June 26th, 2014 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
A general team building rule of thumb is the aim to put three bodies in your NHL jersey in each and every NHL draft, a feat not always met by NHL clubs.
The first round, especially after a morbid season of missing the playoffs is crucial to getting a franchise back on its feet and moving up the standings, the second round is where you add depth to your roster and become a contender. Then further down the list you need to be lucky and/or brilliant in finding diamonds in the rough, thrusting the organization forward.
The Flames had many a wash out draft in the past ten years; have a look at 2006 and a hockey fan almost comes to tears … 8 players chosen, and 13 games played, all by first rounder Leland Irving. Players selected in 2006 would be entering year 8 or 9 in development and should form the nucleaus of your hockey team. Not in this case.
More recent years have had way more success including the 2011 draft where all 5 players have either played for the Flames or been used to acquire a player currently playing Calgary. That’s 5 for 5 folks.
With that said Calgarypuck takes a look back at previous drafts in a two part series, looking at success round by round.
Today we look at rounds 1 through 6.
Your Round by Round Top 3
All streaks come to an end, and so to will the late round franchise player streak that had Calgary finding gold in both the 9th and 8th rounds; the 7th round has been very thin. A total of 36 players have been drafted in the 7th round over the years, a higher number given the modern draft holding 7 circuits. In that range they’ve only had 7 guys suite up in the NHL, ouch. Oh and it gets worse when you see the names, believe me.
#3 – Laddy Kohn – Another dark era tweener, Kohn was yet another player selected in that odd 1994 draft that had many guys play, but none regularly. Only played 9 games in Calgary before bouncing around for a total of 186 games, the majority in Anaheim.
#2 – Stu Grimson – If not for one bad decision, Grimson could have been a folk hero in Calgary. Drafted in 1985, Grimson played in 729 NHL games, but only 4 with the Flames. Called up to take on the Oilers Dave Brown, Grimson beat the tar out of the Oiler in the first game of back to backs in Edmonton, surprising the veteran enforcer. The next night, or so the story goes, Grimson crammed a broken hand into a hockey glove to suite up the next night, got into another spat with Brown, and then struggled to get his glove off when Brown caved in his face.
#1 – David Moss – A solid if not spectacular NHL forward, Moss will always be a footnote however as his pick was the one acquired with Craig Conroy for Cory Stillman at that infamous trade deadline. He has played 441 games to date in the NHL, including an important role in Calgary.
It’s important to remember how much the NHL has changed in the time frame that has seen the Flames in Calgary. For the first 15 years there were 21 teams in the league, meaning player number 60 was a late third round pick and not a last guy chosen in the second round. Therefore a guy taken in the 3rd round now is likely the 70th to 80th best player, a spot that would see you taken in the fourth round back in the day.
The 6th round was better to the Flames than the 7th, as 12 of 32 players drafted made it to at least one NHL game. An honorable mention that won’t make our top three is Joni Ortio, taken in the 6th round of 2009 and very much in the plans of the Flames. The best on the list set up a cup winner however.
#3 – Joel Bouchard – The Flames selected this serviceable two way defender in 1992, meaning he too was part of that spooky era of hockey in Calgary (I won’t say Young Guns, promise). Bouchard played four full seasons in Calgary before vagabonding it around the league, finishing with 364 NHL games.
#2 – Clarke Wilm – An extremely likable player, Clarke (named after Bobby) Wilm was a solid third line, no flash, get the puck in deep, scrappy center for the Flames and was taken in the 1995 draft. He went on to play 455 games in the NHL, and almost 300 to start his career in Calgary.
#1 – Brett Hull – Hull recently blasted the old Flames management group for telling him fitness was the way, and not letting him get away with a lack of effort in the gym and working out. That same management group dealt him to St. Louis in a deal that saw a player become a hall of famer elsewhere, but the team require important depth for a run that saw them win the Stanley Cup. Hull played 1269 games, scoring 1391 points in a stellar career that got started in Cowtown.
The 5th round has been ugly for the Flames, really ugly.
A total of 39 players have been taken in the 5th round in the last 34 years, with only nine playing NHL games, of which seven played more than one game. Not an impact player in the group.
#3 – Sammi Helenius – A guy that should have projected to be a preceding Toni Lydman, Helenius was taken in 1992, but only played 155 games in the NHL, garnering 6 points. He only managed 6 games in Calgary colours.
#2 – Nils Ekman – Quite a round this 5th. Ekman taken in 1994 is the second best 5th rounder all time for Calgary and he only played 264 NHL games, and none of them with the Flames.
#1 – Travis Moen – Another example of a decent Flames draft pick that never saw the light of the Saddledome, well at least with a Flaming C stapled to his chest. Taken 155th overall on the draft floor in Calgary in 2000, he went on to have a decent grinder NHL career with 680 games played to date. Solid rough around the edges hockey player.
Here’s where the meat and potatoes of a draft history have to start if you’re to be a successful franchise. Nobody expects to hit on every 4th round pick, but you need to find players in the third and fourth line that supplement the guys in the first two rounds. Good teams do. Bad teams have a host of nobodies in this range.
The Flames tale of the tape? 46 players selected in this time frame, and 16 have played at least one NHL game, 11 with roughly a season or more. Not great.
#3 – T.J. Brodie – It’s likely too soon to anoint Brodie as the 3rd best fourth rounder in Flames history, but I’m making a leap given his current role and the path of his career that he has to be on this list. Will he be number one in 5 years? Possibly, but either way with 185 games played and his current top pairing role he makes my list.
#2 – Tony Lydman – A great draft pick and important part of the Flames 2nd pairing in the first part of this century though he got hurt and missed most of the playoff drive in 2004. Was dealt to Buffalo after four years with the Flames but played 847 NHL games to date. Solid 4th round pick.
#1 – Robert Reichel – A guy that arrived on the scene at the nick of time to work with Fleury to keep the Flames somewhat prominent in the early 90s, Reichel was a solid 4th rounder in 1989. Reichel played 830 NHL games and garnered 630 points, playing 4 seasons in Calgary, scoring 40 goals twice. Best fourth rounder in team history and a perfect example of the players you have to find to move a franchise forward.
For the first time in this study I should mention names not in the top three to better frame the choices, as the fourth round did contain some talent. The best argument for excluding Brodie was Robert Svehla that played 600 plus games in the NHL, though none for Calgary. Other names would include Mark Lamb, Paul Kruse, Marty Murray, Roger Johansson and Kevan Guy.
As stated earlier, we have to keep in mind that the third round features players taken in the first 20 odd years that would have been 2nd round picks in the modern era. This can be seen in the Flames results clearly, as the team’s top three games played leaders from the third round were all taken in 50s for pick number, a spot that would mean middle of the second round in today’s NHL.
All told the Flames have made 36 third round choices, and 16 have gone on to play games in the National Hockey League. Ten players have played more than one season and made a contribution.
#3 – Craig Anderson – As expected, as you move towards the top rounds it gets harder to make just three selections, and the 3rd rounder was certainly that. I give Craig Anderson the nod because he’s been an NHL starter for years, and has seen Vezina mention for his best seasons, which can’t go unnoticed. Anderson was selected 77th overall in 1999 but didn’t sign with the Flames, went back into the draft and was re-selected by Chicago. He’s gone on to play 377 NHL games and is still active in Ottawa.
#2 – Brian Bradley – A name that just doesn’t hop off the pages when it comes to all time lists in Calgary draft history, yet this 51st overall pick went on to play 651 games and garner 503 points. HIs trade was suprising for the return and the trade partner, as he was dealt to Vancouver for pugilist Craig Coxe, only playing a half season for the Flames. Clearly a guy they underestimated and gave up on far too soon.
#1 – Mike Vernon – His place as Calgary’s all time goaltender is very much in question with Miikka Kiprusoff’s antics in more recent seasons, but Mike Vernon has a Calgary Stanley Cup to his name, as well as another in Detroit and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Certainly a shoe in for number one on this list. He was taken 56th overall in 1981 and went on to play 781 NHL games, concluding his career in the place he started; Calgary. A whipping boy at times, almost always unfairly, the diminutive netminder will always have a place in Calgary history, and a space in the rafters of the Saddledome.
As mention above, coming up with just three in round three was very difficult. Other options included a guy that scored a huge Flames goal (Perry Berezan), a guy we had twice and let go (Brandon Prust), two members of the 2004 team in Chris Clark and Matthew Lombardi, a solid fighter in Sandy McCarthy, and two active players in Lance Bouma and Max Reinhart.
The second round has become an interesting foot note in recent Flames history with the relative distaste that writers assume Darryl Sutter must have had for this round given how many times he dumped the pick. Truthfully many of these opinion pieces only tell half the story. Yes moving 2nd round picks is a dangerous way to deplete your prospect stock, nobody is arguing against that point. But the element that has to be mentioned is the players acquired and the impact they had relative to what the average haul of a 2nd round pick brings. I’m thinking Miikka Kiprusoff and Rene Bourque likely bested the average value of a late round 2nd round pick. I’m guessing a 2nd as a sweetner to get rid of Wayne Primeau doesn’t.
The Flames have managed 39 2nd round picks over the years, but 17 of those were taken in the team’s first 11 drafts in Calgary including a whopping 5 between 1989 and 1990 (please don’t ask how those went). Darryl Sutter made just one 2nd round selection in the 6 NHL drafts he oversaw.
Of the 39 selections 25 players have gone on to play in the NHL, but only 13 saw significant time in the NHL. Once again coming up with a top three is quite a chore.
#3 – Steve Konroyd – The third place 2nd rounder came down to Konroyd and Paul Ranheim, but to me Konroyd was the better all around hockey player. A solid stay at home defender, the 39th overall selection of the 1980 draft went on to play 895 NHL games. Famously traded along with Richard Kromm to the New York Islanders for John Tonelli, and then had to face off against the Flames later that night in Long Island.
#2 – Jarrett Stoll – Drafted by Calgary, 46th overall in 2000, he reentered the draft and then was selected by the rival Edmonton Oilers. Luckily the Oilers didn’t hang up to him either, as he joined the Kings and has become a huge part of LA’s two Stanley Cups. Potentially the best third line center in the National Hockey League.
#1 – Joe Nieuwendyk – Not even close in picking the best 2nd rounder of all time. Nieuwendyk brought fans out of their seats for 8 NHL seasons before going on to play over 1200 games in the NHL and winning three Stanley Cups. He captained the Flames, and was traded for Jarome Iginla in the circle of life trades that his pick acquired when the Flames shifted out Kent Nilsson. Interesting to note he was taken 27th overall, and would have been a 1st round pick in today’s NHL. His number has been added to the Forever A Flame wall in Calgary, and he was in consideration for the job of Flames GM this past winter.
The second round had a myriad of honorable mentions as well including; Ranheim, Stephane Matteau, Steve Begin, as well as recent and hopeful to rise prospects in Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon.
The lifeblood of a franchise, the first round is essential in keeping a franchise moving forward and the prospect cupboard amply stocked. Miss out on first round picks, or trade too many away and the franchise is a ticking time bomb.
The Flames have only traded their first overall pick (without getting a first rounder back) three times in the team’s history in Calgary including 1982, 1989 and 2010 (Olli Jokinen trade with Phoenix). Last year they selected altering the pick per year history back to a -1.
The team has drafted 6th four times (most recently Sean Monahan last season), 9th twice, and 10th once. The average position in Flames history is 16th, about where you’d expect them to be.
All told that 33 picks, 26 of them playing at least one game in the NHL. Of the seven that didn’t see the ice, two were selected last year and are well on their way to moving that number to five. Mark Jankowski is still in the pipeline and up for debate, George Pelawa died in a truck accident weeks after his selection, leaving only three super busts in Flames history; Jesper Mattson, Chris Biotti and Bryan Deasley. Seven others have played less than 20 games (and won’t be playing any more), 19 players have played 50 or more games, 15 more than one season.
The first round is a round I’d love to revisit in 10 years.
#3 – Cory Stillman – A guy like Brian Bradley in that you don’t think Cory Stillman when you think great Flames draft selections, but the little center/winger played 1025 games, for 727 points and was a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams. Was famously traded for Craig Conroy at the deadline in 2001 after being the Flames 6th overall selection in 1992. The “feel” for Cory Stillman is more a product of the dark days in Calgary then his long and successful career.
#2 – Gary Roberts – This guy would have been a great choice for #1 spot himself if MacInnis wasn’t around to take that honor. Roberts was a pleasure to watch develop from a pissy energy forward to a guy that just found more and more confidence and with it talent and impact. Played on a line with Nieuwendyk and Loob in the 1989 Cup win, and was a miracle comeback story in Calgary after hurting his neck in a playoff series with Vancouver in the mid 1990s. Taken 12th overall, Roberts played 1224 games and found 909 points.
#1 – Al MacInnis – Hard to argue with this being a good first round selection. 1416 games played, 1274 points, a Norris, a Stanley Cup and Conn Smyth in Calgary, unbelievable for a guy that was a shot and not much else when he landed in Calgary. Recently had his number added to the Flames Forever campaign, and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. A legendary 15th overall selection in 1981.
Like the second round, I really hope this top three list looks very different in ten years given what the Flames have drafted recently, and what they will be drafting in two days. Honorable first round mentions include Derek Morris (very tough call with Stillman for #3), Dan Quinn, Dion Phaneuf, as well as other notables like Chuck Kobasew. But the interesting part lies ahead with Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuck, Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund and maybe a guy by the name of Sam in the hunt for future spots. Will also be interesting to see how Tim Erixon’s career unfolds in Calgary.