While the Flames were not looking to overhaul their entire roster this off-season, a big part of the team renovations began at the 2008 NHL Draft. The Flames needs going into the draft were for a top-six forward, and some offensive depth on defense.
Before the draft began, the Flames were involved in a three-way deal with the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. In exchange for the Flames 17th overall pick (to Anaheim) the Flames were able to acquire center Mike Cammalleri from the Kings. Last season, Cammalleri scored 19 goals and 28 assists in 63 games with the Kings. Cammalleri’s best season came in 2006-07 when he scored 34 goals and had 46 assists in 81 games. The Flames will hope he can provide some greatly needed offensive support for Jarome Iginla next season.
The Flames weren’t done there. In a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, the Flames received the 25th overall pick in the draft for forward Alex Tanguay and a fifth-round selection in 2009. Given that this was a fairly deep draft class, and that the Flames wanted to free up some cap space, trading Tanguay at the draft seemed like the right thing.
“We wanted a first-rounder, so we had to use that to try and get a goal scorer," GM Darryl Sutter said of the Flames draft day transactions. "I didn’t think we’d be able to do it this soon, (but) it fell into place for us. I think both deals worked out well for us.”
Here’s a look at the prospects the Flames added to the franchise with their selections.
Greg Nemisz, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Drafted: 1st Round, 25th overall
Height 6’4 Weight: 202 lbs
When the Flames stepped up to the podium with the 25th overall selection, they were looking to add a top-six forward with size, and Windsor Spitfires center Greg Nemisz fit that design. At 6’4 202 lbs, the very reserved Nemisz is now one of the Flames biggest forward prospects. And whether he likes it or not, his success will always be compared to that of Alex Tanguay.
Central Scouting had Nemisz rated as the No. 22 North American skater going into the draft. He was nearly a point per game player this season with the Spitfires, recording 34 goals and 33 assists in 68 games. This season’s offensive totals were definitely an improvement over Nemisz’s rookie season, in which he tallied 11 goals and 23 assists in 62 games. While he’s not known for scoring the highlight-reel goals, he’s put up solid offensive numbers by finding the scoring areas and utilizing his size to create space in traffic. Nemisz has a fairly well-rounded game, as he logged time on both the Spitfires power-play and penalty-killing units this season.
The native of Courtice, Ontario possesses very good hands and protects the puck well with his larger frame. He won’t blow you away with his speed, however, he is considered to be a very strong, balanced skater. He’ll be looking to bulk up while adding some quickness, and he should continue to develop into a well-rounded goal scorer in Windsor over the next few seasons. With players like Nemisz, Josh Bailey and 2009-eligibles Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis on board, the Spitfires should definitely contend for the OHL crown next season. The Flames Director of Scouting Tod Button has compared Nemisz’s game to that of Jonathon Cheechoo while he played in the OHL.
Nemisz helped Canada capture the gold medal at the 2008 World Under-18 Championships. He also participated in the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton. Nemisz was recently invited along with fellow Flames prospect Keith Aulie to participate in Team Canada’s Under-20 selection camp this summer.
Pros: Nemisz is a goal scorer with considerable size, filling a need in the organization. If he is able to bring his offensive game to the NHL, the Flames may have landed a first-line power forward who can help for many years.
Cons: The Flames will have to hope that Nemisz is able to add a considerable amount of speed without sacrificing too much mass. Based on his size and the type of goals Nemisz has scored in his OHL career, one has to wonder if his style of play will produce points at the next level, or will he have to become a fourth-line role player to get ice time in the NHL.
Mitch Wahl, C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Drafted: 2nd Round, 48th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 175 lbs
When the Flames went into the 2008 draft, they didn’t expect to have their second-round pick at their disposal. So with the 48th overall pick in the draft, the Flames selected center Wahl from this year’s Memorial Cup Champions, the Spokane Chiefs. Sometimes being a member of a Memorial Cup winning team elevates a prospects status when it comes to the draft, but that may not have been the case with Wahl. “There was nothing that Mitch Wahl could have done, good or bad at the Memorial Cup to change our opinion of him,” said Tod Button.
In 67 games with the Chiefs, Wahl managed to tally 20 goals and 53 assists. Wahl also added another 14 points in Spokane’s 21 WHL playoff contests.
The native of Seal Beach, California, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 WHL draft, put up 16 goals and 32 assists in 69 games with the Chiefs a season ago.
The casual surfer is well known for his playmaking skills and an uncanny ability to find the open man in space. Like almost all prospects, Wahl will have to get stronger and pick up some quickness to make it to the NHL. Wahl was rated as the 64th best North American skater by Central Scouting going into the draft.
Wahl will be participating at the United States World Under-20 camp running from August 1-9 in Lake Placid. Look for him to return to Ottawa this Christmas as a member of Team USA.
Pros: When you watch Wahl play, there is no questioning is natural playmaking and passing ability. Adding a breed of player like Wahl could not only provide another top-six forward, but someone who could control the Flames power play.
Cons: Does a laid back part-time surfer have the drive to push his game to next level now that he has won a Memorial Cup and has been drafted?
Lance Bouma, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Drafted: 3rd Round, 78th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 194 lbs
With their third selection in the 2008 draft, the Flames stayed in the WHL to add some more grit to their organization with the selection of Lance Bouma of the Vancouver Giants.
The native of Provost, Alberta, recorded 12 goals and 23 assists with the Giants this season. Bouma also compiled 93 PIMs in his 71 games.
In his rookie season, the 6’0 194 lb center put up 3 goals and 5 assists to go along with 31 PIMs in 49 games. He also had six points in 22 playoff games. Bouma rounded out his freshman campaign by hoisting the 2007 Memorial Cup.
When Button was asked to describe Bouma’s game, he said, “He’s a very versatile player who should score more at the WHL level.” He also added that, “Bouma is a very powerful, quick skater whose offensive game is still developing.”
On the considerable jump in the power forward’s penalty minutes over the last two seasons in Vancouver, Button said “He can be nasty.”
Pros: The Flames come from the school of thought that you can never have enough toughness up front. With Bouma you have the potential to add a potential agitator and someone with a solid two-way game.
Cons: Using your third-round pick on a possible third-line energy player may not have been the most efficient selection, especially when your organization is loaded with players of that makeup.
Nicholas Larson, LW – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Drafted: 4th Round, 108th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 182 lbs
With the 108th selection in the draft, the Flames picked 6’2 182 lb Nicholas Larson of the Waterloo Black Hawks. This season in the USHL, Larson was able to put up 19 goals and 19 assists with 66 PIMs. Larson also added 5 points and 31 PIMs in nine playoff contests with Waterloo.
When Button was asked about Larson’s offensive production in the USHL, he replied, “It might be one of the toughest leagues to score in, so Larson’s 19 goals are very compelling.”
“He might be a bigger version of Lance Bouma with a bit better hands,” said Button.
The product of St.Paul, Minnesota, has also signed a letter of intent to attend Notre Dame after next season.
Pros: With Larson, the Flames add another potential power forward who could become a better goal scorer than many people might expect. Because Larson is going the NCAA route, the Flames will have two extra years in which to gauge his development.
Cons: Not from a lack of trying, but the Flames have yet to develop a consistent everyday NHLer out of the NCAA in recent years. Eric Nystrom and Curtis McElhinney are probably considered on the verge of achieving that, but they were drafted in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Is Larson a player who will be afforded the same kind of patience?
T.J. Brodie, D – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Drafted: 5th Round, 114th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 170 lbs
In an attempt to try and add some depth to their defensive ranks, the Flames selected Saginaw Spirit offensive defenseman T.J. Brodie.
The native of Dresden, Ontario, was able to record 4 goals and 26 assists with 73 PIMs in 68 contests with the Spirit.
In his rookie season in the OHL, Brodie only played a total of 20 games for Saginaw and chipped in with four assists. He did however end the year +7.
The Flames currently possess a bevy of big, stay-at-home defenseman in their organization, Brodie however is of average size and of the offensive persuasion.
“He’s not what you would call a big defenseman, but he’s a very heads-up player,” said Button. “He skates very well and moves the puck out of the defensive zone efficiently.”
Pros: One of the needs of this draft for the Flames was to try and build some depth on the blue line, with some offensive defensemen preferably. Brodie put up fairly solid numbers this year on defense, and his puck-moving skills would be greatly appreciated in Calgary.
Cons: Will his offensive production continue? Or will it drop off when Brodie is invariably given some “harder” minutes to play in Saginaw over the coming seasons?
Ryley Grantham, LW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Drafted: 6th Round, 168th overall
Height: 6’4 Weight: 207 lbs
With their sixth-round selection, the Flames picked up 19-year-old Ryley Grantham of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The 6’4 207 lb left winger out of Hanna, Alberta, put up 10 goals and 9 assists in 66 games with the Warriors. However, Grantham was likely acquired for the intangibles he can add to the Flames lineup. Grantham compiled 163 PIMs this past season and was not shy about sticking up for his teammates on a nightly basis.
While he will be looked to fill a physical role, it should also be said that his game is not without some offensive ability.
When Button was asked if Grantham was a bruiser? His answer, was a resounding, “We hope so!”
When you are looking to add some edge to your franchise, why not add a warrior?
Pros: In Grantham you don’t get a true enforcer, but you might get someone who stands his ground and could have the ability to play the game on a semi-regular basis. A player of that ilk could be of great value to the Flames organization, especially in the “Battle of Alberta.”
Cons: Because Grantham was born in 1988 you have to wonder if he is closer to his peak than other players in the draft. You couldn’t say he won’t continue to develop, but there is a good chance he may not develop beyond the ECHL or AHL levels.
Alexander Deilert, D – Djurgarden (Sweden Jrs.)
Drafted: 7th Round, 198th overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 170 lbs
To round out their 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames selected defenseman Alexander Deilert of Djurgarden (Swedish Jrs.) 198th overall.
In 38 games for Djurgarden, Deilert had 6 goals and 12 assists to go along with 70 PIMs.
The 5’10 170 lb product of Stockholm was selected to add some more depth to the Flames defense. Like fellow 2008 draft acquisition Brodie, Deilert is known for his puck moving skills and his strong skating ability.
One of the needs for the Flames going into the draft was to try and build up some offense from the back end. Deilert may be able to help in that department.
Pros: You may not have ever heard about Deilert, but he is someone the Flames European scouts have had an eye on for years. They knew there was a need for offensive minded defenseman and they went outside the box to go and get one. You don’t normally expect a seventh round selection to pan out, especially one who is a little bit undersized, but if he thinks the game as well as they say, he might have a future in the “new NHL.”
Cons: When in doubt, do like the Red Wings and use your final pick to draft an obscure Swedish player. You may just get lucky.