Calgary Flames

Revisiting the 2016 Calgary Flames draft class

The Calgary Flames, under general manager Brad Trelving have done quite well at finding players in the draft. This includes high picks that should have been slam dunks as well as some late-round finds that have really panned out. With the 2022 NHL Draft just weeks away, let’s take a look back at the oldest draft class that still includes prospects for this team: The 2016 draft.

In this draft, the Flames had a whopping nine draft picks, the most the team had had since the 2004 draft. This included one first-round pick (sixth overall), two second-round picks (54th and 56th respectively), then one in each of the third, fourth, and fifth rounds (66th, 96th, and 126th), two in the sixth round (156th and 166th), and one in the seventh round (186th). Here’s how each pick panned out:

Sixth Overall: Matthew Tkachuk

Looking back, the fact that the Flames were able to select Matthew Tkachuk sixth overall seems like highway robbery. With the exception of first overall pick Auston Matthews and perhaps former Flames’ pick Adam Fox, Tkachuk should have been drafted ahead of just about everyone else in this draft class.

Tkachuk was taken from the London Knights of the OHL after putting up 107 points in 57 regular season games with the team. He went on to win the Memorial Cup with the Knights, putting up 40 points in 18 playoff games playing on a line with Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak. While scouts at the time did worry about his skating and his defensive play, they marveled at his shot, passing, and ability to bring his all in big games. He was a humongous find for the Flames at sixth.

It’s hard to verstate just how good Tkachuk has been for the Flames. Played primarily in a two-way role prior to this season, he established himself as a premier 200-foot winger in the NHL with tremenous offensive upside. When played in a more offensive role away from Mikael Backlund, Tkachuk put up a whopping 104 points this year while still being an elite two-way player. It is hard to overstate his importance on this team.

The Flames are going to have to pay Tkachuk a boatload of money in order to get him to sign long-term with the club, but it is impossible to overstate his value to this team. As much as Johnny Gaudreau is more important to lock up first given he is a UFA, the long-term value that Matthew Tkachuk brings may be even greater to this team. Hopefully the Flames are able to retain him long-term and he is able to be a key part of this team for years to come.

54th Overall: Tyler Parsons

Parsons was expected to be the Flames’ goalie of the future. A Memorial Cup winner with Tkachuk and the Knights, Parsons put up a 0.921 save percentage and four shutouts in the regular season, and was among the best goalies in the league that year. He was expected to be one of the top goalies taken in the draft, and was taken second behind Carter Hart.

However, his path since drafting has been incredibly rough. Parsons has battled multiple injuries over the years, including an ankle injury which kept him out of the lineup almost the entire 2020–21 campaign. He has also had well-documented mental health struggles which he opened up about in 2018. Both have been major factors in his development.

Parsons has not played a single game of hockey this season for the Flames’ organization, with reports that he has spent the year at home in Michigan. At the beginning of the season, it was announced that he was unable to satisfy quarantine regulations, and nothing has been said since. This is a very troubling sign that the former goalie of the future will not continue with the Flames beyond this season.

This is one of those casualties of fate rather than a bad draft pick. Parsons had huge potential but between bad luck and other factors, it quite simply did not work out for him. It’s hard to be too sad about this for the Flames, with incredible goaltending depth up and down the organization, but wish Parsons nothing but the best in the future.

56th Overall: Dillon Dube

Dillon Dube was a phenomenal find for the Flames in the second round of the draft, and was taken out of the Kelowna Rockets after putting up 66 points in 65 points in the regular season. He also had seven points in 18 playoff games for the Rockets, who were defeated by Matthew Barzal and the Seattle Thunderbirds in the conference finals.

Going into the draft, scouts loved that he was a play-driver at 5v5, with 20 of his 26 goals coming at full strength. They also really liked his skating ability and strong playmaking ability. The one knock on Dube was his size and his ability to play in the tough areas of the ice. This has been a concern even in his tenure with the Flames but has been an area he has improved in particularly this season.

Dube has developed into a very serviceable NHLer since being drafted, and while it did take a few years, he has cemented himself as a very good middle-six player for this team. He clearly has a lot of room to grow, but has taken strides both this season and last, and looks to be developing into a very good piece for this team going forward.

66th Overall: Adam Fox

The one that got away. This one hurts every single year. The Flames took a flyer on Adam Fox in the third round due to his enormous offensive upside, but it was known around the league that his desire was to play for the New York Rangers.

In his draft year, Fox put up 22 points in 25 games as a defenceman for the US Man’s National Team Development Program and 59 points in 64 games for the U-18 program, both of which were huge for a blueliner. He then went on to Harvard, where he played three full seasons, capturing numerous awards including being a three-time first team All-Star in the NCAA.

The Flames would flip Fox’s rights along with Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton to the Carolina HUrricanes in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, and while both have become integral pieces for the Flames, it is hard to imagine the Flames would not have been a better team were Fox to have remained in Calgary.

96th Overall: Linus Lindstrom

With their fourth-round pick, the Flames went with Swedish two-way centre Linus Lindstrom. Lindstrom spent most of his draft year in the J-20, the highest tier of Swedish junior hockey, where he put up 44 points in 40 games. He also had a fine U18 Juniors, putting up four points in seven games. Scouts liked the completeness of his game, being strong at both ends of the ice, as well as his smarts with the puck, able to make the right play more often than not. This seemed like a smart pick for the Flames.

The problem was that he could not translate his game to success in the SHL, Sweden’s highest league. His point totals stagnated to less than ten per year over the next three seasons. He has gotten better now, averaging about a half-point-per-game in the SHL, but is no longer a Flames prospect.

126th Overall: Mitchell Mattson

A huge centre, Mattson was an unknown commodity until his senior season in high school, where he put up a very impressive 46 points in 25 games in the USHS-MN. He also put up 14 playoff points in six games that year, but when he moved over to the tougher USHL, he struggled to put up the points. Despite that, given his size and defensive responsibility, Mattson was ranked as high as a late first rounder in his draft year.

He followed up his draft selection with a half-point-per-game year in the USHL before moving to the Minnesota State University Spartans. In the four years since, Mattson managed a collective eight points in the NCAA, and was a regular healthy scratch this season for MSU. File Mattson under prospects that simply did not pan out.

156th Overall: Eetu Tuulola

The best description of Eetu Tuulola in his draft year was skilled but unpolished. Tuulola hails from Finland, playing his draft year in the Finnish U20 SM-liiga where he put up 14 points in 29 games. Despite these totals, scouts loved his two-way game and his generally unselfish style of play. Couple this with his heavy playing style, aggression in the corners, and ability to get under opponents’ skins, he seemed like the perfect combination of European skill with North American style, albeit with room for polish.

He then came over to North America, putting up a half-point-per-game with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. He then moved over to the AHL’s Stockton Heat, where he has played since. This season he had 25 points in 61 regular seasons with Stockton, and was generally utilized in a depth role. He has become a bit of a fan favourite, but has not been commanding at the AHL level to this point.

Tuulola is an RFA at the end of this season, and there’s probably a 50/50 chance he is qualified. He hasn’t shown a whole lot to this point, but has improved in his three years in Stockton. He may not be an NHLer, but has been a generally fine pick overall in the sixth round.

166th Overall: Matthew Phillips

Matthew Phillips was drafted out of the WHL’s Victoria Royals after putting up 76 points in 72 games and picking up the WHL’s Rookie of the Year Award. Scouts loved how incredible of a skater Phillips was, his ability to shoot with pinpoint accuracy, and his incredible playmaking ability. One scout went so far to call him a first round talent with the caveat being that he’s small. Just 5’8″, Phillips is a very small player, but that has not stopped him from getting to the tough areas of the ice and playing bigger than his stature.

Since then, Phillips had three incredible WHL seasons, including putting up 112 points in his third season with Victoria. From there he joined Stockton and has been excellent for the AHL squad since. This year, he finished with 68 points in 65 regular season games, best on the team and ninth in the league. He however did not earn a single call-up to Calgary this season.

Phillips is an RFA this season, and it would be very unlikely the Flames don’t sign him this year. A leader on the team and a player with huge upside potential, he should be challenging for a spot with the Flames next season.

186th Overall: Stepan Falkovsky

A Belarussian defenceman, the Flames drafted Falkovsky following a half-point-per-game season with the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. Standing 6’9″ and weighing in over 200 pounds, he clearly had the frame to be an NHLer. An over-ager, Falkovsky came over from Belarus that season to get more attention in the draft, and it clearly worked.

Falkovsky spent the next season in the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder, where he put up 32 points in 54 games, but did not feature in the AHL at all. Despite these numbers, the Flames did not tender him an entry-level contract, and he became a UFA. He ended up signing with the Los Angeles Kings, and played three more seasons in North America between the AHL and ECHL. He is now in the KHL where he put up eight points in 29 games for SKA St. Petersburg.

The Flames drafted well in 2016

The Flames managed to find three bona-fide NHLers in this draft in Tkachuk, Dube, and Fox, and despite Fox not playing for the Flames, they managed to use him to get two key pieces for this team. They also have Phillips who looks like he could be a real player in the NHL as early as next season.

The rest of the pieces were a combination of big guys with high upside that didn’t pan out in Falkovsky and Mattson, a guy with upside that couldn’t translate his game to the next level in Lindstrom, and a player who had brutal injury and other luck in Parsons. Tuulola is still an unknown commodity, but probably won’t amount to much.

On the whole, if the Flames can get two NHL level forwards—one of which is a superstar—then by definition they have done exceptionally well. However, on top of that, the Flames made generally smart choices in this draft, and while many did not pan out, if they keep the philosophy of drafting high-upside players, the future looks bright.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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