The Best Draft Class in Calgary Flames History

Calgary Flames Best Draft Class
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NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Calgary Flames best draft class.

Calgary Flames Best Draft Class: 1984

What do you mean, “ominous”? Okay, there was only really one other year that was in any kind of competition, and it was a distant second. It was also Flames’ final season in Atlanta. So, okay, maybe a little ominous…

The Class of 1984

Far better than the Michael J. Fox vehicle, this season produced four 1,000 NHL game players. And fewer violent punks than the movie – though the argument can be made about Gary Roberts.

Gary Roberts, 1st round, 12th overall

The player himself will tell you that Roberts is partially a product of legendary coach “Badger” Bob Johnson. At his first training camp, he was hauled up in front of the team as someone who wasn’t dedicated to being a hockey player. He played lacrosse in the summer and thought that would keep him in game shape for the NHL. That training camp changed his mind, and Roberts soon became for his grueling, year-round workout regimen.

His physical play – he topped 200 penalty minutes in each of his first five full seasons with Calgary – led to a series of injuries. He eventually retired after a 10-year career, racking up 257 goals and 1,736 penalty minutes in just 585 games. He missed the first half of the 1995-96 season after surgery to repair nerve injuries in his neck. But his comeback was dramatic, joining the team to finish his last season in spectacular fashion with 22 goals and 42 points (and another 78 penalty minutes) in 35 games. Great way to ride into the sunset, that.

Then he unretired for the 1997-98 season with the Carolina Hurricanes. He was officially traded to the team by Calgary, joining the Hurricanes in their move to Carolina. To say the surgeries were a success is to undersell them. Robert’s post-retirement career encompassed another 639 games, 181 goals, 405 points, and (of course) 825 penalty minutes. He played for five more teams before retiring once again, this time for good.

Paul Ranheim, 2nd round, 38th overall

Interestingly enough, Paul Ranheim was on the Hurricanes team Roberts joined, having been traded to the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94. Ranheim hardly had the impact of Roberts, but was a useful defensive forward. Those are always in demand, especially by playoff-hopeful teams. Despite his specialty, he still managed 161 goals and 360 points in 1,013 NHL games. He eventually played for four different teams, retiring at 37 years old.

Brett Hull, 6th round, 117th overall

Who? Where!?! Yeah, the Golden Brett wasn’t as highly regarded as his famous father, but Brett Hull eventually made a name for himself in the league. Just not with Calgary, even if he was part of the Flames best draft class ever. He was always a sniper, terrorizing goaltenders in his draft year to the tune of 105 goals in 57 games. But it was with the Penticton Knights of the BCJHL, so it was waved away as being against “inferior competition” and he slid to the SIXTH ROUND. Well, he followed that up with 84 goals in 90 games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, making his NHL debut in the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Believe it or not, Calgary was a hard team to crack, and Hull started in the minors. After 67 games – and 50 goals – in Moncton, he finally stuck with Calgary. Scoring 26 goals and 50 points in 52 games as a rookie earned him a trade to the St. Louis Blues, entering Flames history as part of – arguably – the most one-sided deal ever. Hull went with Steve Bozek, while the Flames got back Rob Ramage and Rick Wamsley. The next season the Flames also got their only Stanley Cup to date, so there’s that.

Still, the younger Hull finished his career with two Cups of his own. He played for 19 seasons and 1,269 regular-season games, scoring 741 goals. He was just as reliable in the playoffs, with another 103 goals in 202 games. Not bad for a sixth-rounder, but there’s one more to go from that year.

Gary Suter, 9th round, 180th overall

This is just getting silly. Often overshadowed by frequent partner Al MacInnis, Gary Suter was considered “the safe one” not just as in providing MacInnis the room to attack, but also if you were going to block a shot from the point, it should be Suter’s and NOT MacInnis’. Problem is that Suter was plenty dangerous himself, scoring 203 career goals and 844 points in 1,145 games. The longevity is remarkable, as injuries were always a part of his game. Even his mostly healthy Chicago Blackhawks tenure included a broken hand in his first season there.

Possibly the most remarkable chapter of his history was in San Jose, where after just one game he caught a microbial infection that threatened his career. Three surgeries later, he came back to finish his final three professional seasons playing 226 games and scoring 22 goals and 101 points for the Sharks. In that last year, he was still playing at a high enough level to represent the United States at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Suter finished out his career with 1,145 games played, 203 goals scored, and 844 points.

The Almost Year: 1979

We know, it’s the “Calgary Flames Best Draft Class” so this is a bit of a cheat. But it’s the same team and our series, so deal. In terms of sheer numbers of players, the Atlanta Flames had a pretty good 1973 draft. But there were only 16 teams making selections then, and they had twelve picks in eleven rounds. Still, they picked five players with 494 or more NHL games each, and Tom Lysiak second overall, so not bad. But 1979, with 21 teams and just six rounds, produced three of the most popular Calgary Flames ever. And goalie Pat Riggin, who finished his career playing a more than respectable 350 NHL games.
The fantastically creative defenceman Paul Reinhart (648 NHL games played), legendary enforcer Tim Hunter (815), and heart-and-soul leader Jim Peplinski (711) all came out of that one year. Peplinski retired as Calgary’s games-played leader, and Reinhart and Hunter both played over 500 games with the Flames.

Honourable Mention

The 1980 draft is worth mentioning for one player. No, not Steve Konroyd, though he had a rock-solid 895 game career. Hakan Loob was taken in the ninth round – 181st overall – and only played six seasons, all with Calgary. But he remains the only Swedish player to have scored 50 goals in a single NHL season. And that’s worth remembering.

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