Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Feelings about Calgary’s performance at the 2023 NHL Draft

The 2023 NHL Draft wrapped up on Thursday evening. It was a largely uneventful draft compared to recent years, with exactly zero trades made on Day 1, and very few on Day 2. The Calgary Flames made six selections:

  • Round 1 – Pick 16- Samuel Honzek (C/LW) – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
  • Round 2 – Pick 48 – Etienne Morin (D) – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
  • Round 3 – Pick 80 – Aydar Suniev (LW) – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
  • Round 4 – Pick 112 – Jaden Lipinski (LW) – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
  • Round 6 – Pick 176 – Yegor Yegorov (G) – MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)
  • Round 7 – Pick 208 – Alex Hurtig (D) – Rogle BK J20 (J20 Nationell)

Flames director of scouting Tod Button spoke about each draft pick on the radio immediately after the draft and was very excited about the players the Flames were able to select. This week, we asked Flames fans what they thought about the draft, despite the Twitter debacle that happened yesterday.

The Win Column - Sunday Census Featured Image - Graphical design showing a Calgary Flames branded laptop with poll results.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @wincolumnCGY. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

How do you feel about the Flames 2023 draft?

We presented the following poll:

The draft was quite underwhelming from a Flames perspective. They are expected to be one of the busiest teams this offseason with decisions to be made on a long list of now pending unrestricted free agents. However, the Flames made no trades, moved no draft picks, and simply made a selection every time they were on the clock.

That being said, the vast majority of respondents were impressed by the Flames draft. After two straight years of making underwhelming selections in the second round, the Flames looked to have a very clear strategy heading into this year’s draft. They were prioritizing size for sure, but definitely not at the expense of skill in the early rounds.

This is a fairly different mentality than what Brad Treliving employed when he was the general manager. It almost felt like Treliving was trying to beat the system with every single draft pick—as evidenced by his selection of a very off-the-board player in Easton Cowan for Toronto this year. With Craig Conroy, there seemed to be a calculated but simple approach to his first draft as a GM, which was a welcomed change for the Flames.

While Honzek wouldn’t have been my personal choice at 16th overall, it was a fine pick. He is a high upside player whose potential is likely underrepresented on the stat sheet from last season. The Flames compared him to Mikko Rantanen and if so, that would be an incredible get for the franchise.

Morin is a big guy, but is clearly a skilled player as he put up 72 points in 67 games as a second-year QMJHLer. Lipinski is more of the same, a big body but clearly with skill that has a lot of room for growth. The Flames made good bets with their picks, stuck to their plan, didn’t try and do anything crazy, and overall had a very solid draft.

No slight to any of these players, but the Flames didn’t really go off the board with picks like they did with Topi Ronni (ranked 105 on FC Hockey but selected 59th in 2022), William Stromgren (taken ahead of Logan Stankoven in 2021), or Jake Boltmann (not ranked on major boards but selected in the third round in 2020).

Perhaps, as Flames fans, we have become used to frustrating picks in the first half of the draft that when Conroy made sensible selections it felt better than it probably should have. Regardless, I agree with the response from most fans in that I was impressed with the Flames on draft day.

Building his profile

Conroy still has a lot of work to do this summer, and he needs to make sure he makes his mark as a GM early. His work with the Tyler Tofolli trade, and with the draft, have been exactly average in my opinion. However, this has been just fine and if he continues to be exactly average in everything he does it’ll be an upgrade in my eyes.

The decisions on Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and Mikael Backlund are absolutely critical for the future and direction of the Flames franchise. The draft may have been good enough for Conroy, but the real work is still ahead. Here’s hoping we all feel the same way about those moves as we do about the draft.

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