Have Calgary Flames Figured Out First Round of NHL Draft?


The Calgary Flames have headed to the podium very early in the past two NHL Drafts, and look to have hit back to back home runs by selecting Sean Monahan with the 6th selection in 2013 and then taking Sam Bennett 4th overall at last year’s event.

Taking an in depth look at their recent picks in the first round paint a much bleaker picture than landing Monahan and Bennett would suggest. Sure, the Flames got a pair of great pairs with picks inside the top ten, but can we reasonably expect them to hit one out of the park with the 15th pick?

The Flames took Monahan with the 6th selection in 2013 but also selected Emile Poirier with the 22nd pick and Morgan Klimchuk 28th overall. It’s a little early to judge Poirier and Klimchuk but both look like promising prospects at this point in their careers. Klimchuk scored 80 points in 60 games in the WHL this season and Poirier scored 42 points in 55 games in his first full season with the Adirondack Flames of the AHL.

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In 2012, the Flames held the 14th overall pick, but knew they were going off the board so far that they dealt it for the 21st and 42nd overall picks. With the 21st pick in the opening round, they took Mark Jankowski who was playing HIgh School hockey in Quebec during his draft year and was ranked outside the first round altogether.

Since being surprisingly selected in the first round, Jankowski has steadily developed at Providence College over the past three seasons, though the jury is still out on whether or not he will live up to first round hype. He scored 18 points in 34 games as a Freshman and upped that to 25 points in 39 games in his Sophomore season. This year, Jankowski scored 27 points in 37 games for Providence and along with fellow Flames picks Jon Gillies and John Gilmour, won the NCAA National championship.

Apr 9, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Providence College Friars forward Mark Jankowski (10) celebrates his goal on Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks goaltender Ryan Masa (31) during the second period of a semifinal game in the men

The Flames were opening themselves up to criticism when they went off the board in the first round. Seeing that the Pittsburgh Penguins took defenceman Olli Maatta with the very next pick and steady defender Michael Matheson and goaltender Malcolm Subban were the next two prospects off the board.

It’s not an exact science, and Jankowski could become an NHL player yet, but considering I wouldn’t trade any of the next three choices for Jankowski right now and that Teuvo Teravainen, Zemgus Girgensons, Tom Wilson, Cody Ceci, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Tomas Hertl were on the board when the Flames decided to trade down from 14, I’d have to say the 2012 first round was an unmitigated disaster.

The Flames chose 13th in the 2011 draft and took Sven Baertschi who was lighting up the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks. Baertschi was coming off a rookie season in which he scored 34 goals and 85 points in 67 games and sniped ten goals and 27 points in 21 playoff games.

The pick was certainly justifiable at the time, considering Baertschi’s elite point production at such a young age in a tough WHL. Jamie Olesksiak, J.T. Miller, Nathan Beaulieu and Mark McNeill were the next few players off the board and none have really proven to be surefire NHL talent yet, so it’s not like there was a superstar who went with the next pick.

Dec 7, 2013; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Sven Baertschi (47) skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

However, though Baertschi made sense at the time and no one who was taken right behind him have become All-Stars yet, the Flames just dealt Baertschi to rival Vancouver Canucks for a 2nd round pick in this draft. When you trade a first round pick for a second round pick four years later, you missed on the first round pick.

The Flames dealt their 2010 first round pick to the Arizona Coyotes in a package for Olli Jokinen but we aren’t here to judge their trades today, just the players they took in the first round. In 2009 they held the 23rd overall pick and selected Tim Erixon out of Sweden.

Erixon refused to sign with the Flames and instead of losing him for nothing more than a compensation pick in 2011, Calgary dealt him to the New York Rangers for a decent return considering the circumstances. The Rangers sent Roman Horak and a pair of 2nd round picks in the 2011 draft that the Flames used to grab Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon.

Though the trade turned out okay considering Erixon wouldn’t sign here, the Swedish defenceman is yet to turn into an NHL player and has bound around the league a lot for such a young player. He was dealt from the Rangers to the Columbus Blue Jackets who then flipped him to the Chicago Blackhawks who subsequently placed him on waivers where he was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Flames 2008 first round pick went to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for sniper Mike Cammalleri, but they also dealt Alex Tanguay on the draft floor to the Montreal Canadiens for the 25th overall pick and a 2nd rounder in 2009.

Calgary used the 25th pick to take Greg Nemisz from the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Nemisz had a great Junior career but his NHL career looks like it’s over after just 15 games and one assist. The Flames dealt him to the Carolina Hurricanes for enforcer Kevin Westgarth in 2013.

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Emile Poirier poses for a photo after being introduced as the number twenty-two overall pick to the Calgary Flames during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the next two players off the board following Nemisz were the Buffalo Sabres taking Tyler Ennis and defenceman John Carlson going to the Washington Capitals. Needless to say, the Flames could use Ennis in their top six or Carlson on their blue line, but have no need for Nemisz who was dealt for a face puncher.

In 2007 the Flames grabbed Mikael Backlund in the first round with the 24th overall pick, and this selection can be called a hit for sure. Backlund has proven to be a solid NHL player and recently signed a three year deal at $3.575 per year. He will be a second or third line center for the foreseeable future on the Flames and was a great pick late in the first round.

The same can’t be said for the Flames first round pick in 2006. Picking 26th overall, the Flames targeted goaltender Leland Irving who was supposed to be the goaltender of the future once Miikka Kiprusoff retired. Irving had a tremendous Junior career with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, but it never translated to the NHL.

Irving only played 13 NHL games in his career and is now the goaltender for Ufa Salavet in the KHL. The next few picks weren’t great NHL player either as Ivan Vishnevsky, Chris Summers and Matt Corrente were some of the next few players selected. Nick Foligno was also taken shortly after Irving, just two picks later at 28th overall.

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Morgan Klimchuk puts on a team jersey after being introduced as the number twenty-eight overall pick to the Calgary Flames during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

In 2005, once again the Flames failed to land a regular NHL player at all. With the 26th pick again, they took right winger Matt Pelech who was coming off a season where he scored one goal and six points in 31 games with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. At 6’4″ and 230 pounds it’s clear the Flames targeted his size in the first round, and that was a huge mistake as Pelech would play just 13 career NHL games.

So there you have it, in the last ten drafts the Flames have made eleven selections. Recently, it looks like the Flames had four hits in the past two drafts with Bennett, Monahan, Poirier and Klimchuk. However, in the eight years before that the Flames first round choices were abysmal. I suppose the jury is still out on Jankowski and Baertschi and even Erixon, but none look like they will become strong NHL players.

Backlund was a great pick in 2007, but between 2005-08 the other first rounders were Nemisz, Irving and Pelech. That gives the Flames three good picks in Monahan, Bennett and Backlund, two possible good picks in Klimchuk and Poirier and some awful looking first round selections in Nemisz, Irving, Pelech, Baertschi, Jankowski and Erixon.

Have the Flames figured things out in the last two years, after only landing Backlund in an eight year stretch from 2005-2012? Let’s hope so, because there are no sure things when you are picking outside the top ten, and the Flames haven’t been able to find a good player outside the top ten aside from Backlund in the last ten years.

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