With this weekend's Draft festivities in Los Angeles having wrapped up yesterday afternoon, it's time to step back and evaluate the Flames' performance. Without a second or first round pick at their disposal, expectations for the players that heard their names called by Darryl Sutter on Saturday are (rightfully) low. Taking the depth of this year's draft into consideration, I was surprised to see some of the players I profiled as potential Flames picks selected much earlier than their final Central Scouting Rankings would suggest. Brett Bulmer, Christian Thomas, and Devante Smith-Pelly were all selected in the mid-second round while Greg McKegg was chosen by the Leafs at #62. Kevin Sundher, Matt MacKenzie, and Mike Pereira were still available to the Flames when they made their first two picks in the third round, with the latter missing out on the Draft altogether. Naturally, I'm slightly disappointed that the Flames opted to select another defenceman in Joey Leach from the WHL's Kootenay Ice after Ryan Howse's Chilliwhack teammate Kevin Sundher fell to them at #73 and that they didn't take a chance on Kiril Kabanov who was selected at #65, immediately after the Flames made their first pick, but old habits die hard, I suppose.
The Flames selected four forwards in this year's Entry Draft. Maxwell Reinhart, son of former Flame Paul Reinhart and a centre for the WHL's Kootenay Ice who was ranked 74th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting, was selected by the Flames with their first pick at #64. Bill Arnold, an American centre who came out of the United States Development Program, was chosen by Calgary at #108, followed by left winger and pugilist John Ferland from the Brandon Wheat Kings at #133 and lanky right winger Patrick Holland from the Tri-City Americans at #173. The Flames also selected two defencemen--Joey Leach, the hard-hitting stay-at-home defenceman mentioned above at #73, and John Ramage, son of embattled former Flame Rob Ramage at #103 in his second go-round at the NHL Entry Draft. Most of these players are still playing Junior hockey or headed to college, so any impact they may have on the Flames organization likely won't be felt for quite some time, barring exponential improvement or a "diamond in the rough" discovery.
Draft day didn't bring quite the same activity in terms of trades as Flames fans have become used to over the past few years; the only deal Darryl Sutter made this weekend was sending his sixth-round pick to the Sharks in return for goalie prospect Henrik Karlsson, a twenty-seven year old 'tender playing in the Swedish Elite League who is under contract with KHL squad Dinamo Riga, but could make an appearance at Flames training camp later this summer. The addition of another goalie prospect could possibly spell the end for one of the Flames' free agent keepers on the farm in David Shantz or Matt Keetley, who is an RFA and has yet to be qualified, as the organization also has Joni Ortio developing in Finland and former first round pick Leland Irving in the system.
The consensus amongst Flames fans seems to be that the most underwhelming result of this weekend's draft was Sutter's failure to clear cap space in anticipation of free agency, which begins this Thursday. The majority of fans were hoping that the GM would be able to swing one or more deals to move a defenceman or dispose of a cumbersome contract. The NHL's buyout period ends on June 30th, and if Sutter decides to go that route, he'd better get moving. Flames Nation's Pat Steinberg, who covered the Draft live on location in Los Angeles, makes a good point in that the draft isn't the only occasion where trades come to fruition; Darryl very well could have begun talks with a few general managers which could develop into something more in the coming days or weeks, and has already stated that his priority is to address the organization's free agent class before swapping players.
After the Flames' shortcomings this season, many of us are impatient and eager for change in some tangible way, shape, or form, and while this weekend was far from a disaster, the potential for progress was undoubtably there. Of course it will take a few years to determine the likely career paths of the players selected by the Flames yesterday and although it is impossible to judge their performance immediately, I would likely give them an overall grade of C- for this year's Entry Draft. While the organization did address a need by selecting more forwards, Sutter failed to move up in the Draft to give himself a shot at landing a better player. The Flames once again opted for familiarity by using the majority of their picks on players from the WHL, avoided European skaters and skilled players like Kabanov that would otherwise be considered "high risk," and added another goaltender and two more defencemen to the already muddled depth chart. All things considered, Sutter's failure to create cap flexibility heading into free agency is surely the most significant black mark on this year's Draft, for the time being.