The Calgary Flames had a huge haul in the 2021 NHL draft, making eight picks after being sellers at the trade deadline. One year later it looks like a very mixed bag of results. Some took huge steps forward in their development, while others struggled to make their impact felt.
13th Overall: Matt Coronato
The Calgary Flames selected the best player available in Matt Coronato. The organization’s highest pick since Sam Bennett in 2014, Coronato put up 48 goals and 85 points in the USHL for the Chicago Steel in his draft year. A natural-gifted scorer, Coronato also played a very good two-way game and was praised for his intelligence.
He took these characteristics to Harvard University, starting his college career with six points in the opening two games. He did this while playing heavy penalty kill minutes and starting on the team’s second power play unit.
His play was steady through the season, ending his rookie year above a point-per-game player, and taking home numerous awards including being named to the ECAC’s All-Rookie Team this year.
As much as Flames fans may be itching to see him in Calgary, Coronato will be back at Harvard for another season with the Crimson. This will almost certainly be his last season for the team, having already knocked it out of the park this past season. One of the most exciting exciting prospects in the Flames’ arsenal, it is only a matter of time before he is wearing the flaming C.
45th Overall: William Stromgren
With numerous high-pedigree prospects available, the Flames opted for William Stromgren in the second round of the draft. A strong two-way player, Stromgren was selected out of the Swedish J20, where he put up 18 points in 14 games as an 18-year-old.
He then spent this year mostly in the J20 again, putting up 36 points in 44 games, and also earning six games in the SHL with Rogle BK, but did not hit the scoresheet there. Not bad for a second-round selection, but not numbers that really jump off the page.
It’s a bit tough to get excited about Stromgren at this point. His offensive totals do leave a lot to be desired and his struggle to make an impact in the SHL yet are not a great sign. He likely has one more season in Sweden before he hopefully is able to make the jump over to North America. Expect the Flames to take their time with him, but they will need to see some signs this coming season to justify moving him across the pond.
77th Overall: Cole Huckins
A strong two-way power forward, Cole Huckins put up 32 points in 33 games in his draft year in the QMJHL for the Acadie Bathurst Titan. Known for his scoring ability, Huckins is a net-front player who uses his body to create space in dangerous areas. He is also a gritty backchecker, being able to outmuscle players off the puck in the defensive end.
This season started off really well for Huckins. He was around a point-per-game for most of the first half of the season. However, midway through the year he suddenly disappeared from view, spending time away from the team for undisclosed reasons. Then when he returned, he struggled to make an impact, playing limited minutes on the team’s bottom two lines.
Huckins will really need to figure it out next season. Whatever had him sent away from his team will need to be addressed and should be put firmly in the rearview mirror going into this season. The forward has a lot of positive attributes, but will need to work on honing his craft if he wants to take the next step in his development.
89th Overall: Cameron Whynot
A big defenceman, the Flames took Cam Whynot out of the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL following a season in which he had 23 points in 34 games. He played mostly on the top pairing for the team, and looked to be strong at both ends of the ice.
This year, Whynot saw his production dip slightly, putting up 17 points in 45 games, but he was clearly battling some sort of injury for stretches of the season. The bigger concern was that while he was a decent blueliner, he was not really able to separate himself from the rest of his team as the best of the lot.
The latter will no doubt be the goal for next year. Whynot will need to show that he is substantially better than the rest the Mooseheads’ blueliners in order to earn himself an entry-level contract (ELC) with the Flames.
141st Overall: Cole Jordan
The Flames took Cole Jordan from the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL after a season in which the defenceman put up 10 points in 23 games. Known for his defensive prowess, Jordan quietly played a very strong defensive game being a great shutdown blueliner in his own zone, but also having strong skating and great passing to get to put up ice. Scouts also really liked his decision-making, which made him a very sneaky good pick.
This season unfortunately was a bit of a disaster. Jordan managed just 11 points in 36 games, and was struggling with what looked to be a major illness for much of the year. Even when he was back, he was the team’s sixth defenceman—an adjustment made to help him get back to his best on the ice.
Jordan clearly is more than just what this season would suggest. He has a ton of potential, and if he can add more offensive upside to his game, he could be a real standout player for the organization. Hopefully he can stay healthy next year.
168th Overall: Jack Beck
What a surprise Jack Beck is turning out to be. The Ottawa 67’s forward was drafted after having lost his draft year due to the pandemic, but if his draft year would have looked anything like this season, there is no way the Flames would have gotten him this late.
Despite struggling with an injury that kept him out of the lineup for months, Beck was one of the most productive members of his team, putting up 44 points in 36 games on the team’s top line. This pace was good for 25th in the entire OHL for points-per-game, and Beck finished second on his team despite missing a third of the year.
It would not have been a surprise to see him earn an ELC at the end of this season, but given how few games he has played in his junior career (92), it probably makes more sense for him to remain in Ottawa for one more year. If he can take another step forward, Beck could push to be one of the top scorers in the OHL and be yet another sneaky good sixth-round selection for the Flames.
173rd Overall: Lucas Ciona
The fifth CHL player in a row for the Flames, Lucas Ciona is a power forward selected in the sixth-round from the Seattle Thunderbirds. In his draft year, the winger put up 13 points in 23 games, but it was clear the Flames thought that he had more. Standing 6’2″ and weighing in north of 200 pounds, the Edmonton-born player has the size and frame to be an effective net-front player and heavy checker in this league and maybe beyond.
This season, Ciona took a big step forward, putting up 35 points in 53 games for the Thunderbirds. He then added 14 points in 24 games in the playoffs as the team went to the WHL finals, losing narrowly to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Ciona showed that he had the potential to take another step forward in his development this year, and will need to do the same next year if he wants to earn an ELC from the Flames. While he clearly has the size and grit for the next level, the point production needs to improve for him to really earn that look.
205th Overall: Arseni Sergeev
An off-the-board pick, the Flames took Arseni Sergeev from the Shreveport Mudbugs of the NAHL. A Russian, Sergeev had come over two seasons previously, spending the previously year between the NAHL and USHL with limited success on the scoresheet. When asked about him, the Flames’ Director of Scouting Tod Button noted that he was a bit raw but had the tools to be an excellent netminder down the road.
Button was not wrong. Sergeev spent this season in the USHL with the Tri City Storm, and was the best goalie in the whole league. In 41 games, the goaltender finished with a 0.918 save percentage and six shutouts. He also played among the most number of games this year, and probably would have played more were it not for a few suspensions for his fiery play that kept him out of the lineup.
Being a good goalie in the USHL is obviously a great sign, but Sergeev will need to show he can carry that on against tougher competition. He will be in the NCAA next year, joining the UConn Huskies (Go Icebus), and will need to show that he can face tough competition and still be effective. If he can do that, he could really enter the conversation as another excellent goalie in the Flames’ arsenal, and would be yet another seventh-round steal for this team.
Too early to call the 2021 draft class
It’s way too early to tell how this draft class looks, but there are huge positive signs already for this group. Matt Coronato was always looking to be a slam dunk for this team, and assuming he does end up signing with the Flames—college players are always a risk—the Flames look to have a total stud in him.
Jack Beck is also looking like a huge win for the Flames. His point production was through the roof this year on a pretty ok 67’s side, but if he can continue to put up points like he did this season, he seems like at least a sure-shot AHLer if not more.
It’s too early to start making predictions on Sergeev as a netminder, but the early signs are promising. There are also promising signs for Jordan, but he needs a really big season next year.
The other four, Huckins, Whynot, Ciona, and Stromgren, are a bit hard to make heads or tails of at this point. There are flashes of promise, but between injuries, what look to be off-ice issues, and just generally fine performances, it’s hard to say what they can be at the next level.
The good news with all of these prospects is that they’re still very young and will have at least one more year to show what they are and what they can be. For some, it will be a chance to really prove they can be better than we expect, while for others it will be a chance to show they can be the best in their respective leagues, and build up some swagger going into their next challenge in the Flames’ organization. Either way, it will be worth keeping an eye on.
Photo credits: NHL.com