NHL Draft

Flames Sunday Census: Realistic 2021 NHL first round draft options for Calgary

It’s official, the Calgary Flames will pick 12th overall at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, barring any trades made before or on July 23, 2021. The Buffalo Sabres won the first overall pick after heading into the lottery with the best odds. The Seattle Kraken moved up to second overall while the Anaheim Ducks moved down to third. No other movement occurred, which placed the Flames exactly where they were expected. Which reasonable prospects should the Flames select if they opt to hold onto their pick? We asked, you answered.

Good prospects are available for the Flames to pick

Will some bigger names such as William Eklund and Dylan Guenther will definitely be gone by the the time the Flames are up, there is ample talent that will still be on the draft board. The four in particular that might be available that Calgary would express interest in could be: Fabian Lysell, Simon Robertsson, Cole Sillinger, and Aatu Räty.

Click each player’s name to check out TWC’s 2021 draft profiles for each prospect, or see all of our available 2021 draft profiles so far here. We covered each potential pick in detail, highlighting their young hockey careers so far and what can be expected of them as they progress to the big leagues, as well as their consolidated rankings.

Each player brings a different set of skills as potential first-rounders. With the Flames are slotted to pick 12th overall, it’ll be their highest pick since selecting Matthew Tkachuk sixth overall back in 2016. Juuso Valimaki was 16th overall in 2017, while Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary went 26th overall in 2019 and 24th overall in 2020, respectively.

Essentially, the Flames have a solid chance at bolstering their future roster with a high-end player to complement their current prospects. Will they pick for organisational need or do they opt for the best available player when they are up? The past year has made prospect evaluation as hard as ever with leagues around the world operating in extraordinary circumstances. When the 2021 draft class is looked at years down the line, this year could be forgiven for picks who turn into busts, or could result in unsuspecting injections of talent from players who had limited sample sizes.

Brad Treliving and the rest of the Flames brass will likely be looking for a player that can be a part of the retool. While it remains unclear how much moving Calgary will do this offseason, it’s still clearly on the roadmap that the team will look different come opening night. This draft could play a role in that too, whether it’s with through lucrative picks that impress at training camp or trades that happen over the course of the draft.

Fitting into the Flames’ system

The case for Sillinger

Circling back to the poll, Sillinger was the favourite among the four listed players as a player the Flames should target, earning 54.3% of the votes. The left-shot centreman had a great season in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede, further building out his experience after spending the previous year playing for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL.

He’s one of the types of players that fits into the bill of being “the best available” due to his scoring skillset and hockey acumen. Definitely a player that has good odds to bolster any team’s top six when he’s NHL ready.

The case for Lysell

Second in the votes was Lysell with 29.6%. Where he makes sense as a Flames pick is the fact that he is a right-shot right winger. That alone already earns him a worthwhile look through the eyes of the Flames’ brass, but he has a very high ceiling. He most recently played 26 games in the SHL as an 18-year-old, which by most metrics is a pretty good place to be.

While he hasn’t been known to rack up points, he more than makes up for that in his skating ability and puck handling. Playing in the SHL as young as he did in a league filled with most experienced players can only bring more good than bad for the prospect. Whether he’s available by the time the Flames are up will be unknown, but he’s the exact type of player that the Flames can feel good about in filing in a need but also having much greater potential.

The case for Räty

The thing about is that Räty was that he was projected to go first overall in 2021. And then he fell down most lists as time went on, and only got 11.1% of the votes. Most rankings have him going in the middle of the first round at this point, which makes it plausible that he could be available for Calgary.

The left-shot centre—if he can build a resurgence for himself as he develops into an NHL-level talent—could be one of the better picks that slips through the cracks. The Flames could be taking a bit of a gamble on him if he’s available, but being projected as a first overall pick still carries a lot of upside.

The case for Robertsson

Robertsson could also be a dark horse when the Flame are up. He got 4.9% of the votes in the poll, and his rankings were all over the place as a potential first-rounder, but he most frequently slotted in as a mid-rounder. He brings a strong scoring sense as his greatest asset, which could help the Flames bolster their offence.

Playing primarily on the right wing while shooting left, he could definitely nab a high spot in the Flames’ prospect depth charts if he continues to improve his play and prove that his scoring ability transcends the league that he plays in.

Making the right moves at the draft

The Flames have some big decisions to make come the draft, but having a pick as high as they do gives them options. It’s not so high that they have free reign in a first-round draft class littered with question marks, but it’s high enough that those same question marks can lead to great players still being very much in play when the Flames make their pick.

These are just four players that could bring some improvement to the Flames’ prospect cupboard, but there’s no telling who any team—let alone the Flames—will end up picking throughout the first round. Here’s to hoping it pans out in Calgary’s favour, as this is a draft that will have as many asterisks as it does stars.

Featured image created with Venngage.

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