The day has finally come for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. With the first pick only hours away, here is everything you need to know about the draft and how the Calgary Flames may approach making their selections from this highly uncertain draft class.
Impacts on the draft
Finally looking toward the future, it is safe to say this past year has been crazy. Every hockey player from the NHL right down to Timbits Hockey was affected by COVID-19. From cancelled seasons to COVID bubbles, it has been chaotic to say the least.
Unfortunately, the challenges of this year will carry over into the draft. The impact on the 2021 entry draft starts with the fact that most prospects were unable to play a full season of hockey. Whether in the WHL, NCAA, overseas, or any other league, nothing was the same.
This naturally slowed the development of prospects. Less ice time, less chances to improve their gameplay. Those who were unable to complete at all were also robbed of the opportunity to improve their ranking from previous seasons. At such a young age, players can change season to season, making their last season before going pro extremely important.
This makes the draft extremely difficult. NHL teams have to try and find the best players without seeing them all play. Prospects had to earn their place with only a partial season. All teams including the Flames have no choice but to take these factors into consideration. If there is a year for surprises, this is the one.
Names to listen for
In a normal year, the first overall pick would likely be more obvious. With all the challenges of the year discussed above, it’s no surprise that there are multiple contenders for the top overall spot. Most sources point to defenceman Owen Power as the clear choice. The 6’5”, 18-year-old is certainly a force to be reckoned with and he was able to take part in 26 NCAA games this season, certainly giving him a leg-up on other prospects.
However, with how uncertain the draft is, it is just as likely that the first pick could be another player. TWC’s 2021 mock entry draft as well as TWC’s Consolidated Draft Rankings selected Matthew Beniers at the number one spot with Power coming in closely behind at third and second, respectively. There is no way to know for sure what the Buffalo Sabres will do with their pick, but whoever they pick will not be as certain as it has been in years past.
There are a handful of names that are a part of a group that will be called early. These include an outstanding WHLer in Dylan Guenther, US National Team Development Program standout Luke Hughes, as well as SHL budding stars Simon Edvinsson and William Eklund. They may also be joined by Kent Johnson, Fabian Lysell, Mason McTavish, and goaltender Jesper Wallstedt, who has the chance of being the first netminder drafted in the top-10 since Carey Price in 2005.
What about the Flames?
Back in May, we broke down the Flame’s draft day needs. The less-than-stellar 2020–21 performance exposed some holes in the Flames roster. If Calgary determines their picks based on these needs, they should prioritize right-side defencemen, centermen, and right-handed shooting wingers.
Following the same logic, the Flames should avoid left wingers and left-side defencemen in this draft. The Flames have a plethora of players lined up for these positions, so unless a gift is handed to them in the first round, there is no need to take from this pool.
It is always a difficult balance to select based on team needs while also considering who is the best player available. When an exception player comes along, sometimes there is no choice but to take them. The Flames have generally adopted this strategy in the past, however this year a more intentional approach could be important to maintain a strong pipeline.
When will the Flames be selecting
The Flames have seven chances to fill some important roster gaps, including the ones mentioned above. Below is a list of official Flames selection spots, assuming no trades are made.
Round One: 12th overall (Officially it’s listed as 13th, but it’ll be the 12th player selected overall due to Arizona’s forfeited pick)
Round Two: 45th overall
Round Three: 77th overall
Round Three: 84th overall (via Edmonton)
Round Five: 141st overall
Round Six: 173rd overall
Round Seven: 205th overall
Is it likely the Flames will actually select all of these picks? Knowing the history of GM Brad Treliving, probably not as trades are certainly being worked on. Therefore it is important to utilize each pick, no matter how few the Flames may end up with.
Potential Flames picks
TWC recently completed a draft roundtable evaluating possible first-round options for the Flames. Center Cole Silinger was the most commonly chosen selection at 12th. The 18-year-old Columbus-born skater is projected to go in the 10-20th overall range, a perfect opportunity for the Flames if he is still available. Of course it is difficult to know who the first eleven picks will be. Some other great options include Chaz Lucius, Fabian Lysell, Aatu Räty, Matthew Coronato or Corson Ceulemans all depending on who is available when the Flames are called up for their first pick.
We also covered the skaters they have their sights on later in the draft as well as the goaltenders that would make for good late draft selections.
What to expect
This entry draft is likely to be one full of surprises. With the chaos of the year, it is almost impossible to predict exactly how it will go down. Outside of the top-10 or so, it’s anyone’s guess as to how teams will draft. The Flames have a prime opportunity to fill some important gaps needed to keep a strong pipeline. Only time will tell.
The draft will be aired over two days: Tonight, Friday June 23rd at 6PM MST and tomorrow, Saturday, June 24th at 9AM MST. This will probably be one of the most intriguing drafts in years, and one which insiders won’t be able to spoil in advance. Follow along with us on TWC’s social media channels for all your Flames draft coverage.