Flashback: The 2012 NHL Draft

Bruce Bennett

The Flames' 2012 draft class has yet to make much of an impact, although that could change soon.

The Flames had a pick in each round for the 2012 draft. Seven picks saw them select three forwards, three defencemen, and one goalie. None of them have had a full professional season yet, but there will be a few graduates starting next season.

In 2012, the Flames selected:

Of these seven players, three have been signed (the defencemen), three cannot yet be signed (the college players), and Gordon, who was not signed, who can reenter the draft as a 20-year-old.

Of the three college players, only one has shown real potential thus far, and it’s not the first rounder, although he’ll surely get his chance as well.

Two or three or four or five of seven: 29%, 43%, 57%, 71%

It’s pretty unlikely to expect five of these players to make it. Four is even more of a stretch. Three or two would be far more likely, but of course, as it goes with recent drafts, it could also just as easily end up being zero. It’ll be some time before we know.

Two of the seven have played professional games thus far, and one of the college players has really stood out.

The goalie

So far, Jon Gillies is the guy to watch. Committed to Providence College, a school that, prior to his arrival, was a sub-.500 team, Gillies burst onto the scene. As a freshman, he posted a .931 SV% over 35 games, leading the Friars to their first winning season since 2007-08, when they finished at .500. With Gillies in net, Providence finished with a .593 record.

He didn’t slow down for his sophomore season, either, once again posting a .931 SV% over 34 games (while being Team USA’s starter at the World Juniors, where he finished with a more disappointing .892 SV%) as Providence finished with an improved .600 record.

Simply put, Gillies has been one of college hockey’s best goaltenders. He’s returning to school for at least one more season, but he was one of the reasons the Flames felt comfortable with letting Laurent Brossoit, another promising goaltending prospect, go: in his first year, Gillies had risen above him on the goaltending prospect depth chart.

Huge and athletic, he could be the Flames’ starter in net one day.

The defencemen

All three defencemen have signed entry-level contracts with the Flames. Two have played professional games. If not for health complications, one would have played his first professional season.

Just two games into the start of his pro career, Sieloff was sidelined for the rest of the season. The problem? A staph infection, resulting from an ingrown hair on his stomach, and forced him to go eight straight weeks without even breaking a sweat. That’s pretty difficult for anyone, but for a professional athlete, who is definitely going to be sweating every time he goes to his job, it’s incredibly derailing as well.

Sieloff would have been the lone American returnee on defence for the World Juniors, but had to sit out the tournament as well. The last competitive hockey he played was for the Windsor Spitfires, an entire season ago. He wore an "A" for them, and became known for his crushing hits.

Sieloff, who is listed at 6’1" and 200 lbs., proved himself to Flames management, and was signed to his first professional contract at the start of the season, a year earlier than may have been expected. It wasn’t meant to be, but hopefully he’ll be able to pick up where he left off.

Kulak, meanwhile, has proven himself to be a scorer at the junior level. In his draft+1 year, on a poor Vancouver team, he scored 12 goals and 44 points over 72 games; with a slightly improved team, he was able to increase that to 14 goals and 60 points over 69 games. He’s played 10 regular season AHL games over these years as well, and scored his first professional points last season: one goal and two assists. He also played in all four of the Heat’s playoff games. Kulak will likely be a regular defenceman for the new Adirondack Flames next season, and, like Tyler Wotherspoon before him, may get a chance at the NHL level should injuries strike the Flames.

The Flames only recently signed Culkin to a contract, but Culkin has proved himself to be an offensive defenceman as well. Playing in the Q this past season, Culkin posted eight goals and 50 points while playing 65 games for two teams (he was traded from Quebec to Drummondville mid-season; Drummondville fell in the second round to eventual-champion Val-d’Or).

Culkin may be more of a long shot compared to the other defencemen, but it’s too early to say. At least Kris Letang likes him.

The forwards

Mark Jankowski is not exactly living up to his first round pedigree, and at this point, seeing the pick after him, Olli Maatta, having such success in Pittsburgh… Well, it doesn’t feel good.

That isn’t to totally write Jankowski off, but he really isn’t creating as much as he should be, and certainly not enough to judge as to whether or not he’ll have an NHL career. He scored six more goals and seven more points in his sophomore year, but has only risen from .53 PPG to .64 PPG.

Picked out of a Canadian high school, the Jankowski pick was originally seen as quite a reach, and he hasn’t done much to dissuade fears that Calgary screwed up the pick.

To put it into context, Calgary’s other college centre fared much better in his sophomore season. While Jankowski had 13 goals, Bill Arnold had 17. While Jankowski had 25 points, Arnold had 36. While Jankowski was at .64 PPG, Arnold was at .86.

To be fair to Jankowski, Providence is a weaker team than Boston College… but being unable to keep pace with a former fourth round pick isn’t a good sign.

As for the other forwards, Gordon didn’t perform well enough to earn a contract with the Flames, and DeBlouw, who only scored four assists in his sophomore season, isn’t looking like he’ll earn one when he’s done school, either.

Was 2012 a good year?

Extreme results usually aren’t sustainable. The Flames’ 2011 draft certainly counted as extreme: every single pick may make a great impact for the Flames down the line.

The 2012 draft probably won't produce similar results. The Flames may have found a starting netminder in Gillies, and may have found some NHL defencemen in Kulak and Sieloff.

Other than those three players, though… there may not be a lot to look forward to.

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