By David Song, June 7 2016 —
It was a disappointing year for fans expecting the Calgary Flames to continue the success of their breakout 2014–15 season. After missing the NHL playoffs by a wide margin this year, the Flames desperately need to rebuild. The Flames will pick sixth overall in the upcoming 2016 NHL Entry Draft on June 24. This enables them to choose from a variety of talented athletes — but what talent should the team target to address their most glaring needs?
One possibility is Alexander Nylander, brother of Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander. The 6’0”, 175-pound winger is blessed with silky hands and plenty of offensive acuity. He can also unleash an accurate shot and is quick on his feet. Nylander will need to bulk up to deal with the NHL’s increased physicality, but the same can be said for most young forwards. He could be the kind of pure offensive talent that the Flames need to complement their young centres. And Nylander was born in Calgary, which would make him a welcome local addition to the club and a sure-fire fan favourite.
Big, skilled forwards are an asset to any team, and the Flames are no exception. Two potential draftees — centre Logan Brown and right winger Julien Gauthier — might be a good fit. Brown is a 6’6”, 218-pound playmaking pivot with reach, puck-handling skills and a decent shot, capable of driving possession deep into the offensive zone. Gauthier is a 6’4”, 225-pound power winger who scored 41 goals this season thanks to his lightning-quick release. He skates well and punishes opponents physically, but his passing needs improvement. Both players project as mid-first round picks, but Brown may be a better choice due to his versatility playing wing as well as centre.
Despite having a fair amount of defensive talent, the Flames could also add another blueliner to replace inconsistent veterans like Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman. Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev has the size and skating ability to excel in an increasingly fast game.
Sergachev is an aggressive player armed with a powerful slapshot and passing skills from the back end. He displays qualities of a dynamic defender and would be a valuable addition to Calgary’s blueline squad.
Another potential defender is Calgary Hitmen prospect Jake Bean. At 6’1” and 172 pounds, he lacks Sergachev’s physical prowess, but makes up for it with poise and intelligence. Bean is known for his smart play and is a tremendous passer, which could help him become an adept power play quarterback. His mobility enables him to push the puck up the ice, but he’s also defensively reliable and great with positioning.
Bean is a versatile, two-way defenceman who can play in all situations — exactly the kind of player the Flames could use to improve their prospects next season.
No matter who the Flames pick, they need to focus on an infusion of offensive skill. Pure snipers, adept playmakers and dynamic two-way defenceman should be their priority — or perhaps a goalie, if one talented enough presents himself.
Picks like Nylander and Brown have the potential to give the team early scoring potential, but investing in rock solid defencemen could also allow the Flames to rid themselves of burdening inconsistency at the blue line.
Most importantly, risks should not be taken on any skater without the team establishing a significant offensive ceiling in the early rounds. Calgary already has depth forwards and role players, but they can’t break a game open. In this year’s entry draft, it will be key for the Flames to support their burgeoning young stars with an influx of high-end talent to avoid another early end to the season.