The Calgary Flames entered the weekend with nine picks in the 2015 NHL Draft, but thanks to some wheeling and dealing, ended up shipping out several picks to bring in NHL ready talent.
Calgary kicked things off in style a few hours before the draft was set to begin, by dealing three draft picks for a franchise defenseman. The Flames sent the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks to the Boston Bruins and got 22 year old right shooting, 6’5″ defender Dougie Hamilton in return.
The general reaction from around the NHL following the trade was that Boston got fleeced and that people had no idea that Hamilton would be made available by the Bruins. He is a former 9th overall pick who just finished his entry level deal and scored 42 points in 75 games for the Bruins this season.
Hamilton is a budding two way force in the making and could very well be a future Norris Trophy winner for the Flames. The fact they got him for a haul of picks and did not have to give up anything off the roster, any young players or any top pro sects makes it well worth the risk of giving up a handful of picks.
Of course, trading away your first three picks means you don’t pick very early in the draft, so the Flames didn’t make a selection until the 53rd overall pick, which came from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Sven Baertschi at the trade deadline.
With the 53rd pick, the Flames took Rasmus Andersson from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. Andersson is a Swedish defenseman who is known for his exceptional ability to run a power play and help provide offence for his team.
Andersson scored 64 points in 67 games in the OHL this season, and will rely on his offensive game to make him an NHL player. Though he will always be known as an offensive defenseman, Andersson will need to work on the defensive side of things before he makes his way onto the Calgary Flames roster.
He will play one more year with the Colts, and will likely need to years in the American Hockey League to straighten out his defensive game before he cracks the Flames lineup full time in 2018-19.
The Flames weren’t scheduled to pick again until they had a pair of selections in the third round, but they saw a player they liked late in the second round and moved up to grab him. After shipping the 66th and 73rd picks to the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary moved up to the 60th pick and took Oliver Kylington.
Kylington is another defensive prospect from Sweden, and he was once ranked as high as the top ten of this draft. He had a disappointing season in Sweden and was demoted from the Swedish Elite League to the Junior league where he looked more comfortable.
Kylington’s biggest strength is his speed, as he may be the fastest player in this year’s draft. He wasn’t prepared to play in the Swedish Elite League as a 17 year old, but there is all kinds of talent there and the Flames filled a huge need by adding Andersson and Kylington to their prospect ranks.
Having dealt three picks to get Hamilton and a pair of third rounders to move up and select Kylington, the Flames didn’t pick again until the fifth round. With the 136th overall pick, they added Pavel Karnaukhov.
Karnaukhov is from Minsk, Belarus but actually played this season in Calgary with the Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He is a good sized winger at 6’3″ and just a shade under 200 pounds, and adjusted well to the rougher style of play in his first year in North America.
On a strong, veteran-led Hitmen squad, Karnaukhov played a depth role but scored 20 goals and 42 points in 69 games as a rookie. He also stepped up in the postseason and chipped in six goals and 11 points in 17 playoff games as the Hitmen made a run to the third round of the WHL Playoffs.
The Flames next picked at 166th in the sixth round and ignored size and tok a highly skilled small forward in Andrew Mangiapane. The slick winger was a teammate of Andersson’s on the Barrie Colts and scored an impressive 104 points in 68 games.
Mangiapane was eligible to be drafted a year ago, but was passed over because of his 5’10” frame, though he had scored 24 goals and 51 points in 68 games as a rookie OHLer. Mangiapane was one of the highest scoring players eligible this year from the CHL, so it was a wise move to take the highly skilled winger with a sixth round pick.
This theory worked pretty well a few years ago when the Flames landed Johnny Gaudreau. Why not give a talented kid a chance with such a late pick?
The Flames completely shifted their philosophy with their final pick, going from one of the smallest forwards in the draft, to one of the biggest defensemen. With their 7th round pick, the Flames took 6’6″ and 205 pound defenseman Riley Bruce from the North Bay Battalion of the OHL.
Though they rolled the dice on skill in the 6th round, the Flames are looking for brawn out of Bruce. The hulking defensive defenseman has scored zero goals and seven points in 109 career games spread over the past two seasons with the Battalion of the OHL.
Again, with such a late pick you don’t have much of a chance of landing a future NHL player. You may as well target a guy who is either super smiled but undersized, or not very skilled and oversized and hope that the skill starts to catch up with his defensive game enough to make his a future Calgary Flame.
It is hard to judge a draft minutes after it ends, but overall I would say the Flames had a tremendous weekend. They dealt their first three picks but added a legit top pairing defenseman who is only 22 year old and will fit in with the rebuild.
Calgary also chose a few highly skilled defensemen in Andersson and Kylington to fill a huge need as the team really lacks a true top prospect on the blue line. Throw in a few more interesting late picks such as Karnaukhov and Mangiapane and you just might have yourself another future NHL forward.