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Flashback: The 2008 NHL Entry Draft

Later rounds helped salvage what could have been a very disappointing draft for the Flames.

Mike Ridewood

The Flames had seven picks in 2008. Among those selected were Greg Nemisz (mercifully let go from the Flames’ organization last season when he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Kevin Westgarth. He played 14 games for the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate), Mitch Wahl (in the AHL? ECHL? Austria? He’s playing somewhere, presumably), Nick Larson (ECHL), Ryley Grantham (AHL… CHL… ECHL… somewhere), and Alexander Deilert (Sweden).

The Flames’ 2008 draft is the merit of some deserved scorn. The most likely place you’re going to draft an NHLer is in the first round. The Flames picked Greg Nemisz. He played 15 games and had one assist.

It gets worse when you look back on the draft list. Selected right after Nemisz? Buffalo's Tyler Ennis, who has 267 NHL games and 166 points under his belt. After Ennis? Washington's John Carlson, with his 316 NHL games and 134 points. But no… Greg Nemisz.

That said, was the 2008 NHL draft a failure? The first round went about as poorly as you can ask. In the end, Flames essentially drafted Kevin Westgarth. Love or hate Westgarth, we can all agree he’s not a first rounder.

Two for seven: 29%

But the Flames did get two NHLers out of the 2008 draft. From seven picks, it’s about what you can expect.

In the third round, at 78th overall, the Flames selected Lance Bouma.

Lance Bouma is not the kind of player you break bank for. He’s not integral to a team’s success. You can win or without him, and any impact he has is unlikely to make a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

But he’s still a good player to have. He played his first full season for the Flames last season, scoring five goals and 15 points, and looks like he’ll be a regular fourth liner capable of playing higher roles in case of injury from time to time, much like he was this season. Among the Flames’ younger players, he got some of the most difficult zone starts at 38.6%. The Flames tended to be outshot while he was on the ice, but he could play a regular shift.

If you want greater context, look at Joe Colborne. He and Bouma are the same age, and while Colborne scored 13 more points, he did it while being placed in a far more favourable situation, with more offensive zone starts and better linemates. Colborne is more skilled than Bouma, but his CF% was only marginally better: 45.4% compared to Bouma’s 43.5%.

So while Bouma isn’t going to make or break games, he’s still developing into a steady fourth line player for the team that drafted him.

A higher quality player

The Flames’ other NHLer?

Fourth rounder. 114th overall. TJ Brodie, who was partnered with Mark Giordano over the past season to form one of the NHL’s best defence pairings.

He’ll be 24 to start next season, and he’s already working towards establishing himself as a legitimate top-pairing defenceman. He’s smart. He’s a great skater. And he’s just getting started.

Brodie spent the season starting more in the defensive than offensive zone. He faced the toughest competition out of all Flames except for his defence partner (his TOI% QoC – the competition as judged by time on ice, since better players play more minutes – was 29.5; only Gio beat him at 29.6). He and Gio were the only defencemen to have corsi ratings above 50% as well. And when you correct for the fact that he was on a bad team using CF% rel, he was the second best defenceman in the league; again, only behind Gio.

He also doubled his career high in goals, and more than doubled his career high in points. Brodie set new records this season with four goals and 31 points, 22 of which were at even strength. He doesn’t need to rely on the powerplay to score goals, and it’s reasonable to expect he only gets better.

An established defenceman we can compare him to is Duncan Keith. Now, I’m not saying Brodie will become Keith (although that would be awesome!), but they play similar styles. We can compare their earliest seasons as well:

Duncan Keith TJ Brodie
Age 22 .26 PPG .30 PPG*
Age 23 .38 PPG .38 PPG

* Lockout season, fewer games played.

Mind, Keith had less ice time, more shots, and a lower shooting percentage in his 23-year-old season than Brodie did. But at the very least, there’s reason to be excited, isn’t there?

Was 2008 a good year?

If, out of seven picks, you can get one regular NHLer, plus another guy who plays a handful of games, you’ve drafted about on average.

The Flames did slightly better than that. Lance Bouma is going to be an NHL regular. He isn’t going to be a particularly high quality one, but at 24, he’s already played more than 100 NHL games.

Quality is more important than quantity. Despite screwing up the first round, Calgary still managed to walk away with a very high quality NHLer: they may have drafted a top pairing defenceman in the fourth round. No matter how you slice it, that’s really, really good. Brodie was one of the biggest reasons we, as Flames fans, could walk away from this past season happy and filled with hope. He was a top pairing d-man at age 23, and he probably hasn’t even reached his ceiling yet.