Calgary FlamesNHL Draft

Five centers the Calgary Flames could select in the first round

The 2020 NHL draft is just days away. Held virtually this year, the first round of the draft will take place on October 6th at 5:00 PM MDT, and the second round on October 7th starting at 9:30 AM MDT.

TWC will be breaking down which players the Flames could select with their first round pick at #19 by position.

Our draft rankings were created by consolidating lists from Dobber, MyNHL, Future Considerations, Sportsnet, DraftSite, EliteProspects, The Hockey Writers, and McKeen. The top and bottom ranks for each player were removed, and then a simple average was taken. There is no right way to rank these players so take them with a grain of salt; we know GMs will probably draft in a very different order than any of us think come draft day.

Let’s dive into the top five draft eligible centers that the Flames could select in the first round:

16Dylan HollowayC/LWUniv. of WisconsinNCAA9/23/20016’1″203L35891749
18Connor ZaryCKamloops BlazersWHL9/25/20016’0″181L5738488651
21Mavrik BourqueCShawinigan CataractesQMJHL1/8/20025’11”185R4929427130
24Hendrix LapierreCChicoutimi SaguenéensQMJHL2/9/20026’0″181L192151710
26Jan MysakC/LWHC LitvinovCzech6/24/20026’0″181L265492

Dylan Holloway

Dylan Holloway is a hulking, left-shot center currently playing for the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA. His hometown is Bragg Creek, AB, and prior to the NCAA, he played AAA for the Calgary Flames, and for the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL. He’s a local kid, and is a prime candidate to be selected in the middle of the first round.

The first thing scouts notice about Holloway is his relentlessness. On defense, he’s always engaged in puck battles, he never backs down from a challenge from the opposition, and he’s a pain to deal with in his own zone. On the forecheck, he has a knack for creating turnovers and bearing down on opposition defensemen. This guy plays with heart. His give-a-crap meter is through the roof on every shift, and he lays it all on the line for his team whenever he’s out there. Talk about an attractive quality.

Holloway projects as an offensive power forward. He’s got good skill, but good grit to go along with it. He won’t be bothered by bigger NHL players and he’ll be able to hold his own along the boards, in the corners, and in front of the net.

His NCAA offensive totals don’t jump off the page, but that has a lot to do with his position on the depth chart. Top NCAA schools are often loaded with the best of the best graduates from the USNTDP, and Wisconsin is one of those schools. Holloway was forced to play second fiddle to the likes of Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield, and Owen Lindmark this past season, so it’s not really fair to assess his abilities on his point totals solely.

Even with the trio of stars on his team, he was a key contributor for Wisconsin this season. Holloway is a hound off the puck and even when he’s not denting the scoresheet, he’s still making a positive impact on every single shift. He can play up and down the lineup and obeys his coach’s instruction to a tee. An interesting observation from Steve Kourianos of The Draft Analyst speaks to this: “By watching him react to puck movement accordingly while maintaining positional flexibility, you get the sense that Holloway is not trying to do everyone’s job and listens to the coaching staff’s instructions.”

This is unique. Coachability isn’t something that every top prospect has. It’s a quality that speaks to his ability to fit in on a team and stay accountable for what his job is on the ice.

Holloway is a jack of all trades. He can play down the middle or on the wing, can play the role of playmaker or finisher, and can be relied on to play against the opposition’s best players. He’s solid in both ends and can really be described as a complete player. What really makes him a top prospect is his high-end hockey IQ and vision.

His stick is always in the right place, he seems to always be able to read the play a second ahead of everyone else, and this helps lead to both quick transitions on offense and quick break ups on defense.

With the chance to take on a more responsible role next season, Holloway could explode on offense. His point totals could skyrocket and whichever team ends up selecting him in the draft will probably end up with an absolute steal. His skills are undeniable and he will thrive given the opportunity.

Connor Zary

Connor Zary is the top-line center for the Kamloops Blazers. He’s six-feet, 174 pounds, and shoots left. He’s also fifth in scoring in the WHL with 86 points in just 57 games, 38 of them goals. He’s an offensive juggernaut on a division leading Blazers team, but also plays in key defensive situations. He boasts size, skill, and a solid 200-foot game.

Zary is the kind of player you win with. He plays in all situations, serving as the top line center 5v5, and also a key contributor on the power play and penalty kill. He possesses excellent vision and hockey IQ that allow him to process the game at a high level. His anticipation and ability to see the play develop is impeccable and is one of the surefire reasons he projects to be a top-six center in the NHL.

A consistent evaluation of Zary’s game is, well, how consistent he is. Scouts have noted on numerous reports that one of the most appealing parts of what Zary brings to the table is that he never disappears. He plays with remarkable consistency, always bringing it for the full 60 minutes each and every night. This is a unique quality. Elite junior players can often fade in and out of games simply because they don’t need to show up for the full contest. They can put up a couple points on a few shifts and then coast for the rest of the game. This tendency can cause issues when the going gets a lot tougher in the NHL. You can be sure that Zary will not fall into that trap. When he gets to the NHL, he’ll be a tough competitor and bring his A-game on every shift. That’s something that coaches love, but isn’t something you can teach.

A quote from the Blazers’ GM Matt Bardsley reaffirms that note: “He wants to be the best, he wants to be a difference-maker. He’s very aware of what’s going on and he’s a student of the game. He’s really dialed in.”

That’s great praise from the big boss.

Zary’s key weakness is his skating. It’s probably the only reason he will fall a few spots in the draft, but he more than makes up for it in smarts. He projects as a versatile second line center, likely in a playmaking role. Big, reliable, centers who play with consistency and drive on every shift don’t grow on trees. Zary would also be a great addition to the prospect pool of any team in the league.

Mavrik Bourque

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 simlarly 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.

Hendrix Lapierre

Lapierre is probably one of the most interesting prospects in the draft this year. Projected last year as a surefire top-10 pick with 45 points in 48 games in his rookie year, his junior career has been derailed by a number of injuries, including three concussions in the last calendar year. That’s definitely been something concerning for NHL teams. With how important it is to build your team through the draft, opting to select a player with the injury history of Lapierre is a huge risk.

That being said, he is a player with an incredibly high ceiling; he’s truly the epitome of a high risk high reward player. Lapierre is an imposing left handed center who plays a creative two-way game. He may not be an overly flashy player, but according to Bob McKenzie, scouts like him because he “plays the game the right way”.

Lapierre has a pretty extensive set of tools in his belt. He possesses great speed and the acceleration to get to his top speed as well. What sets him apart from other speedy prospects though, is his ability to make plays at high speed. That’s a quality that is very tough to find; blending speed and skill is a rarity that few teams have the luxury of having at their disposal.

One area of improvement is his size and strength. Defenders are sometimes able to rub him off the puck and playing against NHL level defensemen will be a challenge for Lapierre. Still, he has all the skills and talent in the world to be a very good top-six center in the NHL. The question is if he can translate those skills to the best league in the world. Remember, Sam Bennett dominated junior with all the skill and talent you could ask for. He still hasn’t been able to translate that to the NHL five seasons into his career.

Jan Mysak

Mysak is ranked in the late-20s on average making him a first round reach if the Flames do decide to select him with their pick at 19. He could be worth the risk though, as Mysak profiles as a steady, strong player who can play an effective two-way game. He started the 2019 season in the top Czech league at 17 years old, putting up nine points in 26 games. It is notoriously difficult for teenagers to get premiere ice time in the European leagues, but Mysak’s nine points were the most among U-20 players in the entire league. When he did come over and play for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, he impressed with 25 points in 22 games.

Scouts have raved about his hands and ability to finish. Mysak is a sniper by every definition, he has a great wrister with a fast release, a strong snapshot, and a deadly one timer. On top of that, his soft hands allow him to be an effective playmaker as well. He can make plays in tight and uses excellent vision to create plays for his teammates. He also played the point on Hamilton’s powerplay, further speaking to his offensive prowess.

Mysak is also complimented for his patience when making plays, and commitment to the defensive side of the game. It speaks to his maturity as a player, something GMs covet in young prospects. One thing to keep in mind is that Mysak’s transition to North America happened quite recently. He’s still adapting to the different ice surface and style of play, which is one of the key reasons he’s projected more as a winger right now than a center. The major area of improvement for Mysak is his edgework and agility. With improvements to these areas and more reps as a center for the Bulldogs, he could be a very effective two-way middle-six center in the NHL, a very valuable position for every team.

The Flames don’t have a ton of Czech players on the team, but there is some familiarity from when they signed David Rittich. Just that one connection would make the Flames a good fit for Mysak. With Mikael Backlund aging, it’s time to start thinking about who could fill that middle-six center role. The risk is that if he does end up being a winger, he would slot into the left side which is the Flames’ biggest strength right now.

TWC Select

Assuming all five are available to the Flames at 19, I would opt for Bourque. I like prospects with high hockey IQ and the type of tools that generally indicate the player will translate well to the NHL. He’s great in both ends of the rink, plays physical despite a smaller frame, and the high percentage of his points coming at 5v5. Just like Monahan was undervalued because he played for a bad team, that could be the case again with Bourque.

Which center would you pick if you were the Flames? let us know in the comments or on social media.

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