With the 2021 NHL Draft just two days away, all attention in the league will switch to the entry draft this weekend following tonight’s expansion draft. With the Calgary Flames holding their highest pick since selecting Matthew Tkachuk sixth overall in 2016, talk surrounding who the Flames could pick has been much louder than in recent year.
We broke down who most experts see the Flames picking up on Friday night earlier this week. With the first round of the draft in prime time on Friday, it understandably gets the most attention as it’s when the big stars go off the board. However it’s Saturday where most of the real work is done for teams and their scouting staff. As we get into the mid to late rounds of the draft, every pick becomes nothing more than a complete coin flip.
That said, it doesn’t mean teams can’t make educated picks among the massive crowd of draft eligible players available. Yes the stars get picked up early in the draft, but it’s the later rounds where you really find the hidden gems that round out your team and take it to the next level. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning who had six players suit up for them in the playoffs who were drafted by the team after the second round.
Let’s take a look at some mid to late round targets for the Flames in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Red Savage – C/LW
H: 5’11 W: 181lbs
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Apart from having possibly the best name in the entire draft, Red Savage also has the makings of a potential mid round steal for whoever picks him up. Playing his way through the US National Development Program, Savage has seen his offensive totals climb over the past couple years. This most recent season his 42 points was third on his team, behind only potential first-round picks Dylan Duke and Sasha Pastujov.
Offensively, Savage is a dominate possession player. He has great hands, a solid shot, and is relentless on the puck. He’s also a remarkably smart player, constantly making the little plays to help his team keep possession of the puck and generate chances.
What makes Savage a player to target in the middle of the draft isn’t just his offensive game, it’s his fantastic two-way game. Savage is a very complete player, and can be utilized in so many different situations. He is dynamite on the penalty kill as a shutdown centre, and is strong in the faceoff circle to boot. Something coaches at the NHL level will love.
He possesses a great ability on the defensive the side of the puck, and is constantly breaking up plays both in the defensive zone and on the rush. Savage is described as a tenacious forechecker who is constantly putting pressure on the opposition when they have the puck. He’ll muck it up in the dirty areas and more often than not he comes away with possession. Add that to his high hockey IQ and you’ve got a very sneaky player who could carve out a solid NHL career as a middle-six Swiss army knife type player.
Here’s Bill Placzek describing Savage’s game in a nutshell. Tell me this doesn’t sound exactly like number 88 on the Flames.
“… with an aggressive attacking style and good stop/start speed along with excellent acceleration. He wants the puck, wants to be the guy carrying it on zone entries and has an excellent hockey IQ and hands to generate offense. When a teammate is in possession, he jumps from the bushes of quiet ice as an option and doesn’t waste any time letting it fly.”Bill Placzek – Lines.com
Savage projects to be a perfect complement to a team in its middle-six. As a player who can take important draws, play against the other teams top players, and be a key player on the penalty kill, Savage is a coach’s dream. The Tampa Bay Lightning have shown everyone just how important these type of players are to a contending team.
Savage didn’t make our top-100 consolidated list, and is projected to go in the third or fourth round on most lists. With the Flames holding two third-round picks this year, Savage would be a great pickup with one of them.
Ryan Mast – D
H: 6’4 W: 190lbs
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After being drafted in the ninth round of the OHL draft in 2019, Ryan Mast came out of nowhere to establish himself as a legitimate prospect for the 2021 draft following his impressive rookie season for the Sarnia Sting. Mast is an intriguing prospect who offers some sneaky upside as he missed the entire 2020–21 season due to the pandemic which has pushed him well down draft boards.
The first thing that stands out about Mast is his overall size. At 6’4″ and 190 pounds Mast is already an imposing defender despite just turning 18 in January, suggesting he still has a lot of room to grow and get stronger as he matures. Perhaps Mast’s best attribute is his skating ability, which is not something you’d expect from a defenceman of his stature. He’s a very smooth skater and can regularly skate his way out of trouble in the defensive zone.
Mast is an expert at exiting the zone with control as he’s very calm under pressure for a player his age. Whether he uses his skating to carry the puck out himself or uses his underrated vision and hockey IQ to find teammates for a breakout pass, Mast almost always makes sure his team has possession as they exit the defensive zone. This is certainly a skill the Flames were missing this past season.
On the defensive side of the puck Mast is a force. Mast is an absolute pain to beat one on one. He uses his size, skating, and angles to close down opponent attacks quickly and efficiently. He’s excellent at driving opposing players away from dangerous areas and keeping them to the outside. His gap control is borderline elite for a player his age. According to @MitchLBrown, Mast was in the 73rd percentile for defensive zone breakups in the CHL in 2019–20.
He doesn’t come without some areas of improvement too though. He is still very turnover prone at times and can struggle with his decision making, especially in the neutral zone. However as mentioned he is still very young and has lots of time to continue to work on these deficiencies. What can’t be denied is Mast’s raw skill and instincts, something that can’t be taught. Mast is projected to go around the fourth to fifth round and as a right shot defender he would be a great fit for the Flames
Jimi Suomi – D
H: 5’10 W: 154lbs
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Jimi Suomi also has one of the best names in the draft. His name in English essentially translates to “Jimmy Finland” Can you imagine a team with Johnny Hockey and Jimmy Finland playing together? Suomi could be a target for the Flames in the fourth or fifth round given where he is projected to be picked. Suomi is a talented yet undersized left shot defenceman who was a standout for Finland at the U18 World Championships.
Suomi is a prototypical quick, puck moving defenceman. This type of player has become more and more valuable in the NHL as the league becomes faster every year. Suomi has a ton of talent offensively and shows off that skill regularly, however he has some major deficiencies in the defensive zone as well. In other words, he plays a very high-risk style of hockey.
Suomi is a great skater. He’s agile, evasive, and has fantastic edge work. He’s a very hard player to contain when he gets going. He also has a great set of hands for a defenceman. Put the two together and you’ve got a player who can weave his way through traffic making him a very effective player on zone entries, exits, and in transition. He’s also great at dishing the puck to teammates as well, and uses his great vision to find teammates during a breakout or all over the offensive zone.
As mentioned above, he does come with some major red flags. His overall decision making can be suspect at times. He can get caught trying to force a play that isn’t there sometimes which can lead to turnovers and chances coming back the other way. It’s certainly an aspect of his game that he will need to clean up going forward.
Suomi is a true boom or bust prospect, very similar to Flames’ 2020 third-round pick Jeremie Poirier. Both have incredible skill, but can be liabilities in the defensive zone due to their poor decision making. Suomi is a long-term project, but as a late round pick he is definitely worth a gamble as he could develop into a second pairing offensive defenceman and power play quarterback in the NHL
Sasha Teleguine – C
H: 5’10 W: 185lbs
Sasha Teleguine can essentially be described as the forward version of Jimi Suomi. Teleguine has a ton of skill offensively and offers the dynamic skill that you can’t usually find later in a draft. He is projected to go somewhere around the fourth or fifth round in the draft.
Teleguine has elite skating ability, and has a very quick top end speed. He’s also incredibility agile and has elite edge work. He’s got the explosive skating ability that you usually only find in players ranked in the first or second round. He’s constantly buzzing around the ice and can be very hard to contain when he gets up to full speed.
He also offers some borderline elite vision and creativity in the offensive zone. He’s the type of player that keeps you on the edge of your seat when he has the puck in open space because of how dynamic and creative he is with the puck. He’s not afraid to attack from anywhere. He has a decent array of shots which he isn’t hesitant to use, but he’s also excellent at setting up his teammates as a playmaker.
The big knock on Teleguine and the reason he is projected to go in the middle of the draft is his play without the puck. He can tend to get caught wandering in the defensive zone cheating for offensive opportunities. He really doesn’t offer much of anything defensively and is typically a liability in his own zone. He’ll never be a defensive player, but it’s something he’ll have to work on to carve out a role in the NHL.
Teleguine’s raw skill and dynamic ability can’t be denied, and he offers some incredible upside for a player available after the third round. Like Suomi he is very much a boom or bust prospect because of his defensive deficiencies, but he’s certainly worth a gamble in the third or fourth round given the skill he brings to the table.
Lots of talent still on the board
Despite the first round of the draft getting all the attention, there will still be a ton of talented prospects available on day two into the seventh round. Any team that has hopes of becoming a true Stanley Cup contender builds through the draft, and the Flames could certainly use a boost to their prospect pool.
The Flames have made some great late round picks in recent years in the form of Andrew Mangiapane, Ryan Francis, Emilio Petterson and Matthew Phillips, showing that talent can still be found after the first two rounds of the draft. The Flames will be looking to continue this trend when they’re on the board come Saturday and I believe these four players would be great additions to the teams prospect group if they’re available when the Flames pick after the second round.