Calgarypuck Draft Preview
2004 NHL Entry Draft

D'Arcy McGrath
June 22nd, 2004

Silver lining day is almost upon us.

Yes the Calgary Flames came up one agonizing goal short of a Stanley Cup, and an exclamation point on a surprising and wildly successful season that few if anyone could have possibly predicted.

Had they gotten that job done, on Saturday they would have been picking 30th overall, and had less options available to them than they will have when the step to the podium at #19.

See ... not winning the cup is a good thing ... really.

I'll admit the above statement is sure to find very few takers. Hockey is about winning and not draft picks, what's done is done and the Flames do have a draft choice to make - one further down the list than the norm for this franchise.

In the last five NHL Entry Drafts the Flames have come in with an average pick position of 10th in the first round. Expand the look to ten years and the number moves slightly to an average of 11th overall.

Clearly drafting towards the bottom third of the first round is some unfamiliar territory for a hockey team that has struggled in the past decade.

With said move down the list comes an ever increasing amount of uncertainty both in which players the Flames will select and what general manager Darryl Sutter will do with the pick itself.

Will Sutter target a player in the top 15, use some current assets and move up to grab his man?

Or, conversely, with the Flames having no other picks in the first three rounds will Sutter turn his 19th overall pick into a choice later in the first round and additional picks in the 2nd or 3rd?

Will any current roster players be on the move? Additional assets heading Calgary's way?

This summer, it's really hard to say.

The Top Ten

1 Washington
- Alexander Ovechkin - the offers come pouring in but the Capitals hold firm and take the best player in the draft. If we can ever pin down what the offers were it will be interesting to see if said package will compare to the franchise turning gift pack that turned the Quebec Nordiques into Colorado champions, leaving the Flyers with Eric Lindros and a mess.

2 Pittsburgh - Evgeni Malkin - Can this team catch a break? Suck that bad and still not draft first overall? Not a bad consolation prize in Malkin.

3 Chicago - Cam Barker - they think long and hard about goaltender Al Montoya but stick with the stud blueliner.

4 Columbus - Lauri Tukonen - the Jackets would have liked to have taken Barker and shored up their young defence, but without a clear top five defenceman on the board they add the Finish powerforward.

5 Phoenix - Marek Schwarz - Phoenix needs a young goaltender in the system, but they mix it up and take Schwarz over the favoured Montoya.

6 NY Rangers - A.J. Thelen - the Rangers go for the offensive defenceman in the mix in the hopes of unearthing the next Bryan Leetch.

7 Florida - Al Montoya - Deep up front from last year's draft the Panthers opt for the falling Montoya despite the presence of one of the league's best young goaltenders in Robert Luongo.

8 Carolina - Andrew Ladd - a great winger to suite up with last year's first pick Eric Staal?

9 Anaheim - Drew Stafford - disappointed in just missing out on Ryan Getzlaf's Hitmen winger, the Ducks avoid going across the pond and dip further down the list.

10 Atlanta - Boris Valabik - the Eastern Coference Thrashers roll the dice in hoping to mine the next Zdeno Chara to add to a young blueline that will also boast Braydon Coburn.

With the 19th Selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft ...

The Flames select defenceman Mike Green from the Saskatoon Blades. A hard working character defenceman with an offensive bent to his game, Green fits well into a future defence core that will include current Flames Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and another first rounder Dion Phaneuf.

The pick causes a bit of a stir for fans that feel Sutter favours Western Canadian talent over more flashy European options, and gives the Flames a signing window of two years heading into the CBA negotiations.

Leaving Calgary

With three high profile RFA's to sign this summer; Captain Jarome Iginla, defenceman Jordan Leopold and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, Darryl Sutter has to look long and hard when it comes to bang for buck on the current Flames roster.

The Flames are a little salary heavy on the blueline with Leopold set to join Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener, Toni Lydman and perhaps Denis Gauthier as defenceman making more than the league average - simply put, someone has to go.

The logical choice falls to Denis Gauthier who has the added departure benefit of being a restricted free agent this summer, and whose style has been somewhat emulated by depth blueliners Mike Commodore and Steve Montador. Soon to be Flame, Dion Phaenuf, while more talented with the puck; also plays a physical Gauthier-esque game.

Though nothing happens at the draft, the groundwork is laid with the Chicago Blackhawks to take Roman Turek's contract off their hands in the event of a labour settlement - the Flames picking up almost half of his salary.

On the whole this shapes up to be an interesting entry draft when it comes to player transactions. Look for most teams to be holding picks close to their vests while they try to peddle established NHL players for salary space - two facts that certainly don't make for many deals. Instead you'll see contract headache dealt for contract head ache, resulting in a different landscape come Monday.





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