The Calgary Flames are traditionally a very poor team with even worse drafting. The Flames are a particularly weak offensive team, so it stands to reason that most of the first round forwards they’ve drafted have been busts; Niklas Sunblad, Chris Dingman, Rico Fata, Daniel Tkaczuk, and Jesper Mattsson. Since the only promising forwards Calgary has in the mix are Chuck Kobasew and Oleg Saprykin, they’re in dire need of finding others.
With a young and up-and-coming defense core that is further bolstered by the recent signing of Hobey Baker winner Jordan Leopold, the blue line is the strength of the team.
In goal Calgary has Roman Turek, and with prospects like Levente Szuper, Brent Krahn, and Dan Sabourin, Calgary isn’t stocked, but there are possibilities in goal for when Roman Turek leaves. So it’s at forward that Calgary is looking to improve, and will likely make their pick.
With that in mind, this article will focus on what forwards might be available when Calgary drafts at the 9th position in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. It will focus on the players that are available and how, based on their scouting reports, they fit into the Calgary scheme of things. The only exception is forward Rick Nash who certainly won’t be available when Calgary makes its selection.
1). Jiri Hudler: A 5’9’’ 176 lbs Czech forward in the mold of Boston forward Sergei Samsonov. The comparisons are drawn due to the lack of recognition both players received in their draft years as a result of their size, and on their tremendous skills. Hudler has averaged a point a game pretty much everywhere he has played. A player who’s not afraid to mix it up, Hudler is the ideal fit for Calgary. On a team with the likes of forwards Jarome Iginla, Craig Conroy, and Dean McAmmond, Hudler’s pure skill would translate well and certainly stand out.
2). Joffrey Lupul: A 6’1’’ 194 lbs, the Edmonton native is a forward for Medicine Hat in the WHL. Lupul may not be available when Calgary drafts, but if he, he may be worth a look. It’s been said that Lupul scores goals, and he does it very well. Already possessing great skill and some grit, it’s experience and improved skating that could help round him into a real player. Lupul can play right wing or center. Lupul’s offense is exactly what is needed by Calgary, so his defense could conceivably be sacrificed for his production. A good fit if he’s available when Calgary drafts.
3). Scottie Upshall: A 6’ 176 lbs forward with Kamloops in the WHL. Upshall is adequately skilled but to scouts it’s his desire, work ethic, and leadership qualities that could propel him into a top line with an NHL team and make him a better player. While Upshall would certainly improve Calgary, he’s more of the type that would tag along and help top players like Jarome Iginla, whereas the team needs players who can make things happen and initiate offense.
4). Petr Taticek: A skilled Czech forward who stands 6’2’’ and weighs 188 lbs. Possessing both great size and skill, scouts question his competitiveness and willingness to play in traffic. It’s felt that if he puts it all together, he could be a great center. GM Craig Button has an eye for talent, so if it’s felt that Taticek’s shortcoming can be overcome, than he may be a top center for a team like Calgary who would be patient enough to wait for his development.
5). Pierre-Marc Bouchard: At 5’9’’ and 155 lbs, Bouchard is a typical, smaller Quebec League forward. Likened to Daniel Briere, his tremendous skill and diminutive size is what concerns and intrigues teams. However, he’s scored at every level he’s played at, so it’s seen that Bouchard could be a hit-or-miss type of prospect. Again, because of Button’s eye for talent, Bouchard’s great skill would fit in well with Calgary much like Jiri Hudler, but only if Button determines he can eventually overcome his lack of size much like Briere.
While any of these 5 forwards would benefit the Flames, it’s in the opinion of this author that if available, Calgary should select Jiri Hudler. Having already passed over Sergei Samsonov in 1997, Calgary can’t afford to make the same mistake twice. Last year Calgary missed the pure skill of a Val Bure type, and Hulder could be what Calgary is looking for to take the pressure off of Jarome Iginla. However, it’ll take more than one man to right the ship in Calgary.