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Three Players the Calgary Flames Should Avoid With the 16th Overall Pick

Every year there are prospects that get drafted way higher than they should.

Medicine Hat Tigers v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

The 2017 draft continues to approach and today we will look at some players the Flames should probably avoid should they pick 16th overall.

Last week I wrote about three potential value picks that the Flames could select if they were to hold onto the 16th overall pick. There was definitely a recurring theme, as the two forwards I identified appear to have a relative likelihood of falling to the Flames due to the fact that they are smaller in stature, despite their offensive prowess. Generally, a lot of people seem to be receptive to this drafting approach, although some are still hellbent on the notion that the Flames are much too small and need to avoid such players.

I see the merit in such arguments, no doubt if there is a player as good as Nick Suzuki but is 4 inches taller, you obviously take that player. The thing is, those players are likely to be long gone before the Flames pick at 16, so you want to be focusing on drafting the best player you believe to be available at your draft spot.

That leads to the focus of today’s piece, which will look at three players the Flames should stay away from, should they be available at the 16th spot in the draft. Every year, we see players drafted much earlier than they should be. It seems like a bad idea at the time and unsurprisingly, it usually ends up being a bad idea in the end.

What do these players have in common? Usually they are drafted quite high, despite pretty low scoring rates compared to the other players available when they are selected. Why are they drafted higher despite producing at a lower rate? Usually due to a lot of the traditional keywords of an old school hockey mentality, such as “size”, “leadership”, “grit” or “determination”. Or being known for “playing the game the right way”.

Some recent examples:

  • In 2013, the Ottawa Senators drafted WHL centre Curtis Lazar at 17th overall. Lazar had just 61 points in 72 games in his draft year, which is a terrible indicator of future production in the NHL. Picks shortly after him included Anthony Mantha, Andrei Burakovsky, Shea Theodore and Marko Dano, who have all been significantly more effective at the NHL level.
  • In 2014, the Vancouver Canucks drafted WHL right-winger Jake Virtanen 6th overall. Virtanen was only a point-per-game and had some questions about his speed and conditioning. In the next 3 picks, both William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers were drafted. Both Nylander and Ehlers had over 60 points in the NHL this season. Virtanen had 19 points in 65 AHL games.
  • In 2015, the Florida Panthers drafted left-wing OHLer Lawson Crouse 11th overall, despite finishing under a point-per-game in the OHL. This season he had 12 points in 72 NHL games. Players drafted shortly after Crouse include Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Evgeny Svechnikov, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Colin White, Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny. We are only 2 years out from that draft so there is still a ways to go to know for sure, but at this point in time, I think almost every NHL team would take any of those players before Crouse.

These are just some recent examples of teams overvaluing intangibles and size over production in draft prospects and in all of the above cases, it has worked out pretty terribly for those clubs. Yet, teams appear to have still not learned. This year, it looks as though there may be some 2017 versions of Lazar, Virtanen or Crouse, so here are three prospects the Flames should look to avoid should they pick 16th.

Michael Rasmussen (C) 6’5”, 200 LBS

Tri-City Americans (WHL) 50 GP, 32 G, 23 A, 55 PTS, 50 PIM, -13

Rasmussen is a player that is ranked between the top-10 and late teens by the various scouting outlets, McKeen’s goes as far as ranking him as the third best prospect for the draft, which is absolutely ridiculous. As an aside, they have Suzuki ranked 28th and Yamamoto 29th, so they are obviously laying a heavy emphasis on size in their rankings.

There are plenty of warning signs about Rasmussen. First of all, he only barely produced above a point-a-game. Secondly, the fact he has 9 more goals than he has assists is often a red flag (see Jake Virtanen, Curtis Lazar). Most concerning of all: only 24 of his points came at even-strength. He greatly relied on the powerplay for his production and barely generated offense at even-strength.

While it is very likely that Rasmussen could become an NHLer at some point, the data available suggests it is not promising to believe that he will become a high impact one. Average NHLers are extremely easy to acquire, so why should a team waste a mid-first round pick on one?

Cal Foote (D) 6’4” 210 LBS

Kelowna Rockets (WHL) 71 GP, 6 G, 51 A, 57 PTS, 41 PIM, +39

The last name will be familiar to you, as he is the son of former NHLer, Adam Foote. As the son of a very prominent former NHLer, you know that Foote is going to be receiving a lot of attention and probably going to get some benefit of the doubt for being associated with “the Foote Brand”.

Unlike Rasmussen, I do not think Foote would be a horrible pick in general. I do however, think he would be a horrible pick at 16th overall. While his point totals are pretty solid for a defensemen, they almost come entirely in the form of assists and a good portion of it came on the powerplay. So it is worth questioning how much offensive capability he may have at the NHL level. Furthermore, there are questions about his mobility and in the NHL today, getting around the ice plays more of a significant role than ever before. Another player that had questions about his offensive capabilities at the professional level, alongside mobility issues? Griffin Reinhart, who has yet to breakthrough to the NHL level, 5 years after being drafted.

Foote is a right-shot D and could provide that “stay-at-home” presence that the Flames lack on their backend. However, the Nashville Predators lack that sort of player on their defense and it looks like they are doing just fine without one. There are going to be more talented players available than Foote at the 16th pick, if the Flames are set on selecting him, they should absolutely be trading down to pick him up.

Ryan Poehling (C) 6’2” 185 LBS

St. Cloud State (NCAA) 35 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 13 PTS, 12 PIM, -8

Ryan Poehling is another player that is projected to go in the first round. Quite high by some outlets, actually. Between the various scouting entities, he is ranked between 6th and 24th among draft eligible prospects. As an 18-year-old, he has just finished his first year of NCAA hockey, so he has been playing at a high-level of competition. However, the results were not there at all for him this year. While he is praised for being defensively capable, he had just 13 points in 35 games and poor shot generation. While he was not playing on a particularly strong team, those results are concerning.

I have not had the chance to watch Poehling play, so perhaps there are some phenomenal aspects of his game that cannot be gleaned based on the numbers and statistical trends. The fact he is revered for his defensive abilities speaks to the likelihood that he should be able to make the transition to the NHL eventually. However, when you’re drafting in the first round, you should be looking for players that can make an impact rather than being a safer pick.

At the 16 spot, it just seems like there are players that offer much higher upside versus what Poehling was shown to this point. It seems insane that he is suggested at all to be a 6th overall pick by anybody. If the Flames want Poehling, trading down to gather an additional asset seems like the only way it would make sense to select him.

Why settle for average?

A thing that all these players have in common: they possess attributes that likely make some teams believe that they are safe picks to become NHL players. That could very well be true, perhaps all of them have a better chance of making the NHL than someone like KHL forward Klim Kostin. Who has the highest upside between the aforementioned players and Klim Kostin? Kostin by miles.

While Poehling perhaps has the most untapped potential among all of these players if he can develop more of a scoring touch, none of these three prospects look like they possess enough high end reward compared to the likelihood of them turning out to be an average player. Rasmussen in particular, unless he drastically changes, will likely be a disappointment to whichever team spends a high pick on him.

It is very easy to get an average NHL player, plenty of them go unsigned in free agency and head to Europe every year. If you’re drafting in the first round, go for a player that can be a game-changer. Was Erik Karlsson portrayed as a safe pick when drafted 15th overall in 2008?


Which player would you be most concerned about drafting?

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  • 38%
    (129 votes)
  • 14%
    (49 votes)
  • 29%
    (96 votes)
  • 17%
    I think any of them would be good picks.
    (57 votes)
331 votes total Vote Now