The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is just over a week away, the Calgary Flames will be finalizing their draft list and plans in anticipation of the big day. While we do not know quite what general manager Brad Treliving and rest of the Flames’ brass are planning, we do know what the scouts are saying the Flames should do at their picks. We have compiled all the major rankings into TWC’s consolidated draft rankings for this season, and while it only has 172 players ranked, this gives us enough to break down who the rankings suggest the Flames should take with each pick.
With any consolidated draft rankings, it’s meant to give 1) a comprehensive list that looks to capture rankings from multiple sources, and 2) a high-level glance at the calibre of players available at any given point in the draft. It’d take stars to align for any team to perfectly select from a consolidated list, especially on a draft class like this one, but it still serves as a great way to see what could be for the Flames. Let’s break it all down.
Pick 12: Cole Sillinger
A consensus pick somewhere between 10 and 20, Sillinger has strong offensive upside, and plays a great two-way game that could make him a fit with the Flames. After finishing second in rookie scoring last season in the WHL, Sillinger took his trade to the USHL, where he finished fourth in points-per-game in the entire league. He will likely be back in the WHL next season to work on his game in Medicine Hat.
Probably the best sniper in his draft class, Sillinger has wicked wrister, and has a snapshot reminiscent of Sean Monahan’s on his best day. With the Flames needing goals, drafting Sillinger would be a great fit on offense.
While he is not an incredible two-way centre, Sillinger is a very smart player, which allows him to make great plays off the puck. However, if he is expected to remain at centre and to become an elite NHLer, Sillinger will need to work on his play in the defensive zone, which requires more attention to detail. He will also need to work on his skating, which needs to get faster and smoother for the NHL game. He has the fundamentals to get better, but will need to work hard over the next couple seasons to reach his potential.
But if he reaches his potential, he could be an incredible forward for the Flames. With a game reminiscent of Mark Scheifele, he projects to be a top-six centre or winger, with first line potential. For the Flames to get an elite player in the first round would be a huge win. We put together a full profile on Sillinger here, but the long and the short of it is he has all the tools to be an elite forward, and while he is a left shot, the Flames could undoubtedly use his scoring prowess.
Pick 45: Ayrton Martino
After finishing third in the OJHL last season, Martino joined the USHL for this season, putting up 56 points in 38 games this year, good for eighth in the league. He was also fifth in the league in points-per-game, just a hair behind Sillinger. Martino will join the Clarkson University Golden Knights in the NCAA, where Craig Conroy once played.
Martino is a very fun player. Known for his incredible skating, Martino has the ability to beat defenders on the rush and is unafraid of using these skills to get right to the front of the net. He is best described as a breakaway expert, managing to get away from his defender and turn on the jets to get right to the net unimpeded. Naturally, he can also finish these chances quite often. He has a great wrist and snapshot, but both can always get stronger, given he stands just 5’10” and weighing in at 170 pounds, he will develop this as he gets bigger.
Martino is also very good in his own zone. While he does love to make a rush up ice, and can probably make those rushes a little less often, he is a smart player, and can anticipate where the play is going effectively. He is particularly good at forcing turnovers in his own zone, something that he uses to his advantage in making plays up the ice.
The one area Martino particularly needs to work on is his stickhandling, particularly at top speed. He has incredible acceleration, and when he reaches full flight, he is hard to stop, but his hands do not always work as fast as his legs. Working with a strong stickhandling coach will help him improve in this area. If he can improve this and continue to bulk up, he could be an excellent middle-six offensively gifted forward in a few seasons.
Pick 77: Tristan Broz
Another USHL forward, Broz finished eleventh in points this season while playing with the Fargo Force, putting up 51 points in 54 games. Standing 6 feet tall and a left shot forward, Broz can play any forward position with ease, and excels offensively. The hallmark of his game is his passing, which he uses to make plays that defenders simply do not expect. However, don’t sleep on his shot, which is hard and accurate. He put up 19 goals this season for Fargo this season, and while his shot can always get stronger and more accurate, having the ability to score is something the Flames desperately need.
Broz also plays a very smart two-way game, and has actually spent a lot of time on the penalty kill in the USHL. While he does sometimes have a tendency to cheat on breakouts, the fundamentals of his game are solid enough that this should be a habit that he can break reasonably easily. He projects to be a two-way depth scoring option, with the ability to play special teams for whoever drafts him. He will be joining the University of Minnesota, where former Flame Jordan Leopold played.
Every team needs depth scoring and to nab a player in the third round who projects to be a middle six versatile forward would be a win for the Flames.
Pick 84: Justin Robidas
A teammate of Jakob Pelletier‘s in Val d’Or, Robidas had a renaissance season, putting up 36 points in 35 games, good for fourth on a stacked team. He is one of the smallest draft eligible players, Robidas is just 5’7″, (the same height as Brian Gionta and Alex DeBrincat), and models his game off of Brayden Point.
And the comparables are right there to see. Robidas is an incredible skater, with the ability to evade defenders almost at will. This will only get better as he puts on muscle, but he has no concerns about getting right to the front of the net or playing in the corners despite his size. While he does not have the hardest shot, it is quick and accurate, something that allows him to score lots.
On the back end, Robidas is a reliable two-way option, working hard to break up plays. He is a very intelligent player, and is often in the right place to force a turnover or make it hard on his man. While he is a small player, forwards cannot just roll through him, Robidas is incredibly hard to knock over, and he is unafraid of bumping guys off the puck.
The one area of improvement for him is his passing, which can be inaccurate at times, but this is something that he has worked on quite substantially over the last season or so. Robidas can play up or down the lineup, but projects to be an NHLer if he continues to develop the way that he has. The one knock on him is his size, and were he a couple inches taller, he likely would be a late first round pick. If he is available in the third, this feels like a smart play for any team.
Pick 144: Ruben Rafkin
Finally the piece the Flames need most of all: a strong right-handed defenceman! Rafkin is a sneaky great pick if he is available at 144. Standing exactly six feet tall, he has take a unique path to the draft. Rafkin grew up playing his high school hockey in the US before making the jump to the USHL. He then spent a year in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfire, where he put up 31 points in 59 games then jumped back across the pond this past season to play in the Finnish Liiga. Liiga is the highest professional men’s league in Finland, and a big step up from junior hockey. This didn’t stop Rafkin from putting up 16 points in 48 games as an 18/19-year-old. Among all U19 skaters, Rafkin finished third in points, behind two very good forwards who were drafted last season: Roby Jarventie and Roni Hirvonen.
Known for his skills in the defensive zone, he is excellent at shutting down forwards at the blue line, or cutting them off on route to the net. Rafkin is also a great skater—both in terms of his speed but also in his ability to handle breakouts. He has a low centre of gravity which makes him dangerous in the corners, somewhere he does some of his best work. While his offensive upside is a bit of a question mark, he does have a good wrister from the top of the circle. He will need to keep working out, and especially working on his slapshot, in order to refine that side of his game.
Rafkin probably tops out as a second pairing defenceman if all goes well, but he has all the tools to reach that level. Draft eligible defencemen who can defend really well are hard to find, and Rafkin being a right shot with the tools to be an NHLer down the road feels like someone that the Flames would like. With a penchant for taking European skaters who have played in North America, Rafkin feels like someone that the Flames would gravitate towards.
Catching the draft at the right spots
Will these be the five guys that the Flames draft? Absolutely not! The Flames will be lucky to land one of these players at the right time, but if they are available at the right spot, any of the five could be a sneaky great find. This year’s draft has a lot of questions marks but there is a lot of value to be had later in the draft. While this is just a sampling of what could be available, if the Flames play their cards right, this could turn out to be one of GM Treliving’s better drafts.