After nearly two months off since they exited the playoffs, the Calgary Flames will be getting back to action in the coming days. With the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday evening, there are bound to be fireworks that draw in a lot of attention. Knowing Brad Treliving, and the rumours of increased activity, there is much anticipation of one or two moves that will steal the headlines.
That being said, the Flames will—and should—be pouring the majority of their attention into who they will be picking with their five selections. Of course that may seem like a redundant statement, but when you stop to look at the Flames current prospect pool you may realize that these five picks could be extremely important for the team’s immediate and long term future.
The Flames window to win is wide open, but the longevity of the Flames’ contender status always has to be in the back of the team’s mind. Over the past few seasons, and the past few weeks, the organization has seen a number of key prospects no longer a part of their future. So how did we get to this point?
This is where the pool is replenished year after year, and how a team is able to acquire future franchise cornerstones. Since taking over as GM in 2014, Treliving and his staff have done an excellent job at restocking the cupboards after a string of poor draft performances. In fact, there is only one prospect left in the system that was drafted prior to Treliving being hired: Jon Gillies.
Of the 30 players drafted in Treliving’s tenure, ten are no longer with the organization. The remaining 20 players represent different sides of the “NHL prospect” debate. Let’s break it down draft by draft:
2014 NHL Draft
- Sam Bennett: NHL / Pending RFA
- Mason McDonald: Pending RFA
- Hunter Smith: Not qualified
- Brandon Hickey: Traded in the Mike Smith deal
- Adam Ollas-Mattsson: Signed in Europe
- Austin Carroll: Signed in Europe
There is a solid chance that after this offseason, none of these draft picks will be with the organization anymore. Being the highest draft pick in NHL history, Bennett hasn’t quite been able to live up to such lofty expectations. Rumours have pointed towards a potential trade, as the Flames may feel his NHL ceiling has been reached. Mason McDonald is a prime candidate to not be qualified this season, as he finds himself at the bottom of the goaltending depth chart. The remaining picks are all gone already.
2015 NHL Draft
- Rasmus Andersson: NHL
- Oliver Kylington: NHL
- Pavel Karnaukov: KHL
- Andrew Mangiapane: NHL
- Riley Bruce: Currently with the University of Toronto
One of the more successful drafts, the Flames appear to now have three solid NHL players in Andersson, Kylington, and Mangiapane to work with. They should, and most likely will, be on the opening night roster next season and could lose their “prospect” tag. Karnaukov left for the KHL quite quickly, while Bruce was always a long shot prospect that doesn’t appear to have an NHL future.
2016 NHL Draft
- Matthew Tkachuk: NHL
- Tyler Parsons: ELC in Stockton
- Dillon Dube: ELC in Stockton / NHL
- Adam Fox: Traded for Noah Hanifin & Elias Lindholm
- Linus Lindstrom: Not signed, still on reserve list
- Mitchell Mattson: Not signed, still on reserve list
- Eetu Tuulola: ELC just signed
- Matthew Phillips: ELC in Stockton
- Stepan Falkovsky: Not qualified
The most picks in a single draft for Treliving produced mixed results. Tkachuk is a bonafide star that is about to get paid, while Dube projects to be a consistent NHLer, and there are still high hopes for Parsons. Lindstrom, Tuulola, and Phillips’ NHL potential remains unknown, but they are all strong prospects in the system.
2017 NHL Draft
- Juuso Valimaki: ELC in Stockton / NHL
- Adam Ruzicka: ELC
- Zach Fischer: Not signed
- D’Artagnan Joly: Not signed
- Filip Sveningsson: Not signed, still on reserve list
Valimaki should be starting on the Flames’ blue line next season, while Ruzicka looks to make the transition to the AHL. Sveningsson is a bit of a question mark, but his rights are still technically owned by the Flames. Fischer and Joly were both touted as prospects the year after being drafted, but just recently were not retained by the club.
2018 NHL Draft
- Martin Pospisil: ELC
- Demetrios Koumontzis: Not signed, still on reserve list
- Milos Roman: Not signed, still on reserve list
- Emilio Pettersen: Not signed, still on reserve list
- Dmitry Zavgorodniy: ELC
We will put all of these players in the “too early to tell” category. All of them still remain with the team, but the jury is still out if any will make it to the NHL. That’s not to discount their potential, it’s just frankly way too early.
Of the 20 prospects still with the organization, only six have really shown that they have a shot of being NHL regulars. Bennett and Tkachuk have established themselves as full time NHL players, obviously. Andersson, Kylington, Mangiapane, Parsons, Dube, and Valimaki appear to be fixtures of the Flames’ future and most could be losing their “prospect” tag very soon. The remaining 12 are still developing, and could still yet be in the NHL for good, but they’re got a long road ahead.
Now of course, the draft is not the only place where a team can acquire solid young players. Through undrafted forwards, or college free agents, teams are able to bolster their bullpen without having to use a draft pick.
Going through these types of acquisition year by year would be time consuming, as some of these signings have come and gone extremely fast, so let’s focus on some key ones:
- Spencer Foo: KHL
- Josh Healey: Pending RFA
- Glenn Gawdin: ELC in Stockton
- Nick Schneider: ELC in Stockton
- Ryan Lomberg: Pending RFA
- Daniel Pribyl: Not signed
It can be hit or miss with these types of players, as there are always big question marks. Of these six players, Gawdin and Schneider are the two that stand out for potential NHL surprises, but even that is a stretch. Foo was one I personally thought had a good chance at the NHL, but simply didn’t do enough to jump up the depth chart.
Keep in mind the Flames did recently sign Carl-Johan Lerby, Alexander Yelesin, and Artyom Zagidulin, but your guess is as good as mine as to how they will adjust to North American pro hockey. Here’s to hoping they turn out.
The final category of prospects will be ones that were acquired via trade, or vice versa:
- Rinat Valiev: Traded from MTL, Pending RFA
- Morgan Klimchuk: Traded to TOR
- Hunter Shinkaruk: Traded to MTL
- Kerby Rychel: Traded from MTL, Pending RFA
- Curtis Lazar: Traded from OTT, Pending RFA
- Brett Pollock: Traded from DAL, Pending RFA
Klimchuk, a former first rounder, was traded in the last year having not been able to make an NHL mark. Shinkaruk, acquired by Treliving for Markus Granlund, was traded last season as well. The remaining four prospects still with the team are all pending RFA’s, but all with big question marks above their names.
Lazar has had extended time in the NHL and has not been able to stick, but was a costly acquisition. Rychel also has had NHL time, but never really adjusted fully to remain with the big clubs. Valiev and Pollock don’t look to be NHLers, but could be kept around for depth in the AHL.
There unfortunately doesn’t look to be any bonafide NHL prospects in this small pool either, leaving even more questions to be answered.
Where do the Flames go from here?
Now this is not meant to be all doom and gloom, but after assessing the current pool of prospects, it’s clear that the Flames need to start restocking the cupboards. The five picks that will be made this weekend will do exactly that.
Using some of these picks in draft day deals may not be the best asset management tactic for Treliving and his staff. In fact, there is a good chance the Flames could move roster players to acquire picks and shed salary at the same time. It’s obvious the Flames’ competitive window is now, but the future shouldn’t be sacrificed; Treliving’s shown time and time again that he knows this as well as any GM.
With a handful of 2018-19 Stockton players bound to make the NHL jump, the Flames have some holes to fill in their prospect system, both AHL and ECHL. The patching begins this weekend.