Calgary Flames 2011 draft review

By David Thicke
Photo: The Calgary Flames drafted Swiss standout Sven Baertschi with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

After just failing to make the playoffs with a strong second half push, the Calgary Flames started a new era under the leadership of Jay Feaster who was recently made the official general manager. He replaces Darryl Sutter who resigned on December 28th, 2011 after eight years with the Flames organization. Feaster has already said that the team's identity will go back to being a hard working team that is very difficult to play against.

In their first entry draft under Feaster, with only five selections, the Flames chose to address their minor league scoring issues by taking three highly skilled offensive forwards. Calgary also added to their organization's all-round depth by drafting a defensive defenseman and a big goalie.

Sven Baertschi, LWPortland Winterhawks (WHL)
1st round, 13th overall
Height: 5'10 Weight: 185 lbs

Baertschi was the right choice for the Flames as he addresses their needs for impact scoring forwards. Feaster was very happy to get his man and the player was clearly happy to be chosen by the Calgary Flames and to have the possibility to play for a Canadian team. The Flames' general manager indicated that Baertschi was chosen for his highly touted offensive skills and versatility to play all the forward positions but the most important quality was his remarkable work ethic. The rookie forward was known for being the first player on the ice for the Winterhawks' practices and after the team had finished, he would stay on the ice to work on his shooting, moves and skating footwork for an extra 45 minutes. His coaches would occasionally have to ask him to get off the ice. The 18-year-old Swiss forward has a low powerful skating style which allows him to hold his ground and not get knocked around by bigger players while playing in the high traffic areas. The dynamic forward must increase his muscle mass, gain some more weight, and improve his strength along the boards to play at the NHL level. Baertschi acknowledged he has lots to work to do both on and off the ice to make the Flames and play in the NHL.

The freshman forward scored 34 goals (11 on the power play) with 51 assists and a plus-23 rating in 66 WHL games. He really raised his game up another level during the playoffs, scoring ten goals with 17 assists in 21 games. The highly skilled forward was nominated for the WHL rookie of the year award and played for Team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.

Baertschi will most likely be returned back to Portland for another year at the WHL level to continue improving his game.

Markus Granlund, C – HIJK (JR.A-FIN)
2nd round, 45th overall
Height: 5'10 Weight: 170 lbs

The Flames chose another highly skilled offensive forward with the first of their two second round picks received in the trade of Tim Erixon to the Rangers. Granlund has good hockey sense, excellent playmaking abilities and sees the ice well. All of the young centerman's assets helped him to score 20 goals with 32 assists in 40 games, an excellent season for HIJK, averaging 1.32 points per game. The rookie forward was the league's third best scorer despite being two years younger than most of the players in the Finnish Junior "A" League. The 18-year-old centerman was exceptional at running the power play but needs to improve his overall strength while maturing into his body before he can play at the NHL level.

Granlund will most likely remain in Finland for a couple more years. He will watch closely what his older brother, Mikael (MIN), does after completing Finland's mandatory military service requirements.

Tyler Wotherspoon, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2nd round, 57th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 200 lbs

Wotherspoon was the other second round pick from the Erixon trade to the Rangers. The Flames are getting an effective shutdown defenseman who plays a simple, low risk and solid defensive game. The second year defenseman scored only two goals with ten assists and an even rating while collecting 73 penalty minutes (three fighting majors) in 63 WHL games. The 18-year-old will need to work on adding more to his offensive game and using his NHL size to his advantage by playing more physically with the body.

Expect Wotherspoon to play at least one if not two more seasons at the CHL level before joining the Flames professionally.

John Gaudreau, C – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
4th round, 104th overall
Height: 5'6 Weight: 140 lbs

The Flames stepped way outside the box with this high risk but high reward draft pick. Gaudreau has really quick hands, shifty moves, explosive speed and this really small centerman could stickhandle in a phone booth. He has the determination and big time skill to prove the doubters wrong about his size. The teenager can make bigger players look foolish when they miss trying to check him. If they are able to make contact with him, then he has such excellent edge control with his skates, he can slide off and around the checker. The smallish center needs to add muscle mass and weight to be able to play at the more physical NHL level but he has time to mature. Gaudreau has scored goals at every level of hockey as he's a pure scorer which is an asset that can't be taught.

The 17-year-old centerman was named the USHL Rookie of the year and also named to the All-Rookie Team when he scored 36 goals (second in the USHL) with 36 assists while playing all 60 USHL games. His Dubuque Fighting Saints won the Clark Cup as Champions of the USHL this season.

The young centerman has a commitment to go to Northeastern University this year but the resignation of the Head Coach, Greg Cronin who has joined the Toronto Maple Leafs' coaching staff, has caused the player and his family to weigh out all their options. Gaudreau's options are: attend Northeastern, ask for a withdrawal of intent and sign with another college if granted the withdrawal, return back to play for Dubuque, sign with the Calgary Flames, or sign with a CHL team. What his decision will be, has yet to be announced.

No matter which of these options the outstanding scorer choses to pursue, it will be worth watching to see how he progresses in his hockey career. Gaudreau was picked by the right team because the Flames have given smaller players like Theo Fleury and Martin St. Louis the chance to play in the NHL, but he must still prove them right.

Laurent Brossoit, G – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
6th round, 164th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 195 lbs

This draft selection by the Flames is a development project as the young netminder clearly has raw untapped talent. Brossoit started the year as the back-up goalie for the Edmonton Oil Kings but progressed enough to supplant the number one goaltender, Jon Groenheyde, as the starter by the end of the season. The rookie will definitely be returning to the WHL for his sophomore season as the probable number one netminder. The big goalie recorded 13 wins (two shutouts) with 12 losses while sporting a goals against average of 3.32 and .887 save percentage for the defensively weak Oil Kings. The 18-year-old netminder showed poise, a calm demeanour, determination and quick reflexes. The young talent will need more work on his positioning, timing when dropping into butterfly and his cross crease lateral speed.

Brossoit could turn out to be a solid goaltender if the Flames are able to bring him along slowly and develop that raw talent to its fullest potential. He adds the needed depth to their goaltending position.