Calgary Flames 2014 NHL Draft preview

By Brian Jung

Morgan Klimchuk - Team WHL

Photo: Calgary’s 28th overall pick in 2013, Morgan Klimchuk, was the third of three first-round picks by the Flames last summer (courtesy of Derek Leung/Getty Images)

With another constructive season in the books, the Calgary Flames closed out the 2013-14 season on several positive notes, which includes selecting the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

General Manager Brad Treliving has been trusted to continue the rebuild process in order to take the Flames to the next level. After seven years with the Phoenix Coyotes organization as the GM for their AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage and as assistant GM to Don Maloney, Treliving will have an opportunity at the draft to infuse new energy into the organization.

Treliving will potentially have seven selections to make, including the fourth overall pick, which is the highest in Flames’ history. Calgary could utilize the pick in many ways considering all of the top five projected prospects are deemed elite players. Each of them carry qualities the Flames, or any team for that matter, would want, which could lead to another option that Treliving might explore–moving the pick.

The new talent to be selected will complement the group of prospects that had a positive 2013-14 season. The promising play of last year’s sixth overall pick, Sean Monahan, saw him finish fifth in scoring for the Flames with 34 points and tied for eighth among his rookie class. The 19-year-old will play a central role with the organization in the upcoming seasons. In the AHL, Joni Ortio and Markus Granlund made considerable impressions earning them team’s MVP and Top Rookie Award, respectively.

The Flames can also claim they have a Hobey Baker winner in the ranks with Johnny Gaudreau winning the award for 2014. Finally, as the last prospects to wrap up play for the year, Olivier Roy, John Ramage, and Turner Elson all contributed to winning the Kelly Cup with the Alaska Aces (ECHL).

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Johnny Gaudreau, LW
2. Sven Baertschi, LW
3. Max Reinhart, C
4. Corban Knight, C
5. Mark Jankowski, C
6. Tyler Wotherspoon, D
7. Patrick Sieloff, D
8. Emile Poirier, RW
9. Jon Gillies, G
10. Joni Ortio, G

Team Needs

The Calgary Flames need an elite player to enhance the prospects already in the system. Calgary has a strong group of hard working prospects and would welcome players that can be game changers. Whether the player comes in the form of a forward or defenseman, the Flames could benefit from any of the projected top prospects in the 2014-15 draft.  

There is still room for the Flames to increase the amount of right wing prospects considering there are currently only three to develop in the system.

Finally, as any relatively young team requires, time is something the team needs as it will play an important role with developing team chemistry and forming a cohesive unit.

Organizational Strengths

The lack of depth at each position was once considered an organizational weak spot for Calgary. However, the Flames have recently done an excellent job increasing depth by stockpiling talented prospects, particularly at the center and left wing position.

With the graduation of Sean Monahan and the solid play of Markus Granlund, Max Reinhart, Corban Knight and Bill Arnold, the Flames are developing a strong lineup down the middle.  

Calgary is also deep with left wingers. Leading the way would be Sven Baertschi and collegiate scoring machine, Johnny Gaudreau. Following the two talented scorers would be Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and Morgan Klimchuk, each with their own distinctive style of play that can produce significant offensive numbers on the wing.

The defensive corps is shaping into a solid group of blue liners with Tyler Wotherspoon, Patrick Sieloff and Ryan Culkin in the mix. The Flames also have the big physical presence of Keegan Kanzig, and Eric Roy in the system as they enter their second season of development.

Goaltending is another strong area for the Flames with Joni Ortio stepping up his game and illustrating his readiness to test the NHL level. Right behind Ortio would be Olivier Roy and Jon Gillies, who have also demonstrated the ability to provide solid support in goal.

Organizational Weaknesses

The right wing position is still considered a weak spot for Calgary with just three prospects filling in the depth chart. However with Emile Poirier and Tim Harrison moving up the ranks, there is at least some talent that can progress in the position. It would be beneficial to add a few more right wing prospects in order to increase the strength at the position. 

Another area of weakness for the Flames would be the lack of experience. Considering how the youth on the team outnumbers the veterans with playoff experience, the Flames will need to gain in this area as well, which will come over time. 

Draft Tendencies

As GM Brad Treliving and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke sit at the Flames’ draft table this year, they will most likely be focused on selecting big physical players with good hockey IQ and a strong work ethic. The Flames will be tailored to play a heavy game under the management of Treliving, as he begins to mold the organization in the next stages of the rebuild.

Over the past five years, the tendency in Calgary has been to draft North American players. During this period, the Flames have selected 18 Canadians, nine Americans, and only five Europeans. The trend to favor North American players will most likely continue with the current management team in place. Both Burke and Treliving have a history of drafting North American players with their previous teams and are bound to carry over this trend with the Flames.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results

4. Leon Draisaitl, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

With the fourth pick, Leon Draisaitl would become the highest draft pick in Flames history. The Prince Albert Raider possesses the size and skillset that management prefers in a player. Draisaitl is a big smooth center that has soft hands and a high IQ, which makes the task of covering him a difficult one. In his second season with the Raiders, the German import almost doubled his point total from his rookie season, recording 105 points in 64 games compared to 58 points in the same amount of games in the previous year.

Breaking out in his second season with Prince Albert, Draisaitl led the Raiders in scoring and was tied with Sam Reinhart for fourth in the WHL in points. With a strong backhand and a bag full of deceptive passes and plays, Draisaitl has the potential to become a top playmaker in his career. The knock on Draisaitl would be his skating. However, at 6’1” and 200 pounds, his footwork is decent for his size and can be worked on and improved over time. 

As the sport of hockey continues to grow in Germany, Draisaitl is looking forward to become an ambassador for the nation. Draisaitl is enthusiastic to make the most of being drafted in the NHL to expand the game of hockey to the kids in Germany, which is predominantly a soccer nation. The Cologne native has the character and talent to inspire a new generation of hockey players, while making an impact playing for the Calgary Flames.  

Follow Brian Jung on Twitter: @brianjung80