Calgary FlamesProspects

Evaluating the Calgary Flames’ draft day needs

There are broadly two schools of thought at the NHL Draft: take the best player available or draft based on what your team needs. Broadly, teams try to do both, opting to take the best available player while also filling a role as needed. However, as some players eventually graduate to the NHL and others find their way on new adventures, the draft pool dries up, and teams are left searching for new talent.

For the Flames, the broad approach has been to take the best available player, opting less often to draft based on need. This has been successful, especially on defence, with Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Juuso Valimaki, Ilya Solovyov, and signees Connor Mackey and Johannes Kinnvall fighting for minutes going into next season. It has not been nearly as effective on the right wing, with the Flames sorely lacking right handed wingers at the NHL level. Let’s break it all down by position, looking at who is in the prospect system, and where the holes are based on data from CapFriendly.


Signed or RFAUnsigned
Glenn GawdinIlya Nikolayev
Adam RuzickaLucas Feuk
Byron FroeseMitchell Mattson
Luke PhilpJosh Nodler
Connor ZaryRory Kerins
Jakob Pelletier

On paper, the Flames look very good down the middle. Gawdin is likely NHL ready, and will probably slot in as the team’s fourth line centre come the start of next season. The Flames also have Ruzicka and Froese, who got NHL looks this season, to probably start in Stockton. Froese is a journeyman forward who can help develop some of the team’s younger centremen. He is signed for next season already.

The big question marks are around Zary and Pelletier, both have played a lot of centre in the past, but have also played on the wing. Zary was a centreman in Kamloops this season, but when he was in Stockton, the team played him on the left alongside Adam Ruzicka and Matthew Phillips. There is a chance that he moves back to centre this upcoming season, assuming he doesn’t make the Flames out of camp. Pelletier played a good chunk of the season in the middle, but has played on the left wing with Val d’Or for the second half of the season.

The problem is most of their centre depth likely is closing in on the NHL in the next season or two, and Philp played both wing and centre last season. While Nikolayev, Nodler, and Kerins all have question marks around them in terms of their next steps, the rest are likely not NHLers. Barring some shoring up this draft, expect this to become an area of concern after next season.

Left wing

Signed or RFAUnsigned
Emil HeinemanDemetrios Koumontzis
Jakob PelletierLucas Feuk
Justin KirklandFilip Sveningsson
Mathias Emilio Pettersen
Luke Philp
Connor Zary

The Flames are not bad at left wing, but what is more, they have a few in the system that will likely take time to condition before being NHL ready. Leaving aside Pelletier and Zary, this was Pettersen’s first AHL season, and he likely needs at least another year or two of strong growth before being NHL ready. That said, it looks like the fundamentals are quite good with him.

Heineman, the piece that the Flames traded Sam Bennett for, has at least one more season in Sweden before being able to move over to North America. He and Pettersen will form a strong one-two on the left side in a couple of seasons.

Philp is an interesting option but is likely running out of time in the Flames’ system. Now 25, the undrafted forward likely has just another season to prove his worth. The same for Koumontzis, who needs a big season next year to stay in the conversation. Feuk and Sveningsson are likely not part of the conversation.

Right wing

Signed or RFAUnsigned
Adam RuzickaLucas Feuk
Matthew PhillipsRyan Francis
Justin Kirkland
Walker Duehr
Eetu Tuulola
Martin Pospisil
Dmitri Zavgorodny

Finally, finally, the Flames have some right wing options. The bad news is aside from Phillips, none are ready for the NHL. That being said, there are a number who could be NHLers in the near future. Prior to picking up a nasty injury, Pospisil was just shy of a point-per-game in the AHL, while Kirkland took another step forward in his development this season. Zavgorodny had a good first season in the AHL, and while he did not make an impact on the scoresheet, he was reasonably effective both with and without the puck. The Heat will also have Duehr, who joined their ranks towards the end of the season from the NCAA.

Again, aside from Phillips, the big fish on this list is Ryan Francis, who will almost certainly be signed this summer. He finished in the top ten in points in the QMJHL, higher than Pelletier, and will be looking to make a splash at the AHL level.

Right wing has more promise than before, but lots of question marks as well. Expect the Flames to continue to shore up the right side, but likely more at the NHL level than through the draft.

Left defenceman

Signed or RFAUnsigned
Connor MackeyJeremie Poirier
Oliver Kylington
Colton Poolman
Yan Kuznetsov
Ilya Solovyov
Carl-Johan Lerby

The Flames are the most set at left defenceman. Of the six names on this list, two are likely NHL ready (Mackey and Kylington), two played a full season of pro hockey this year (Solovyov in the KHL, Poolman in the AHL), and two are very highly touted prospects (Kuznetsov and Poirier). The final one, Lerby, will likely not be back next season, having signed a contract in Sweden

The Flames’ left defence at both the NHL and AHL level is likely set for this season and probably even for next. While there are a lot of defencemen in this draft, expect that the left side defencemen are not a priority this year.

Right defenceman

Signed or RFAUnsigned
Johannes KinnvallJake Boltmann
Alexander Yelesin

Gulp. This is. Bad. The Flames have all of two professional right defenceman in Kinnvall, who will be joining the Heat starting next season, and Yelesin, who has not shown that he can be a serviceable NHL defenceman up to this point. On the bright side, Kinnvall has looked very good in the SHL, and could even push for an NHL look sooner than later. The bad news is that the other is Jake Boltmann, a college rookie who is relatively unknown and untested. He could turn out to be quite good by the time he gets his degree, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding him.

The Flames only have two other right defencmen signed in their whole organization, Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev. Expect them to try and build up this side in the draft.


Signed or RFAUnsigned
Artyom ZagidulinDaniil Chechelev
Tyler Parsons
Dustin Wolf

Saving the best for last. The Flames have four goalies in their system outside the NHL, and likely only need one to be good. Zagidulin has been strong this season in the AHL, and will likely compete for an NHL role next season. This leaves Parsons and Wolf as the likely two options in the AHL. The former has struggled to stay healthy and may be on the chopping block at the end of the season, the latter has been excellent in the WHL and his short time in the AHL at the start of the year. Expect Wolf to push for the majority of starts this coming season.

As we broke down earlier in the week, Chechelev had a very up and down year, and will be looking for a new team in the off-season. He has a lot to prove still in order for the Flames to give him a look this side of the pond.

Do the Flames need another goaltender this year? Probably not given the number of other needs they have. However, if all of Wolf, Parsons, and Zagidulin do not work out, it will be back to the drawing board for the next goalie of the future.

Where should the Flames spend their picks?

In this draft, the Flames have seven draft picks, with two picks in the third round and no fourth round pick. Assuming they pick purely for need, they should spend as follows

PositionNumber of picks
Centretwo picks, (one LH, one RH)
Left wingone pick
Right wingone pick
Left defencezero picks
Right defencethree picks
Goaliezero picks

The biggest need for the Flames in their prospect pool is on the right side of their defence. This should absolutely be an area that the Flames target in the draft. Assuming they don’t get Dylan Guenther in the first round, selecting a right handed defencemen may be the next best thing. With just two in the wings, and an aging one in the NHL, having one or two in the pipeline is smart future planning for the organization.

The other area that the Flames should prioritize is selecting centremen. Finding effective centremen at the NHL level is incredibly tough, but it is possible to move them over to the wing. The Flames have typically liked having two players who can win faceoffs on each line so that if the centre gets tossed out of the draw, the other can draw in and hopefully win back possession. Even if neither centre that the Flames select works out in the middle, they have two more wingers in the system. That’s a win.

Will the Flames draft exactly as predicted? Almost certainly not. Drafts, and especially this year’s draft, are a craps shoot. Sometimes a really good player just drops into your lap and you have to just take them.

Will they end selecting with all of the picks they have? If GM Brad Treliving is in charge, almost certainly not. But there are real holes in the organization right now that need to be filled if the Flames want to continue to have a strong pipeline.

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