The Calgary Flames head into the 2013 NHL Draft four years removed from the playoffs. General Manager Jay Feaster has come to terms that the team is in a “rebuilding” mode rather than a “retooling” one. Gone is former captain Jarome Iginla and assistant captain Jay Bouwmeester, and in return are two first round picks acquired via both players waiving their no-trade clauses at trade deadline. The status of goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff is in the balance and his decision could also change the dynamics of the team next year should he decide to retire. The Flames find themselves at an interesting junction with a lot of questions to be answered. The upcoming draft could be the most important one in the team’s history.
This will be the first time in franchise history, since moving to Calgary, that the Flames will hold three first round picks. Whether or not Feaster decides to keep the picks or move them is yet to be seen, however what he decides to do with them will have a great impact for the future of the franchise.
Without a doubt Feaster will be involved in extensive discussions with other GMs leading up to draft day in regards to moving up in the draft or other possible trades. There are talks that forwards Mike Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay could also be on their way out. Forward Roman Cervenka and defenseman Anton Babchuk have already packed their bags to play in the KHL. If Cammalleri and Tanguay are traded, and Kiprusoff retires, Feaster will find himself with ample cap room to acquire free agents. It will also provide an opportunity for prospects to showcase their talents and determine if they are ready to make the leap to the NHL.
Top 10 Prospects:
1. Sven Baertschi, LW
2. John Gaudreau, LW
3. Max Reinhart, C
4. Mark Jankowski, C
5. Tyler Wotherspoon, D
6. Patrick Sieloff, D
7. Laurent Brossoit, G
8. Bill Arnold, C
9. John Ramage, D
10. Michael Ferland, LW
The Flames have been without a bona fide number one center for a very long time. The most recent that come to mind would be Doug Gilmour and Joe Nieuwendyk. Needless to say, the team needs an elite number one center that can impact a game physically, win faceoffs, and bring an offensive flare. The center position for the Flames could use improvement from the first line straight down to the fourth line. The right wing position is also lacking depth in the prospect pool and could benefit from a few more additions in the pipeline.
Defensively, the Flames can add a strong shutdown defender along with a puck-moving, offensively-minded defender, who can anchor a powerplay unit. During the 2012-13 season, the Flames allowed the third most goals in the league. Regardless of the specific reason for allowing 157 goals against, it is an overall team effort and a team will not win in this league allowing more goals than they score. An overall upgrade in talent will be required to rebuild the team.
Leadership will also be lacking with long time veterans moving on, so developing the next wave of leaders for the Flames will also be key with the prospects in the system. Drafting players with leadership skills should be an additional feature to consider in this draft.
Overall, the Flames have a lot of needs to be filled, and it will be important that Calgary fills them with quality and not quantity. This will not be a band-aid retooling, where adding one or two free agents could propel the team into the playoffs. Feaster and Flames management will have to be smart with their development plan to ensure a stable and productive system is in place for the success of the Flames for years to come.
The organizational strength for the Calgary Flames is that they finally have a talent pool of prospects to develop and work with. Starting in goal, the Flames have three solid goaltenders in Laurent Brossoit, Jon Gillies, and Joni Ortio. Brossoit was exceptional for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL playoffs, Gillies has been solid for Providence, and Ortio has stellar World Juniors experience playing for Team Finland.
The defensive unit, led by Tyler Wotherspoon, is another strong group of prospects for the Flames. Wotherspoon was part of the Portland Winterhawks team that made it to the Memorial Cup Finals this year and also has World Juniors experience playing for Team Canada. Mark Cundari joins Wotherspoon as another defenseman with Memorial Cup experience, winning in 2009 and 2010 with the Windsor Spitfires. Another Spitfire that adds winning experience for the Flames would be Patrick Sieloff, who was a member of the Team USA gold medal winning U18 and U20 junior teams. The defense is rounded out by John Ramage, who was Team USA's captain at the 2011 World Junior Championships, helping the team to win a bronze medal.
Sven Baertschi leads the offensive players and is the Flames’ top prospect. Having played 20 games with the Flames last season, Baertschi will most likely be part of the starting lineup this year. Baertschi has been able to make a successful transition to the NHL and hopefully this is an indication of the development process the Flames have in place for their other prospects. Other forwards in the system that have excellent promise for the Flames include John Gaudreau, who helped Boston College to a NCAA National Championship in 2012 and most recently winning gold with Team USA at the 2013 WJC, Ken Agostino, who helped Yale win their first National Championship this year, Ben Hanowski, who also played in the Frozen Four this season. Max Reinhart, Michael Ferland, Akim Aliu, Lance Bouma, and Markus Granlund round out the rest of the forward depth.
The main weakness for the Flames is at the center position. Without any prospect jumping out as a solid top line center at this point, the Flames find themselves thin on talent for the position. Overall, the first line will be a weakness considering the Flames lost Iginla, and could possibly still lose Cammalleri and Tanguay. Without a solid core of veterans to build around, the Flames will have to contend with that issue as well going forward.
Calgary will have to endure growing pains during this rebuild process, as prospects get called up lacking NHL experience, which could expose weaknesses in the system. This will become especially evident if Kiprusoff retires and Flames are left without a seasoned starting goaltender. Joey MacDonald will be the most experienced goaltender between the pipes with 122 games played. This pales in comparison to Kiprusoff’s 623 games. The lack of experience in goal will add pressure to the defensive players to provide support for the up and coming goaltenders.
Weaknesses are expected when a team is in the midst of a rebuild. The experience the Flames will go through during this process can make them stronger for the future as they persevere through this testing time.
For the past three drafts, the Flames and General Manager Jay Feaster have drafted players mainly from the WHL and USHL. This pattern of drafting is consistent from the days when Feaster was in Tampa Bay. As General Manager for the Flames, Feaster has drafted nine players from the WHL, five from USHL, one from the QMJHL, and three from other leagues. Each draft class has been predominately front-loaded with forwards, followed by defensemen, and one goaltender in each of the past two drafts. In his tenure as general manager with Calgary, Feaster has selected 10 forwards, six defensemen, and two goaltenders.
The Flames have a tendency to draft mostly North American players, however they will consider all possible players at each respective selection.
The Flames arrive at the 2013 draft in New Jersey with eight selections; 1st round (6, 22, 28), 3rd round (67), 4th round (97), 5th round (137), 6th round (157), 7th round (187).
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
As the Calgary Flames find themselves in retooling mode, their three first round picks provide a great opportunity to add key components to their developing future core. The highly sought after position of a first line center could be filled for the Flames by selecting Sean Monahan. He has the size, grit, and hockey sense that could turn into a valuable two-way center in the NHL.
At 6'2 and 187 pounds, Monahan lead a struggling 67's team the past two seasons with 78 points in each year. He can be a versatile playmaker, play the physical game, and battle in the faceoff circle. As captain of the 67's, Monahan also demonstrated his leadership skills which could play into a future role with the Flames.
22. Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The Calgary Flames remain in the OHL with their second pick in the first round. Rychel is a forward that can form a lethal combo playing alongside a talented playmaker like fellow first round pick, Sean Monahan. Rychel can score from all locations. He has the hands to finish off goals down low, has a quick wrist shot, and a strong one-timer. He has seen time playing the point on the powerplay and can see the ice quite well as a playmaker.
Coming from NHL bloodlines and playing for a winning organization with the Spitfires can only help Rychel develop as an NHL player, because there are areas that could use work, like his shift-to-shift consistency and willingness to crash the net more regularly. He has the dedication and determination to get better and can also provide leadership for the Flames.
28. Josh Morrissey, D, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Morrissey is an excellent skater who can move the puck up and carry the play into the offensive zone with ease. Although he is not a towering defensemen at 6'0 and 183 pounds, he does not shy away from the physical play and has room to bulk up. He is responsible at both ends of the ice in transition, has an accurate strong shot, and exceptional vision to set up plays.
If Calgary decides to keep all three first round picks, the trio of Monahan, Rychel, and Morrissey can develop into a productive force for the Flames organization.
Article written by Brian Jung