Calgary Flames 2011 draft preview

By David Thicke

Top 10 Prospects

1. Greg Nemisz, RW
2. Mitch Wahl, C
3. T.J. Brodie, D
4. Ryan Howse, LW
5. John Negrin, D
6. Matt Pelech, D
7. Bryan Cameron, C
8. Keith Seabrook, D
9. Leland Irving, G
10. Logan MacMillan, LW

Team Needs

The Calgary Flames started their organizational changes for the 2011-12 season by making Jay Feaster the General Manager and signing Craig Conroy to a multi-year deal as a special assistant to the GM. Feaster wants to redevelop the team's identity into being a very hard working, physical team who are difficult to play against.

The Flames’ team scoring returned this past season as Jarome Iginla lead the way with 43 goals thanks to chemistry he found with Alex Tanguay. Feaster has made it a priority to try to re-sign Tanguay before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2011. Calgary signed Curtis Glencross to a multi-year contract extension after he showed signs this past season of becoming a power forward. The Flames have spread their scoring over the four lines.

The blue line has some big physical defensemen in Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Mark Giordano, and Corey Sarich, who are all still under contract. The Flames have to decide which defensemen, of the unrestricted free agents, will be re-signed; Anton Babchuk, Brett Carson, Adam Pardy, or Steve Staios. Babchuk is the player that Calgary would most likely try to re-sign for his size and offensive game. Calgary has some depth at the blue line position with Brendan Mikkelson (restricted free agent) and minor-league prospect, T.J. Brodie, who could fill the gaps.

The Flames still have Miikka Kiprusoff as their starting goaltender but he is starting to show his age (32) and will need a reliable backup. The organization recently re-signed Henrik Karlsson to take some of the load off of Kiprusoff but he is not a long-term option. The organization does have two goaltending prospects in Leland Irving and Joni Ortio but they will need more playing time at the AHL level with the Abbottsford Heat.

Organizational Strengths

The Flames have scoring spread through their forward positions at the NHL level. There are some possible candidates from Abbottsford, like Lance Bouma, Stefan Meyer, and Greg Nemisz who could challenge for third or fourth line positions. The potential scorers are at least a couple of seasons away. Ryan Howse, a 51 goal scorer in the WHL, needs to show he can score at the professional level. Max Reinhart and Michael Ferland are probably three years from being potential top six-forwards in the NHL.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Flames forwards are mostly over 30-years-old so there is a need to have young impact prospects to add depth at the NHL level. Both the Flames' farm teams, AHL Abbottsford Heat and ECHL Utah Grizzlies were the lowest scoring teams of their leagues. Calgary's potential scorers Howse, Reinhart and Ferland need a few more years of experience to be ready for the NHL. After captain Jarome Iginla, the Flames have a lack of depth at the right-wing position, an area of concern moving forward.

The team has too many players (11) with non-movement or no-trade clauses in their contracts so it will be a difficult process for Feaster to restock the Flames' very bare prospects cupboard. He will not have a large amount of room left on the salary cap so the need to gain more draft picks and sign some good value free agents is necessary in order to start the stockpiling of prospects.

Drafting Tendencies

The Calgary Flames were holding only two picks out of the first 105 and just four in total for the 2011 draft. Until they acquired from the New York Rangers, left winger Roman Horak (Chilliwack/WHL), and two Rangers second round picks (projected to be 43rd and 57th overall) in this year's NHL Draft in exchange for defenseman Tim Erixon and Calgary's 5th round selection in the 2011 NHL Draft. The Flames now hold picks in the first (13th), second (43rd and 57th) fourth (104th) and the sixth (164th) rounds. If the organization is unable to acquire more picks, prior to or on draft day, then the number of selections will equal that of the 2007 draft for the lowest number of players drafted (five) in their NHL history.

The Flames have chosen a majority of their draft picks from the CHL but have made some picks from Europe and the United States. Under Darryl Sutter's regime, the Flames had primarily favored making their draft choices out of the WHL. They seemed to have drafted mostly gritty, big, physical, and character players with some exceptions, like impact scorers Howse and Reinhart.

The Flames have not had very much success in their draft choices over the last 10 years. Just eight of their 71 draft picks have made it to the NHL level and the only one presently playing for Calgary is Mikael Backlund. Some recent picks have yet to reach their full potential and are a few years away.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:

No. 13: Nathan Beaulieu, D

Beaulieu would bring a combination of size, mobility, and two-way presence that should make him a strong top four defenseman down the road. His presence would be particularly welcome given the recent loss of prospect Tim Erixon (NYR).