As so many have pointed out when evaluating the Flames' thoroughly mediocre season ending in the lack of post-season berth, the team also has no picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft and the second round of next year's. While the merits of the NHL's annual gathering for the purpose of evaluating and selecting the next Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, or Mario Lemieux have long been debated, an analysis of the origins of the top 25 scorers in the NHL done by Jonathan Willis at his site Hockey or Die offers fairly substantial support for the draft.
He found that 6/25 of these players were drafted first overall, 15/25 with a top ten pick, and 20/25 were taken in the first round of the draft. Only two of twenty-five were chosen in the second round, 23 of 25 players were selected within the top one hundred picks, while one was drafted outside of the top one hundred and one was undrafted. Of all these players, 19 of 25 are playing with the team that drafted them, four were acquired through a trade, and two signed through free agency.
I'll take a look at how this relates to the Flames after the jump.
The cut-off point for evaluating the league's 25 best scorers in this exercise was seventy points, and as Jarome Iginla, the Flames' top scorer at 69 points, finished just below that mark, none of them were Calgary Flames.
Here's how the top ten scorers on the Flames roster this past season break down:
First overall: 0/10
Top 10 pick: 2/10
First round: 3/10
Second round: 1/10
Top 100 picks: 5/10
Outside of top 100 picks: 2/10
Free Agency: 2/10
When expanded to include all players on the roster at the end of the season, the numbers look like this:
First overall: 0/25
Top 10 pick: 3/25
First round: 7/25
Second round: 3/25
Top 100 picks: 13/25
Outside of top 100 picks: 9/25
Free Agency: 4/25
The Flames have traded for or otherwise 'acquired' each of their top ten scorers and all but five players on their entire roster. While a few players have managed to climb the Flames' depth chart and land themselves a regular job in the NHL, the majority of their recent selections either haven't been able to crack the lineup or stick with the team for whatever reason, never mind securing a reputation as one of the league's top point producers, forcing the team to search elsewhere to fill out their roster. This typically necessitates giving up something in return, in the form of roster players, draft picks, or prospects, perpetuating something of a vicious cycle. Some teams win a lot of games using this strategy, and for a while it appeared that the Flames were one of them. Since the 2001 draft, eight players selected by the Flames have spent noteworthy amounts of time with the big club--only three of which (Moss, Nystrom, and Pardy) are still with the team today. That's a seventh round pick, a first round (and top ten) pick, and sixth round pick.
76% of the league's 25 best scorers were drafted by the team they played for this past season, 84% of them were selected with either a first overall or a top ten pick, and 80% were drafted in the first round. The progression of these players from prospects to some of the league's top scorers has certainly been helped along by extenuating circumstances during their development and their NHL careers--who they played with, who they played against, and of course, a little bit of luck--but the basis for it is still, undeniably, skill. While it's more likely a player selected in the first round will have an impact at the NHL level than someone chosen in the fifth round, there are no guarantees, as many players labeled a "first round bust" over the years can attest to while star players like Martin St. Louis (undrafted) and Henrik Zetterberg (210th overall) are in the relative minority.
Given that the Flames haven't drafted within the top ten since 2004 when they selected Dion Phaneuf ninth overall and have never had the first overall pick in their thirty year history in Calgary, it's not likely that they'll have a top-25 scorer coming down the pipeline any time soon. The results of most of their junior prospects and some of the older guys in the AHL this season have been encouraging, but the majority of them still have a long way to go. I hold out hope that some will defy the odds--provided that the Flames decide it's in their best interest to hold onto them, that is.