Calgary Flames Can Build Contender At 2015 NHL Draft


The Calgary Flames head into the NHL Draft next weekend with the chance to add an exciting young prospect to the team with the 15th overall selection in the first round of the draft. Though they may get a great player on the first night of the draft, it’s what the Flames do on day two that could turn this franchise into a contender in the next few years.

After dealing Sven Baertschi and Curtis Glencross at the trade deadline last year, the Flames added a pair of second round picks and another third round selection to go with their own. If the Flames strike gold on a pair of their second round selections, it will boost the fortunes of this franchise, much like it did with recent Stanley Cup winners.

The Chicago Blackhawks have won three of the past six Stanley Cup titles, and though early first round picks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were the leaders, they couldn’t have won without contributions from players taken later in the draft.

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Brandon Saad was instrumental in the Blackhawks winning the Cup this season, flipping between first and second line ice time and scoring eight goals en route to earning his second Stanley Cup ring. Saad was taken 43rd overall in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft, and provided the depth that the team needed up front after being forced to deal Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Troy Brouwer since winning their first title.

Jun 15, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Bickell was taken in the second round of the 2004 draft, and though he struggled at time in this year’s postseason, his name is etched on the Stanley Cup three times for a reason. Bickell was huge in the Hawks winning their second title in this run, scoring nine goals and eight assists for 17 points in 23 playoff games in the 2013 run.

Corey Crawford, the goaltender of record in the past two Blackhawks championships, was also taken in the second round of the draft, 52nd overall in 2003. He has his critics, and is not a Vezina caliber goaltender, but he can pull a Patrick Roy and silence his critics by plugging his ears with Stanley Cup rings.

Arguably the most instrumental player in the Blackhawks becoming perennial Stanley Cup favourites is defenseman Duncan Keith. He nearly set a record for most ice time by a skater in one postseason this year, and was the first defenseman since Chris Pronger in 2006 to score 20 points in a playoff run. He is one of the best defenders in the league, and without him the Hawks may have not won any championships in the past six years. Keith was taken second round, 54th overall by the Hawks in 2002.

The Hawks weren’t the only team to surround top picks with second rounders to build a championship team. The Los Angeles Kings have won two of the past four Stanley Cups, and wouldn’t have come close without star players they found with second round selections.

Jan 30, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Toffoli burst onto the NHL scene playing on the Kings second line in the 2014 playoffs, scoring seven goals and seven assists on his way to a Stanley Cup championship. The Kings drafted the crafty winger in the second round of the 2010 draft, 47th overall.

Slava Voynov has won a pair of Cup rings with the Kings, and legal troubles aside, blossomed into a great number three defenseman on a championship caliber team. He was taken early in the second round, 32nd overall by the Kings in 2008.

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, and basically built the core of a Cup champion with second round draft picks. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were the undisputed top two centres on the team and played tremendous two way hockey throughout the postseason, leading the team to its first Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr was on the team.

Bergeron was taken 45th overall in the famously deep 2003 draft, and Krejci was a second rounder, 63rd overall the following year. Krejci led the team in postseason scoring, and his linemate Milan Lucic had led the team in regular season scoring. Lucic, of course was a second round selection by the Bruins, 50th overall in 2006.

May 1, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Blackhawks, Kings and Bruins have been the three most successful teams in the NHL over the past three years, and wouldn’t have been able to do it without finding not just NHL players, but tops six forwards and top four defenders in the second round of the NHL draft. The Hawks have built their dynasty on grabbing exceptional talent for many years in the second round. Keith was taken in 2002 and nine years later they got Saad, while scooping up Bickell, Crawford and Dave Bolland in the second round along the way.

Sure, these teams wouldn’t have been great without Toews and Kane, or Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar who were taken early in the first round. However, two players can’t win it on their own and need a very strong supporting cast to win a Stanley Cup.

The Flames may already have their Kane and Toews in the form of Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett who were taken in with the 6th and 4th overall picks in the past two drafts. They’ve also uncovered gems late in the draft by grabbing Johnny Gaudreau and T.J. Brodie in the fourth round, but need to fill out the rest of the lineup with strong role players before they can become a contender in the strong Western Conference.

With three second round picks and two more picks in the third round, the Flames have a chance to make this a very deep team in the next few years if they can land a top six forward and a top four defenceman outside the first round of this year’s draft.

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