The Flames own a pretty decent draft pick this year. Nothing great, to be sure, but 13th overall is nothing to whine about. So leading up to the draft, I'm going to write a few pieces called 13th Overall, which will basically discuss What positions/types of players the Flames should target, Why the Flames should target specific players within the categories listed here, and Who the players are that would fit that bill.
Drafting a player is tricky business- especially in the early rounds where if you select poorly you end up with farm teams full of Kris Chuckos, and if you select intelligently you end up with a team of James Van Reimsdyk, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and so on. Sadly, the Flames have ended up with more of the Kris Chuckos and Matt Pelechs of the world than what Philadelphia has ended up with. Now to be sure, part of drafting well is simply luck. Often times sample sizes are too small to determine if a particular scouting department and GM are truly good or bad scouts- but there are some things you can do to maximize quality drafting- and the first one is targeting the right position.
After the jump: positions and types of players the Flames should look for (and just as important- not look for) and why
Yes- drafting the correct position is key.
So Bob- what's the first position we should talk about? Well, let's look behind doooooor number 1!
Don't draft goalies in the first round- hell, first couple rounds. Ever. The fact is goalie development is too sporadic and random to actually be a predictor for NHL success, unless it's a near-guaranteed thing (i.e. Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo).
In fact, founder emeritus Kent Wilson wrote a great piece on the futility of drafting goalies in the first round a few years back (and really in any of the early rounds):
It's hard to develop goalies and hard to determine whether young goalies will turn into bona fide NHLers. And there's a whole bunch of them out there, to the degree that there are always seems to be quality guys looking for work every year.
Basically- draft a goalie and you're looking at a development curve along the lines of Jeff Drouin-Deslaurier (if half successful!) and Brent Krahn if not.
A lesser extension of drafting goalies is drafting defensemen- for largely the same reason: development is prickly and unpredictable.
For every Tim Erixon- that is a defenseman that develops really well, you have two or three, that, you know, don't. Unless you're drafting the top defensemen in the draft class, a la Adam Larsson or Victor Hedman, you're taking a huge chance- and even then you risk developing the next Cam Barker. Bettman's Nightmare at Behind the Net takes a look at the issue of defensemen in the first round and draws this conclusion:
...it is much easier to evaluate offensive ability than defensive ability, and so we see a lot of 1st-round defensemen being projected pretty well offensively or as big hitters, but frequently turning out to have dubious defensive reputations or weaker-than-expected offensive numbers (or both).
Just as key: with the Flames prospect pantry being stocked with TJ Brodie, Joey Leach, and few serviceable players for 5/6 defensive spots down in Abbottsford, the Flames don't really need to take risks to develop defensemen. Is it a lighter pantry than it was with Tim Erixon filling up all the top shelves? Certainly, but it's also far better than our forward food stores. Okay, that metaphor's dead and buried.
So what are we left with, based on need and worth-the-drafting-riskability?
The area in which the Flames are far and away weakest- both in the NHL and in prospects. At this point, teams will often focus on where they need prospects- the wing or down the middle?
The fact is, it's generally better to draft a center- though not significantly.
Why? The defensive responsibilities- even in junior hockey- of a center are far greater than those of a wing, not to mention the need for on-ice vision and playmaking skills. A great center, generally speaking, will be far better at driving a play than a great winger. And if you need a winger- it's easier to move from the center out to the wing than vice versa.
Of course, this only applies if the Flames are looking down the barrel of a gun that's lacking any known quantities of prospects for them. If they have someone in mind who's a winger and who they think they can develop well, by all means, draft and develop that player. However, if it's the second round, and every player the Flames were targeting with those two picks is suddenly gone, prioritize a center over a winger.
- Drafting goalies is a complete crapshoot and not worth it even a little bit.
- The same mostly applies to defensemen.
- Forwards are a much better guarantee in the first couple rounds than any other position
- If the Flames don't have any known quantities available to them, they should draft a center. Every time.