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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  1. Flames' GM Brad Treliving did a remarkable job at the draft. To acquire Dougie Hamilton for so little and to top that off by managing to move up and select Oliver Kylington (Hakan Loob feels Kylington can be an NHL'er in time) with the 60th pick was the icing on the cake. Thanks, Darren for another great article.

  2. Hey Darren, first time caller long time listener.. er reader. Anyways, just wanted to say - once again - you nailed it. Been a long time Flames fan since sitting on my dad's shoulders in the standing room only section of the Corral building all those years ago. Living in Vancouver you don't get much Flames news obviously (unless it's something nucks fans can thumb their noses at), so I read a few blogs here and there, and watch as many Flames games as I can. I find it really interesting how the perception of Treliving has really evolved in the short time he's been here. So many people have been quick to criticize or rush to judgement on the man's decisions. Hopefully the crow isn't tasting that bad these days! I mean it truly is astonishing what he's pulled off, if this were Toronto they'd probably have voted him mayor by now. And speaking of Vancouver, just take a look at what Benning and Linden have been up to, if a further reminder is needed of how lucky we Flames are fans to have this guy steering the ship. Cheers! G