With all eyes on the Calgary Flames’ free agent situation, something that might be overlooked is the NHL Draft happening on July 7 and 8. Many many questions face the Flames this offseason, and what they do when it comes to the NHL Draft in Montreal might give NHL fans an idea of how what road they will be taking this summer.
The team has needs, both on the roster, and in their prospect pool. So, when it comes to their highest pick in the draft, what should the team do with it? We asked, you answered.
Lots for Calgary to decide at the draft
The Flames forged themselves into Stanley Cup contenders during the 2021–22 regular season—a team that looked like they were in the top tier of the league. How do they build on the recent success and turn it into something more and is the draft a place to do it? If so, what type of picks will they be making?
Further, the Flames prospects pool has real potential. What needs to be decided by the franchise is, do they have enough talent in the cupboard? Can they look to using their pick to select the best available player, or can they make a splash and acquire more picks before heading to the podium?
For this week’s poll, we wanted to ask what you think the Flames should do with their second-round pick. Pick up the best forward, best defenceman, trade up, or trade down.
Add to the forward group
It is never a bad idea to strengthen something that is already pretty strong right? Currently, a lot of the Flames top prospects are forwards. Outside of Dustin Wolf, the Flames top prospects consist of Jakob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato, and Matthew Phillips. The Flames have also used their earliest pick in the past four drafts to pick up a forward.
They have drafted pretty well when it comes to forwards as well. On top of Coronato and Pelletier, they picked up Connor Zary, who after an injury in training camp, managed to have a pretty strong second half of the season in Stockton. They have also managed to find gems like Rory Kerins and Jack Beck deep in the draft. Clearly, whatever they are doing to scout forwards is working, so why not focus on that position? It’s an easy choice to pick a forward with little room to fault them if they do hang onto their pick.
Focus on defence
At one point, a defenceman looked like the best prospect in the Flames system. However, after Juuso Valimaki had his ACL injury, it seemed to slow down his development, and he fell back in the prospect ranks for the franchise. Is defence now a position to focus on because of that? Potentially.
The franchise has made some good picks for this position, recently getting Yan Kuznetsov, Jeremie Poirier in particular. The team also has Connor Mackey in their prospect cupboard, however he was not drafted. Despite this, I think it’s fair to say that the team’s forward group is stronger, so it would not be a bad idea to add to this position, and using an early pick on a defencemen would at least help them get good odds on defence.
Well, we saw this happen in 2020, when the Flames traded down to select Connor Zary, and acquired additional picks as a result. The 2022 draft class is largely considered an abnormally deep class. Trading down could net the Flames additional draft picks in a draft where they’d want to have more picks in anyway.
The problem however, is that the Flames don’t even have a first-round pick. Trading a second-round pick down to acquire more picks might not do much for them when their first pick is that late in the draft. If there is a diamond in the rough that the Flames have identified, they might do it, but personally I think the chances are low.
I think this all depends on how the team sees its current roster and prospect pool right now. Trading up would cost additional prospects, players, or picks. Does the team see its prospect pool as needing some more first round talent? Personally I don’t think so. At least, not for how much it would cost them.
I also believe that the organization sees the team as a competitive contender. So sending potentially sending players off the roster out in a trade to acquire a higher rated prospect in the draft that won’t be ready for the league in a couple years does not seem to fit the team’s needs right now.
It might be tempting to want to trade up in a draft class like this one, but that doesn’t fit the Flames’ plan right now.
Bigger issues at hand for the Flames
A lot of their draft strategy will depend on what impression they get from Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk with respect to them signing potential long-term deals. If they believe that it is unlikely that the two stay long-term, I can absolutely see the team decide that at the draft, they need more picks.
On the other hand, if they do believe the two are staying long term, I believe the main focus will be making their team better right now. There is a lot to think about, and you can bet that the front office has been planning for this for a while.