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.
There is absolutely a joke about a "teenage wasteland" waiting to be found in this. That, as well as David Caruso putting on sunglasses, aside, we're closing in on the draft, which means that it's time to ramp up coverage. So, with out further ado, I present the list of the best draft targets for the Flames.
I'm going to present the list in several groups: first I'm going to list the top targets for the Flames, regardless of availability. Basically, this is the "Trade up to draft" group. Obviously a lot of the guys on this list will not be available. I know this, you know this, let's not point out the obvious any more than we have to.
Next will be the "Trade up but not a lot" group. Players expected to go just before the Flames draft. These are actually reasonable targets depending on the teams ahead of the Flames. If they like a player a little later, they might be happy to take the 13th and 2nd round pick letting the Flames move up a couple teams.
Third is the "available when the Flames are drafting" group. These are the 3 players projected to be available when the Flames draft who I believe would be a good fit, or at least not be a total trainwreck in either a Kris Chucko or Tim Erixon way. (Note: players with links are the players who we've written draft profiles about.)
The "Trade Up A Lot" Group
1. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW St. John QMJHL
What's this? I don't have RNH in the top slot? Or Larsson? Or Landeskog? The reasoning is pretty simple actually. I'd advise avoiding Larsson purely for positional reasons, I think RNH is vastly overrated based on his PP/EV split, and Landeskog is absolutely NHL ready but has a very low ceiling. That leaves Huberdeau, who was a beast in the Memorial Cup.
2. Ryan Strome, C Niagara OHL
Strome has the advantage of a late birthday, which means as he's younger than everyone else we probably have yet to see the best of him. And given that we've already seen 103 points in 65 games with no notable linemates, that's a hell of a ceiling.
3. Sean Couturier C Drummondville QMJHL
First, can someone explain what the hell a Voltigeur is? Secondly, I was hesitant about Couturier at first because he seemed to present himself as a player who dominated on his size, not skill. Having talked to a lot of people who watched him throughout the season though, I'm happy to revise that decision. I still think Strome and Huberdeau are probably better fits for the Flames, as we need high end offensive skill, but Couturier isn't the worst player in the world to trade up for. That would be RNH.
The "Trade Up a Little Group"
1. SVEN Bartschi, LW Portland WHL
Have I mentioned how much I love this kid? The age/maturity thing has me hesitate a little bit, since he just missed the last draft, but given that this was his rookie CHL season and he dominated at even strength...<3
2. Mika Zibanejad, C Djurgardens SEL
A player who both has a very high upside and is physically ready to compete? Yuuuuuup. Not only that, he already plays a two way game, has incredible work ethic, and so on. It would not surprise me one bit if he was the best player to come out of the draft some years down the road.
3. Ryan Murphy, D Kitchener OHL
The first and only D I wouldn't mind the Flames taking. We don't need big defensemen who can't skate and can't score. We need capable offensive defensemen who will drive possession. Not a whole lot of those, but if Murphy is available around 7-12, I pray the Flames make a move to trade up for him, if not one of the other players listed here.
The Extremely Likely Group
1. Mark McNeil, C Prince Albert
The player we took in the SBN Mock Draft is projected to go right around the time the Flames are drafting- and I'm okay with that. A player who looks to be a surefire NHLer who plays a complete two-way game is something to drool over. And while this is never the primary reason to look for a prospect, it certainly helps that he oozes intangibles.
2. Alexander Khokhlachev, C Windsor
I know a lot people disagree with me on this, but the fact is Khokhlachev has some of the best straight up skills in the game in this draft. And being barely draft eligible, he's still going to grow a bit and has plenty of room to fill out, allowing the physical game to truly develop.
3. Rocco Grimaldi, C USA Under-18-USHL
This is coming out of nowhere I know, as I haven't mentioned him or written a draft profile on him yet, but he's probably the one player with even better pure skills than the aforementioned Khokhlachev. So why does he fall to the late first round in so many mock drafts or prospect ratings? He's 5'6", which a lot of people seem to think means he can't compete in the NHL. Martin St. Louis disagrees. A small player who's merely average skill-wise will have trouble succeeding, that's a certainty. A small player with high end skills will succeed despite his size. As Pronman on Hockey Prospectus put it:
A prospect's skill set is a combination of many qualities and if they're 50/50 or 65/35, if it the ends it equals 100 that's all I care about. Having a major liability in one key area can be supported if one is very strong in many other areas, and for Grimaldi, that's the case
The Rest of the Best
Obviously I've left out a lot of players. That's not to say I think they're bad, I just don't see them fitting into any of the above groups.
For example, RNH is projected to go #1. We're not getting that pick from the Oilers, and just as importantly, I'd rather not draft him at all unless he falls to the end of the top ten. Which isn't happening.
Landeskog is a similar player in that he'll go much higher than the Flames will be drafting as well as go much higher than he probably should. While he's a good player, he's not top 5 good, and that's where he's going. If the Flames are spending the assets to trade up, they shouldn't spend them on him.
I'm on the record as not being a fan of Armia for several reasons, and taking a defensive defenseman would just be awful. Larsson falls into the Landeskog/RNH group, in that if he mysteriously falls I would hope the Flames try and move up before another team capitalizes on that.