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Calgary Flames 2020 draft preview: potential mid-first round picks

All signs point to the NHL moving forward with an early-June 2020 NHL draft. While we don’t know exactly what this will look like, how the final draft order will be determined, or what will happen with the many unresolved conditional picks, it looks like the Flames will be picking somewhere around the middle of the first round. If the order is determined by points percentage at the time of the pause, the Flames would have the 16th overall selection.

There are lots of great draft resources out there, so we took the liberty of consolidating all those rankings using a mean rank, and putting together a list of players who will likely be selected around that 16th pick.

1. Jack Quinn

Mean RankLow RankHigh RankPos.Ht.Wt.TeamLeagueGPGAP
152310RW5’-11″176 lbsOttawaOHL62523789

It’s incredibly rare for any draft eligible junior player to score 50 goals. To do it in a shortened season and finish with 0.8 goals per game? That’s downright impressive. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in the NHL, and having a player who has done it with absolute ease in one of the best junior leagues in the world is enticing. Scouts rave about Quinn’s offensive abilities. His release is described as “lethal” and “legit”, he’s said to have “dynamic puck skills and creativity”, and he possesses good offensive vision to identify passing lanes and set up his teammates.

He projects to be a playmaking winger, but can play all three forward positions. Coming into his draft season, there were some concerns with Quinn’s overall package. His skating was described as average, and an area of improvement was his explosiveness. He’s not a huge person, so utilizing speed to get up the boards ahead of defenders is key. However, scouts have noticed a drastic improvement in these areas. They’ve complimented his summer of hard training, and his work to address his weaknesses this season. He’s a hard worker and that always helps players translate to the NHL.

It’s important to note that although he played on the same team as probable top-five pick Marco Rossi, he did not play his 5v5 minutes on Rossi’s line. Quinn’s 52 goals are not solely the product of Rossi’s 81 assists this season, which is an important distinction that helps filter out the Nikolaj Ehlerses from the Greg Neimiszes of the world.

The one knock on Quinn is that he’s one of the oldest players in the draft. Had he been born four days earlier, he would have been eligible to be drafted last year, and his draft numbers would have been quite a bit different than they were this season. He finished the 2018-19 campaign with 12 goals and 32 points in 61 OHL games, a far cry from his 52 goals and 89 points this season.

2. Rodion Amirov

Mean RankLow RankHigh RankPos.Ht.Wt.TeamLeagueGPGAP
162011LW6′-0″168Salavat Yulaev UfaKHL21022
Toplar UfaMHL17101222

Why is a player who put up a measly two assists in 21 games projected to go in the middle of the first round? Well, Amirov’s game is much more impressive than his stat line suggests.

Those two assists, but more importantly those 21 games, were in the KHL, a professional men’s league regarded as the second best in the world. Amirov was simply too good for the league that most other Russian draft eligibles play in, the MHL, where he was promoted after scoring 10 goals and 22 points in 17 games.

From what scouts say about Amirov, he sounds like the full package. He is praised for his strong offensive play, possessing a great shot on both his strong and weak wings. He’s an aggressive, physical forward who is great on the forecheck. However, he’s also praised for his defensive play. Amirov projects as a strong two-way forward who can impact play on both sides of special teams, despite topping out as a middle-sixer.

The best part of Amirov’s game though, is a trio of highly coveted attributes: high hockey IQ, strong work ethic, and a clutch performer. These are the things teams look for in players, and these are the things that teams will reach to get. Work ethic and hockey IQ can mask a lot of flaws. It doesn’t look like Amirov has many to begin with, so he boasts a package that very few prospects have. If he’s still available when the Flames pick, it’s very hard to find reasons that Amirov wouldn’t be a slam dunk pick.

The one area that he does need to work on is his top end speed. Scouts have noticed that he can struggle to gain separation on defenders, but that’s against men in the KHL. If that’s his only real weakness, it’s something he can probably figure out. He’s also one of the older players in the draft; his birthday falls a mere two weeks after the cutoff. Still, he’s a solid prospect and with a healthy dose of Russians in the organization, he could be a great fit with the Flames.

3. Noel Gunler

Mean RankLow RankHigh RankPos.Ht.Wt.TeamLeagueGPGAP
172612RW6′-1″176Lulea HFSHL454913

Looking at Gunler’s profile, he seems like the perfect player to complement the Flames’ talent group right now. He’s a big, strong, right-winger with a shoot-first mentality. How nice would a player of that ilk look on the other side of Johnny Gaudreau?

He’s another older player in the draft, but even looking back the past two years, Gunler is an impressive prospect. Not this last season but the season prior, Gunler played primarily in the SuperElit, the top junior league in Sweden, and absolutely tore it up. In 31 games, he scored 27 goals and 46 points. His dominance prompted a promotion to the SHL, Sweden’s top men’s league, where he spent the majority of the 2019-20 season. His results in the SHL weren’t as eye-popping, but he had a strong season scoring four goals and 13 points in 45 games. The SHL is a very good league. To not only hold your own but to score goals in that league as a teenager is impressive all on its own.

Gunler looks to be your prototypical sniper. Scouts most often compliment his shot, and his ability to score using different types of shots. His wrist shot is his most lethal weapon, and he’s beaten goalies clean on plays without any traffic. It’s an extremely powerful and precise wrister that he’ll burn you on if he has the time and space to use it. He’s not afraid to bust into the dirty areas of the ice, especially the middle of the offensive zone, and doesn’t just stick to the perimeter. This is a really good sign because it’s easy to hide along the boards when you have an elite shot playing on international sized rinks.

For a player with a reputation as a pure goal scorer, he doesn’t get enough credit for his playmaking abilities. Gunler is also an excellent passer and can set up his teammates from the wing. His playmaking talent isn’t elite though by any means, and if he does translate to the NHL well he will likely be a player who puts up more goals than assists.

On the other end of the ice, Gunler leaves a lot to be desired. He’s an offense first winger who can be a difference maker in the o-zone, but his 200 foot game isn’t anything to write home about. He won’t be helping out on the penalty kill or be relied upon to start a lot of shifts in his own end. The other key knock on him is that he’s been criticized for “fading in and out of games”. That’s not a comment a lot of teams will like to hear as it speaks to his compete level and consistency. This isn’t an opinion held by every scout, in fact some have blatantly disagreed with that assessment of Gunler, but that impression is out there.

If the Flames do decide to select Gunler, they’ll add a pure sniper to their right wing depth chart, a clear area of concern for the team now and in the future. It’s usually not the best decision to draft based on position, and Brad Treliving doesn’t do that, but Gunler’s skill set might be an undeniable reason to deviate from that.

4. Mavrik Bourque

Mean RankLow RankHigh RankPos.Ht.Wt.TeamLeagueGPGAP

Like current Flames star Sean Monahan, Mavrik Bourque has the unfortunate fate of playing for one of the worst teams in the CHL. Monahan, who has turned into a perennial 20 goal scorer in the NHL and one of the very best scorers in his draft class, put up just 31 goals and 78 points over 58 games for the OHL’s Ottawa 67s. The 67s were the worst team in the OHL, winning just 12 games. Bourque shares a similar story. His team, the Shawinigan Cartaractes, finished as the second worst team in the QMJHL this past season. Bourque’s stat line is siimlarly depressed as a result, despite him leading his team in points and goals per game.

Bourque is an intriguing prospect. On offense, he’s a very skilled passer and can thread the puck through seams with ease. He plays a key role on the powerplay where he is effective, but what is most impressive about his offensive totals is how dangerous he is at even strength. This past season, 45 of his points came at 5v5, an important split that can often point to a smoother translation to the NHL ranks.

Though not a huge player, Bourque has a reputation for getting his hands dirty. He’s not afraid to mix it up physically and you can often find him close to the net on offense making plays and burying pucks. He’s a slippery player, able to evade checks and pressure to set up his teammates and force the puck up the ice.

On the defensive end, Bourque is arguably even more impressive. He’s a key contributor on the penalty kill, and is a beast on the backcheck. His defensive feistyness makes it difficult to beat him up the ice and even more difficult to beat him in battles along the boards.

Bourque’s most important attribute, however, is his hockey IQ. Scouts rave about how elite his vision is, and how it allows him to be “two or three seconds ahead of the play, both offensively and defensively”. That’s the main reason why Bourque would be a strong selection in the middle of the first round. You can’t teach vision, and that’s a skill that makes good players into great players. With that type of vision, it’s not a question of if, but when he’ll become a regular NHLer and run his own line.

The main concern with Bourque is his consistency. In junior, especially in the QMJHL, elite players should be producing on a nightly basis. The consistency issue may stem from the Cataractes being a terrible team, but there’s always the chance that the reasons go deeper.

Still, the Flames like to prioritize picking players with an “elite quality”. Bourque’s hockey IQ can definitely be described as such, and makes him a solid pick in the first.

5. Seth jarvis

Mean RankLow RankHigh RankPos.Ht.Wt.TeamLeagueGPGAP

They say save the best for last, and Jarvis might just be that.

With 98 points on the season, Jarvis finished in second place in total WHL scoring. As a draft eligible player, that’s a tantalizing stat line. He’s the highest scoring 17 year old in the WHL since Nolan Patrick in 2016, and that’s saying something.

Jarvis is as an offensive dynamo at a level that’s hard to describe properly. When it comes to scoring and creating goals, Jarvis leaves no stone unturned. He can skate, pass, and shoot as good as the best junior players the WHL has seen.

As they say, he skates like a deer, with incredible speed, agility, and technique. His skating is fluid and smooth which assists on creating odd-man rushes that he’s virtually impossible to stop on. He’s not a big player, but he’s evasive and hard to check. Jarvis’ feet are always moving and he’s one pesky customer. One scout described Jarvis as a player who “tracks the puck like a hawk.”

He adds excellent playmaking ability to his dynamic skating as well. With soft hands, Jarvis has a keen ability to find his teammates with highly accurate passes. He can control the puck as well as anyone and it’s very difficult to read what he’s going to do. If he doesn’t pass, he’ll shoot, and his shot is deadly accurate.

His wrist shot is his go-to weapon and what’s most impressive about it is that he can get it off in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if he’s in traffic, he’s off balance, or if he’s high in the zone. Jarvis will unleash a wicked wrister that is downright improbable too stop; his 42 goals in 58 games is a clear indication of that.

Like all players, he’s not without his flaws. Jarvis’ most impressive qualities are his offensive skills, but he doesn’t have the same dominance on defense. Not that his defensive play isn’t there at all, it’s just an area he needs to work on. Jarvis also lacks “overall physicality”, something that likely stems from him being a smaller player, but could also be due to his slipperiness allowing him to avoid physical play. He may need to take some time adapting to the larger, faster players in the NHL, but that’s expected. In terms of skating, he could work on adding more explosiveness to his first few steps as well.

In a league where offensive creativity and prowess is being rewarded more and more, Jarvis looks like an ideal candidate to tear up the NHL once he gets there. He’s got all the tools to succeed and being a WHL kid, there’s no doubt the Flames have seen him play many times. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’ve had their eye on him even before his monster second half. They’re not afraid to pick smaller players in the draft if they can make up for it with elite qualities in other areas. Jarvis definitely fits that bill.

Who do you think the Flames should target if these five are available when their up to select in the first round? Let us know on twitter @wincolumnblog.

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