Top-3 draft pick could be game-changer for Flames
When the NHL Draft Lottery is held this Saturday the Flames will have not one, not two, but three chances to win their highest pick in franchise history.
If they win the first pick, it’ll be a first for the franchise.
You have to go back to their first two years in Atlanta to find a top-3 pick by the Flames. Since moving to Calgary in 1980, they have never had a top-3 pick. The only time they’ve picked in the top-5 was two years ago when they drafted Sam Bennett fourth overall.
This season, the NHL changed the lottery system to include draws for the 2nd and 3rd overall picks in addition to the top pick. This is good news for Flames fans, as their odds of landing in the top three are essentially tripled with the new system.
It’s a double-edged sword though, because the Flames could also drop as far as the eighth pick if teams below them win lottery picks.
Here’s the full breakdown of the Flames’ lottery odds, from stats expert Sir Earl on Twitter:
Despite finishing fifth-last in the NHL, the odds of the Flames selecting 5th overall is only 9%. The most likely outcome is the team dropping a spot or two (60%), but they also have the chance to win big with a top-3 pick (26.5%).
It’s also interesting to note that the team’s highest chance at any one spot is 6th overall at 35%. If they were to get that pick, it would be the fifth time the Flames picked 6th overall, with only one selection ever inside the top five.
Regardless of where they pick, the Flames will be getting a good prospect. Let’s take a look at who they might take if they pick 1-8.
McKenzie: What Jack Eichel did this year in the NHL is a reasonable expectation of what a guy like Auston Matthews is going to do in '16-17.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) April 26, 2016
Last season the draft was a consensus top-two, with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel widely considered to be the top players in the draft. This season it’s a consensus top-three consisting of American centre Auston Matthews, as well as Finnish wingers Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
For much of the season it was Matthews as a clear-cut #1, with Laine and Puljujarvi battling for ranks two and three. But between Laine’s excellent playoff performance and winning the Finnish Elite League MVP honours, some scouts now have him ranked ahead of Matthews.
McKenzie: "You can take this to the bank – at least one of the 14 teams in the lottery, and perhaps more, have Laine ahead of Matthews."
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) April 29, 2016
If the Flames were to win the first overall pick though, I’d still expect Matthews to be the guy. Centres are generally more valued than wingers, and outside of Mark Jankowski, the team doesn’t have many Grade-A prospects down the middle.
If the Flames land #2, expect them to take whichever of Laine and Matthews is still on the board. At #3, with those two gone, Puljujarvi seems like the clear-cut choice.
But what if they don’t get so lucky? With no chance of picking fourth, it’s more likely the Flames will be picking in the 5-7 range, with a small chance at #8 if the hockey gods are feeling especially cruel.
With pick #4 out of the question, the Flames could still get a great prospect at pick five or six.
Bob McKenzie stated on TSN 1040 a few days ago that in addition to the first tier of forwards, there is a second tier of forwards comprised of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Matthew Tkachuk, and Alexander Nylander.
If Dubois is still available when the Flames step up to the podium, he should be their man. He’s got great size at 6’3, 202 pounds and he has the skill to match, putting up 99 points in 62 games in the QMJHL this season. If the Flames can’t snag a top-3 pick, coming out of the draft with the second-best centre would be the next best thing.
There’s a very real chance that Dubois is gone when the Flames pick. If they’re looking between left wingers Tkachuk and Nylander (both sons of former NHLers), I think Tkachuk is a better match with the organizations’ needs.
Tkachuk is a 6’1, 195-pound power forward who’s got a heavy shot and isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas to make plays. He’s also been tearing it up in the OHL Playoffs.
Matt Tkachuk with 6G 11P in the four game sweep over Erie. 33P in 14 playoff games for the top #2016NHLDraft prospect
— Brendan Ross 🇨🇦 (@RossyYoungblood) April 28, 2016
He would bring a physical presence currently lacking on this Flames team.
In the 29% chance the Flames pick outside the top six, they’ll have a lot more options to consider. Assuming the consensus top-six forwards are all off the board when the Flames pick, they could elect to go for one of the top defencemen in the draft.
But with TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton both established top-4 defencemen under age 26, and a crop of other blueliners that includes Jyrki Jokipakka and Tyler Wotherspoon, it might be in the Flames’ best interest to target a forward, specifically a centre.
Some of the other top centres include Logan Brown, Michael McLeod, and Tyson Jost.
Regardless of where they pick in the top ten, the Flames will be adding a good young player to their system.
And if the Dallas Stars can take down the St. Louis Blues and advance to the Western Conference Final, the Flames will receive Dallas’ first round pick as compensation for the Kris Russell trade.
Go Stars Go!