NHL Draft

Breaking down potential first-round reaches for the Calgary Flames

The one thing that we know about GM Brad Treliving at the NHL Entry Draft is that he is unpredictable. Whether it was taking Juuso Valimaki, who was expected to go towards the tail end of the first round in 2017 or trading down twice to select Connor Zary, who was ranked 13th in TWC’s 2020 Consolidated Draft Rankings, Treliving is known for his ability to move around in the draft.

With his shifty play at the draft combined with the fluidity of rankings in this year’s draft, it is anyone’s guess as to who he will draft, or even if he will make a selection at 12th overall. With that in mind, we have prospect profiles all the way through the first round and beyond with more to come.

Potential early draft picks for the Flames

TWC’s consolidated NHL draft rankings breaks down how this year’s draft may go based on various rankings from all sorts of sourxes. The following players are ranked inside the top-32 at least once, with some ranked as high as the middle of the first round, but have consolidated rankings that place them outside of the first round. With that logic, these are players to watch should the Flames elect to trade down, or more importantly with the Flames second round pick at 46th overall.

Stanislav Svozil- D

Hailing from the Czech Republic, Stanislav Svozil is ranked as high as 16 on some boards while others have him falling into the middle of the second round. Standing six feet tall, the defencemen is being described as the best player coming out of the Central European nation in a long time and is incredibly underrated. While he did not put up a ton of points this season, putting up just three points in 30 games, he did so in the highest league in the country, the Czech League.

Svozil stands out as a phenomenal playmaker and passer, the type of player who has instincts that are far beyond his years. He also is a very smooth skating defenceman, and one who has great feet in transition. While he can work on his shot, Svozil projects to be at least a top-four defenceman in the NHL, if not playing on the top pairing. How he adapts to North America will be key to his development.

Zach Dean- C

The Alberta-born and Newfoundland-raised QMJHL forward models his game off of Matthew Barzal, and put up 20 points in 23 games with Gatineau this season. An incredible skater, Zach Dean has some of the best stickhandling skills in the draft this year, which paired with his shot makes him incredibly gifted offensively. He also brings strong two-way play and a strong work ethic to his play in his own zone.

While he is gifted offensively, he does have to work on his accuracy, which can be more miss than hit. He also needs to spend more time in the weight room to fill out his six-foot frame. If he does that, he projects to be a strong middle-six scoring option at the NHL level.

Matthew Samoskevich- C/RW

Stylistically compared to Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Samoskevich blends strong stickhandling and incredible skating to build out a very well-rounded toolkit. Standing taller than his comparable at 5’11”, Samoskevich is a right shot centre, but may be better served moving over to the wing, something the Flames could definitely use. He is very good at entering the offensive zone and setting up plays to the net, while also bringing a decent wrist shot. On the back end, Samoskevich is a hard worker, unafraid to battle in the corners and come away with the puck.

While he definitely needs to build up some muscle and keep working on his shot, Samoskevich projects to be a top-six winger in the league. Most believe he will be better served in this role than at centre, but either way, he will take a few years to develop. If he can reach his peak, however, he could be a steal in the second round if he isn’t picked before then.

Evan Nause- D

Nause is a left shot defenceman whose playing career was substantially impacted by the pandemic. Originally drafted by Val d’Or in the QMJHL (where Jakob Pelletier played), Evan Nause opted to go to the USHL with hopes of playing in the NCAA. He played one season with Sioux Falls, putting up 17 points in 44 games, and being named to the all-rookie team. However, the pandemic forced him to reconsider, going back to the Q to play with Quebec, where he put up 22 points in 32 games.

A very smooth skater, Nause is fast both forward and backward, and is great at maintaining gaps. His offensive game is good, if not spectacular, with a strong wrist shot but needing to work on his slap shot. Defence is where he excels, good at closing down skaters on the rush. He can work on building out his 6’2″ frame in the weight room, but if he hits his ceiling, projects to be a very good second pairing defenceman in the NHL.

Ryder Korczak- C/RW

A right shot centreman from Yorkton Saskatchewan, Ryer Korczak is a player that the Flames will be intimately familiar with, having played one season with the Hitmen before being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors. A very smart two-way player, Korczak is a very good skater with high end stickhandling skills in the offensive zone. While he does need to strengthen his shot, the fundamentals are there, allowing him to beat the goalie clean from inside the high danger areas. He probably will also need to get bigger to continue getting to this zone.

Defensively, Korczak is quite effective, using his strong hockey IQ and strong skating to breakup plays in his own zone. He does often get overpowered along the boards by bigger players, and could use more time in the weight room. This naturally will come with time, but if he hits his ceiling, he projects to be a strong middle six centre or winger at the NHL level.

Sean Behrens- D

One of the top offensive defencemen in the draft, Sean Behrens finished fifth in points-per-game among defencemen in the entire USHL while playing for the USMNTDP. He also played part of the season with the US National U18 Team, finishing second among defencemen.

The left shot stands at 5’10”, Behrens plays big for his size, unafraid to get into the corners and push his way around. Unlike some others, he actually is very successful in this regard, using his low centre of gravity and great positioning to make up for height. Offensively, he is an exceptional passer, both in the offensive zone, but also in long stretch passes to hit players looking for a breakaway. Behrens also has a great shot, able to fire powerful slapshots from the point, and likes sneaking down to the circle to fire a wrister.

The only question with Behrens—a commit of the University of Denver—is whether his game will transition effectively to the next level given his size. If it continues to transition well, he could be a middle pairing defenceman at the NHL level, but he could also be a bust at any point, making him a risky choice. However, his underlying numbers and play are excellent, making him a good gamble in one of the later rounds.

Samu Tuomaala- RW

A standout for Team Finland at the World U18s, Samu Tuomaala put up 11 points in seven games, good for fifth in the tournament. He spent most of this season in the U20 SM-Sarja, he put up over a point-per-game before being elevated to the Finnish Liiga.

One of the best shooters in his draft class, Tuomaala has an arsenal of shots in his wheelhouse that can beat a goalie cleanly, including his wrist, snap and slap shot. Working on his skating and stickhandling to get him into more dangerous positions will only increase his incredible point totals.

Tuomaala is also very strong defensively, battling down low and keeping his man to the outside. His passing could use a bit of work as could his physicality, but this will come with practice and as he matures. He projects to be a top-six right shot right winger at the NHL if he reaches his ceiling, but his offensive prowess is something to get very excited about. Tuomaala will be in Finland to start next season, but could make the jump over to North America as early as 2022–23, but if he can make the adjustment effectively, he could be an impact NHLer.

Brett Harrison- C/LW

Brett Harrison is probably the most boom or bust prospect in the draft this year. An Oshawa Generals prospect, he played this season in the Finnish U20 SM-Sarja, putting up nine points in seven games. A pure sniper, Harrison has the ability to beat the goalie clean from just about anywhere on the ice, with a wicked wrister or strong snap shot. He likes getting right to the front of the net, and can clean up broken plays with relative ease. He is also strong defensively, working hard in the corners to dig the puck free.

The biggest issue with Harrison is his skating, which has been described as sloppy and choppy. He skates with a very stand-up style, which doesn’t allow him to really generate much power. As a result, he is slower than average on the ice. While he has been ok to this point, making the jump to the much faster pro game risks having him left behind. He will also likely be better served as a winger than a centre, but if he can improve his skating, he projects to be a top-six winger with immense offensive upside. This is a big if for him.

Scott Morrow– D

A prospect hailing from Shattuck St Mary’s—known as the Hogwarts of Hockey—Scott Morrow hopes to follow in the footsteps of alum like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon into the NHL. A highly gifted offensive right-shot defenceman, Morrow pairs excellent skating with high-end offensive ability to generate a ton of points in the USHS-Prep. He finished third league-wide in points this year with 48 in just 30 games. Unlike many his age, Morrow has an incredible slapshot that can beat goalies right from the blueline. He likes to keep it low as well, which allows for tips in front of the net.

Two big issues come to mid with Morrow. The first is that while he does have the skills to be strong defensively, he struggles to put it together consistently. Sometimes he looks to be too aggressive, darting forward for a poke but then getting left behind as forwards sneak around him. Other times, he is too lackadaisical, not being strong enough and letting them get through him without too much effort. This needs to be cleaned up.

He has also struggled to make an impact at the USHL level when promoted, having yet to record more than one point in his limited opportunities, and looking less than good in his time with both Fargo and Youngstown. He is expected to join UMass next season, and it will be interesting to see how he does against much stiffer competition at the NCAA level. Like Harrison, he is a big boom-or-bust prospect.

Dylan Duke- C/LW

Unlike the previous two prospects, Dylan Duke is a jack-of-all-trades left shot forward who can play either at centre or on the wing. A very good scorer, Duke has been around a point-per-game at almost every level, including putting up 49 points in 50 games for the US National U18 Team. A great net-front guy, he can screen goalies effectively despite standing just 5’10” tall, and has a wicked shot that can beat them from anywhere on the ice. He has the strength and skill to get right to the front of the net and generate chances.

Duke is the type of player who could sneak into the first round, and his defensive play is one of the big reasons why. He is one of the most complete two-way skaters in the draft and possesses defensive skills that are closest to pro-ready among the entire forward class. While he needs to keep bulking up, he uses an active stick, strong skating, and sound positioning to limit chances on net.

A favourite of coaches for his responsible style, Duke will likely end up moving over to the wing as his game develops, simply because he isn’t the fastest guy on the ice. However, if his development picks up, he could end up as a middle-six forward at the NHL level, and feels like the type of player who could make the jump to pro-hockey sooner than later. Expected to join the University of Michigan next season, he could be an impact player at the NCAA quicker than most.

Anton Olsson- D

A strong defensive defenceman, Olsson played for the Malmo Redhawks, where Rasmus Andersson got his start. Standing 6 feet tall, he is an excellent skater, both forwards, and backwards, and uses his size to his advantage especially in the corners. He is not afraid to battle in corners, and is great at retrieving pucks in the corners. His outlet passes are excellent, but he also possesses the hands to skate out himself with ease. However, in the offensive zone, he needs tow rok on both his confidence with the puck as well as his shot, which is a bit weaker than it needs to be for a blueliner.

Similar to Flames prospect Yan Kuznetsov, Olsson is much stronger defensively than offensively, and projects to be a top-four defenceman paired with an offensive partner if he reaches his ceiling. He was quite good in his first season in the SHL, and managed to get into 39 games, which is nothing short of incredible for a teenager. Expect him to develop slowly, but be a minute-munching defenceman at the NHL level down the road.

Reaching for the stars

This year, the NHL draft will likely see more off the board selections than ever before. Which the disparities between public rankings, the internal evaluations of prospects will be even more variable. Primed to be a chaotic draft, there’s no telling what may happen.

As for the Flames, Whether they pick top-ranked prospects where they are expected to go or reach for lesser ranked players, let’s hope they hit on the right prospects at least a few times to bolster their prospect cupboard.

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