a parallel stretch from 1993 to 2006, the Flames drafted and developed into their line-up only two bonafide NHL centres. And at that, Clarke Wilm (1995, 6th round) and Matthew Lombardi (2002, 3rd round) -- while serviceable fellas, aren't exactly of the ilk that you build a franchise around.

Thus, it is no surprise that given the opportunity Friday night to make it two potential superstar centres drafted in as many years, rookie Flames general manager Brad Treliving strolled up to the podium and without a sliver of a doubt, called out the name Sam Bennett.

"Sam's a guy we had our eye on from Day 1," Treliving told The Canadian Press. "He has a special combination of skill, speed and I've talked about this since Day 1 — the character, the intangible pieces, this guy oozes character, plays with an edge."

If you look around the league at the teams that have been successful lately, they all have highly-skilled homegrown talent up the middle that are the foundation of the team: Jonathan Toews in Chicago, Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles, Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in Boston, and Logan Couture in San Jose.

And these aren't lucky finds you uncover late in the NHL draft either. All of the above were first round picks with the exception of the two Bruins, who were taken in the second round.

"He's a 200-foot player, plays in all three zones, he brings pace, he brings offensive ability, he brings speed and plays for keeps. This guy is a competitive player," Treliving said.

Bennett is a player with the type of potential Calgary has never had. Fortunate to get him at No. 4, he finished the year as the No. 1 ranked player according to NHL Central Scouting. Remember that the Flames have never drafted in the top five before.

Up until Friday night, Daniel Tkaczuk -- the third ranked North American skater according to Central Scouting's final rankings in 1997 (and considered fourth overall with European skater Olli Jokinen rated higher) had been the most highly-touted Flames draft pick in Calgary's previous 34 years.

With just two years in the OHL so far compared to the three years Sean Monahan had played, and as a young 1996 year-of-birth, it wouldn't surprise me at all -- despite how determined Bennett is to make the Flames next season, that he is returned to the Kingston Frontenacs for one more season. Treliving has talked at length about his philosophy of not rushing players. Besides, more grooming under the leadership of Kingston general manager Doug Gilmour wouldn't be a bad thing.

But after that, expect him to pull on a Calgary Flames uniform for good in 2015-16.

"I've heard so much about how much the [people of Calgary] love hockey and the city," Bennett told The Canadian Press. "And the great management there has me really excited. To have that come true now ... it's just unbelievable."

For Flames fans, they can salivate at the thought that in the very near future, their top three centres could be Monahan, Bennett and Backlund -- all Calgary draft picks. That hasn't happened since the early 90s when Calgary had Joe Nieuwendyk, Theoren Fleury and Robert Reichel up the middle.

Highest Ranked Flames Draft Picks All-Time
(NHL Central Scouting's Final Rankings for North American Skaters)

1. Sam Bennett (taken 4th in 2014)
3. Daniel Tkaczuk (taken 6th in 1997)
5. Sean Monahan (taken 6th in 2013)
8. Cory Stillman (taken 6th in 1992)
8. Dion Phaneuf (taken 9th in 2003)
10. Rico Fata (taken 6th in 1998)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

If the NHL Draft Was Like a Fantasy Draft

Hockey pools, hockey drafts, fantasy drafts. Call it whatever you’d like, we all participate in them. I got to thinking that wouldn’t it be fun if this weekend’s NHL Draft in Philadelphia played out in the same way, and featured the same cast of outlandish characters that we experience when you and I get together at the pub for our annual regular season or playoff hockey draft.

Eight Things I’d Like To See Unfold at the NHL Draft

1. Last Minute Bails – Sure, things did look good for the NHL as of Thursday when all 30 participants -- including six first-timers, sounded committed and ready to go. But, it never works out that way. Instead, this year’s NHL Draft has been reduced to 25 guys because Doug Armstrong is stuck at work and can no longer make it, Steve Yzerman’s kid has a soccer game so now he won’t be there either, Glen Sather wrote down the wrong date and thought it was next Friday, and newcomer Brian MacLellan just didn’t show up and nobody knows how to get hold of him. Also, Dale Tallon and David Poile have decided to pair-up because they couldn’t afford the entry fee on their own.

2. Draft Order Drawn From a Hat – Forget the previous year’s standings and screw the lottery. For some real suspense, host Ron Hextall begins the proceedings by passing around a grimy Philadelphia Flyers hat and with eyes closed, everyone picks out a folded slip of paper with a hand-written number on it. Chuck Fletcher - 23, Lou Lamoriello - 4, Jarmo Kekalainen - 19, Dean Lombardi - 2. After this simple process determines the draft order, the expected juvenile behaviour begins:
  • After Craig MacTavish ends up drawing ‘1’ once again, everybody starts yelling ‘fixed’ and cracking Nail Yakupov jokes.
  • Holding up similar slips of paper, Brad Treliving and Marc Bergevin are embroiled in a debate over who has ‘6’ and who actually has ‘9’. Similarly, Bryan Murray is really confused about how he ended up drawing ‘91’. 
  • Ken Holland is pouting. He rips up his paper with '24', complaining that he, "Never, ever gets a high pick." 
  • Jim Rutherford, the unlucky recipient of ‘25’, is grumbling that there are too many guys and that he has time to go home, mow the lawn, walk the dog and still make it back in time for his first pick. 

3. The Obligatory Mis-Prounounc-Ed Name – Sitting with pick No. 5 and after much consternation, Kevin Cheveldayoff crosses the name Michael Dal Colle off his list and loudly declares, “With the 6th pick, I select Michael Dal Collie.”

I’m sorry, who?

“Dal Collie.”

Hoo boy, the smart asses in the room live for this moment, don’t they. The banter begins immediately: "Oh, you mean Michael Collie, the BBC broadcaster?”, “Which team does Dal Collie play for?”, “If I were you, a way better pick would have been Michael Dal Colle.”

4. The Hilarious First Name Switcheroo – With 7th pick, an amused and giggling David Nonis announces he will take Nicole Richie. That, of course, is greeted by a spattering of chuckles and a few predictable remarks such as, “I can’t believe you took her over Paris Hilton” and “Don’t you mean Lionel Richie?”  Of course, there’s always that one guy, who thinks a gag that wasn’t that funny the first time will somehow be funnier the second time. Sure enough, at No. 17, a snickering Stan Bowman states that he will pick Alyssa Milano. LOL. Not.

5. Steal of the Draft – It happens at least once every draft and when it happens to you, there is no place to hide. When it gets down to Doug Wilson’s pick at No. 21, there’s a long delay. As everybody grows restless and impatient, “Hang on, hang on, just one more minute,” begs Wilson as he flips through a bunch of bookmarked/highlighted pages in his Future Considerations Draft Guide and scans his handwritten draft list one final time. Finally, he confidently announces that he will take the “steal of the draft” in Brendan Perlini. But, um, there’s one problem. Perlini was already taken over a half-hour ago by Don Maloney at No. 8. Oh, crap! Between all the guffaws and sarcastic remarks, Maloney is left wondering if he took Perlini way too early and Wilson -- a combination of embarrassed and flustered, panics and selects Thatcher Demko, then orders another drink.

6. Mr. Splash Maker/Risk Taker – It’s a strategy that is never to be confused with a winning strategy, but that doesn’t stop that one guy every draft from trying it. You know the type, he loves to show off his 'hockey IQ' by going off the board and picking rookies you've never heard of way too early. Mesmerized by the ‘high reward’ part of the player profile while conveniently overlooking tiny details like the ‘high risk’ part. In Philadelphia, I envision Garth Snow revving up the NHL Draft proceedings early by taking Josh Ho-Sang at No. 3, then emphatically banging his fist on the table and declaring him, “Best player in the draft. Guaranteed.”

7. The Long Distance Pain-in-the-Ass – Does this sound familiar? As a favour to your buddy, who really wants in, but cannot make the draft in person, you agree to be his proxy and contact him each time it’s his pick. In theory, it's a simple idea. In practice, it’s a terrible idea. Picture Jim Benning, stuck back in Vancouver, waiting for his pal Peter Chiarelli to contact him when it’s his turn. Meanwhile, Chiarelli has stopped texting the picks as he’s been busy researching his own pick. This results in a long delay as Chiarelli -- in a noisy pub full of guys not listening or paying attention, has to try and figure out what picks he missed so he can type the names into his phone for Benning. "Who? How do you spell Draisaitl? Who's after that? Did you say Lars Eller? Oh, Ehlers. How do you spell that?”

8. Mr. Insecure/Indecisive – Oh man, this guy is exhausting and for your own sanity, always try to sit on the opposite side of the room from him. Played by new guy Tim Murray, who drew pick No. 10.  When the draft finally gets to him, he can’t decide. Two minutes go by. “How bad is Virtanen hurt?” he asks. “Has anyone taken Honka?” “What have you heard about Fleury?” Another two minutes pass. “Who is Kapanen playing with?”  “Is Fiala still available?” "Is there anything wrong with Nylander?" Another two minutes pass. “Should I order nachos or dry ribs?”

I suppose it’s a stretch that any of these things will actually happen but you never know. I’ll be watching just in case. Considering a make-believe player was once selected by the Buffalo Sabres, I like to think there’s always a chance.

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Related Calgary Flames Reading:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Brad Treliving's 'Big Stage' Debut - Five Questions Soon To Be Answered

Is Brad Treliving ready for his first draft as a NHL general manager? You betcha.

"We're excited where we're at right now," said Treliving on Monday, as he looked ahead to a NHL Draft weekend that he predicts could be one of the busiest of all-time. "Picking fourth, five picks in the first three rounds, we've got a plan going into Philadelphia. We'll see how things unfold over the next week."

Now he's been involved in the draft before. As assistant GM in Phoenix the past seven years, he was part of the Coyotes decision-making brain trust, but it's one thing to be one of the voices around the table, it's quite another to be the voice at the podium.

"I'm excited because this really starts the time that you can help build your team," Treliving said. "This is about getting better and it starts at the draft with the picks we can make and we'll see what other things we can do both around the draft and leading into free agency."

Just like names engraved on the Stanley Cup, every Flames draft pick this Friday and Saturday -- good or bad, will be permanently etched in the annals as a 'Treliving pick' and will be forever attached to his name in the same way Johnny Gaudreau (and Mark Jankowski) will always be linked to Jay Feaster, Dion Phaneuf (and Greg Nemisz) are associated with Darryl Sutter, and Derek Morris (and Rico Fata) will forever be tied to Al Coates.

For his sake, as well as the anxious Flames fan base, you just hope it goes better than Doug Risebrough’s maiden voyage at the draft table in 1991 when the then-rookie Flames GM started off with the dubious 1-2 punch of Nicklas Sundblad (19th) and Francois Groleau (41st).

"We've spent a lot of time in the last several weeks with a number of the young men, both at their place and we've brought in a number of players," Treliving said. "We've poked, we've prodded and as we've told them, this process isn't created to make them uncomfortable but these are very, very important decisions."

Hired two weeks after the Flames season ended and just five days before the Abbotsford Heat were eliminated, much of Treliving's two months on the job have been spent doing indirect reconnaissance. e.g. Assessing the state of the organization's personnel through talking to others.

"It's been educational because a lot of them, I didn't know as people. I only had a view of the player," Treliving said. "What I've been trying to pull out of all of them, outside of their opinion on (the player), is tell me about the person."

Along the way, he's been able to identify areas of depth (none) and areas of need (every position) and now that his front staff has been rounded out and coach Ryan Huska has been hired for Adirondack, it's time to turn his focus to the player roster.

On that note, here are five intriguing questions that we will soon know the answer to:


1. Will the Flames Trade up to No. 1?

It's no secret the Flames brought Aaron Ekblad to town a couple weeks ago to get to know him better and they didn't do so hoping the highly regarded Barrie Colts defenceman slips to No. 4 as the odds of that happening are extremely slim. So you know trading with Florida to get that top pick is something Calgary has seriously looked into.

The good news for the Flames is due to the comparable quality of the other prospects that make up that consensus top four -- Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl – each of whom has been spotted ahead of Ekblad in some mock drafts, the package it will take to move from No. 4 to No. 1 won’t be the same king’s ransom that will be required from other teams such as Toronto to move from No. 8 to No. 1.

The bad news is you're still going to have to cough up something of significance to entice Florida GM Dale Tallon to surrender that top selection and while he may be bluffing, he’s essentially said if you want Ekblad, you’ll need to trade with the Panthers to get him.

That being the case, is former 13th overall pick Sven Baertschi -- given his declining stock, enough, if Treliving has deemed the chagrined Swiss left-winger expendable? And if not, how big must the package be? Perhaps you also need to add in a veteran that's part of the current picture but not necessarily part of the big picture. Jiri Hudler comes to mind. But to jump three spots, how much is too much?


2. Do the Flames Draft Nick Ritchie?

The legend of Nick Ritchie continues to grow. It's fascinating how his stock continues to rise even though it's been over 10 weeks since the hulking 6-foot-3, 230 pound Peterborough left winger last played a hockey game.

Mock drafts are certainly the fashionable thing to do these days – a new one comes out every day. In fact, I may be the only person that hasn’t got caught up in the fad (I was also a late adopter of the Rubik’s Cube.) Interestingly, it was this past weekend that for the first time, I saw a mock draft from Sportsnet that had Ritchie going third overall -- first time I’ve seen him crack the top three.

I have four possible theories behind Ritchie’s new-found popularity despite not having thrown a body check or fired a slap shot since April 10:
  • Kings win, Big Guys Are In – Everybody likes to copy success -- especially around Hollywood and with LA winning the Stanley Cup with a team that featured only three players shorter than 6-foot-1, Big is the New Blue(print) for NHL clubs to follow and Ritchie, the draft's premiere power forward, fits that mold to a tee. 
  • Draft Pundits Are Bored - In non-playoff markets, which was all of Canada except Quebec, draft conversation starts early. After a long winter/spring of constantly debating the order that Ekblad and the two Sam's will go, it's only natural that boredom eventually creeps in and you start hearing other names inserted into the mix. First it was Draisaitl -- which by all accounts is legit, but now you also see Michael Dal Colle, Ritchie, Jake Virtanen, and even speedy Nikolaj Ehlers hovering around that top five.  
  • The Secret is Out – Maybe Ritchie was every GM's secret pick until it was realized that if every GM had him as their secret pick, then... it's... not so much a secret any more. So, perhaps he's just now settling into where he should have been ranked (and NHL teams had him secretly ranked) all along.
  • GM Smoke-Screen - The bigger you can make teams think your 'A' group is, e.g. If you make it public that you like eight guys, that impacts offers you might get from teams looking to trade up. Or, maybe you're trying to throw other teams off the scent of that one particular player you're pursuing. Either way, we know this is the time of extreme gamesmanship among GMs and Ritchie may be a mere pawn in this game.

3. Can Calgary add a Second 1st Round Pick?

By now we're all familiar with Brian Burke's lack of patience. Strikes me as a guy that repeatedly presses the walk button while waiting at a cross walk or will promptly lay on the horn if you don't step on the gas the instant the traffic light turns green.

Given his already-stated desire to hasten the rebuild, the best way to do that is to add in as much premium talent as you can “right here, right now” as Sammy Hagar would say. That means adding another high-upside first round talent this draft to go with the player the Flames will already by choosing at No. 4.

Last year, seven players stepped right into the NHL, which was unusually high. I would not be surprised if this season we see the fewest players step immediately into the NHL since 2007 when only Patrick KaneSam Gagner and David Perron made the jump. But that's just fine with the Flames.

“Our focus isn't getting somebody that is going to step in October, that's not a priority," insists Treliving. “Our priority is who is going to be the best player for the next 10 Octobers.”

The million dollar question is what will it take for Treliving to fandangle an additional top 30, or top 20, or ideally another top 10 pick, especially considering how coveted those first round picks are.

One obvious team to look at is the New York Islanders at pick No. 5 -- where Ritchie could be an 'as well as' pick instead of an 'instead of'. While for the Flames, players two years away is not a concern. It's not the route the perpetually rebuilding Islanders are looking to go at this point as they'd rather add an established player that will help them contend right away.

However, what assets would the Islanders be asking for and are the Flames a match personnel-wise? And even if they are, is the price too steep?


4. How will the Flames get to the Salary Cap Floor?

This could end up being trickier than it sounds. According to CapGeek.com, the Flames need to add $13 million in salary in order to get to the salary cap floor. RFAs likely to be resigned by the club like Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma, Joni Ortio, Paul Byron and Ben Hanowski will gobble up a portion of that but there will still be a big chunk of money that needs to be spent.

One attractive option is to accept a big contract(s) from a cap-crunched team in exchange for a favour -- e.g. a draft pick or a prospect. This is a win-win. The other club benefits from cap relief while the Flames add an asset, get closer to the cap floor and also pick up a player they potentially can flip at the trade deadline in exchange for another asset to make it a double-dip. Among the myriad of possibilities could be:
  • Johnny Boychuk, Bos - The Bruins are right up against the salary cap ceiling and that could force them to reluctantly part with someone like Boychuk, who has one year at $3.4-million left on his current contract. 
  • Michael Ryder, NJ - The Devils are also closing in on the cap and Ryder has one more year left at $3.5-million. If NJ opts for Damien Brunner in their top six, perhaps Ryder is a guy they move. 
  • Bryce Salvador, NJ - An aging blue-liner with one more year left at $3.2-million. An option in addition to buying out the veteran could be moving him to create cap space for younger and less expensive depth defencemen. 

Ideally, if you're Treliving, you’re looking for a player with limited term remaining – preferably just one year or two years at the most. With new and much richer deals coming in 2015-16 for Mikael Backlund (I examined if he might command $5-million), TJ Brodie as well as Curtis Glencross and Karri Ramo if they remain with the team, the salary floor will be less of a concern then and Calgary won't want to be carrying around too much dead weight in the form of other team's inherited bad contracts.

The other option is to sign a UFA or two to gobble up some of that extra loot but that’s not easy either. With the ability of these veteran players to pick their situation, most UFAs are looking to join a team that will be a Stanley Cup contender and are not lining up to sign on with a team in the throes of a rebuild.

Treliving was frank on Monday when it came to discussing the UFA market.

"Free agency does not cure your ills. There are going to be things that we are going to look at, that could help us, but this isn't a situation where we're waiting until July 1 to cure all our needs."

While it still makes no sense to me for the team or the player for Mike Cammalleri to sign a long-term deal in Calgary, if he doesn’t get what he hopes on the open market this summer and the Flames are willing to offer him a fat one-year deal for $7-million, maybe that’s the best solution for all.

Such a deal gets Calgary to the salary floor, Cammalleri stays with a team and in a city he’s comfortable with -- for now. A side benefit for Cammalleri is rather than guessing who is going to be a contender in July, he instead puts himself in a position for to be shipped to a team that turns out to be a contender in March when the Flames get a second chance to do what they had hoped to do last year and flip him for a draft pick.


5. How Does Treliving Rate the Flames Prospects?

You have to feel for Treliving. It has to be awfully difficult assessing player personnel without much first-hand knowledge and thus doing so based mostly on the opinions of others and only what you've seen from across the ice when you were far more focused on your own organization.

Now Treliving did exit interviews in Abbotsford when their season ended but he had been on the job less than a week at that point so it must have been all a blur. Also, Heat coach Troy Ward is no longer with the organization so that conduit has been severed..

As an observer from afar, Treliving is familiar with most of the Flames players – on the ice, but he admits he doesn’t know them very well off the ice. Yet.

"I haven't had an experience with any of the players, which is odd. We've done a few deals with Calgary while I was in Phoenix, but they're not here anymore," Treliving said.

He also reiterates that the past is the past and all players are starting with a blank slate.

“I've phoned a large majority of our players and my comment to them is, I've seen you play here, I've got some opinions. But in a lot of cases, that's great what other people think. I'm going to base my opinion based upon my experience with you," said Treliving. "A lot of cases, if there has been an issue in the past or there's been a hiccup in the past, we learn from the past so it's important for me to understand what's gone on but know you're coming in with a clean canvas here.”

Bottom line is he wants to give all players an equal chance to make a first impression on him – but that’s only possible if they’re still Flames property come training camp. Between now and then, trades, qualifying offers (RFA) or contract offers (UFA) tendered versus not, will give us a glimpse into where guys currently sit on the depth chart, in his view.

-------------------------------------------------

Related Calgary Flames Reading:


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.

    Sunday, June 08, 2014

    From A to Z: A Calgary Flames Draft Primer (Part 1)

    A - Alberta

    The next Alberta kid drafted by the Flames will be the 40th selected from the home province since 1980. Of the first 39, the most successful of them all was also one of the first selections. In 1981, Calgarian Mike Vernon was picked in the 3rd round, 56th overall. He would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989.

    We know how much former GM Darryl Sutter liked drafting big, strapping WHL kids. Yet, when you look back, you may be surprised to know that Jay Feaster and Al Coates both drafted a greater percentage of Alberta-born players than Sutter. Here are the percentage of Albertans drafted by the Flames six general managers:

    Jay Feaster (2011-2013) - 20%
    Al Coates (1996-1999) - 20%
    Darryl Sutter (2003-2010) - 15%
    Cliff Fletcher (1980-1990) - 9%
    Doug Risebrough (1991-1995) - 7%
    Craig Button (2000-2002) - 6%

    Other notes:
    • The most Albertans drafted by Calgary in one year is three. That has happened three times: 2005 (JD Watt, Matt Keetley, Brett Sutter), 1998 (Blair Betts, Paul Manning, Shaun Sutter), 1997 (Evan Lindsay, Jeremy Rondeau, Dustin Paul)
    • Calgary has used its first round pick to draft an Albertan on six occasions: Morgan Klimchuk (2013), Leland Irving (2006), Dion Phaneuf (2003), Brent Krahn (2000), Derek Morris (1996), Chris Dingman (1994)

    B - Button

    The Button surname has been linked to Flames drafting since 1997 when General Manager Al Coates hired Tod Button as an amateur scout. Three years later, Calgary passed on much-discussed candidates such as Jim Nill to hire Craig Button as general manager.

    Craig, one year older than brother Tod, came to the Flames from Dallas where he had a successful decade-long run there as Director of Scouting, followed by Director of Player Personnel. During his time, Stars draft picks included Jarome Iginla, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Brenden Morrow, Marty Turco, Derian Hatcher and Jamie Langenbrunner.

    While Craig did acquire key pieces that were instrumental in the Flames 2004 Stanley Cup run like Craig Conroy, Martin Gelinas and Jordan Leopold, his three years at the helm in Calgary, before being replaced by Darryl Sutter, will be most known for three moves that did not work out:
    • Trading Marc Savard, 25, to Atlanta for mysterious Russian Ruslan Zainullin.
    • Dealing goaltending prospect Jean-Sebastien Giguere, 23, to Anaheim for a 2nd round draft pick.
    • Releasing 25-year-old prospect Marty St. Louis

    While Craig's final two drafts (2001, 2002) did yield four NHL regulars in Chuck Kobasew, David Moss, Eric Nystrom and Matthew Lombardi, he also whiffed on all three second round picks during those two drafts -- US collegian D Brian McConnell (39th in 2002), C Andrei Taratukhin (41st in 2001) and stocky G Andrei Medvedev (56th in 2001).

    Tod, meanwhile, was promoted by his brother to Director of Scouting in 2001. His title changed to Director of Amateur Scouting after a re-organization in 2011 and he remains in that pivotal role today.


    C - CBA

    There's no shortage of draft-related sections, sub-sections and tables in the 517-page Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA. On June 1, two different situations played out for the Flames in relation to players drafted from the Canadian Hockey League. Here's a summary of what took place and why.

    What many people don't know is there are two deadlines when dealing with players drafted from the CHL (made up of the WHL, OHL and QMJHL).

    Deadline No. 1 - By the next June 1, following the draft in which they were selected, the club must make a bonafide contract offer to that player in order to retain their rights for an additional year. Otherwise, he goes back into the upcoming draft. "Bonafide" means a legitimate contract that abides by minimums for salary and term as set out in the CBA. Typically these contracts will be at or near the league minimum and generally will include no signing or performance bonuses.

    It was on the June 1 that just past that the Flames acknowledged they had made a contract offer to 2013 5th round draft pick D Eric Roy, thus -- regardless of whether he signs that contract or rejects it (he has 30 days), the Flames retain his rights until June 1, 2015.

    Deadline No. 2 - By the second June 1 following the draft in which a player is selected, the club must then sign a CHL player or that player goes back into the draft.

    In the case of LW Coda Gordon, a 2012 draft pick. He would have been made a contract offer last spring, as was also done with defencemen Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak. All three rejected that initial contract offer and in March, both Culkin and Kulak received another contract offer -- for better money, and both signed entry level contracts with the Flames. Gordon, however, did not receive another contract offer.

    It's not uncommon for a player to reject that initial offer in hopes that they'll have a great junior season and elevate their stock. But as we saw with Gordon, there's no guarantee another contract offer will come.


    D - Drury

    All season, Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart was a considered a lock to be drafted in the top three in the 2014 NHL Draft. But the gap between Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad and the rest seems to be closing and there is speculation that Leon Draisaitl could be the target for Edmonton at No. 3 and if so, it could be Reinhart that tumbles out of the top three, not unlike what happened to Seth Jones last year, who ended up going 4th to Nashville after spending much of the year speculated as being a top two pick.

    With his older brother Max Reinhart in the Flames organization already -- drafted in the third round of 2010, that prompts the question, how many brothers have played for the Flames in franchise history? The answer is three:
    • Ted and Chris Drury
    • Robyn and Richie Regehr
    • Bob and Bill MacMillan

    Of those duos, Bill only played for Atlanta so in Calgary team history, that reduces the list of brother acts to two. The first was Flames 1989 2nd round pick Ted Drury, who was long gone by the time his younger brother Chris came to town in a trade with Colorado.

    That leaves Richie and Robyn Regehr as the only brothers to be in the Flames line-up at the same time. Richie's NHL career lasted only 20 games but Robyn was in the line-up for all 20 of them spread over the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. As a side note, Richie continues to play professional hockey in Europe. After several years in Germany, he played last year for MoDo in Sweden, which happens to be the same team highly touted draft prospect, Calgary-born William Nylander, spent time with last season.


    E - Erixon

    During the first three decades in Calgary, 13 of the Flames 28 first round draft picks ended up playing less than 20 NHL games with Calgary -- many of them not making it to the NHL at all.

    The misery began with defenceman Chris Biotti, selected 17th overall in 1985, and the latest whoops was defenceman Tim Erixon, selected 23rd overall in 2009. Let's be honest, that is a brutal ratio and if you're looking for the single biggest reason Calgary has won only three playoff series in the last 25 years -- all of them in 2004, it's their first round futility at the draft table.

    Depending on your age, some of these names are more folklore than guys you have recurring nightmares about but here is the unlucky 13 -- listed in chronological order: Chris Biotti, George Pelawa (died in a car accident three months after being drafted), Bryan Deasley, Jason Muzzatti, Niklas Sundblad, Jesper Mattsson, Daniel Tkaczuk, Brent Krahn, Kris Chucko, Matt Pelech, Leland Irving, Greg Nemisz, Tim Erixon.


    F - Fletcher

    For the team's first 10 years in Calgary, the architect behind those glorious teams of the 1980s was general manager Cliff Fletcher. Fletcher can also lay claim to having had the best ever draft for the Flames, which happened at the Montreal Forum on June 9, 1984.

    At the 1984 draft, Fletcher drafted four players that would go on to play over 1,000 games in the NHL:
    • Round 1, 12th - LW Gary Roberts (1224 games, 438-471-909)
    • Round 2, 38th - LW Paul Ranheim (1013 games, 161-199-360)
    • Round 6, 117th - RW Brett Hull (1269 games, 741-650-1391)
    • Round 9, 180th - D Gary Suter (1145 games, 203-642-845)

    Three of the four would be instrumental in the Flames winning their only Stanley Cup in 1989. Roberts and Suter were key parts of the team. Hull was traded to St. Louis in March 1988 and while that deal that was Hull and Steve Bozek for Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley will always be criticized considering the hall-of-fame career Hull ended up having, Ramage and Wamsley would play key roles on that 1989 team. For the speedy Ranheim, he spent most of 1988-89 in the minors with his first full year coming the following season.

    For good measure, Fletcher also selected 26-year-old Jiri Hrdina in the 8th round of 1984, one of four established Czechs taken that year by the Flames GM, who hoped they would either one day defect or eventually be released to play in North America. Sure enough, Hrdina did come over to the NHL and his parts of four seasons with Calgary included being a member of that 1989 Flames team.  


    G - Gordon

    As mentioned above, 2012 6th round pick Coda Gordon has been returned to the 2014 draft so is no longer Calgary property. He is the first Flames player to go unsigned and return to the draft (if still age eligible) or become a free agent since 2010. Here are the more recent draft picks that the Flames chose to walk away from, which usually happens because their stock has fallen and/or the organization does not view them as ever making it to the NHL:
    • 2012 - Round 6, 165th - LW Coda Gordon
    • 2010 - Round 3, 73rd - D Joey Leach
    • 2009 - Round 4, 111th - RW Henrik Bjorklund
    • 2009 - Round 5, 141st - LW Spencer Bennett
    • 2008 - Round 4, 108th - LW Nick Larson
    • 2008 - Round 7, 198th - D Alexander Deilert

    Going further back, two of the most notable Flames draft picks to go unsigned were:
    • G Craig Anderson - In 1999, the Senators goalie was drafted in Round 3, 77th overall. But under Craig Button's watch, the club couldn't come to terms (Button had just drafted G Brent Krahn in the first round of 2000) so he returned to the 2001 draft and was picked 73rd by Chicago.
    • C Jarret Stoll - In 2000, the Kings centre was drafted in Round 2, 46th overall. He also couldn't agree on a deal so the Flames traded him just before the deadline to Toronto, who did come to terms with Stoll but didn't get the paperwork faxed to the league on time. Stoll re-entered the 2002 draft and was picked 36th by Edmonton.

    Note that the only scenario in which a team is compensated for not signing a draft pick is if that player was a 1st round pick. As long as the club makes a bonafide contract offer to the player, if he chooses not to sign, the team is compensated at the subsequent draft with a pick of the same numerical value but in the 2nd round. For example, if the Flames had been unable to sign Sean Monahan and two years later he returned to the 2015 draft, Calgary would have received an extra selection in that draft and it would have been the 6th pick in the 2nd round.    


    H - Hainsey

    This is not so much a Flames draft note as it is a Calgary note. In 2000, the NHL held its annual entry draft at the Saddledome, the first and only time the draft has been held in Calgary. Looking back at that draft, it was awful. The top 20 that year is quite possibly the worst top 20 in draft history. In particular, from pick No. 7 through No. 17, that stretch of 11 selections produced only one legitimate, long-term NHLer and that was defenceman Ron Hainsey, selected by Montreal at No. 13.

    Of course, one of the 10 picks that didn't pan out in that stretch was Calgary at No. 9, who drafted Brent Krahn, who had been playing for the Calgary Hitmen. The interesting story that goes with that is Krahn was the second goaltender selected -- Rick DiPietro was chosen first overall by the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, the 22nd goaltender off the board -- selected by the New York Rangers in round 7, 205th overall, was Henrik Lundqvist. Yes, that Henrik Lundqvist.

    The salt in the wound for Flames fans is they expended two picks on goalies that year, also taking and missing on Hungarian Levente Szuper, drafted in round 4, 116th overall.


    I - Irving

    Unfortunately for Flames fans and for the organization, there are a bunch of years to pick from when debating what was Calgary's single worst draft year. However, for me, it was 2006 under Darryl Sutter.

    Armed with eight picks in 2006 -- although as became the norm under Sutter, no 2nd rounder as it had been dealt away, goaltender Leland Irving -- 26th overall, was the lone player to make it to the NHL and you are all familiar with his plight.
    • Played five seasons with the organization in the AHL
    • During his last two years at Abbotsford, he had short stints in Calgary getting in a total of 13 games and posting a 3-4-4 record with a 3.25 GAA and .902 SV%.
    • After being released by the Flames last summer, he signed on with Jokerit in Finland, where he posted a 2.14 GAA and .925 SV%
    • For next season, he has signed with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. Interestingly, that is Karri Ramo's old team.

    As for the other ill-fated players in that forgettable 2006 Calgary Flames draft class, here they are and where they played last season:
    • C John Armstrong (round 3, 87th) - ECHL
    • C Aaron Marvin (round 3, 89th) - Retired
    • C Hugo Carpentier (round 4, 118th) - Retired
    • RW Juuso Puustinen (round 5, 149th) - Finland (previous two years with Milwaukee in AHL)
    • LW Jordan Fulton (round 6, 179th) - Britain
    • D Devin DiDiomete (round 7, 187th) - Started year in Sweden, finished in Italy
    • D Per Jonsson (round 7, 209th) - Sweden (third division) 

    J - Jankowski

    It's impossible to write anything that hasn't been written before when it comes to Jay Feaster's highly controversial first round pick in 2012, who many have already written off. Where Mark Jankowski dubiously fits into my list is he was the most recent example of a player drafted by the Flames after trading down in the first round. By that, I mean the Flames held a higher pick but chose to drop down to a lower pick in a trade and pick up an asset at the same time.

    The silver lining with Jankowski -- and the saving grace many would say, is that is how Calgary got the 42nd overall pick they used to draft rugged defenceman Patrick Sieloff.

    Dropping down in the first round has happened a lot. In fact, it occurred an epidemic-like seven times in a 14-year span from 1999 through 2012. Here's a summary of who the Flames traded with and what draft picks were swapped:
    • 1999 - In trade with NYR, dropped from 8th to 11th. Rangers took Jamie Lundmark, Flames took Oleg Saprykin. (Calgary also got Marc Savard while the Rangers got a 3rd round pick and rights to Jan Hlavac)
    • 2001 - In trade with Phoenix, dropped from 11th to 14th. Coyotes took Fredrik Sjostrom, Flames took Chuck Kobasew. (Calgary also got Phoenix's 2nd round pick, 41st overall)
    • 2002 - In trade with Florida, dropped from 9th to 10th. Panthers took Petr Taticek, Flames took Eric Nystrom. (Calgary also got Florida's 4th round pick)
    • 2004 - In trade with NYR, dropped from 19th to 24th. Rangers took Lauri Korpikoski, Flames took Kris Chucko. (Calgary also got NYR's 2nd round pick, 46th, while the Rangers also got Calgary's 8th round pick)
    • 2007 - In trade with St. Louis, dropped from 18th to 24th. Blues took Ian Cole, Flames took Mikael Backlund. (Calgary also got St. Louis's 3rd round pick)
    • 2009 - In trade with New Jersey, dropped from 20th to 23rd. Devils took Jacob Josefson, Flames took Tim Erixon. (Calgary also got New Jersey's 3rd round pick)
    • 2012 - In trade with Buffalo, dropped from 14th to 21st. Sabres took Zemgus Girgensons, Flames took Mark Jankowski. (Calgary also got Buffalo's 2nd round pick)

    K - Kidd

    On the flip side, the last time the Flames traded up in the first round of the draft was way back in 1990. Although, given how that one turned out, you can understand why the team has been gun shy to try that maneuver again. That year, Calgary GM Cliff Fletcher swung a deal with New Jersey to move up from 20th to 11th. They did so in order to draft goaltender Trevor Kidd. The cruel irony is that at No. 20, the Devils also opted for a goalie, settling for Martin Brodeur.

    At least the 2nd round pick Calgary flipped to New Jersey in order to move up, never amounted to anything. But that's the only positive thing to say about that deal, which was clearly won by Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

    As we look ahead to the 2014 NHL Draft, might this be a year Calgary tries to move up from 4th, maybe to No. 1?  Brad Treliving has acknowledged he's looked into what the asking price is from Florida but I'd be surprised if it happens. Picking No. 1 doesn't have the same cachet this year as it has in other years.


    L - Lysiak

    Since moving to Calgary, the Flames have never picked in the top five of the NHL Draft. They are the only NHL organization that can lay such a claim. In franchise history, the last time the Flames drafted in the top five was 1973 -- the same year a young, fuzzy-cheeked forward named Brian Burke was embarking on his freshman season at Providence College.

    The Atlanta Flames passed on Burke -- as did all 16 NHL teams in all 12 rounds. Instead, with the No. 2 pick, Atlanta drafted centre Tom Lysiak. That was after the New York Islanders made the most of first overall, selecting hall-of-fame defenceman Denis Potvin.

    Lysiak played six seasons with the Flames but never wore a flaming 'C' as he was traded to Chicago two years before the franchise relocated to Calgary.

    That was actually the second time Atlanta picked in the top five. They also drafted 2nd overall in 1972 when the then-expansion Flames and Islanders were given the top two picks and New York ended up with No. 1 by winning a coin toss.

    While Lysiak had a very good NHL career, the Flames pick the year before -- centre Jacques Richard, can be considered a miss. While he still played over 500 NHL games, he never realized his Guy Lafleur-like potential that was placed on him during a standout junior career for the Quebec Remparts. His NHL career was riddled by injuries as well as gambling and alcohol problems. Six years after retiring, Richard was arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Canada and handed a jail sentence. Then, on the night of his 50th birthday party in 2002, he died in a single vehicle accident while returning home.


    M - McElhinney

    In the 34 years in Calgary, the Flames have drafted and developed only three goaltenders into a full-time role on the team and it's not from lack of trying. They've drafted 26 goalies during that span. The most recent 'success' was Curtis McElhinney and at that, he was the understudy to Miikka Kiprusoff for just one full season.

    Here are the three that made it, along with their Calgary Flames career totals:
    • 2002 - Round 6, 176th, Curtis McElhinney (29 gm, 4-12-1, 3.23 GAA)
    • 1990 - Round 1, 11th, Trevor Kidd (178 gm, 72-66-26, 2.83 GAA)
    • 1981 - Round 3, 56th, Mike Vernon (526 gm, 262-170-13, 3.26 GAA)

    The Flames hope a fourth is in the pipeline already with 2009 6th rounder Joni Ortio and/or 2012 3rd rounder Jon Gillies and while the future appears bright for both, only time will ultimately tell. It would not surprise me to see Calgary draft a goaltender in this year's draft.

    -------------------------------------------------
    This is a two-part feature. For Part 2 -- the N-to-Z 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 Granlund? Joni Ortio? Read and find out.