I can’t say this with enough excitement, but what a night for Brad Treliving and the Calgary Flames. What was poised to be a ho-hum evening for the club, selecting at #19 in the first round, turned into one of Treliving’s smartest and shrewdest moves as the team’s GM.
The 2020 NHL Draft was poised to be unlike anything we had seen before. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the draft was hosted virtually this year. We, of course, got exactly what we were expecting: Alexis Lafreniere was selected first overall, no teams gave away their first round picks, and a ton of awkward interactions via video streams were witnessed.
The real noise came via the Flames when they went to select at 19th overall. They made a deal with the New York Rangers by trading the 19th pick for the 22nd and 72nd selections in this year’s draft. Flames get a third round pick in exchange for three drafting spots, sounds pretty good so far.
Then when it came time for the 22nd overall pick, the Flames made yet another deal; this time with the Washington Capitals. The 22nd pick was then traded for the 24th and 80th pick in this year’s draft. The team gave up just two more draft spots for an additional third round selection.
The Flames would not tempt the trading gods again though, as they used the 24th overall selection to pick Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers.
So just how good of a night was it for the Flames?
Zary is an absolute beautiful selection for the Flames, and frankly a little shocking that he was still available at 24. He shouldn’t be labelled as the “steal of the draft” quite yet, but was definitely a player the Flames wanted. Ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting, the recently turned 19 year old for sure ended up going a little later than he expected. Brad Treliving noted that Zary was the player that they wanted and it was fortunate that he was still there at 24 even after both trades.
We took a look at Zary in our pre-draft coverage, and here is what we had to say about him:
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.– The Win Column – https://thewincolumn.ca/2020/10/01/five-centers-the-calgary-flames-could-select-in-the-first-round/
He’s not going to step in to the #1 center position next season, but is an excellent prospect to add to the Flames system.
The true magic of last night came in the form of two additional third round picks. Going into the draft, the Flames didn’t own a third rounder due to the Erik Gustafsson trade. The other third round selection that could come to the team via the Milan Lucic trade, is most likely staying with Edmonton this season. Therefore, the third round was going to be very quiet for the team.
That being said, the scouting staff most likely identified a few players they deemed as ones they wanted to draft and making both trades allows them to grab two additional assets they didn’t think they would have this morning.
In terms of how the trades break down mathematically, Dom Luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) of The Athletic broke it down nicely:
There is always a crap shoot with draft picks, but turning one pick into three, with the caveat of a few draft positions, is always the route to go.
While not as valuable as first round picks, third round selections are still very valuable Previous selections around the #72 and #80 mark? Bryan Rust, Anthony Duclair, and Anthony Cirelli. Closer to home, the Flames found Adam Fox, Matthew Lombardi and Brandon Prust in the third round. Of course there are others who didn’t pan out, but just the chance of adding an impact player (let alone two) at that spot is tantalizing.
Just how good was this?
To put it plain and simply, Brad Treliving worked his way into many Flames fan’s hearts last night. Not only did they get the player that was highly sought after in Zary, he also added two third round picks to the mix while doing it. Many thought, and wanted, Zary to go to the Flames at #19, but the team got him anyways. Instead of going the easy route and just taking Zary, GMBT made some extremely sound asset management decisions.
Now that the Flames have two additional third rounders, they could easily get two new prospects to add to the system, or even use them in an additional transaction to secure more picks, a goalie, or others.
Brad Treliving got off on the perfect start. Let’s hope this continues through the rest of the draft.
Photo from @NHLFlames