Flames 2006 draft review

By Jon Hagan

With the trade of Jordan Leopold to the Colorado Avalanche for Alex Tanguay, the Calgary Flames clearly addressed their immediate need for offense. Calgary then turned around and bolstered their defense by drafting goaltender Leland Irving from the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League with their first pick, 26th overall in the 2006 Entry Draft.

Irving was a standout goalie this year who has a cool, composed demeanor. He had a sparkling 1.91 goals against average and stellar .925 save percentage and was one of two 2006 Calgary picks who played in the CHL Top Prospects’ game earlier this year. In the game, he faced 35 shots and stopped 33, thereby helping lead Team Orr to a 7-2 victory over Team Cherry.

The one knock on the Swan Hills native has been his stickhandling, but this should be an area of his game that only gets stronger as time goes on. Irving indicated that while he may be a few years off the NHL, he is conscious of what he needs to work on.

“That jump from the Western league to the NHL is pretty huge. It’s going to be key for me to be able to adjust to the speed . . .there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’ll do my best to work hard and hopefully somewhere in the future I’ll be tending the nets of the Calgary Flames.”

“With Kevin Constantine there, every day is pretty intense and he has a real professional way to look at the game,” he continued. “He’s doing what it takes to develop us and hopefully get us into an NHL sweater.”

Irving’s teammate Peter Mueller was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes eighth overall, meaning that the Everett Silvertips had two players drafted in the first round. When asked what this means to the team, Irving immediately directed all praise to management and the coaching staff:

“It means a lot for them, they’re a great organization.” Irving stressed that by “bringing in Kevin Constantine, as well as John Becanic and Jay Varady, [GM Doug Soetart] has been the cornerstone of that organization.”

After picking Leland in the first round, the Flames did not have any second round picks, but had picks in each of the five subsequent rounds. They chose six forwards and one defenseman with the rest of their seven picks.

John Armstrong, a 6’3 190 lbs center hailing from Unionville, Ontario was drafted in the third round, 87th overall. Considered a fleet-footed skater with a powerful shot, Armstrong was the second future Flames prospect to play in this year’s CHL Top Prospects Game. In his second season with the Plymouth Whalers he increased his point production by 18 points (14 goals, 23 assists) while playing in 13 more games. Just as Irving did for the Silvertips, Armstrong had a strong playoff run for the Whalers, and his 11 points tied him for second on the team, while his +4 rating redeemed his abysmal regular season plus/minus of –18.

Calgary’s next pick, taken two slots after Armstrong, was Aaron Marvin. Drafted out of Warroad High School, the 6’2, 191 lbs left winger put up 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in 23 games with the Warriors this past season. Speculation is that Marvin might be heading to the NCAA, but that doesn’t mean that getting him north of the border for junior hockey is impossible — at least in the mind of the Red Deer Rebels’ tripartite guru Brett Sutter it’s not impossible. Although it may be a longshot, Sutter rolled the dice and traded 17-year-old prospect, Josh Giofriddo and a conditional draft pick in 2008 to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in order to test the probability of Marvin going north and playing junior there.

The next stop for the Flames was the QMJHL where they made Rouyn Noranda’s Hugo Carpentier their 118th pick. Carpentier is a centerman who posted 70 points in 70 games this season, so he can create some offense. In 2005-06 he played 21 more games than the previous year and posted 55 more points. Carpentier’s Achilles heel though may very well be his skating, so he will need to drastically improve upon this in the coming years if he wants to make it to the NHL.

Finland’s Juuso Puustinen was the fifth pick for the Flames. Taken in the fifth round, 149th overall, the young Finn plays right wing and weighs in at 185 lbs and stands 6’1. Generally regarded as a deft skater who has a knack for shooting and stickhandling, Puustinen has, in the past, played on teams were he was always the go-to guy, but his recent acquisition by the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL should test his mettle and see if he can continue to develop as the Flames hope he will.

Jordan Fulton, drafted by the Flames in the sixth round, 179th overall, is a centerman who is offensive. In just 26 high school games with Breck, Fulton potted 40 goals and helped on 34 more. On May 2, Fulton signed a national letter of intent to attend and play for the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall.

The Sudbury Wolves of the OHL offered up 200 lbs Devin Didiomete to Calgary for their second last pick. The fireplug left winger led the Wolves this past season in penalty minutes while managing to post a respectable 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 60 games. He was recently voted the most underrated player and “Player’s player” on the Wolves, and in this year’s draft he is the player who most embodies those Sutter qualities fans have come to expect from Flames prospects.

The final pick for the Flames for the 2006 Entry Draft was Swedish junior defenseman Per Jonsson. The native of Karlstad, Sweden played the last two seasons for the Farjestad BK Wolves where he posted 8 points in 26 games. On the plus side of playing so few games, he logged in excess of 25 minutes per game, and plays for former Flame, Hakan Loob.

As was speculated, half of Calgary’s eight picks were centermen, and GM Darryl Sutter continued his draft tendencies by making four of the team’s eight picks from the CHL. Puustinen’s will move to Kamloops next year, raising that number. The one big surprise of the draft was the fact that the team only chose one defenseman.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.