Flames 2008 draft preview

By Travis Head

Top 10 prospects

1. Dustin Boyd, C
2. Mikael Backlund
3. Leland Irving
4. Andrei Taratukhin
5. Juuso Puustinen
6. Curtis McElhinney
7. Mark Giordano
8. Eric Nystrom
9. Matt Keetley
10. John Negrin

The Calgary Flames own the No. 17 pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft. Based on their track record for trading down in the first round and the fact that do not have another selection until No. 78, a trade might be in the works.

Team Needs

GM Darryl Sutter has three items on his shopping list. The Flames could really use a legitimate first-line talent to help fortify their top six, and add some secondary scoring beyond Jarome Iginla. Having said that, the Flames would like to pick up an offensive-minded defenseman and build up some more depth at the rearguard position.

Organizational Weaknesses

There are two glaring weaknesses in the organization’s development system. The first is an absence of elite offensive forwards. The Flames top prospect Dustin Boyd has played 61 games for Calgary and has only put up 16 points. He was a top scorer in the WHL and was nearly a point-per-game player in the AHL.

Mikael Backlund and Juuso Puustinen could become consistent scorers at the NHL level, however, neither of those players should be counted on to produce for a few years. Calgary has also had to deal with the unexplained hiatus of Daniel Ryder, who does have the potential to be an offensive player for the Flames.

The second most noticeable hole is lack of offensive-minded defensemen. At times this season, the Flames defense looked slow and somewhat aged.  If the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup performance has taught us anything, it’s that you need puck moving defenseman to play 5-on-5 as well as set up your power play. Outside of John Negrin and Tim Ramholt, the Flames don’t have a lot of options here. Realistically, Negrin might be a couple years away. Ramholt has also only played two shifts since 2003, the year in which he was drafted 39th overall by the Flames.

Organizational Strengths

Calgary has built its foundation around three players, but they also have a healthy dose of gritty two-way forwards to fill out their third and fourth lines. Prospects like Eric Nystrom, Kris Chucko, John Armstrong, and Brandon Prust will be counted on for those roles in the future. While those four prospects are not without offensive skill, they will probably be looked at more for their defensive contributions. While the Flames did not sign OHL super pest Devin Didiomete before the June 1 deadline, they did however sign Hugo Carpentier, an offensive-minded player out of the QMJHL who does have an edge to his game. Another area in which the Flames can rest easy for the time being is between the pipes. Kiprusoff is signed for another six seasons, and they have goaltending prospects Curtis McElhinney, Leland Irving, and Matt Keetley working behind him.

Draft Tendencies

The Flames are no stranger to trading down in the draft to gain an extra pick. Last year the Flames moved from the 18th position, and were quite happy to be able to acquire both Backlund (#24) and Negrin (#70). Backlund was also the first European selected by the Flames in the first round since Oleg Saprykin was selected with the 11th pick in the 1999 NHL Draft. It should also be noted that the Flames haven’t selected a player with their first-round pick from the QMJHL since 1995, in which they took Denis Gauthier 20th overall from the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

Like a lot of NHL franchises, the Flames have made the majority of their selections out of the WHL and the OHL. In recent drafts, the Flames have also not been afraid to use their first picks on players who take the NCAA route (Kris Chucko in 2004 and Eric Nystrom in 2000), but the results from those picks could sour them to the idea.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft result: Joe Colborne, C, AJHL Camrose Kodiaks

If the Flames don’t make a push to move up in the draft, they could take Calgary native Joe Colborne. No. 17 might be a little too early for Colborne, so the Flames could easily trade down and make Colborne a more efficient selection. His 6’5 190 lb frame would bring some much needed size down the middle for the Flames. Colborne was second in AJHL scoring with 90 points while playing for the Camrose Kodiaks this season.  His size and extraordinary hands have drawn comparisons to Joe Thornton, and the Flames could really use some high-end offensive talent. Colborne is planning to attend the University of Denver in the fall.