Uncertain Draft Day Ahead for Flames New Management

After a season in limbo, the Calgary Flames front office has been solidified in the past few months, with Craig Conroy and Brad Pascall becoming the most recent additions after new general manager Brad Treliving dubbed them his assistants. But while Calgary’s management picture is now clear, it is far less clear how the new executive team will approach its first major task: the 2014 NHL Draft.

Flames New Management

Treliving joined the Flames after spending the last seven seasons as the assistant general manager and vice-president of hockey operations for the Phoenix Coyotes. A former executive of the Central Hockey league, the now-defunct Western Professional Hockey League and most recently Team Canada, Treliving has been around the game for a long time. According to Brian Burke, he was also the only candidate interviewed for the position.

Conroy spent nine seasons with the Flames during his 17-year career in the NHL. After retiring in 2011, he immediately joined Flames management as special assistant to then-general manager Jay Feaster, a role he continued under Brian Burke. During his time with the Flames, Conroy developed emotional ties to Calgary, receiving multiple club awards for his character and humanitarian work while remaining active in the Flames charitable arm, the Flames Foundation for Life. Conroy understands the importance of the franchise in the Calgary community, and his knowledge of the hockey-crazed market will be an asset for a first-time general manager arriving from the less-than-intense hockey atmosphere of Arizona.

Pascall, meanwhile, joins the Flames after helping to construct a winning culture with Team Canada. As a former operational overseer of both the National Junior Team and the National Men’s U-18 Team, Pascall’s presence in Calgary’s offices should be a boon to the club’s efforts to rebuild through youth.

Draft Day

But what shape will those efforts take when Calgary’s executive team hits the draft floor in Philadelphia on June 27? After a 27th-place finish this season, the Flames have the fourth overall pick heading into draft day, the franchise’s highest pick since its time in Atlanta.

Last year, Calgary seemed to strike gold with their first of three first-round picks, taking Sean Monahan with the sixth overall selection and earning immediate dividends in the form of 22 goals and 34 points through 75 games from the rookie centre. But that selection didn’t come as much of a surprise as Monahan entered the draft ranked fifth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting; it was widely anticipated that he would be the best player available to the Flames when they stepped to the podium, and it was an easy choice for team management to make.

Flames Options

This year, in what is considered to be a relatively weak draft class, the crystal ball is far murkier for those looking to predict Calgary’s draft decisions.

Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice is thought by many to be the top forward in this draft, and would be a fairy tale pick for Calgary. The son of former Flames blueliner Paul Reinhart and younger brother of Flames prospect Max Reinhart, Sam is considered to be a franchise centre in the making. Fairy tales don’t come true, though, and while his skill and family ties to the organization make the idea of Reinhart pulling a Flames sweater over his head on draft day positively thrilling, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll still be available by the fourth pick. Read LWOS Draft Profile: Sam Reinhart

The same can be said of Barrie Colts star defenceman Aaron Ekblad. Granted “Exceptional Player” status by the OHL, Ekblad could go first overall in Philidelphia. He’s the kind of blueline prospect all teams drool over, and most certainly not one that will be passed up by three successive draft committees. Read LWOS Draft Profile: Aaron Ekblad

The Flames do have a decent chance of grabbing Sam Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs. Although Bennett was ranked first overall by NHL Central Scouting, he needs to develop physically before he can make it in the NHL, which may make him less appealing to clubs looking for a player who can join the club relatively quickly. But by all accounts, Bennett is a hard worker who plays with an edge, complimenting both the team identity Bob Hartley is trying to develop and the grittiness Brian Burke is looking for. Throw in the fact that Treliving recently made it known that he intends to be patient with the AHL development of Calgary’s prospects, and Bennett and the Flames make a fairly sensible match. Read LWOS Draft Profile: Sam Bennett

Prince Albert Raiders centre Leon Draisaitl and Oshawa Generals left-winger Michael Dal Colle look to round out the top five in this year’s draft. Both are considered to bring a combination of size and skill to the ice. Draisaitl is a creative playmaker who protects the puck well and plays a respectable two-way game, while Dal Colle is being touted as a physical power forward who can find the scoresheet with both assists and goals. With Monahan, Draisaitl would give Calgary a solid one-two punch of young two-way centres, while also providing that ever-important size down the middle. Dal Colle brings the physical game that Burke has stated the Flames will play, but with Calgary’s slew of prospects on the left side, drafting Dal Colle may require some players to shift wings to balance things out. Read LWOS Draft Profile: Leon Draisaitl Read LWOS Draft Profile: Michael Dal Colle

Unlike last year, there’s no clear consensus on who the Flames will take in Philadelphia. Aaron Vickers and Torie Peterson of CalgaryFlames.com both have Bennett going to Calgary, while their fellow site writer Kristin Hallet believes it will be Dal Colle. Ben Kerr, our resident prospect guru here at Last Word on Sports, believes the Flames will go somewhat off the board and take Peterborough Petes left-winger Nick Ritchie (And based on past drafts, if there’s a team in the top five that’s going to make a surprising pick, the Flames are the odds-on favourite.) Ritchie is another big power-forward who plays a physical game and drives the net, with a wicked wrist shot, to boot. Read LWOS Draft Profile: Nick Ritchie

Amid all this speculation regarding who the Flames pick in the draft, it should not be forgotten that where they pick is also up in the air. If presented with the right offer, Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon is willing to trade the first overall pick in this draft, and Treliving has already been inquiring about a deal. Are Reinhart and Ekblad, in fact, still on the radar?

On June 27, a new and relatively inexperienced management group will make its first mark on this rebuilding organization. But until the Flames call a name at the podium, it’s anyone’s guess as to what that mark will be.

For more coverage of the 2014 NHL Draft, visit the Last Word on Sports NHL Draft Headquarters.

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