We are just hours away from the 2020 NHL Draft. Barring any trades, the Flames will be drafting 19th in the first round, then subsequently 50th, 96th, 143rd, 174th, and 205th. They may also have a third round pick from the Oilers after the Milan Lucic / James Neal trade, but odds are they won’t get that until next season’s draft.
Leading up to the draft, we looked at five skaters at each position: centre, left wing, right wing, and defence, that may be available to the Flames with their first round pick.
The TWC team did a quick roundtable with our predictions for the draft, assuming the Flames do indeed make a selection at 19th overall.
Who will the flames draft at 19?
As much as I would love the Flames to take Seth Jarvis at 19, I highly doubt he will be available at that point. However, there is a really good chance that Marvrik Bourque will be available, and he would be who I would select.
Bourque was the one bright spot on an abysmal Shawinigan Cataractes team, leading the team with 71 points in 49 games. A right shot forward, he is a strong two way forward with elite defensive play to go along with him being an impressive playmaker. He put up most of his point at even strength, and makes a difference at all ends of the ice.
Scouts have raved about his vision. His hockey IQ is off the chart, and he is able to see the game faster than most players his age. If he can translate his play to a much better team in Stockton in a year or two, bringing in a strong two-way right shot forward would be exactly what the Flames need. He is my pick.
I fully expect the Flames to use their 19th overall pick, and I believe they’ll select Connor Zary. I think Zary will be available when the Flames pick and he provides a unique skillset that helps teams win in the NHL. He’s a left shot center who is effective in all three zones, was fifth in WHL scoring this past season, and plays on both sides of special teams.
What makes him especially interesting for the Flames is his consistency and high hockey IQ. The Flames love to pick guys who think the game at a high level, and hockey IQ is one of the most important attributes that allow junior players to translate their game to the NHL. Zary has the makings of a strong top-six centerman, something the Flames really don’t have in their prospect pipeline right now.
History has shown that Brad Treliving and the Flames scouts often use the first round as an opportunity to take the best available player. Given the plethora of high-end players that will still be available, the Flames will probably employ the same strategy. It makes sense to stick to their pick and take the who they’ll think will best serve them in any role or any position in the first round. Anything beyond the first and I think the Flames will try to fill in organizational gaps such as stocking up on right wingers or defencemen. All that being said, I think a player like Mavrik Bourque, who has an arsenal of tools and playability, will make for a good first round selection.
I’m with Khalid in praying that someway, somehow, Seth Jarvis falls to #19, but it’s 2020 people so I don’t expect that to happen. That being said, I think it’s a toss up between Jacob Perrault or Braden Schneider based on organizational need. I don’t necessarily believe in the whole “best player available” mentality, because the Flames have a backlog at LW and LHD that need to be offset by another bonafide prospect on the opposite side.
My gut says they go with a defenceman, and that man should be Schneider. Call it more of a hunch, but a two-way guy that can play more a defensive game and is closer to being NHL ready gives the team time and flexibility to promote Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington while giving Schneider a year to develop. Seems like the best fit.
I love Braden Schneider here. As Bill mentioned, Treliving does not usually go after a certain position, but the Flames could really use some new defenseman in the pipeline. This team has also been starving for right handed shots in recent years up front and on the back end. Schneider would provide both, and scored 42 points in the OHL last season. If not Schneider, Justin Barron provides arguable more upside, and is also a right handed d-man who should go higher than he will due to injuries (not unlike Oliver Kylington). Either of the right handed d-men make sense to me.
Who should the flames not take in the first round
The one player that I think will be available at 19 but I don’t think would be a good in Calgary is defenceman Kaiden Guhle. Your first round selection should be a slam dunk player. Someone you think will slot into a key role in your team within a couple years. Guhle looks like a strong defensive defenceman with limited offensive upside. Having a defenceman who can play both offense and defense has been the team’s MO, that I don’t think Guhle is the right fit in Calgary.
A lot of mock drafts have the Flames selecting Noel Gunler at #19, but he’s a player I really don’t trust. On paper, he looks like a prototypical right wing sniper, and that’s something the Flames desperately need. However, I’m still scarred from Roman Cervenka, and don’t trust Euro snipers to translate their game to the NHL. He doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table in terms of defense, he’s an older player in the draft, and the biggest knock on him so far has been his consistency. I think there are better options than Gunler and I hope the Flames select someone better.
While I am in full agreement of taking the best available player, I think the Flames should opt to avoid taking defencemen in the first round and really look to bring on a forward that might be closer to NHL ready in the next couple of years. Whether that can happen or not remains to be seen, but the Flames can and should add the front-end talent that can immediately help. If they opt for a defenceman, chances are that the player won’t change anything in the Flames’ NHL roster for at least a few years, in any case they can afford to wait until later rounds before entertaining adding a defenceman.
Jeremie Poirier. Call it PTSD from our former first round draft pick, but Poirier is the definition of a high risk high reward player and someone the Flames should try to avoid. There is still a strong chance that he makes his mark on the NHL and I end up eating my words, but there is a bit of uncertainty around the player. He has been ranked from 18th all the way to 43rd on draft boards, which is far too big of a range for me to love. He dominated in St. John as a 17 year old, scoring 20 goals, but only had 15 assists to show for it as well. That’s not trying to be critical, but it’s rare for a defenseman to put of more goals than assists. Could he be a future powerplay quarterback? Potentially. For the time being I just don’t think he would be the best fit for the Flames and it’s best to focus on other defensemen available around the 19th pick.
I’m going to go with not one player here, but I think the Flames need to look for some different types of players. Nobody wants the team to just blindly target size over skill, but the NHL is a game where the rule book changes in the playoffs. This team needs to get more difficult to play against, and more passionate. Another tiny forward would be a mistake in my eyes.
who is your bold dark horse pick?
The last couple years in the league have shown us that small speedy forwards with great hands and impeccable hockey IQ are the way of the future. Between Brayden Point, Alex DeBrincat, Martin St. Louis and so many more, undersized players are often undervalued in draft rankings simply for their size, and can turn into extremely good NHLers. Zion Nybeck could be that guy.
Just 5’8″, Nybeck put up 66 points in 42 games in the Swedish J-20 SuperElit. Known for his hands, speed and read of the game, Nybeck is not afraid to get into the corners and throw hits to get the puck. He plays a smart two-way game, which is something the Flames love. The only real knock that scouts have on him is his size, but if, like Andrew Mangiapane, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Phillips, Nybeck can translate his game over to North America, he could be an elite winger in a couple of years.
The more I see and read about this player, the more I love him. Ozzy Wiesblatt of the Prince Albert Raiders is my darkhorse for the Flames’ first round pick. He brings the full package to the table. Skill, scoring, physicality, and tenacity. He’s described by scouts as being dominant, gifted, and possessing a shot that might be the best in the entire 2020 draft class. He’s a right winger to boot, and should go much higher than he is projected to.
Add in the fact that he’s a WHLer playing in the same conference as the Hitmen, he has a brother who played for the Hitmen, and he played AAA hockey in Calgary as a kid, the stars are already aligning for him to be a Flame. Wiesblatt is projected to go somewhere around the late first or early second round, but I wouldn’t be every a little bit surprised if the Flames reach for him at 19.
My dark horse pick would be Brandon Coe for a few reasons. First, he’s plays right wing. Second, he’s a proven OHL scorer on a team that hasn’t seen a lot of winning (North Bay Battalion). Third, he plays a big and physical game while often being in the right spot at the right time. This isn’t due to luck though, as he’s a player that sees the ice very well and has a strong sense of getting to where he needs to be on the ice. He has potential to be an effective player and could be an immediate solid depth option for any team.
Topi Niemela. As we covered back in May, when the draft seemed to be a month away, Niemela is a younger RHD playing in a higher age class with Karpat. He is on the smaller side in terms of size, but if Quinn Hughes is any indication a smaller more mobile defenseman doesn’t necessarily mean poorer. He is almost in the same league as Kylington with a strong sense of the game, but just needing a bit more time to finesse the finer parts of his game. He’s ranked to go in the second round, but should be the target for the Flames if he is still on the board.