For the first time in two years the Calgary Flames will be selecting outside of the top ten in the upcoming draft. General Manager Brad Treliving enters his second season at the head of the draft table for Calgary and will have a collection of nine draft picks, including the 15th pick overall and three second round picks.
The team’s first playoff appearance in five years reignited the fans with an unexpected run while providing positive signs that the organization is developing in the right direction. With their past two first round picks, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett already making an impact for the team, the Flames are reaping the benefits of their young talent in the lineup and will be well-positioned to add another quality class of prospects from the 2015 NHL Draft.
Top 10 Prospects
The recent stockpiling of talent over the past few seasons has left the Flames in a good position to take the best available player with the 15th pick overall. However the Flames could utilize the pick in a trade to upgrade their high-end talent or to add a veteran player to help develop the younger core in the lineup. A solid defenseman or a dependable scoring forward could also provide extra help for the team should injuries affect the lineup like they did last season.
As with any young team, the Calgary Flames also need time to help develop their prospects. However reaching the playoffs last season and making it past the first round are good indications that the team is ahead on its development curve and some players could require less time to reach their potentials.
The recent draft patterns of the Flames have strengthened their prospect talent across the board at each position. Up front, the Flames have the likes of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Sam Bennett developing into promising top six forwards, while Josh Jooris, Micheal Ferland and Markus Granlund are right behind providing support. The Flames also have a solid young core of defensive talent developing in the AHL led by Tyler Wotherspoon, Patrick Sieloff, Brett Kulak and Ryan Culkin. In goal, Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies are on path to become two of the stronger goaltending prospects in team history. Although appearing in only 15 NHL games so far, Ortio has impressed in goal for Calgary with an 8-6 record and a .899 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average. Meanwhile, Gillies is coming off a spectacular career for the Providence Friars which concluded by winning a NCAA Frozen Four Championship along with fellow Flames properties Mark Jankowski and John Gilmour. Gillies should be primed to take his game to the professional ranks in the upcoming season.
After addressing positional weak spots over the past few seasons, the Calgary Flames find themselves with no apparent weak spot in the lineup other than experience. As with any young team, the lack of playoff experience can expose mental and physical weaknesses, which could lead to setbacks in development. Surrounding a young core with veteran leaders with experience at both ends of winning and losing can only help the Flames as they continue to grow as a team.
If there are any potential weaknesses for the Flames it would be in goal and at right wing, solely due to the lack of depth at these positions and not for the lack of talent. In goal, Ortio is the only prospect with NHL experience, while Gillies will start his professional trek and Mason McDonald is at least a few years away from being NHL-ready. With no number one goaltender locked up for the near future, this could be an area of weakness that could be exposed for Calgary. At right wing, Emile Poirier is the only prospect who has played at that position in the NHL, although he has a left-hand shot. Thus another area of weakness for the Flames would be the lack of forwards with a right-hand shot, with just David Jones, Josh Jooris, and Drew Shore as the right-handed shooters in the lineup.
Over the past five drafts, the Calgary Flames have heavily relied upon North American talent, selecting North American skaters with 28 out of 32 picks, including 22 from Canada. The organization has also leaned on the CHL, from which they have selected 19 prospects, including 13 from the WHL. Last year, GM Treliving selected a balanced group of prospects with three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender. With nine picks in this year’s draft, expect Calgary to continue the trend of selecting North American skaters, while adding depth at each position.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results
15. Nick Merkley, RW/C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
With the 15th pick overall, the Calgary Flames select Nick Merkley from the Kelowna Rockets (WHL). Drafting Merkley would bring another hometown prospect to the organization while adding a gritty forward to the mix. At 5’10 and 192 pounds, Merkley plays a physical game that is similar to the style Calgary has created. In his second season with Kelowna, Merkley elevated his play and finished the season as the sixth-ranked scorer in the WHL by recording 90 points in 72 games, compared to 58 points in 66 games the season prior. Merkley helped the Rockets win the WHL Championship as he finished third in playoff scoring with 27 points in 19 games, and eventually went on to the Memorial Cup where the Rockets fell in a tight game to Oshawa in the finals. An added bonus for drafting Merkley is that he brings a right-hand shot and versatility to play both right wing and center.
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