Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Free Agent Frenzy 2015: 12 UFA Possibilities the Flames May Be Eyeing

"I'd like to order a goalie, a defenceman and a forward."

"Got it. Your total comes to $27.2 million, please pay at the next window."

Last year on July 1 in his first trip to the NHL fast food restaurant Free Agent Frenzy, new Flames general manager Brad Treliving left the drive thru with Jonas Hiller (2Y/$9M), Deryk Engelland (3Y/$8.75M) and Mason Raymond (3Y/$9.45M).

That was a pretty expensive visit but he was hungry. With the spare change in his pocket, he then returned two days later and picked up the equivalent of a slice of garlic bread in defenceman Sena Acolatse (1Y/$700K NHL or $150K AHL).

When it comes to signing veteran NHL free agents over the last five years, Calgary has alternated between making significant moves and not. Here's a recap of notable players signed within the first two weeks of July 1 going back to 2010. This excludes the re-signing of players already with the team.

2014 - Busy - Signed Engelland, Raymond, Hiller
2013 - Quiet
2012 - Busy - Signed Jiri Hudler.
2011 - Quiet (Derek Smith and Guillaume Desbiens do not count as "notable")
2010 - Busy - Signed Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Tim Jackman

That trend would suggest this Wednesday could be a quiet one for Treliving and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case. After all, he's just coming off a busy weekend at the draft in which he acquired Dougie Hamilton. Plus, he already signed two defencemen in the spring in Kenney Morrison and Jakub Nakladal.

That said, if he does ink anyone on Canada Day, here are a dozen UFAs that might be of interest to the hockey club for various reasons. While this year's UFA group would hardly be considered a bumper crop, there are a few good fits in there for Calgary should the money and term make sense.

Note that if Treliving does bring in a defenceman, that could mean the end for a veteran already here. A name that you think about in that regard is Dennis Wideman, whose value has never been higher after a career season. Wideman has a big contract with two years left still at $5.25M. With Hamilton's arrival and Wideman potentially in line for a reduced role, maybe there's a top four fit elsewhere out there and the 32-year-old can be moved for an asset. It's something that is at least worth exploring.

A couple goalies are on my list also. As I documented here, there is a need to bring an established goalie to Calgary either this summer or next at the very latest. If Treliving pulls the trigger and brings in a goalie right now, that likely means Jonas Hiller would be shopped around.

12 Unrestricted Free Agent Possibilities:

1. RW Michael Frolik
Size - 6-foot-1, 198 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract Average Annual Value (AAV) - $3.3M
Pro - Fills a void on RW, entering his prime, decent size, solid scorer, favourable advanced stats
Con - Will likely cost over $4M per season.

2. C/RW Eric Fehr
Size - 6-foot-4, 212 lbs
Age - 29
Last Contract AAV - $1.5M
Pro - Size, can score, brings character, good on PK, versatile, could be undervalued
Con - Injuries have plagued his career

3. D Cody Franson
Size - 6-foot-5, 213 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $3.3M
Pro - Big, has upside, heavy shot, plays right side, entering prime, favourable advance stats
Con - Has moved around, used sparingly in playoffs, will be expensive, will he ever fulfill his potential?

4. RW Joel Ward
Size - 6-foot-1, 226 lbs
Age - 34
Last Contract AAV - $3M
Pro - Physical, good hands, big game player, character guy, can play top six, might come cheap
Con - Older so too much term would be risky and rumour is he's asking for four years.

5. RW Justin Williams
Size - 6-foot-1, 189 lbs
Age - 33
Last Contract AAV - $3.65M
Pro - Perfect fit as second line RW, tons of playoff experience, big game player
Con - Like Ward, age does not make him a long term fit if he's looking for lots of term.

6. G Jhonas Enroth
Size - 5-foot-10, 166 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.25M
Pro - Solid veteran, just entering his prime, athletic, second round pick pedigree
Con - Small, hard to gauge his upside after playing in Buffalo, hasn't proven himself as a No. 1

7. C Cody Hodgson
Size - 6-foot-1, 192 lbs
Age - 25
Last Contract AAV - $4.25M (bought out by the Sabres)
Pro - Top 10 draft pick pedigree, shoots right, could convert him to RW, young, potential upside
Con - Attitude concerns, what went wrong in Buffalo?

8. D - Johnny Oduya
Size - 6-foot-0, 190 lbs
Age - 33
Last Contract AAV - $3.375M
Pro - Veteran with tons of experience, Stanley Cup winner, close friend of prospect Oliver Kylington
Con - Shoots left, could be expensive for what he brings given his resume, age isn't ideal

9. D Matt Bartkowski
Size - 6-foot-1, 196 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.25M
Pro - Still young, cheaper third pairing option, good depth add, almost traded for him once before
Con - Limited upside, would he even be an upgrade over Nakladal or Wotherspoon?

10. D David Schlemko
Size - 6-foot-1, 190 lbs
Age - 28
Last Contract AAV - $1.187M
Pro - Useful depth player, cheap, versatile in can play increased minutes short term, knows team
Con - Bottom pair skills

11. RW Chris Stewart
Size - 6-foot-2, 228 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $4.15M
Pro - Has first round pick pedigree, plays RW, capable of being a power forward, still young
Con - Career has been on a steady decline, dressing room fit a concern, lots of risk

12. LW Matt Beleskey
Size - 6-foot-0, 204 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.35M
Pro - Plays physical, can score, top six potential, coming off a breakout season, young
Con - Offence may have been a blip, will command big (too much) money

Honourable Mention

G Karri Ramo
Size - 6-foot-0, 215 lbs
Age - 28
Last Contract AAV - $2.75M
Pro - Familiar, still young, has shown glimpses of No. 1 potential, has been getting better
Con - Might be expensive, play can be inconsistent, hasn't proven he can be a No. 1

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Flames GM Brad Treliving: Kicking Ass and Taking Names at the 2015 NHL Draft

One hand on the steering wheel of his red Ferrari, neatly-pressed Armani suit, steely-eyed look on his face under his jauntily worn white fedora, and with a cigar dangling.

That's my image of Brad Treliving as he rumbled through the palm tree-lined streets of Miami Beach on Friday like a badass crime boss. Imposing, emotionless and chock-full of swagger, the head of the Flames family was in town for the weekend to take care of some 'business' and he wasn't leaving until he got what he came for.

Now apologies to Floridians for the crass stereotype but I've never visited that part of the U.S. so what I envision comes from watching hours of Miami Vice and CSI: Miami. Nonetheless, it's an apt way to describe the methodical approach by Treliving over the past 48 hours and the heists he pulled off during the 2015 NHL Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.

Man on a Mission

Ken Holland, David Poile, Glen Sather, Doug Wilson. These are general managers that have been at their current post for at least a dozen years. Treliving has been in the role for 14 months. At age 45, there are only two GMs younger -- Winnipeg's Kevin Cheveldayoff and Chicago's Stan Bowman.

However, if he was supposed to be reserved and cautious, nobody told him that.

Since the 2014-15 season ended, Treliving has been upfront about what he wants to get accomplished this summer. The most pressing area? Addressing the lack of organizational depth on the blue-line.

This issue became magnified late in the year after Mark Giordano was lost for the season. That left Calgary with TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell to shoulder a majority of the minutes with rugged Deryk Engelland taking on a much larger role than ideal in the top four.

Beyond that, the team was left to scramble together a bottom pairing out of unwanted veteran Raphael Diaz, who signed after coming to camp on a tryout. David Schlemko, who had been on waivers twice before being claimed by the Flames in February. Journeyman Corey Potter, who is a nice man but did not have the tools Calgary needed. Oh yeah, and Tyler Wotherspoon, who just wasn't ready yet -- although was still miles ahead of the team's other defence prospects, which says more about the lack of depth than how fast Wotherspoon has developed.

To address this pressing need, Treliving got started long before getting to the East Coast last week. The initial few rounds he fired into the air came earlier in the spring:
  • In March, he signed 23-year-old Kenney Morrison. Signed after playing the past three seasons at Western Michigan University, the right-hand shooting blue-liner is 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds.
  • In May, Treliving looked overseas in adding 27-year-old Jakub Nakladal. Having played last season in Finland after four years in the KHL, the Czech native is similarly sized at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and he also shoots right. 

Shots Fired

It was once he settled in at the Flames temporary headquarters in Florida last week that Treliving really made some noise. The fireworks began on Friday afternoon when he packaged up his first three picks in the draft -- 15th, 45th and 52nd and sent them to Boston in exchange for 2011 ninth overall pick Dougie Hamilton.

Big, established, highly touted, a 22-year-old two-way defencemen, who is still getting better. These are not the ilk of player that typically changes area codes in today's NHL. I mean we're talking hardly ever. This is the calibre of player that teams lock up, not ship out.

Friday night was supposed to belong to Edmonton and Connor McDavid but hours before his name got called, the move that had everybody talking came from the other end of the province. In this piece from yesterday, I looked at the Hamilton trade from eight different angles.

If Friday's blockbuster deal made everybody stop what they were doing and pay attention, Treliving kept their attention on Saturday through a blend of savvy selections and some more slick maneuvering on the draft floor that landed Calgary a potential first round talent at the cost of two third round picks.

But first, finally, came the Flames first selection of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Round 2, 53rd pick, Rasmus Andersson, D

Have you heard of Aaron Ekblad? Last year's first overall pick and NHL's Rookie of the Year in 2014-15 was the top scoring defenceman in Barrie (OHL) two years ago with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 58 games.

Replacing him as top scoring blue-liner for the Colts this year was Swedish-born Rasmus Andersson, who had 64 points (12 goals, 52 assists) in 67 games. What we know is he's 6-foot-0, 212 pounds, and shoots right. Most mock drafts had him going in the middle of round 2 with Craig Button listing him 31st in his year-end rankings. He is said to have a very hard shot but needs to work on his conditioning.

Time Out, Calgary 

When NHL Central Scouting released its the midterm rankings in January, Oliver Kylington (pronounced shillington) was ranked as the No. 1 international skater. But then his stock began to fall.

For those -- and there were many -- surprised the Swede never went on Friday night, that amazement and wonder grew as Saturday unfolded. 31, 32, 33, 34.... player after player came off the board yet Kylington remained out there. Through 40 picks, still available. Through 50 picks, still available. Through 59 picks, still available.

Treliving could not resist any longer. He had to get this player. It was time to make another bold move. This time he called up Don Maloney, his old boss in Arizona and consummated a deal that saw him ship both of Calgary's third round picks (76th, 83rd) to the Coyotes for their pick at No. 60. Boom.

Round 2, 60th pick, Oliver Kylington, D

The big question is why did this young man fall so far? Rumblings included an inconsistent year in Sweden in which he played for three teams. Also, there were reports he left a poor impression with many teams during the pre-draft interview process.

But there seems to be no denying his raw talent. He's billed as being one of the fastest skaters in the draft and has great vision. Then there's this. Two years ago, he became the youngest player to ever score a goal in the Swedish Hockey League finding the back of the net at age 16.

Notably, he spends much of his off-season training with Chicago defenceman Johnny Oduya, saying he's learned a lot from their mentor-like relationship. Oduya, who has two Stanley Cup rings, is 33.

Taking Inventory

Let's recap where we're at.

Treliving came to Florida armed with one first round pick and two second round picks and with designs on strengthening Calgary's defence.

He turns all three of those picks into three defencemen. One is a rising star with three years of NHL experience that immediately plugs into the line-up, one is a guy that was billed as 'high risk/high reward' except when you get a player like that at No. 60 -- nearly into the third round, only the 'high reward' aspect applies at that point. The third guy was a solid d-man projected to go early-to-mid second round and maybe even creep into the first, who Calgary got late in the second.

All in all, that's a damn good haul.

Sending a Final Message

With the bulk of his work on the blue-line done, then came a long wait. Very long. Calgary had no picks in rounds 3 or 4 so 75 players came off the board before Treliving returned to the mic. However, when he did, he made a couple more picks that also look like very smart selections:

> Round 5, 136th pick, Pavel Karnaukhov, LW

A 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, the 18-year-old played right under Treliving's nose last season with the Calgary Hitmen. Karnaukhov notched 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 69 games. It was his first season in North America and the Hitmen coaching staff raved about him.

> Round 6, 166th pick, Andrew Mangiapane, LW

Passed over in last year's draft, the 19-year-old is small at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds but very talented. A teammate of Andersson with Barrie, Mangiapane put up 104 points (43 goals, 61 assists) to finish eighth in OHL scoring. He was also a late riser in the prospect rankings. At midterm, he was ranked 147th among Central Scouting's North American skaters. He finished up 85th. Meanwhile, Craig Button had him 44th overall on his final rankings list.

> Round 7, 196th pick, Riley Bruce, D

At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, the 17-year-old prototypical stay-at-home defencemen is built out of the Keegan Kanzig mold. Bruce has played two seasons in North Bay (OHL) and in 109 regular season games, he has no goals and only seven assists.

Closing Thoughts

As Treliving motored back out of Miami Beach on Saturday (with Hamilton stashed in his trunk), he does so having left quite a mark on the 2015 NHL Draft. That chalk outline you see? That might as well be Bruins GM Don Sweeney. All those empty shell casings littering the streets? The results of multiple conversations had and impactful moves made.

Treliving has very quickly forged for himself a reputation as a shrewd GM, who means business and isn't afraid to go after what he wants. You get the sense that he's going to be the first to know when players are available, not the last.

While he may have had numerous critics a year ago, who scrutinized his first few moves -- the Brandon Bollig trade, the Engelland signing, the Devin Setoguchi signing, but he's made almost all the right moves since:
  • Locking up TJ Brodie to a five-year extension early.
  • Locking up coach Bob Hartley to an extension early.
  • Extending Mikael Backlund for three more years at a favourable cap hit.

And at that, even the Bollig and Engelland moves didn't turn out that bad in the end given the increased role both playerd late in the season and into the playoffs. And as for Setoguchi, he was cheap and no-risk anyway.

The bottom line is Treliving admitted a need on the back end and already the Flames have brought in six new defencemen that weren't part of the organization last season -- five of which are the calibre of players that fans can legitimately be excited about.

It seems that not only does the Flames future continue to look bright on the ice, it's looking even brighter in the front office.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Thoughts on New Flame Dougie Hamilton

In a content feature I call Eight From 80 Feet, I share eight thoughts on the current goings-on with the Calgary Flames. This special edition is dedicated to the huge trade on Friday pulled off by GM Brad Treliving in acquiring Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins in exchange for three draft picks.

1. Net Outcome: How to View the Trade

Treliving has always referred to the extra picks he picked up in the Sven Baertschi (for a second round pick) and Curtis Glencross (for a second and a third round pick) trades as "currency" and he spent two-thirds of that extra money to add Hamilton.

If you step back and factor in those two deals, you can essentially view Friday's trade like this.
Flames trade disgruntled LW Sven Baertschi, who said he wasn't going to re-sign with Calgary after this season, pending UFA LW Curtis Glencross, and a 2015 first round draft pick in exchange for D Dougie Hamilton and a 2015 third round draft pick.

If you were undecided on the Hamilton trade before, now how do you view it? If you liked it already, now you must really like it.

Now I said "essentially" because in such a deal, Calgary would still have their own pick at No. 45 on Saturday. Instead, that pick was moved and the second round pick they retained was No. 53, which came from Vancouver. But you get the point and viewed that way, it's hard to evaluate the trade as anything but a massive win for the Flames. Instead of hoping to get a player at 15 that will one day develop into a NHL star, they acquire an established but still very young guy that's well on his way.

2. Strengthening Their Weakest Position

Everybody knows that defence is the position of the least depth -- by far -- for the Flames organizationally. When Mark Giordano suffered his season-ending injury last February, we saw that play out. Deryk Engelland was elevated to the top four and while he performed admirably, it hurt TJ Brodie. With the third pairing not trusted and barely playing, the big minutes forced upon Brodie, Wideman and Kris Russell every night wore them down as the playoffs went on.

Calgary's success last year was very much a by-product of how active their blue-line was in the exciting, entertaining and high tempo style of play coach Bob Hartley had his team playing. The engine of the Flames surprisingly potent offence was the defence. In addition to being great puck distributors, they continually jumped up into the play to create an odd-man rush, or were the second wave of attack coming late. However, as they wore down, you saw them play more conservatively and with Brodie taking less chances while paired with Engelland, it sapped their ability to play the same dynamic game they had played earlier in the season and that hurt them in the playoffs.

To be able to add in a top notch blue-liner like Hamilton without surrendering anyone off the roster, a guy who jumps right into the top four (or even top three), is a massive upgrade.

Now maybe this means Dennis Wideman will get traded. That definitely could happen. That said, then you're right back where you were last season. Instead, by inserting Hamilton and shuffling people down, Calgary's defence strengthens significantly. Yesterday, ESPN senior NHL writer Craig Custance tweeted, "With the addition of Dougie Hamilton, one NHL head coach said he thinks Flames now have best defense in the West." Well, how about that.

If I had to take a guess today at how the pairings might look in October, one possibility is this:
Giordano - Brodie
Russell - Hamilton
Wideman - Engelland

While that keeps the top pairing from last year intact, it does leave an all-righty third pairing and you wonder the last time Wideman (or Engelland) had to play the left side.

Alternately as a few of you pointed out to me (the first being @JustinBeatty777), one could flip-flop Brodie and Hamilton and flip-flop Russell and Wideman, which gives you three more well-rounded groupings:
Giordano - Hamilton
Brodie - Wideman
Russell - Engelland

Either way, that's nice depth and should it remain that way, Calgary would be the only NHL team (as of right now, anyway) in which the top six D are all Canadians.

3. Alas, He's a Right-handed Shot

In the NHL, right-hand shooting defencemen are at a premium. Of 307 defencemen to appear in an NHL game last season, 191 shot left.

The Flames were actually not bad off in this area last year with Wideman, Engelland and Raphael Diaz all fitting that description among the regular blue-liners. However, Diaz is a pending UFA and it seems doubtful now that he'll back. Seldom-used Corey Potter was also a right shot.

If you look at the other blue-line prospects in the organization when the 2014-15 season concluded (so excluding players signed since or selected in 2015 draft), there were a dozen of them and only one shoots right -- John Ramage, who doesn't appear to have an NHL future. Tyler Wotherspoon, Ryan Culkin, Brandon Hickey and Keegan Kanzig to name just a few, all of them are lefties.

4. Little (Few) Big Men

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, Hamilton brings size to the Flames blue-line that is coveted and something they haven't had an abundance of over the years. In fact, only six defencemen that tall or taller have played for Calgary in the last 35 years and none of them had much of an impact:

6-7 Chris Breen (2013-14), L, 9 gm, 0-2-2
6-6 Sam Helenius (1996-97, 1998-99), L, 7 gm, 0-1-1
6-5 Anton Babchuk (2010-11 to 2012-13), R, 104 gm, 10-28-38
6-5 Wade Balak (1998-99 to 2000-01), R, 72 gm, 0-3-3
6-5 Jim Kyte (1990-91 to 1991-92), L, 63 gm, 0-10-10
6-5 Keith Hanson (1983-84), L, 25 gm, 0-2-2

Even if you look at the list of 6-foot-4 d-men, there are only a few of note in Jay Bouwmeester, Cory Sarich, Mike Commodore and Charlie Bourgeois if you go way, way back. The rest: Brett Carson, Adam Pardy, Steve Smith, Glen Featherstone, Brad Miller, Brian Glynn and Pat Ribble.

There was also an immediate need to add some size to the blue-line. The two tallest players last year were 6-foot-3 Ladislav Smid and Potter. Smid's future seems cloudy after suffering a major neck injury. Potter, a pending UFA, is in all likelihood gone after dressing for just six games for Calgary last year.

5. Bouwmeester Similarities

On Friday afternoon, the Flames set up a conference call to give media the opportunity to speak with Hamilton. As the call went on, I had flashbacks to Jay Bouwmeester as that's who Hamilton sounded like. Charismatic? Not so much. Gregarious? Wasn't my first impression. Is the Twitter handle @BoringHamilton available? (Thinking of you @HudlersShoes guy)

Now, it's entirely not fair to judge that side of him in a limited sample like that. After all, he's a 22 year old kid that just had his hockey world rocked. But early indications would be don't expect the second coming of Craig Conroy, or even Jiri Hudler for that matter. But that's more of a scribe's minor quibble than a concern of the team or fans, where performance is top priority.

Speaking of which, there are a few similarities to Bouwmeester on-ice too: Both are tall -- Hamilton at 6-foot-5 and Bouwmeester at 6-foot-4, both were top 10 draft picks, both were in need of new contracts when they got dealt although Bouwmeester (age 25 at the time, having played six NHL seasons) was about to become an unrestricted free agent while Hamilton (age 22, three NHL seasons) is a restricted free agent.

Also, both are more known for their offence than their physicality. In Boston on a per-game basis, Hamilton (106 hits) ranked sixth in hits of the seven Bruins regular defencemen, ahead of only Torey Krug. But that's still quite a bit better than Bouwmeester (42 hits) last year. Hamilton also ranked sixth out of seven among Boston blue-liners in blocked shots with 53. Considering Russell led the world with 283 blocked shots, it makes a Hamilton-Russell pairing intriguing.

6. Plays Possessed

We heard ad nauseum last year how the Flames were one of the worst puck possession teams in the league. One of the main storylines all season was how often they would get outplayed and outshot yet somehow find a way to win a game, often coming back in the third period to do so.

While I firmly believe there's more to it and Calgary was a better team then they were being given credit for, it doesn't change the fact that in the long run, chasing the puck far more often than you have the puck is not conducive to long-term success and Treliving recognizes that and addressed that in his end-of-season address.

"Need to spend more time in the offensize zone and that's holding on to pucks, protecting pucks," said Treliving. "Defencemen can play 27 minutes if 10 of those minutes are standing at the offensize blue-line and not defending behind your goal line."

 He added that only good things happen from more puck possession.

 "Being a team that can hold onto pucks, play more time in the offensive zone, obviously limits the chances you're going to give up and will create more offence."

An advanced stat that isn't new but the NHL introduced into the mainstream last year was shot attempts (aka Corsi) and expressed as a percentage (SAT%), it is a ratio of the quantity of shot attempts the team generates versus gives up when a particular player is on the ice.

In that category in 2014-15 (minimum of 40 games), Hamilton (54.93) ranked 13th in the NHL. The highest of the Flames regular defencemen was Giordano (48.36) at 138th.

Playing with Zdeno Chara certainly didn't hurt Hamilton but the analytics community is very high on Hamilton and considering how down they were on the Flames all year, you can take that as a good sign.

7. Perfect Vintage

Where Hamilton slots in age-wise -- two months older than Johnny Gaudreau and two months younger than Markus Granlund, also paints a very favourable picture of what's to come for the Flames.

Here's a look at the young foundation and (potential) core pieces of the Flames and their ages as of Oct. 1, 2015. Listed youngest to oldest, Hamilton falls right in the middle:

- C Sam Bennett, 19
- RW Emile Poirier, 20
- C Sean Monahan, 20
- G Jon Gillies, 21
- LW Johnny Gaudreau, 22
- D Dougie Hamilton, 22
- C Markus Granlund, 22
- D Tyler Wotherspoon, 22
- LW Micheal Ferland, 23
- G Joni Ortio, 24
- D TJ Brodie, 25
- LW Lance Bouma, 25
- C Mikael Backlund, 26

8. Sweater No. 27

It's safe to say that the recently vacated No. 27 -- Sven Baertschi's old number, will become Hamilton's new number pronto. After all, it's the number he wore in Boston and is also the number he wore throughout his time in Niagara in the OHL.

Perhaps the only players saddened by the Hamilton addition -- and obviously I say this tongue-in-cheek, are Micheal Ferland and Emile Poirier, who also wore No. 27 in junior. Sorry guys, suck it up. When the time comes for them to graduate from training camp numbers -- and for Ferland that should be this September, you'll have to try out something else.

Final Thoughts

The Flames went to Florida prepared to make nine picks. They ended up making only five. However, they came back a much better team and a much deeper organization with Hamilton the headline acquisition.

Calgary has only drafted six defencemen in the first round ever with Dion Phaneuf the highest at No. 9. The others were Derek Morris (13th), Al MacInnis (15th), Chris Biotti (17th), Denis Gauthier (20th) and Tim Erixon (23rd). Hamilton was also a first round pick, selected ninth overall in 2011.

While Hamilton wasn't a Flames pick, if he plays in Calgary for the next decade as could very well happen and he has the success most hockey pundits expect, he'll always be known as one of Calgary's great pick-ups at the draft.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


Recent Flames Reading
  • Calgary Flames A-to-Z Draft Primer - Updated for 2015, this extensive look back at the Flames history at the NHL Draft includes anecdotes, trivia, conversation starters, all sorts of 'aha' moments as well as education around notable items like NHL-CHL transfer agreements and other CBA items that you may not be aware of and how it impacts Flames drafted players. 
  • Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Thoughts on the Backlund Contract Extension - I take a close look at the three-year contract Mikael Backlund signed on June 20 and explain via eight different and unique slants why it's a great deal for both the player and the team. 
  • Future Gazing: In-Depth Review of the Flames Goaltending Situation - It could happen in 15 days or it may take 15 months but in projecting out the Flames goalie situation for the next four seasons, there is definitely a need to bring in a proven NHL goalie and for at least a few seasons.   
  • Ten Flames Minor Leaguers, Who Could Graduate to the NHL in 2015-16 - It's been 19 years since more than two players went from the AHL to full-time NHL players in the same season, but it appears that's about to change. I rank the 10 players most likely to make that jumpt for the Flames in 2015-16. A couple names may surprise you. 
  • Bouma has Committed to the Team, Time for the Flames to Commit to Bouma - Sure, he's coming off a breakout season offensively but there is way more to Bouma's game than goals. He's not just a role player, he's a multi-role player and here are five compelling reasons why a longer term deal is the way to go.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Calgary Flames A-to-Z Draft Primer (Updated for 2015)

First cobbled together in June 2014 as a labour of love given the hours of research I poured into it, this two-part Calgary Flames A-to-Z Draft Primer was one of the most-read features to ever appear on Flames From 80 Feet.

Packed with everything you wanted to know and a whole lot more about Calgary's draft history -- including some things I'm sure you'd rather forget, I think you'll find this to be a terrific resource and endless source of conversation starters and trivia.

What I did last weekend was went through it from start to finish and updated it for 2015. This includes updates all the way through to bring it current as well as new topics sprinkled throughout that are relevant to this year.

Now all you need to do is pick yourself up a copy of my personal favourite -- the comprehensive Future Considerations 2015 NHL Draft Guide -- and you'll be all set for the draft this weekend.

OK, here we go.

A - Alberta

By my count, the Flames have drafted 41 kids from Alberta since 1980. The most recent editions were Leduc defenceman Brandon Hickey and Calgary-born right-winger Austin Carroll, who were selected in rounds three and seven respectively in 2014. Hickey just completed an excellent freshman year at Boston University, where he was teammates with superstar prospect Jack Eichel. Carroll, an imposing 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, is a right-winger that just finished leading Victoria in goals (38), points (77) and penalty minutes (124).

The most successful Alberta pick was also one of the first selections. In 1981, Calgarian Mike Vernon was picked in the third 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. It's only been a small sampling but current GM Brad Treliving tops the list with one-third of his six picks last year hailing from Alberta.

Percentage of Albertans Drafted Per Flames GM:

  1. Brad Treliving (2014) - 33%
  2. Jay Feaster (2011-2013) - 20%
  3. Al Coates (1996-1999) - 20%
  4. Darryl Sutter (2003-2010) - 15%
  5. Cliff Fletcher (1980-1990) - 9%
  6. Doug Risebrough (1991-1995) - 7%
  7. Craig Button (2000-2002) - 6%

  • The most Albertans drafted by Calgary in one year is three. It happened three times: 2005 (JD WattMatt KeetleyBrett Sutter), 1998 (Blair BettsPaul ManningShaun Sutter), 1997 (Evan LindsayJeremy RondeauDustin Paul)
  • Calgary has used its first round pick on an Albertan on six occasions: Morgan Klimchuk (2013), Leland Irving (2006), Dion Phaneuf (2003), Brent Krahn (2000), Derek Morris (1996) and 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 IginlaMike ModanoJere LehtinenBrenden MorrowMarty TurcoDerian Hatcher and Jamie Langenbrunner.

While Craig did acquire key pieces that were instrumental in the Flames 2004 Stanley Cup run like Craig ConroyMartin 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 second 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 KobasewDavid MossEric Nystrom and Matthew Lombardi, he also whiffed on all three second round picks during those two drafts -- U.S. collegian Brian McConnell (39th in 2002), Andrei Taratukhin (41st in 2001) and stocky goaltender 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.


There's no shortage of draft-related sections, sub-sections and tables in the 517-page Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. What many don't realize is there are two deadlines when dealing with players drafted from the Canadian Hockey League (made up of the WHL, OHL and QMJHL). Here's what happened and why with two different situations that unfolded for the Flames on or before June 1 that just passed.

Deadline No. 1 - By the next June 1 following the draft in which a CHL player is 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 for an entry-level contract as set out in the CBA. Often, especially for non-first round picks, these initial contract offers will be for near the minimum permitted and generally include no signing or performance bonuses.

While it was not announced publicly, contract offers would have been made prior to June 1, 2015, to Calgary's two remaining unsigned CHL players from 2014 -- Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith. In doing so, regardless of whether they accept that initial offer or reject it (they have 30 days to decide), the Flames retain both of their rights until June 1, 2016.

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

In the case of Eric Roy, a 2013 fifth round pick, he was offered a contract by Calgary last June 1, which he rejected. As it turns out, the Flames chose to not make him another offer and have given up his rights, which means the Brandon defenceman is eligible to be selected by any team in the 2015 draft.

McDonald and Smith, both second round picks, are highly touted and assuming they reject the initial offer from Calgary (and this may have happened already), expect both to receive another contract proposal at a later point and it will probably be a richer offer.

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

D - Deep

We've been hearing it all season. The 2015 NHL Draft is one of the deepest drafts in a long time. Given the generational talents at the top in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, you can see why experts are suggesting that and with six picks in the first three rounds, the Flames are certainly hoping that will turn out to be the case.

Over the last 25 years, the draft class considered by most to be the best of the bunch was 2003. Held in Nashville, Marc-Andre Fleury went first that draft followed by Eric Staal. Although in Calgary, three names that hit close to home after this year's playoffs are Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Ryan Kesler (23rd) and Corey Perry (28th).

The success rate in the first round that year was phenomenal with 27 of 30 players playing at least 240 NHL games. That was the year the Flames drafted Dion Phaneuf with pick No. 9.

There were a bunch of gems that year in the second round also -- Loui Eriksson (33rd), Patrice Bergeron (45th), Matt Carle (47th), Shea Weber (49th), Corey Crawford (52nd) and David Backes (62nd).

We'll have to wait several years to find out for sure but should the 2015 draft come close in terms of the talent produced, that could end up being very good news for the Flames.

E - Erik

A popular question these days is what calibre of player can the Flames expect to get at No. 15. Well, would you be content with an Erik Karlsson?

To get a sense of what you can get with 15th pick these days, I looked back over the last 15 years of NHL drafts. While Karlsson, already with one Norris Trophy on his resume and a finalist again this year, is the headliner, some other pretty good players have been plucked at No. 15 over the last seven years. This comes after a long stretch in which it looked like that pick might be cursed.

In the NHL and Looking Good
  • 2012 - D Cody Ceci, Ott
  • 2011 - C JT Miller, NYR
  • 2009 - C Peter Holland, Ana (now with Tor)
  • 2008 - D Erik Karlsson, Ott
To Be Determined
  • 2014 - C Dylan Larkin, Det
  • 2013 - D Ryan Pulock, NYI
  • 2010 - D Derek Forbort, LA
In Russia and Looking Good
  • 2004 - RW Alexander Radulov, Nsh (won KHL scoring title in 2014-15)
  • 2007 - D Alex Plante, Edm
  • 2006 - G Riku Helenius, TB
  • 2005 - C Ryan O'Marra, NYI
  • 2003 - C Robert Nilsson, NYI
  • 2002 - D Jesse Niinimaki, Edm
  • 2001 - D Igor Knyazev, Car
  • 2000 - D Artem Kryukov, Buf

From a bust perspective, what one might conclude is simply avoid selecting a Russian or a goaltender and as long as you're not the Islanders or the Oilers, you should make out just fine.

It should also be noted that Flames great Al MacInnis was also a 15th pick, way back in 1981.

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 (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 be integral pieces of 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 the Stanley Cup year.  

G - Go (Back in the Draft)

As mentioned above, 2013 fifth round pick Eric Roy goes back into the 2015 draft as he is no longer Calgary property after going unsigned. It is the second year in a row the Flames have chosen this path with a player out of junior.

Here is a summary of the most recent draft picks Calgary has walked away from, which usually happens because their stock has fallen and/or the organization no longer views them as ever making it to the NHL:
  • 2013 - Round 5, 135th - D Eric Roy
  • 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.

H - Hayes

In a 30-team league, you may be wondering why Calgary's picks are 15th, 45th then 76th. Why not 75th? 

That's because the Chicago Blackhawks receive an extra draft pick this year in the second round as compensation for not being able to sign Johnny Gaudreau's old Boston College right winger Kevin Hayes. After finishing his four years of school, Hayes chose to become a free agent last August 15, ultimately signing with the New York Rangers.

Note that the only scenario in which a team is compensated for not signing a draft pick is if that player was a first round pick. Also, that comes with the caveat that the club must make a bonafide contract offer to the player. If the player rejects it and chooses not to sign, the team is compensated at the subsequent draft with a pick of the same numerical value but in the second round.

Thus, the Blackhawks get an extra second round pick (24th pick in that round) because Hayes (24th pick in round one in 2010) chose not to sign with the Blackhawks despite being offered a contract. Inserting that pick extends the second round to 31 picks and that bumps Calgary's third round pick down by one spot.

The other relevancy of this topic to the Flames is in regards to maligned 2012 first round pick Mark Jankowski, who will embark this fall on his fourth and final year at Providence CollegeIf next summer the Flames offer a contract to Jankowski and he was to reject it, Calgary would receive the 21st pick of the second round in 2016 as compensation.

However, worth reiterating for all the Jankowski critics, you can't just take the compensation and run. The player has to have first been offered that bonafide contract.

I - Irving 

Unfortunately for Flames fans and for the organization, there are several years to choose from when debating what was Calgary's single worst draft year. However, if you remove subjectivity and simply go by fewest NHL games amassed by each draft class, the worst year was 2006 under Darryl Sutter.

Armed with eight picks that year -- although as became the norm under Sutter, no second rounder, goaltender Leland Irving (26th overall), was the lone player to make it to the NHL and he amassed just 13 games in five years with the organization.

Consider that Sam Bennett has already played 12 NHL games, one less than that entire 2006 draft class. 

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

J - Jankowski

He's already been mentioned once and here's his name again. Why Jankowski's name comes up again is he's 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 via a trade in which they picked up an additional asset.

The potential silver lining with Jankowski is that is how Calgary got the 42nd overall pick that 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:
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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 while the Rangers also got Calgary's 8th round pick)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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 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 second 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 New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello.

As we look ahead to the 2015 draft and with the extra picks in rounds two and three that GM Brad Treliving has amassed and could be used as leverage, might this be a year Calgary moves up from 15th to maybe 11th or 12th if they have designs on a certain player that has fallen? Maybe, and with Brodeur retired now, perhaps the skeletons in this closet can finally be put to rest also.

L - Levente

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 Calgary actually expended two picks on goalies that year, also taking and missing on Hungarian Levente Szuper, drafted in round 4, 116th overall.

M - McElhinney

In the 35 years in Calgary, the Flames have drafted and developed only three goaltenders into a full-time role on the team although it's not from a lack of trying. They've drafted 27 goalies during that span. The most recent so-called 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 expect to finally add a fourth name to this list this year in 2009 sixth rounder Joni Ortio, who is on a one-way contract for 2015-16 and is also waiver-eligible, which should result in him spending the full season in the NHL unless his performance falls apart.

Right behind Ortio and destined to play in the AHL this season after leaving school and turning pro in April is 2012 third rounder Jon Gillies. While the future appears bright for both, only time will ultimately tell. With the Flames using a second round pick last year to select Mason McDonald -- the first goalie selected in 2014, it would not surprise me if Calgary passes on choosing a goalie at this draft unless in the late rounds, there's someone still available they just can't pass up on.

N - NHL-CHL Transfer Agreement

This upcoming season, Sam Bennett cannot be sent to the AHL. He either has to stay in the NHL or be returned to Kingston in the OHL. Now from what we saw last year, it's obviously a foregone conclusion that he will be staying in Calgary but nonetheless it's worth reviewing the AHL eligibility rules as it applies to a few other Flames prospects.

If a player does not turn 20 by December 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).

If you look back at the 2013 draft class, Morgan Klimchuk and Keegan Kanzig were both ineligible to play in the AHL last year. However, this season they are eligible to be assigned to Stockton. From the 2014 draft, here is the breakdown of who can play in the AHL in 2015-16 and who cannot:
  • Can Hunter Smith (but would need a contract first), Austin Carroll
  • Cannot - Sam Bennett, Mason McDonald

What will be interesting to watch from a Bennett perspective is the two players chosen ahead of him at No. 2 and No. 3 -- Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl -- are both eligible to play in the AHL so that is an additional option the Sabres and Oilers have this year.

O - One

Just once since 1991 when the NHL expanded to 22 teams have the Flames enjoyed the luxury of having six picks in the top 83 as they have in this year's NHL Draft. For 2015, Calgary is currently slotted to select 15th45th52nd, 53rd, 76th and 83rd. That previous instance was 1997 when they had six picks in the top 70 -- yet missed on all of them. 

While 2006 was the Flames worst draft in terms of net NHL games played, 1997 was Calgary's all-time worst draft class given how high they were drafting that June, which eerily consisted of the same breakdown as this year -- three second round picks and two third round picks to complement their first round pick.

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 1997 draft.

P - Pelech

In a 27-year stretch of first round futility at the NHL draft, 16 of the Flames 25 first round picks from 1985 to 2011 ended up playing less than 80 games with Calgary. Eleven including 2005 first rounder Matt Pelech (five NHL games in four seasons with the Flames) played less than 20 or didn't make it at all.

The misery began with D Chris Biotti, selected 17th overall in 1985, and the latest to not pan out -- at least in Calgary, was LW Sven Baertschi, selected 13th overall in 2011. Baertschi was peddled to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline last year. That is a brutal ratio and if you're looking for the single biggest reason why after winning the Stanley Cup in 1989, Calgary only made it past the first round once in 25 years, it's their repeated failings in this area.

Depending on your age, some of these names are more folklore than guys you have recurring nightmares about but here is the awful 16 -- listed in chronological order: Biotti, George Pelawa (died in a car accident three months after being drafted), Bryan DeasleyJason MuzzattiNiklas SundbladJesper MattssonChris Dingman (eventually scratched out 385 NHL games but only 72 came with Calgary), Daniel TkaczukRico Fata (finished with 230 NHL games but only 27 with Calgary), Brent KrahnKris Chucko, Pelech, Leland IrvingGreg NemiszTim Erixon and Baertschi.


After a lengthy hiatus, the Flames are once again tapping into Quebec on draft day having selected a junior player out of la belle province in each of the last three drafts.

When Calgary drafted defenceman Ryan Culkin in the 5th round in 2012, it was the Flames first foray into the QMJHL for a player selection since 2006. The Flames went right back there in 2013 selecting Emile Poirier 22nd overall and once again looked to Quebec early in last year's draft grabbing Mason McDonald in round two, 34th overall.  

While there are no certainties with any of them yet, all three are progressing nicely too.
  • Poirier - Had 19 goals and 42 points in 55 games with Adirondack in his first pro season. He also got into six NHL games.
  • Culkin - Had a good year going with the baby Flames before he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in February. He was often deployed on the top pairing and seems to have moved himself into the next-in-line spot behind Tyler Wotherspoon.
  • McDonald - Last year posted the second-best save percentage in the QMJHL at .906, second only to overager Marvin Cupper (.912), who is two years older.
Other than Poirier, the only two Flames-drafted QMJHL grads to play in Calgary in the last 10 years were defenceman Adam Pardy and forward Steve Begin in his brief comeback tour in 2012-13.

R - Rangers

Calgary has only had one top-five draft pick since the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980. The New York Rangers are the only other team has had that few over those 35 years.

Interestingly, like the Flames, 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 it looks more like he's on an extended European vacation. Since leaving North America, Brendl has played in Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany and last year he played in Slovakia.

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

1. Calgary - 1 (4th in 2014)
2. NY Rangers - 1 (4th in 1999)
3. St. Louis - 2 (1st in 2006, 4th in 2008)
3. Nashville - 2 (2nd in 1998, 4th in 2013)
3. Minnesota - 2 (3rd in 2000, 4th in 2005)
6. Detroit - 3 (1st in 1986, 3rd in 1990, 4th in 1983)

S - Saad

In this instance, 'S' could also stand for sad.

When you trade away draft picks, you do so not knowing what those picks might turn into. One of the most notable and more recent regrets for the Flames was giving up their second round pick in 2011, 43rd overall. That pick eventually ended up in the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, who used it to select left-winger Brandon Saad, who at age 22, has rapidly developed into one of the league's young stars.

What's worse, Calgary gave up that second round pick (along with Wayne Primeau) in order to get defenceman Anton Stralman (and Colin Stuart and a seventh round pick) from Toronto in July 2009. As the story goes, Stralman attended training camp with the Flames, played in a few preseason games but when Calgary opted to go with Staffan Kronwall as blue-line depth instead, Stralman was flipped to Columbus for a third round pick. The rest is history with Stralman also having turned into a very fine NHLer.

As for that 2010 third round pick Calgary ended up with in exchange for the Saad pick, Sutter used it to select Max Reinhart, who's coming off a subpar year offensively last year in the AHL and could be nearing the end of his time in the Flames organization.

T - Tanguay

It's been seven years since the Flames last traded a roster player on draft day (or the day before) to pick up another pick in that same draft. The last time it happened was 2008 when Calgary dealt away Alex Tanguay to pick up a first round pick. It was that same busy day that the Flames had traded its own first 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 to Chicago in exchange for Adrian Aucoin and a 7th round 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 BrathwaiteDaniel 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 to Washington for a 5th round pick
  • June 16, 1990 - Flames traded Joe Mullen to Pittsburgh 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 to Toronto 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 WalkerGeorge 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 to Minnesota 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

U – Under-appreciated

Here’s a mind-numbing stat for you. In the last 25 years of drafting, so going back to 1990, the Flames have gotten all of 35 goals from home-grown second round draft picks. That's 35 goals in a quarter-century. Wow, just wow.
  • Steve Begin (1996), 15
  • Markus Granlund (2011), 10
  • Blair Betts (1998), 3
  • Jamie Allison (1993), 3
  • Vesa Viitakoski (1990), 2
  • Chris O'Sullivan (1992), 2

There are a couple contributors to this awful stat with the biggest being how under-appreciated and undervalued second round picks were by Flames management for a very long time. 

During a seven-year span from 2004 to 2010 -- all of those years coming with Sutter at the GM helm --  Calgary stepped up to the podium just once to make a second round selection and that was Mitch Wahl in 2008, who was last spotted in the ECHL. Leading up 2004, the quality of the second round selections they did make left much to be desired -- Tim Ramholt (2003), Brian McConnell (2002), Andrei Taratukin and Andrei Medvedev (2001).

Historically, Russian picks have not worked well. In addition to the two flops in 2001 noted above, other second round misses included Dmitry Kokorev (1997), Pavel Smirnov (1995) and Dmitri Ryabkin (1994). Altogether, that's five Russians in round two and not one NHL game between them.

Another reason why second round picks are important is it provides a team with a second chance should you blow your first round pick. Without such a ‘Plan B’ available to potentially salvage those years when the Flames squandered their first round picks --  2004 (Kris Chucko), 2005 (Matt Pelech), 2006 (Leland Irving) and 2009 (Tim Erixon), the result was some very lean times on the prospect side, which hurt the organization for many years.

For proof of the value of second round picks, you need only look at Chicago's roster, where a quarter of the Blackhawks line-up and some instrumental pieces were second round picks – Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette and Bryan Bickell.

This all makes for interesting history and a curious subplot considering Calgary has three second round picks this year.

V - Volek

In the role of European Pro Scout, former New York Islander left-winger David Volek is one of several scouts employed by the Flames. The group is generally a mixture of former NHL players, former junior players/coaches and sons/siblings of NHL players/executives. 

Calgary divides its scouting into two areas. Amateur scouting is headed up by Tod Button, Director of Amateur Scouting. The pro scouts report to assistant general manager Craig Conroy.

Here’s the full list of the Flames scouting staff and their areas of responsibility:
  • Frank Anzalone - NCAA Scout 
  • Jim Cummins - USHL, High School, NCAA Scout (511 games with Det, Phi, TB, Chi, Phx, Mtl, Ana, NYI, Col)
  • Terry Doran - OHL Scout
  • Michel Goulet - Pro Scout, North America (1,089 games with Que, Chi. Scored 548 goals)
  • Ari Haanpaa - Amateur Scout, Europe (60 games with NYI)
  • Bobbie Hagelin - Amateur Scout, Europe (older brother of NYR forward Carl Hagelin)
  • Steve Leach - Pro Scout, North America (702 games with Wsh, Bos, Stl, Car, Ott, Phx, Pit)
  • Bob MacMillan - QMJHL Scout (753 games with NYR, STl, Atl/Cal, Col, NJ, Chi)
  • Derek MacKinnon - Pro Scout, North America
  • Brad McEwen - WHL Scout
  • Fred Parker - OHL/QMJHL Scout
  • Steve Pleau - Pro Scout, North America (son of St. Louis Blues executive Larry Pleau)
  • Eric Soltys - New England Amateur Scout (high school, NCAA)
  • Rob Sumner - WHL Scout (a Flames 10th round draft pick in 1990)
  • David Volek - Pro Scout, Europe (396 games with NYI)
  • Todd Woodcroft - Pro Scout, North America and Europe


Talk about a Western bias. The Flames have drafted 21 players from the Canadian Hockey League over the past six years and 15 of them have come from the WHL. Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Hunter Smith are the only players 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 took over as Flames GM, there have been 54 players selected by Calgary from major junior with this breakdown:
  • WHL – 34
  • OHL – 14
  • QMJHL – 6

Over that 12-year span, if you look at the players that have gone on to play 100+ 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. As pointed out repeatedly over the last couple months, diminutive Tampa Bay star Tyler Johnson is another.

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.

If you look back over the years, some of the Flames best draft picks have been late round picks and guys that ended up having much longer and more distinguished careers compared to the 'can't miss' players taken long before them:
  • Theoren Fleury8th round
  • Brett Hull, 6th round
  • Gary Suter9th round
  • Hakan Loob9th round

Then there are those two-sport athletes you draft such as 1986 fourth 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 and another x-factor is the element of luck or bad luck as has been the case a couple of times for the Flames.

  • George Pelawa - Drafted in the first 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 fifth 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 second round picks in 2002 on centre Andrei Taratukhin and 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 future NHLers Brandon Prust and David Moss. If playing ice hockey in Nebraska isn't an odd enough scenario in itself, how about doing so after spending 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 two years ago when Calgary used a seventh round pick on Russian defenceman Rushan Rafikov

    But if you listen to Treliving lament the issues they're having getting Rafikov to North America -- he's yet to make it to a development camp despite their attempts to bring him over, you have to wonder when Calgary will again throw caution into the wind and call the name of a Russian player.

    Z - Zalapski

    While Sam Bennett is Calgary's only top-five draft pick, a bunch of top-five draft picks have played for the Flames during their career.

    One of them, although you have to go back to the 1986 NHL Draft to find him, was Zarley Zalapski. Originally a Penguins selection, Zalapski was the last fourth overall pick to play for Calgary before Bennett. After spending time with the Penguins and Hartford, Zalapski played parts of five seasons with Calgary in the mid-90's.

    In total, 16 top-five picks have played for the Flames including four first overall selections. The only second overall pick to do so is another 'Z' in Andrei Zyuzin.

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

    • 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
    • 1996 - D Andrei Zyuzin (06-07) 49 games, 1-5-6
    • 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
    • 2014 - C Sam Bennett (14-15 to current) 1 game, 0-1-1 
    • 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
    • 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

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