The Calgary Flames will officially pick 16th in the 2023 NHL Draft. After finishing 16th in the league this past season and missing the playoffs, the Flames had the opportunity to move up as high as sixth overall, but instead finished exactly where they started at 16th.
This is still a very good position to be in, allowing them the opportunity to take a great young prospect in this year’s draft, who could quickly rise to be one of the organizations’ top prospects. This year’s draft is especially deep, and while they won’t get expected first overall pick Connor Bedard, there are a number of big names they could snag this year.
Over the years, there have been a number of huge hits and huge misses at this pick. Let’s take a peek.
History of the 16th overall pick
Of all the picks that the Flames could have, 16 is a great spot to be. Since the 1963 draft when the first player was selected at 16, only seven players have been selected at this pick and not played a single NHL game. The two names that stand out on this list are the Calgary Flames’ 1986 pick George Pelawa and current Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was selected 16th in 1988 by the New York Islanders.
The most prolific player drafted with this pick is Dave Andreychuk, who was drafted with the 16th overall selection in 1982. Over a long career, he put up 1338 points in 1639 games and earned a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Other notable names taken 16th overall are Markus Naslund, former captain of the Vancouver Canucks, Vladimir Tarasenko, Tom Wilson, and Mathew Barzal.
Most recently, the Buffalo Sabres selected centre Noah Ostlund with the 16th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft. This past season, the Swede put up 26 points in 27 games the HockeyAllsvenskan, finishing as the top U19 scorer in the league.
The season prior, the New York Rangers selected OHL star Brennan Othmann 16th overall. This season, he put up 67 points in 56 games, and was one of the best players this season in the league.
There are a long list of familiar NHL names even in the most recent years for players selected in the middle of the first round.
The Calgary Flames’ history at 16th overall
The Flames have selected twice at 16th overall, and both times it hasn’t been pretty. The first was the aforementioned Pelawa, who was taken out of Bemidji High in 1986. He was drafted after putting up 29 goals and 25 assists in his final season in the USHS-MN, and would have been the largest player in NHL history at 245 pounds. Tragically, he passed away in a car accident just a few months after being drafted.
The other pick at #16 was Juuso Valimaki in 2017. The Finnish blueliner was a very exciting pick in his draft year, selected as one of the most intriguing offensive defencemen in his draft class. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t put it all together in Calgary, and was picked up on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes, where he has become an impact blueliner in the desert.
Hopefully the Flames can find an impact NHLer this time around.
Who could Calgary take?
Our annual Consolidated Draft Rankings have the Flames selecting Brayden Yager of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, and what a pick he would be. The right-shot centre put up 78 points in 67 games, and was one of the most effective players for the Warriors. He also added 16 playoff points in 10 games, finishing second on his team in points.
Ahead of him at 15th in our Consolidated Rankings is Nate Danielson of the Brandon Wheat Kings. The right shot centre also had 78 points this season, including 33 goals, the most on his team. The Wheat Kings did not make the playoffs this season despite Danielson efforts.
Behind him at 17th is Riley Heidt, who spent this season with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. The left shot forward had a prolific season, putting up 97 points in 68 games, including 72 assists. This was good for fifth in the WHL in points, and third among draft eligible prospects in the league this season.
Whoever the Flames do select this year, they have a huge opportunity to change the flavour in their prospect pool. The Flames have one of the weaker prospect pools in the league, with a handful of really good prospects, but a number that are still coin-flips. How they draft this season could set the tone of the franchise for the next half-decade.