Flames 2004 draft review

By Lawrence Bailey

It’s been less than two years since he arrived but there is no doubt in<br />anyone’s mind that the Calgary Flames are Head Coach a

It’s been less than two years since he arrived but there is
no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Calgary Flames are Head Coach and General
Manager Darryl Sutter’s team. The 2004 Entry Draft was yet another step in that
direction as the Flames brain trust seemed unfazed by an overwhelming lack of
skill in their prospect ranks, opting to further stock the farm with hard
working character players.


Following a miracle run to the Stanley Cup final that came
up just short, the Flames were picking later than they had been used to in the
previous seven non-playoff campaigns with their first selection—their lone pick
in the first three rounds—coming at 19th overall. Once time came
around to pick however, Sutter saw an opportunity to address the dearth of
early picks and still land a player he liked, opting instead to trade the pick
to the New York Rangers for a later first rounder (24th overall) and
a second round pick (46th overall). Sutter would later make another
deal, moving the 46th overall pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for
a pair of third rounders (70th overall and 98th overall),
but not before making the team’s selection at No. 24.


After moving down five spots, Sutter and company strode to
the podium and selected 6’2”, 190-pound left wing Kris Chucko of the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Chucko and
linemate Travis Zajac (taken 20th overall by the New Jersey Devils)
dominated the Junior A league as one of the most prolific tandems, and both
will be off to the NCAA next season, Chucko as a member of the University of
Minnesota Golden Gophers.


A quick look at his scouting reports and you’ll see why the
Sutter regime is high on the big youngster. Named captain of his team at 17
years old, he’s been described by many as a born leader. He is also a physical
presence to be reckoned with and has a major mean streak. His stick handling is
better than most and Chucko makes his living driving to the net and wreaking


However, the two knocks on Chucko are consistent with the
Flames’ organizational weaknesses: his skill set is not elite and his goals
tend to come from in close. In fact, Chucko is a player who is accurately
compared with the Flames 2002 top pick, the University of Michigan’s Eric
Nystrom. The main difference in their respective draft years? Fourteen draft
positions (Nystrom was the 10th overall pick that year) and 11
months (Chucko was nearly a year younger than Nystrom on draft day).


In many ways, Chucko was a safe pick for the organization.
With his size, work ethic, heart and determination, he is a good bet to make it
to the NHL and have a solid career. However, without the top end skill of many
players who were still available at 24th overall, he does not
address an organizational need and may not become more than a supporting member
of the club.


As the first round concluded and the second round flew by,
the Flames table kept an eye on their list, hoping a few of their earmarked
players may fall to them. By the time the 70th pick had arrived,
they chose to go with a battle-hardened OHL playoff veteran in Brandon Prust. The 5’11”, 191 lbs.
London Knights player can play both center and left wing and is a lot closer to
contributing than most draftees considering he is 20 years old.


The thing that really sold Flames scouts on Prust, who they
almost took later in the 2003 draft, was his remarkable, Flames-like playoff
performance. Seen as a solid role player, as a third line grinder and tough
guy, for most of the regular season, Prust shone in the post-season, racking up
20 points and a +20 rating for the Knights in 15 games.


The Flames final pick on the first day of the draft came at
98th overall, where they chose Dustin
of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Many feel this could be the Flames best
pick of the draft, especially since they got him so late. While Boyd didn’t
light the WHL up as an 18-year-old, he has excelled offensively at every level
before arriving here, even leading the Manitoba midget AAA league in scoring as
a bantam aged player. With an increased role in Moose Jaw next season, the
feeling is Boyd could emerge as an offensive force. Considering Chucko lacks a
top end skill set, there is a chance that three years down the road, people
will look back and consider Boyd the most skilled player in this year’s Flames
draft class.


The second day of the draft, rounds four through nine, held
no surprises for Flames draft watchers as the scouting staff further stocked
the system with players described as “hard working,” “two way,” “gritty,” and
“physical.” They were also mostly homegrown guys, with every player other than
Sweden’s Fred Wikner (182nd
overall) having played in North America last season and only Prince Albert
Raiders right wing Aki Seitsonen
(118th overall) being an import.


A few names to keep an eye on include lightning fast left
wing Kris Hogg (121st
overall) of the Kamploops Blazers and a young, athletic goalie who played for
Sioux City in the USHL last season, Jimmy
(213th overall).


Rounding out the Flames 2004 draft class were 6’2”, 205 lbs.
overage defenseman from the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (fellow Flames
prospect Tim Ramholt’s team) Adam Pardy (173rd overall),
lanky 6’6”, 185 lbs. center Matt
(200th overall) of the Tri-City Americans and a right
wing from the Kootenay Ice with projectible hands, Adam Cracknell (279th overall).


All in all, the Flames continued their trend of adding grit
and character to the club, but left Raleigh with the same gaping organizational
hole as they arrived with: a lack of skilled players in the system.


Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial