It’s 2023 NHL Draft day! Like the long wait between the first of December and Christmas morning, it’s been a steady countdown to this moment. This could go down as either one of the most interesting or most underwhelming Calgary Flames draft in franchise history.
We’ve put together a roundtable asking The Win Column team who they think the Calgary Flames should select, who they should stay away from, and who their dark horse pick is. In the 2020 NHL Draft roundtable, Karim Kurji correctly anticipated that the Flames would take Connor Zary in the draft, but this year, it’s anyone’s game. Check out what our writers had to say this time around.
This season’s edition includes picks from James Johnson, Joshua Serafine, Khalid Keshavjee, John MacKinnon, and Drew Ostmoen.
1. Who do you think the Flames select in the draft this year?
James: I feel like the Flames draft a defenceman in the first round for the first time since Jusso Valimaki in 2017. I’m predicting that defenceman is going to be Axel Sandin Pellikka. Can never have too many Swedes.
Joshua: It’s clear the Flames need a defenceman in the first round this year given their lack of organizational depth at the position. My guess would be Axel Sandin Pellikka or Tom Willander are selected at 16th. That said I’m always on the side of drafting the best player available so if one of the high-end forwards is around by the time the Flames pick, it’s definitely worth considering.
Khalid: If he’s still available, I think Colby Barlow would be an incredible add for the Flames. A goal scoring winger who can play both sides, the Flames are desperately in need of high end talent that can score. Barlow brings this in spades, and also has a very Calgary last name—imagine him going end-to-end on a breakaway down the new Barlow trail. As much as the Flames do need more defencemen, if Barlow is available, I would lean towards taking him.
John: This will sound like a broken record, but the Flames just have absolutely no high-end defensive prospects in their system. If Willander can fall to them at #16 that would be my preference, but Axel Sandin Pellikka would be great too. I wonder about Dmitri Simashev as well because size.
Drew: Quentin Musty is a skilled power-forward who easily has the potential to be a star. It’s hard to pin down if his shooting or playmaking abilities are his best trait as their both at an extremely high level. Combine that with his nifty hands and great puck-protection skills and it’s hard not to fall in love with his game.
2. Who do you think the Flames should stay away from?
James: Eduard Sale scares me a whole bunch, as he has massive boom or bust potential. I don’t think his game is going to translate to the NHL. Since the Flames prospect pool is lacking, they should shoot for a safer pick.
Joshua: In such a deep draft there aren’t many names to pick here so I’ll go with the same answer and say Eduard Sale. It’s always concerning to see a player that once ranked near the top five now falling to the middle of the first round. Given the current state of the Flames prospect pool I think it’s much too risky to gamble on Sale who has a whole lot of bust potential.
Khalid: I’ve seen a lot of love for Brayden Yager out of the Moose Jaw Warriors, but I really hope that the Flames steer clear of him. Most players take a big step forward in their draft year and you just didn’t see that in him. While his point totals went up this season, his goals actually went down this year. He finished 46th in the league in goals this season, tied with Flames sixth rounder Lucas Ciona. That’s not great for a guy known for scoring goals. At 16th overall, the Flames can do much better.
John: Daniil But has one of my favourite names in the 2023 class, but I feel like the Matthew Tkachuk effect are going to make people think that this 6’5″ LW is going to be the next best power forward. The Flames don’t have a tendency to draft Russians, especially early in the draft, but I just would prefer they use their selection somewhere else.
Drew: Nate Danielson possesses the qualities of being a two-way forward at the NHL level. Besides his defensive play and speed, Danielson doesn’t do anything that’s too above average. His floor is high, projecting him to be a third-line centre, but his ceiling is limited likely being nothing more than a 50-point, defensive 2C.
3. Who is one player that the Flames should take in the later rounds of the draft?
James: Got to be some love for Aiden Fink here. The Calgary product is small, but he lit it up with the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL this year. But I’ll shout out Dylan MacKinnon, a right shot defenceman who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He’s kind of got that old school defending style and he’s very physical. Given the lack of defence prospects, why not take a shot on a guy that might be a physical third pairing defender one day. The Flames have gone to the Mooseheads for defence recently when drafting Cameron Whynot in 2021.
Joshua: I’ll say Paul Fischer out of the USNTDP. He’s a sturdy stay at home defenceman with strong skating ability. He’s not going to blow anyone away with his offensive skills but what he does bring is a trustworthy and solid game. He may not offer huge upside but I think as a later pick he brings value as a guy who can have a role in the NHL one day as a shutdown defenceman.
Khalid: The Flames do need defencemen, and if he’s still available, I’d take a look at Matthew Mania out of the Sudbury Wolves. A very good offensive defenceman, he has great vision and slick hands to create chances, but will need to continue to work on his two-way game. Similar to Oliver Kylington and Jeremie Poirier, if the Flames can teach him to be decent in his own zone, Mania would be a guy I’d look at.
John: A name that intrigues me is Yegor Sidorov. A RW that played with the Saskatoon Blades last season, the “smaller” 6’0″ forward put up 40 goals in the WHL. Good for ninth in the league during the regular season, if the Flames are looking to build out their scoring depth in their prospect system he could be the guy in the third round (if they can acquire another pick).
Drew: Zeb Forsfjall has a fun name and a solid style of play. He’s already developed a mature game and is trusted by his coaches. He has good four-way mobility paired with fast speed. He works hard and is solid at both ends of the ice. It’s more likely he becomes a bottom-six player, but there’s potential for him to be a middle-six contributor.
Drafting up the results
We’re just hours away from the draft, and assuming nothing changes between now and then, the Flames will hold the 16th overall selection in the draft. Whether they take one of these players or go off the board completely is anyone’s guess, but here’s hoping whoever they select develops into an impact NHLer for this team.