The 2021 NHL Entry Draft is just days away. NHL teams are finalizing their draft lists, pundits are releasing their finalized lists and mock draft boards are putting together their final boards for how they think this year’s draft will go. With so much uncertainty this year, the predictions for the Calgary Flames are all over the place with Europeans and North Americans; forwards, defencemen, and goaltenders; left shots and rights all being listed as potential targets.
To get a sense of who is realistic for the Flames, we looked at a mix of draft rankings and mock drafts from across the league, as well as our own TWC consolidated draft rankings, which is made up of a number of different draft boards. Let’s break it all down from the most likely to least likely pick for Calgary.
Coming in as most likely is Chaz Lucius, the product of the US Men’s National Team Development Product, which, if he is drafted, would be the first draft pick from the program since Adam Fox in 2016. The Flames have had remarkably poor luck drafting from this program, getting just three combined NHL games from their three prospects, but hope to change this with Lucius.
A pure goal scorer, Lucius has one of the best shots in the draft class. Like the Flames’ 2004 playoff anthem In Da Dome would say, Lucius can score on the “backhand, wrist shot, from the point, any way.” He has a hard accurate shot that can beat the goalie from pretty well anywhere, but makes him special is his stickhandling skills that allow him to get right to the front of the net effectively.
Also discussed in our profile linked above, Lucius needs to work on his skating, which is choppy but fixable with good coaching. Investing in a strong skating coach will do wonders for his development. He can also do some work on his defensive game, which needs some more work to get up to the NHL level. That being said, he projects to be a top-line winger at the NHL level, and given he shoots right, there is ample room for him in the Flames organization. He will likely need a couple seasons in the NCAA, where he is expected to play starting next season with the University of Minnesota.
FC Hockey, Draftsite, and Lines.com all have him projected to go at 12 to the Flames, and he would be a player that would complement this core quite well.
Featured on three draft boards, including our consolidated draft ranking, the other very likely choice for the Flames is Sillinger. The USHL Rookie of the Year put up 46 points in 31 games for the Sioux City Falls, and has become known in particular for his shot. As we broke down in our prospect profile on Sillinger, he can be goalies clean from nearly anywhere on the ice with a limited wind-up and a great release. One of the best snipers in his draft class, Sillinger would be an ideal fit for the Flames, and help them substantially on offence.
Defensively, Sillinger does need to improve his game substantially. He can get caught puck watching or not reading the play correctly, resulting in him being completely out of position. He also does not have the footspeed or hockey IQ to get back into the play correctly.
His speed and skating are the other issues he needs to work on. He is by no means slow, but his speed is average at best. While it has gotten better this season, Sillinger still has some way to go to get his skating to where it needs to be. While he does have a low centre of gravity, his strides are relatively short and a bit choppy, which limits his ability to really fly like some others in the draft class.
Sillinger is expected to go back to the WHL next season, after spending a season in the USHL. While he is currently playing centre, there is a good chance he makes the transition to the wing. While he is a left shot, he would help the Flames substantially on offence in a few years. NHL.com and others seem to think the Flames will select him at 12.
If you had asked anyone going into last year’s draft who this year’s first overall pick would be, Raty would have been your consensus answer. However, this season he took a step back in his game, and has fallen out of favour with many in the scouting community. In 35 games in the Finnish Liiga, Raty put up just six points, two more than he put up last season, but this year he played in 23 more games. Not good.
While he did put up seven points in eight games in the Finnish U20 SM Sarja, the fact that he couldn’t take another step forward is a big knock against him. That being said, Raty remains one of the best forwards in this year’s draft, and one of the best playmakers, if not the best, of the lot. With incredible hands, Raty can stickhandle up and down the ice with ease, and he can make plays that others simply do not see. He brings incredible vision, and high-end hockey IQ to the table game in and game out.
His defensive game is also quite strong, with Raty able to support his teammates down low. He uses his 6’1″ frame to his advantage in the corners, and also uses his long reach to knock the puck off of opposition skaters’ sticks.
While his skating could use some work, he has a lot of the fundamentals down already, with good edgework and the ability to turn sharply. This feels fixable. However, he needs to develop the confidence to skate to the middle of the ice to create scoring chances. Raty is a good perimeter shooter, but needs to get in tighter to become a more effective scorer.
Raty may have fallen out of favour, but he has the skills to be an elite top-six centre in this league. Without much high-end talent in the pipeline, the Flames could have a gem in Raty if selected. With a number of boards having him ranked twelvth, and with a strong two-way game, Raty feels like someone that the Flames could look at.
Other names on the board
Projected to go in the top-five, Edvinsson has seen his draft stock fall substantially. Projected as an elite top pairing defenseman if he reaches his ceiling, the Swedish defenseman has both offensive and defensive skills that could make him one of the best in this year’s class. However, it is his decision-making and overall hockey IQ that have made him drop substantially in the rankings. He just doesn’t make enough good decisions from play to play that many have ranked him lower than his toolkit may suggest.
Is he worth it at 12? Maybe, if the Flames think that this is fixable. There are a lot of things that you can teach, but being smarter with the puck is a tough one.
One of the more tenacious forwards, Svechkov simply does not give up on plays. With strong offensive abilities and a great two-way game, Svechkov is very well-rounded at both ends of the ice. The problems with Svechkov, as we outlined in our profile of him earlier this offseason, are that he has not faced high-level competition up to now. He has only appeared in the VHL, Russia’s second highest league, while his compatriots have played in the KHL already. He also needs to work on his decision-making, particularly his shot placement, which seems random from time to time.
Our consolidated rankings have him at 29, and with the Flames having not selected a Russian who has played in the NHL since last century, it seems unlikely that they use their first round selection on him even though a number of people seem to think he could be the pick.
A smooth-skating Swedish scorer, Lysell is a right shot winger who loves to put points on the board. One of the best skaters in the draft class, Lysell is able to fly by defenders with ease, and uses his great stickhandling skills to get to the front of the net. More of a playmaker than a scorer, Lysell needs to continue working on his shot to get it to the level it needs to be at the NHL level, but he has strong fundamentals in both the offensive as well as defensive ends of the ice.
The biggest issue with Lysell is that there is a good chance he gets scooped up before the Flames even get to select. With this many positives, and few negatives about his game, many teams clearly have an eye on him, and there is a good chance he goes inside the top-10.
Tankathon’s mockdraft has the Flames taking Swedish netminder Jesper Wallstedt as their pick. Probably the best goaltender in the draft, Wallstedt has been a staple in the SHL this season, putting up a 0.908 save percentage, and projects to be a franchise cornerstone netminder at the NHL level in a couple years. A very calm and technically sound netminder, Wallstedt brings strong agility and athleticism to the ice, making him one of the most interesting names in the draft.
It again feels unlikely that he slips to the Flames at 12th, with the Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks ahead of them. That being said, even if he does, it seems unlikely that GM Treliving takes him with this pick. Treliving has never taken a goalie before the second round, and the last time the Flames took a netminder in the first round was Leland Irving in 2006, who played 13 NHL games. Organizational memory is long in this league.
There is also the issue of Jacob Markstrom‘s contract with a full no-movement clause, which limits the Flames from inserting a top netminder into their crease for a few seasons. That being ssaid, the Flames do need a netminder or two in the system, and bringing in a guy who projects as highly as Wallstedt does is never a bad decision. This one could be interesting.
Lucky number 12
Regardless of how the Flames draft, sitting at 12th, there are a number of interesting options that could fall into their lap. While they likely won’t have Dylan Guenther or other top talent drop to them, the options that they are playing with have elite skill and high projections that, assuming they reach that level, will only make this franchise stronger. With just days till the draft, there is a lot to get excited for with the future of the Flames.
Photo credits: Hockey USA