Flames 2006 draft preview

By Jon Hagan

Flames Top 10 Prospects

1. Dustin Boyd, C
2. Kris Chucko, LW
3. Brent Krahn, G
4. Eric Nystrom, LW
5. Aki Seitsonen, C
6. Daniel Ryder, C
7. Andrei Taratukhin, C
8. Tim Ramholt, D
9. Brandon Prust, LW
10. Curtis McElhinney, G

Since becoming the general manager of the Calgary Flames, Daryl Sutter has made his mark on the team by making key free agent acquisitions and by switching his team’s drafting tendencies from that of his predecessors.

Team Needs

Loaded with quality defenders and inspiring goaltending, Sutter’s team led the league last year with the fewest goals against. The problem was the offense, or lack thereof. The only teams that Calgary outscored were Chicago and St. Louis. Logically, one can assume that the Flames will strongly address this need in the offseason.

Some of Calgary’s older prospects, like centerman Aki Seitsonen, and right winger Adam Cracknell have made the transition from junior to professional, others, like Eric Nystrom, Brent Krahn and David Moss, are projected to be graduating to the big club. But what the Flames really want, and need, is a legitimate first line centerman. Dustin Boyd, Dan Ryder and Aki Seitsonen will be afforded the opportunity to fill the role, but it is highly improbable that any of these players will be taking the job from Calgary’s current No. 1, Daymond Langkow. However, Calgary’s other centers may be in for a fight come training camp.

Organizational Strengths

Defense continues to be a beacon of shining hope for the Flames, and with defensemen Matt Pelech, Gord Baldwin, and Tim Ramholt waiting in the wings to prove themselves as pillars on Calgary’s defense. And with the addition of free agents Mark Giordano and Richie Regehr in 2004-05, Calgary added two very capable defensemen, each of whom will be challenging for spots that might open up with the departure of one or two of the veterans on the Flames’ roster.

With the seemingly imminent departure of backup Brian Boucher, the Flames will most likely promote Brent Krahn up to back up Mikka Kiprusoff, leaving the doors wide open for Curtis McElhinney to play first string goalie for Omaha, and allowing one of their young goaltending prospects, either Matt Keetley or Kevin Lalande, the opportunity to get their feet wet.

In addition, the team has reasonable prospects like Kris Chucko, Brandon Prust, Nystrom, Moss and Cracknell on the wings.

Organizational Weaknesses

The flaming C’s have an abundance of players who exhibit the mythical Sutteresque quality so highly sought after throughout the NHL, but aside from Langkow, they sorely lack proven centermen. And even though pivots make up one quarter of Hockey’s Future’s top 20 Flames prospects, most, like Boyd, Ryder and Brett Sutter are still a few years off making the team, and it remains to be seen whether the Russian center Andrei Taratukhin is going to be crossing over to try his hand at North American pro hockey. The one who should challenge for a job this year is Finnish prospect Seitsonen.

Just like every other team, the Flames are going to want to bolster their prospects in all positions, but it seems likely that given the big team’s conspicuous lack of depth at center this is the position that they will address at the upcoming draft.

In addition, as is their trademark, the team will also seek to restock themselves defensively and will look to do that with late round picks.

Draft Tendencies

In the past five drafts (2001 to 2005), the Calgary Flames have chosen 11 defensemen, five goalies, eight left wingers, the same number of right wingers, 13 centermen (three of whom can also play left wing) and four players categorized simply as “forwards.” Out of these 23 players were chosen during Craig Button’s tenure as GM, while the remaining 28 were chosen under current GM Daryl Sutter’s regime. Of Button’s picks only two were from the CHL, and of Sutter’s, 19 were from the CHL. If we are to follow this pattern it is almost assured that the Flames will pick from the CHL. This year’s draft will find the Flames drafting in the same position that they were in last year when they drafted defenseman Pelech.

Hockey’s Future Mock Draft Result: Ryan White, C, WHL, Calgary

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