Calgarypuck.com Future Watch
The term potential has always been the escape clause for a hockey club in defending any young player or a pool of prospects.
Kids are drafted on potential and often signed on potential as well, with development being the key to delivering said player to the destination intended when they were selected.
With the 2006 Calgarypuck Future Watch installment, we once again provide a summary of the potential ratings and rankings collected through early August on Calgarypuck.com. The twist this year is the lockout that cost the National Hockey League the 2004-05 season giving us two additional draft years to add to the mix.
Since our last analysis, the ratings champ, Dion Phaneuf, has made a glossy splash into the NHL scene as a finalist for the rookie of the year Calder Trophy, and the Flames have selected two additional first round picks – defenceman Matt Pelech and goaltender Leland Irving.
Each and every year the ratings system for potential is held to a scale of 1 to 5 with five being a star player, and one a complete bust.
This year's star attraction and the player that will carry the hype and expectations for at least 12 calendar months is 2006 first round pick goaltender Leland Irving.
Irving's rise to the top is interesting given the history of this analysis through the years.
First off, he's only the second prospect to appear as the club's number one rated young player the summer of his draft. The other recipient of said honour? Mr. Dion Phaneuf.
In 2000, the Flames selected another goaltender, Brent Krahn with their 1st round selection, though much closer to the top of the draft at #9 overall. As with most goaltenders, development is more than a one or two year propositions, with Krahn being the elder statesman on the Calgarypuck analysis, appearing in each and every version with similar results.
Krahn finished 2nd overall for his draft year, but fell to third in the summer of 2001. A knee injury pushed him down the list to 13th overall in the 2002, only to rise back up and grab 5th spot in 2003. The summer of 2004 had him steady in the fifth spot. Through the six years of ratings, Krahn has the 9th best average rating (players need two rating periods to qualify) with 3.497.
Calgary's first overall pick in 2001, Chuck Kobasew, also finished second during the summer he was drafted with a 3.93 rating, behind the then recently acquired defenceman Jordan Leopold.
The following summer Leopold and Kobasew finished first and second again, with the new pick, 2002 1st rounder Eric Nystrom underwhelming Calgary fans with a rank of 7th at 3.42.
The 2003 analysis had #1 pick Dion Phaneuf out in front and Chuck Kobasew nipping at his heels. It was Kobasew's last appearance on the list with his former competitor, Leopold graduating the year before.
Finally, in 2004, first round pick Kris Chucko finished 4th overall in the rankings behind Phaneuf, pudgy goaltender Andrei Medvedev and 2003 2nd round pick and recent signee Tim Ramholt.
So, as mentioned, Irving's rise to the top of the list with a comfortable edge on Dustin Boyd is pretty impressive.
The 2006 list has two players that garnered average ratings above the magical 4.0 mark. That marks the fourth straight analysis with exactly two players to reach that mark, with the first two years of analysis only boasting one apiece.
In the six year history only Oleg Saprykin, Jordan Leopold (twice), Chuck Kobasew (twice), Dion Phaneuf (twice) and Andrei Medvedev have reached that mark. The fan base is looking pretty solid in the case of the three two time members of Club Four, but a little sketchy on the two Russians. Hears hoping the 2006 entrees fair better.
So is the above potential rank indicative of a future Calgary Flames roster? Don't count on it. The road to team building is littered with players with 3.5 plus ratings that have never panned out.
Generally the cream of the crop is just that and they rise to the top, but beyond that you'll find many an above average prospect fall apart, and many a late blooming gem find their game.
The 2000 group had Blair Betts and Steve Begin pass a dozen players and turn pro. The next year had Steve Montador and Matthew Lombardi.
Only time will tell, which makes the longevity of this exercise all the more valuable.