To be bleak, the Flames have some very concerning defensive issues. There's a whole number of reasons for this, and one of them could be their timid approach to acquiring new defencemen.
The front office, through three different administrations, rarely splurged on the open market; Deryk Engelland's awful contract is their biggest defensive signing since they gave Cory Sarich $18M for five years. Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman were added through low-risk trades. It's more so dumb luck rather than expert scouting and development that our elite top pairing is a fourth-round pick and an undrafted UFA that we once shipped overseas.
That same timidness can be found in the drafting process. In the past 10 years, the Flames have only drafted two defencemen in the first two rounds, almost always choosing project forwards over blueliners. Since 2004, the Flames have selected 47 forwards and eight goalies versus 21 defencemen, with only 10 of those blueliners selected in the past three years. With most of them coming in later rounds, there was a real lack of quality moving forward, creating a depth vacuum (for lack of a better term) that the Flames have been struggling to fix.
There are some explanations for this. There were times when the Flames' most immediate needs were forwards; the Flames didn't really have any centre depth until this year and before that, they had issues with winger depth.
But after a few years of quality drafting and rebuilding, the one area the Flames lack in both youth and skill is defence. With a deep draft class, especially with regards to blueliners, it is time for the Flames to consider picking a defenceman high, which brings us to QMJHL standout Jeremy Roy.
|Birthdate||April 14th, 1997|
|NHL Central Scouting rank||21 (midterm: 23)|
|NHLe (Draft -1)||15|
I've been able to watch Jeremy Roy before, as he played for my former hometown Sherbrooke Phoenix. Among the QMJHL diehards, he was a sort of myth-like figure coming out of triple-A hockey. The town was buzzing for months before his Q debut: he was going to give the sorry Phoenix legitimacy.
Having attended a few games for both of his years, it was impressive just how much of a presence he was on defence. Roy was the one pointing out teammates' defensive responsibilities, and seeing things that other players couldn't. It might be a relativity issue considering the Phoenix have always been hot garbage, but his performance during the Hlinka tournament confirmed that he could also play with the better prospects.
Don't just take my word for it: actual scouts have praised his hockey IQ extensively. Roy is seen as an excellent two-way player, always calm and collected in all three zones with the ability to control the play.
He's used in all situations, and is considered a deadly force on the powerplay with his powerful and accurate slap shot. Roy's offensive prowess is also critically acclaimed, particularly with regards to breakouts and zone entries. He isn't one to make an errant pass either, as seen by his 38 assists this year. His offensive vision is by far his greatest asset, and one that keeps the scouts buzzing.
Roy is also valued for his leadership and character. He was an alternate captain for both Sherbrooke and Team Canada U18s this year, and was the captain for the Quebec U17s. Scouts like the fact that he is unafraid of playing physical and that he plays smart while doing so. He only has 60 PIMS in 116 junior games played.
Scouts don't often talk about his flaws, but one of his inherent problems is the fact that he plays in the QMJHL. The league is notorious for its high scoring games, and in turn, its defenders are not that highly regarded.
It's a dual indictment for Roy. While he is tied for first in defencemen PPG, that number is slightly inflated. While his NHLe stats are promising (more here), we can only speculate how nicely that translates to the NHL.
Since the QMJHL plays a different type of game from other major-junior leagues, defenders have to play a different style. Q defenders tend not to make it very far in the NHL, often being picked late or not at all. Recent QMJHL graduates include Brandon Gormley, Nathan Beaulieu, and Kris Letang. Impressive players, but for every success story, there's at least five flameouts.
Like his points production, we can only speculate if Roy only looks like a good defender in a zero defence league, or if he is a good defender.
The Flames really need puck moving defencemen. Jeremy Roy is a puck moving defenceman. It's a match!
But then the question becomes readiness. CHL defenders in general usually require an extra year or two in junior before they are ready to crack the roster, regardless of draft position. If the Flames want to go down the defender route, they inevitably have to wait a while for the pick to be NHL ready.
With Roy, they are getting one of the best offensive-defencemen in the draft. It's up to BT and co. to determine if they want to wait that long when they could be addressing other issues.
Why draft him?
- Incredible offensive IQ - has been described as a "quarterback" on the ice
- Good special teams player
- Good NHL defender size
- Has shown the ability to rapidly adapt and grow when transitioning to higher levels of hockey
- He wears the same number as Connor McDavid. IT'S A SIGN
Why not draft him?
- Speculation. He has risen to top 10 status and dropped to late first/early second status throughout the year. Combined with the usual questions about QMJHL players, he could be a high risk player not worth the #15 selection.
- Assuming the dust has completely settled, he is still ranked in the 20s. A bit of a stretch at #15, unless the Flames want to trade up.
There's certainly a lot to like about Roy, but also a lot to question. On draft day, the Flames are going to have to carefully balance risk and reward. While it certainly won't be as traumatic as screwing up a top 10 pick, considering the depth of this draft, a potential elite player could be waiting at #15.
Given the Flames' current defensive situation, it becomes even more imperative to make the right pick, as it could delay the rebuild another year if the wrong choice is made. In Roy's case, I think he is the real deal, and that it would be wise of the Flames to have him on the top of the draft board.
(Warning: the music is really annoying in this video)
We're going to keep doing these up until the draft, make sure you stick around!