Three first round picks was unprecedented for the Calgary Flames, but it sure made the 2013 NHL draft a lot of fun. Of course, the further down the first round you go, the less valuable those picks become. Having traded Jarome Iginla to a Stanley Cup contender, the pick the Flames got back for him was never going to be particularly great.
That doesn't mean it couldn't be well-utilized, though. With the pick they got for Iginla, the Flames selected a kid who had grown up watching him: Morgan Klimchuk, himself from Calgary. The 6'0, 185 lb. left winger is the only 2013 first round pick of the Flames who has yet to play any NHL games, largely in part due to his birthday: he won't be able to start playing professional hockey on a regular basis until this season.
With Klimchuk now set to go to Stockton, we'll see whether he can build on his excellent junior numbers, and if he'll be someone the Flames will be able to call upon sooner rather than later.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 team||Vote total|
|11||Morgan Klimchuk||03/02/95||28th overall, 2013||Regina Pats, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)||95|
Klimchuk came up through minor hockey in Calgary, captaining the Calgary Bisons to second place in the Western Canadian Bantam championship. This caught the Regina Pats' eye, and they drafted him fifth overall in the 2010 WHL Bantam draft. Klimchuk's WHL career started that season, when he got in five games as a 15-year-old.
His WHL career really kicked off the next season. A full-time member of the Pats, Klimchuk was fifth in team scoring as one of the youngest players on the team. The Pats made the playoffs that season, but had little chance as a lower seed, and lost a 4-1 first round series to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
For his draft year, Klimchuk really broke out, scoring over a point per game for the Pats as a 17-year-old. He was second in Regina scoring, with only 20-year-old Lane Scheidl ahead of him with 80 points to Klimchuk's 76. The Pats took a step back that season, and failed to come close to the playoffs; this, however, did not deter the Flames, who selected him 28th overall after his breakout year.
Both Klimchuk and the Pats took steps forward in the 2013-14 season, Klimchuk's draft +1 year. He increased his scoring, but missed time, ultimately ending up the third highest scorer on the top team in the WHL's East Division (but not a particularly strong team; they were tied for fourth overall in the Eastern Conference, worse than all top three teams in the Central). The Pats were swept out of the first round by the Brandon Wheat Kings, giving Klimchuk the chance to sneak a few AHL games in with the Abbotsford Heat. He went pointless.
Klimchuk returned to Regina for his 19-year-old, and likely final, season in the WHL, but didn't stick around long. He was traded to the Memorial Cup-hopeful Wheat Kings, who dominated the East, and ended the regular season with the best record in the WHL. Despite joining Brandon later in the season, he finished as their ninth top scorer - and one of their top scorers on a point-per-game basis, at about 1.5, the same as Brandon's top scorer throughout the entire season.
The Wheat Kings' season ended well after the Adirondack Flames', as they made it all the way to the WHL final before being swept by the Kelowna Rockets. Klimchuk can still return to the WHL next season, but when you're scoring a point and a half per game on one of the top teams, you've probably proved everything you can at the junior level.
Strengths and weaknesses
One thing's for certain: Klimchuk can score. He'll go to the dirty areas on the ice to accomplish this, and that's paid off for him: he's a regular, consistent scorer. He's smart, he can skate, and he has good hands: all attributes that should allow him to adapt well to and succeed in professional hockey. Not only that, but he's been used in defensive situations as well, ensuring a well-rounded player that could be perfect for a team's middle six. He could even be a guy who could one day wear a letter for his team in the big leagues.
The only real knocks on him? He's a bit undersized, and doesn't really seem to be particularly elite. He's good, not incredible. As for the size issue, smaller players are having fewer and fewer problems making the NHL nowadays, and Klimchuk isn't even all that small. He's a guy used to going into the dirty, high-danger areas to try to score, but that was in junior. We'll see how he fares against professional, adult players, but it probably won't hold him back.
Future with the Flames
The left side has dried up a bit since Sven Baertschi's departure. Johnny Gaudreau looks pretty established to be the first line left winger, but Klimchuk could be a very good fill-in right behind him on the second line. If he can translate his junior scoring the pros, he should be a top-six guy. The fact that he has defensive sense to him and works hard every shift, with some scoring talent, could make him a nice complement on Mikael Backlund's line one day.
Expectations for 2015-16
That said, any talk of Klimchuk being in the NHL is premature. He'll likely spend his entire season with the Stockton Heat, hopefully on their top six. He'll have to adapt to the professional game, something he only got a small taste in a couple of years ago, with no impact. You hope he'll be one of Stockton's leading scorers, and if things go really, really well, he could earn a call up, similar to his fellow 2013 Flames first rounder Emile Poirier in his own rookie pro season.
Basically, if he can replicate Poirier's 2013-14 performance, Klimchuk will definitely be on the right track.
Earlier on the list
#25 - Ryan Culkin // #24 - Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22 - Garnet Hathaway // #21 - Kenny Agostino // #20 - Mark Jankowski // #19 - Bill Arnold // #18 - Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 - Mason McDonald // T-#14 - Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13 - Tyler Wotherspoon // #12 - Oliver Kylington