Mid-round selections outperforming top picks from Calgary Flames 2008 draft class

By David Thicke
Lance Bouma - Calgary Flames

Photo: Lance Bouma may have seen another opportunity in the NHL during the 2013 season if a knee injury had not prematurely ended his campaign. (courtesy of Kathleen Hinkel/Icon SMI)

The Calgary Flames finished the 2007-08 regular season in seventh place and secured a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The team was knocked out in the first round for the third straight year when the Flames lost a hard fought seven game series against the San Jose Sharks.

Calgary went into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft hoping to only tweak their roster a little while looking for a top-six forward and some offensive depth on defense. The Flames acquired Mike Cammalleri from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for their first round selection (17th overall, which LA traded with the 28th pick to Anaheim to move up to 12th overall) and a second round pick so that the winger could help Jarome Iginla provide more offense for the Flames. The team was not done dealing yet because on draft day, they exchanged Alex Tanguay and their fifth round pick with Montreal for the 2008 first round, 25th overall pick and a second round selection in 2009. These moves were meant to free up some needed cap space, add more offense immediately to the team, and gain another first round selection in order to add a future goal scorer.

Only T.J. Brodie is presently playing in the NHL for Calgary but Greg Nemisz and Lance Bouma are knocking at the door. Mitch Wahl and Nicholas Larson are continuing to develop their overall games at different levels but still have an outside chance. The Flames' selections at the 2008 NHL Draft have not yet turned out to the organization liking but four out of the remaining five picks need to step up their games for a chance to join Brodie in the NHL.

Greg Nemisz, RW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – 1st Round, 25th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 15

Nemisz was selected by the Calgary Flames because their management team felt that he could be a top-six forward with size and had a good chance of developing into an NHL-caliber power forward. His well-rounded, two-way game along with his offensive potential and physical ability to play in the high traffic areas of the ice made him a very attractive player for the NHL team.

Nemisz had a very successful junior career with the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups along with a gold medal as an under-18 for Team Canada and then a silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships. The big winger's offensive game has yet to fully materialize at the AHL level as he plays the third year of his NHL entry level contract. He has received a couple of sniffs at the NHL with the Flames but only as a fourth line role player, not the offensive power forward that Calgary envisioned when they drafted him in 2008.

The 22-year-old still has a chance to grow into a top-six forward but it is looking more likely he is destined to be a third or fourth line checker with some offensive potential if Nemisz makes it to the NHL at all.

Mitch Wahl, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – 2nd Round, 48th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

This selection was sent back to the Flames in the Cammalleri deal and Calgary decided on Wahl as their second round choice. The team's scouting group really liked his natural playmaking and ability to get the puck to the open man along with the fact that he had just won a Memorial Cup with Spokane.

After the draft, Wahl had two excellent seasons at the junior level where he collected over 90 points in each year. The second round pick looked to have high potential coming to the AHL level with Abbotsford but a vicious head-shot in his rookie season has seemingly derailed his career for the last two years. He has struggled to regain his confidence and offensive game while shuttling between the AHL and the ECHL.

The playmaking centerman could be finally getting it all back together this year at the ECHL level, where he is leading his team in points and operating their power play like his junior days. He may just turn out to be an NHL player yet.

Lance Bouma, LW/C, Vancouver Giants (WHL) – 3rd Round, 78th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 43

Bouma was selected by the Flames for his versatility to play all the forward positions, his powerful, quick skating and nastiness. The team felt the two-way forward had more offensive potential and had the experience of already winning a Memorial Cup in 2007. Calgary believed it could not have enough gritty, physical two-way players, not unlike the style of General Manager Darryl Sutter during his NHL playing days.

Bouma did not really increase his offensive production at the junior level but he seems to becoming more of an agitator as well as a character player that could be counted on to play hard every game. The third round selection was able to see NHL time with the Flames in each of his first two pro seasons but did not really bring much in the way of offensive numbers. Unfortunately, Bouma suffered a season ending knee injury at the start of this year and will have to wait for another year to compete for an NHL roster spot with the Calgary Flames. He has turned out to be a better pick than most people expected in 2008.

Nicholas Larson, LW, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) – 4th Round, 108th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Larson was drafted by Calgary because they felt that his scoring in the USHL was a good start but there could be more hidden potential. The organization's scouting department believed the winger was a bigger version of Bouma with better hands and that his development would be through the NCAA route, giving them more years to gauge his talent.

Larson spent the first season after the 2008 draft in the USHL, putting up similar offensive numbers but far more penalty minutes. Even though numbers-wise he has not really excelled offensively with Notre Dame over his four years in the NCAA, he plays better when being more physical and providing a good net front presence. Larson is graduating in the spring and will be looking for a chance to turn pro with the Calgary Flames but he will have plenty of competition for a contract.

T.J. Brodie, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL) – 4th Round, 114th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 66

This draft choice was a conditional pick from the Bruins, contingent on Brad Stuart not re-signing with the Flames, from a February 2007 trade where Calgary exchanged Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference for Stuart and Wayne Primeau. Boston had received the pick from the Washington Capitals for Milan Jurcina.

Brodie was selected by Calgary for his heads up game, excellent mobility, and ability to move the puck quickly out of his defensive zone. The Flames already had plenty of big stay-at-home defensemen in their system and felt the need for an offensive puck mover to help the team's depth on the back end. The organization saw more offensive upside to his game as well as solid basics in his defensive play.

Brodie improved his offensive game while learning how to operate the power play and worked on the penalty kill over his two seasons at the junior level. After starting his rookie pro season in the NHL with Calgary, he was reassigned to the AHL level where he made an immediate impact playing the shutdown role and was selected to the AHL All-Star game. In his second year, the fourth round choice was called-up in November to the NHL and established himself on the Flames' blue line, remaining on the team for the rest of the season.

The NHL lockout allowed him to play at the AHL level and made it easier for Brodie to push his way into Calgary's top-four defenders to start the shortened 2013 NHL season. It looks like Brodie may turn out to be the Flames' best draft selection for the 2008 class.   

Ryley Grantham, C, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 6th Round, 168th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Grantham was drafted as a 19-year-old by the Flames to bring a physical presence and stand up for his teammates. The team believed that the big winger could also play the game and had a little offensive upside to him. He was not expected to be just a goon but more an enforcer and energy line checker.

Grantham improved his offense in his last year of junior but could not seem to light the lamp very often at the AHL and ECHL levels. He clearly filled the fighting role and physical game but could not provide much else. After his NHL entry level contract expired, the Flames chose not to qualify him with an offer but he signed an AHL contract with the Houston Aeros on Sept 28th, 2012. Grantham was not able to live up to Calgary's expectation of him when they drafted the big winger in 2008.

Alexander Deilert, D, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden Jr.) – 7th Round, 198th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Flames took a chance on Deilert, a smaller, puck moving defenseman that could add offensive depth and strong skating ability to the team's back end. He was believed to fit into the new NHL style of play with faster, mobile, and more offensively skilled defensemen that could jump up into the play. Despite being under-sized, the team believed that his vision and hockey smarts might help him get to the NHL.

Deilert played a few season in the SEL for Djurgarden as well as the lower leagues in Sweden and Europe but did not really develop into the NHL caliber blueliner that the Flames had hoped for when they drafted him. The talented golfer did not fully concentrate on only hockey during this time and Calgary decided not to offer him to a contract. Since his release by the NHL team, Deilert has chosen to devote all his efforts into his hockey game and is playing well for Asplöven in the Allsvenskan this year.