Flames 2010 draft preview

By Kyle West

Top 10 prospects

1. Mikael Backlund, C
2. Greg Nemisz, RW
3. Tim Erixon, D
4. John Negrin, D
5. T.J. Brodie, D
6. Ryan Howse, LW
7. Mitch Wahl, C
8. Matt Pelech, D
9. Leland Irving, G
10. Matt Keetley, G

With the Flames offense drying up and the team missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03, it’s a poor time for the club to enter the draft lacking both first and second-round picks. The ill-fated Olli Jokinen experiment cost the Flames their first rounder this year, while a second-round choice was the cost of dumping Wayne Primeau’s burdensome contract onto the Maple Leafs. As a result, absent any draft-day deals, the Flames first selection of 2010 won’t come until pick No. 64 of the third round.

Team Needs

Through a combination of relatively high regular season finishes and Darryl Sutter’s penchant for moving draft choices to plug roster holes, the Flames don’t have a single "can’t miss" prospect in the pipeline. They are especially thin up front, although the graduations of Mitch Wahl, Greg Nemisz (and recent free agent signing Bryan Cameron) this coming season to pro hockey will give the team some indication of whether the 2008 draft is going to bear any offensively capable fruit. Recent graduate Mikael Backlund certainly possesses the raw talent to put up points at the pro level, but his underwhelming results in both Sweden and the AHL last year mean it’s still an open question whether the Flames top prospect will become an impact player at the NHL level.

Aside from those mentioned (plus WHL sniper Ryan Howse) the Flames have no notable offensive prospects.

Organizational Strengths

While there aren’t any homeruns in the system, the clear area of strength for the Flames is their back end. Former first round choice Matt Pelech should press for a spot with the parent club inside the next year or so, while guys like John Negrin, Keith Seabrook, T.J. Brodie and Tim Erixon all boast the mobility and puck skills that are coveted in the modern game. Erixon, who has already played two years of professional hockey in the Swedish Elite League, probably has the highest potential ceiling of the Flames blueline prospects. He is committed to play for Skelleftea HC for at least one more season, so shouldn’t be expected in North America before September 2011.

Draft Tendencies

Since Darryl Sutter took over the club, no NHL team has drafted more players from the WHL than the Flames with 13. He makes no secret of the fact that he values Western Canadian players, particularly those born and raised in BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan. The Flames don’t tend to wander too far outside of the WHL, with the OHL being their other league of choice (eight picks). The only area of Europe they venture in to is Sweden, with five picks over the last seven drafts, with the odd dip into neighboring Finland (two). Countries such as Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland and the NCAA have been totally ignored by Calgary during Sutter’s reign.