Having just missed out on the 2012 post-season, the Calgary Flames were in almost the exact same draft spot headed into the 2012 NHL Draft (14th overall) as they were in 2011 (13th overall). The organization did not stand pat at that position however and traded back seven spots with the Buffalo Sabres, picking up a second round pick in the process.
The Flames had seven picks in total and selected three defenseman, two centers, one left-winger, and one goaltender. Four were Canadian-born players and three were American. That marked the first time since 2001 that the Flames drafted three American-born players. All three of the American players were drafted out of the USHL, the remaining selections came from the WHL (2), QMJHL (1) and CAHL (1).
Mark Jankowski, C – Stanstead College Spartans (CAHL)
1st round, 21st overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 168 lbs
After trading back in the first round, the Flames went slightly off-the-board when they nabbed arguably the drafts biggest wild-card in center Mark Jankowski, the youngest draft-eligible player available this year. Having played at obscure Stanstead College in Quebec, it was slightly difficult to evaluate him against such inferior competition, but he showed off his high-skill level, thoroughly dominating the league to a tune of 53 goals and 40 assists in 57 games.
Jankowski's best assets are his playmaking skills and hockey sense. Despite not having the most talented and skilled teammates, Jankowski's soft hands and feather-touch passing were on display all season long. And as evidenced by his 53 goals, he also has good finishing skills. He has a smooth, rangy skating stride and should become an even better skater as he matures. He has a long and lanky frame, but he has plenty of development time to bulk up and put on muscle. It should be noted that he was 5'9 in his OHL draft year, so he's already grown significantly.
While the Flames likely won't be reaping the benefits of this draft choice for quite a few years, General Manager Jay Feaster and his scouting staff are convinced that Jankowski will be one of the best players from the 2012 draft class. While Feaster likely won't be around to see Jankowski reach the NHL, there is no doubt that Jankowski has an abundance of natural skill and a ton of long-term potential. Scheduled to play for Providence College in 2012-13, Jankowski could very well emerge into an elite top-two center in the future, but he still has a lot of development left before the Flames truly know what they have in him.
Patrick Sieloff, D – USNDTP (USHL)
2nd round, 42nd overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 192 lbs
With the second round pick acquired from the Sabres, the Flames selected defenseman Patrick Sieloff from the US-Under-18 National Development Team. Known more as a defensive defenseman with a physical element to his game, Sieloff scored three goals and seven assists for the USNDTP, while also racking up 113 penalty minutes, the third most on the team.
Sieloff is the type of prospect that doesn't have a lot of flash or offensive pizzazz to his game, but he still makes himself very noticeable on the ice due to his penchant and zest for vicious and devastating body-checks. Simply put, if you don't keep your head up when Sieloff is on the ice, he will make you pay on the boards or in the open-ice. He will have to learn to pick his spots better as he sometimes takes himself out of the play looking for the big hit. He moves around the ice well, which helps him defend off the rush and in and around his own net. While he is very limited offensively, he is adept at making good, smart outlet passes.
What you see is what you get with Sieloff. He doesn't have a huge ceiling, but players of his ilk are invaluable and often underrated contributors to a team. He projects as a physical, no-nonsense number four/five defenseman. Sieloff was set to join the University of Miami-Ohio this fall, but changed his mind before the draft and will instead now suit up for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Jon Gillies, G – Indiana Ice (USHL)
3rd round, 75th overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 216 lbs
The Flames went right back to the USHL in the third round with the selection of behemoth goaltender Jon Gillies, who just completed his second season with the Indiana Ice. Playing on a talented Ice team, Gillies racked up 31 wins and three shutouts. He also posted a 2.77 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
Gillies stands out between the pipes first and foremost because of his size. Not surprisingly, Gillies is a blocking, or wall-style of goaltender. His large frame also helps him when it comes to trying to locate the puck through traffic. He does have a few weakness that he needs to work on correcting, namely his balance and penchant for allowing pucks to slip through his body, something that shouldn't happen for a bigger sized goaltender.
Much like Jankowski, and like pretty much any goaltender that gets drafted, there is going to be a lot of development time ahead for Gillies before the Flames know what they really have with him. He played well for Indiana, but given how strong the team was in-front of him, it will be interesting to see how he fares with a step up in competition to the NCAA. He will be joining Providence College for his freshman season this fall, where he will be joined by fellow Flames draftee Jankowski in 2013-14.
Brett Kulak, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
4th round, 105th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 181 lbs
It's not a Flames draft class without the organization dipping into the WHL at least once. They last time they didn't draft a WHL-bred player was all the way back in 2002. In the fourth round, the Flames took late-blooming defenseman Brett Kulak of the Vancouver Giants. In his first full WHL season, Kulak gained poise as the year progressed and finished the season playing in all 72 Giants games. He scored nine goals and 15 assists while recording an impressive and team-best plus-28 rating.
Though Kulak lacks the physical element that Sieloff brings to the table, they are somewhat similar in their ability to play a sound, steady defensive style. The big difference is that Kulak shows a little more offense to his game and that is an area where he should get better as he gains more experience and confidence in his puck-rushing ability. He has a high hockey-IQ in all three zones, usually making the right read and rarely getting himself caught out of position. As noted earlier, Kulak isn't known for being overly physical, instead relying on his smarts and positioning to defend.
The Flames got good value by taking Kulak in the fourth round. Considering he was playing in Midget AAA last year, it's quite remarkable how strong he was as a first-year WHL player. While Kulak right now is more of defensive type of defenseman, he possesses quite a bit of raw offensive ability. He has some second-pairing upside, but would likely be better suited to playing on a third defense pair. Kulak will return to the Giants for the 2012-13 season.
Ryan Culkin, D – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
5th round, 124th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 176 lbs
The Flames took a rare foray into the QMJHL in the fifth round with the selection of Quebec Remparts defenseman Ryan Culkin. Often overshadowed on a deep and talented Remparts team, it was often hard to get a good read on Culkin over the course of the season. However, as the year wore on, he quietly gained the confidence of Head Coach Patrick Roy and played a significant role on the team towards the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. He finished with six goals and 19 assists in 60 games to go along with a plus-nine rating. In 10 playoff games, he chipped in seven assists and a plus-nine rating as well.
Culkin brings a nice blend of size and skill from the back-end. While he may not be the quickest or fastest skater, he still gets around the ice quite well and is a confident and assertive puck-rusher. Defensively, Culkin lacks a physical element to his game, but he makes up for that with his sound positioning and recovery skills and is more than competent in his own end of the rink.
Opinions on Culkin were all over the map, but the consensus seemed to be that he was a bit underrated going into his draft year due to the strength and depth of the Remparts team. He should be in line for a more prominent role with the team though going into his third full QMJHL season this fall. Time will tell what type of blueliner he will develop into, but after this year, the Flames should have a better indication of what type of prospect they have in Culkin.
Coda Gordon, LW – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
6th round, 165th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 176 lbs
Though his play cooled off after a scorching-hot start, Coda Gordon did enough to get himself drafted by the Flames in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. After playing for the Edge School last year, which ironically enough is based out of Calgary, Gordon jumped to the WHL this year for the Swift Current Broncos and made quite a splashy debut. He finished second in goals (30) and points (53) on the Broncos behind 20-year-old Taylor Vause.
There's one thing that Gordon does very well, and that is find the back of the net. Perhaps one of the best pure-finishers available amongst this years draft eligible group, Gordon has an elite and accurate shot and is equally adept and finishing from in-tight as he is from a distance. His is especially lethal on the power-play where he was more time to unleash his dangerous shot. Gordon also has above-average distribution skills. He needs to work on his skating, defensive and neutral zone play, as well as bulk up his frame so he can get more engaged physically.
Taking a player like Gordon in the sixth round could end up being a worthwhile investment for the Flames given his natural goal-scoring ability. It's always been said that you can't teach scoring, so if Gordon can eventually grow into his frame and round out his game and become a better two-way player, he could eventually pan-out and become a top-nine scoring forward at the NHL level.
Matthew DeBlouw, C – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
7th round, 186th overall
Height: 6'0 Weight: 179 lbs
With their last pick in the draft, the Flames went back to the USHL for a third time with the selection of Muskegon Lumberjacks center Matthew DeBlouw. Though he is more regarded for his defensive zone play, DeBlouw's numbers spiked quite significantly in his second season with Muskegon. He went from two goals and four assists in 33 games in 2010-11 to 11 goals and 22 assists in 58 games this past season. He finished tied for second overall in team scoring.
As noted earlier, DeBlouw's best asset is his strong defensive zone play. His high hockey-IQ, combined with his strength and skating is a big reason why he is a force in his own end. He showed little point-producing ability this season, but he is not a naturally skilled offensive player.
DeBlouw is a low-risk selection in the seventh round, and though his long-term upside isn't overly high and he isn't likely going to be a front-line offensive player, he has the skill-set and smarts to potentially become a sound, two-way, bottom-six forward. He's off to Michigan State this fall where he will being his collegiate career with the Spartans.