After taking most of last year’s draft off following the Travis Hamonic trade, the Calgary Flames will be entering this year’s draft with a first round pick. After winning the Pacific Division and finishing 2nd overall in the regular season (let’s just pretend the playoffs didn’t happen), the Flames will be picking at #26 in Vancouver.
It’s an interesting and somewhat new position for the Flames after spending much of the last decade drafting early in the first round. Of course they selected Juuso Valimaki at 16th in 2017, but being 10 picks further back might change the gameplan. By the late first round, all of the top guys are gone and the remaining ordering/opinions on players are heavily varied among scouting services and teams.
Teams often diverge into two paths at this point in the draft:
1) Drafting the best available player
2) Drafting by position to specifically address organizational depth
Calgary would be wise to follow the best player available path, so here are five prospects that could be available at #26.
G Spencer Knight
As goaltenders often are, Spencer Knight is an interesting case heading into the 2019 draft. He’s undoubtedly the best goaltender in the draft, but the league as a whole has strayed away from drafting goaltenders in the first round for a number of years. From 2013-2018 there have been just two goalies drafted in the first round. Andrei Vasilevskiy is the most recent first round pick that’s currently active in the NHL (drafted in 2012).
Knight has committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season and potentially beyond after having spent time with the USNTDP. At 6’3, 200 pounds he’s a big goaltender that is also very agile in the net.
Some draft boards currently have Knight as high as 13 while he falls off the top 31 on quite a few others. Goaltenders often take time, so the question becomes when teams are willing to show patience and draft him.
I really don’t think Knight will fall to 26, but if he does Calgary would be wise to jump on him and potentially secure their franchise goalie for the future. Perhaps it may even be worth considering finding a way to trade up for him.
D Moritz Seider
Despite having Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, and Noah Hanifin all being 22 years old or younger, you can never have enough young defencemen in the NHL. This is especially true with looming Seattle expansion draft where it appears the Flames will lose at least one good player from their D core.
Seider (6’4, 198 lbs) is currently playing at the 2019 IIHF World Championship for Team Germany if you’re interested in catching a glimpse of him. He spent the year with Adler Manheim of the DEL, picking up six points in 29 games. Pretty impressive showing in a men’s league for a kid who just turned 18 back in April.
Outside of Rasmus Andersson, Calgary’s right side is looking somewhat thin so if he’s available Calgary would be wise to take him. He’s currently ranked 6th among European skaters, and has been ranked anywhere from the mid-teens to around 30th on most draft boards.
C/RW Brett Leason
Brett Leason (6’4, 201 lbs) is a very interesting player heading into the draft. He’s 20 years of age, having passed over in the last two drafts. In most cases, overage players tend to not be drafted or sign with teams in later years. It’s extremely rare for a player to go from being passed over, to being regarded as a potential first round pick.
A big reason behind his rise is that Leason put up 36 goals and 89 points in just 55 regular season games this year with Prince Albert (WHL). His previous career high had been just 36 points. He’s also posted 25 points in 21 games during their playoff run. The bigger reason though is that he really refined and improved his overall game over the last year, specifically improving his footspeed and defensive play.
The pros of drafting Leason is that the Flames would immediately get a prospect that could go right into the AHL in 2019-20, and perhaps be ready sooner than other prospects taken this late. The cons could be that he may have just had a good overage season, but there seems to be a universal buy-in by various scouting agencies that he’s for real.
Leason is also a Calgary kid, having played for Crowfoot hockey organization growing up. Leason has been ranked in the mid-20’s to early 30’s, so he should be there when Calgary is selecting. Do the Flames go for their hometown kid?
LW Jakob Pelletier
Jakob Pelletier (5’9”, 161 lbs) is the former 3rd overall pick in the QMJHL draft and has spent the last two seasons with the Moncton Wildcats. In 65 games this year, Pelletier put up 39 goals and 50 assists for 89 points, both surpassing the totals in his rookie year (23-38-61 in 60 games).
Pelletier is a somewhat undersized forward that relies on his offensive skill but also his blazing speed. The Flames who looked rather slow against the Avs in the first round may be looking to shore that up, and Pelletier would fit the bill. He’s been a playmaker during his time with Moncton but does also possess a good ability to finish in front. His defensive game needs some work and will need to add some pounds to take his game to the next level.
Overall he does fit in well with what the Flames have established thus far during the era and could be a good start at replacing some depth in the prospect cupboards at forward.
LW Egor Afanasyev
The Flames dipped twice into the USHL barrel last year and four times in the last three years. Could Egor Afanasyev be the next one? The 6’3’’ 201 lb forward defintiely has the size to compete along with the skill, putting up 27 goals and 62 points in 58 games this year with Muskegon.
Afanasyev plays a power game, relying on his size to win puck battles rather than shear foot speed. He’s smart about using his size as he isn’t a huge hitter, but shields the puck effectively to prevent turnovers and get to the tight areas. He can find his way to the front of the net and make plays there to get some greasy goals. He also possesses a strong shot as seen in the above highlights.
Calgary has been in hot pursuit of Russians lately, having signed Alexander Yelesin and Artyom Zagidulin this offseason, so Afanasyev would just add to the mix. Afanasyev projects to be a longer term prospect with some holes in his defensive game, but Calgary does have the time to wait with a strong NHL forward core.
Who do you think the Flames should pick? What position needs to be improved the most? Leave us a comment on one of our sections!