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Playing it Safe, Darryl?

A mid-season collapse Calgary fans would like to forget combined with trades that seemed to make little sense and minimized both the available cap space and high-end draft picks available, created expectations that much had to be done at the draft to improve the Flames. Known for his draft day deals, fans were hoping that Darryl Sutter could rescue both his and the team’s reputations by improving the team through a splashy trade.

Aside from a minor trade involving their second round pick to San Jose for Swedish netminder Henrik Karlsson, the fans were to be disappointed. Of the 7 picks available to them (2-3rd round, 2-4th round, and 5th,6th and 7th round picks), a balanced mix was selected – 2 centres, two defencemen, a left and a right wing, but Sutter did not step out of character for any of them. In fact aside from that early minor trade, the only possibly remarkable thing that appeared from the draft was the additions of two sons of former Flames as prospects.

Photo Credit: Kootenay Ice Website

At 64th the Flames selected centre Maxwell Reinhart of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, the son of former Flame, Paul Reinhart. Ranked by Central Scouting to go around 79th, this pick, while not as far off the board as some, seems a little odd given that the Kirill Kabanov was still available. Despite a very small prospect pool and no barn-burners on the doorstep, Sutter still preferred to make safer calls than choosing a Russian wildcard who was once thought to be a top-five pick. In the long run, it may be hard to forgive a chance at a bona fide scoring star for a steady player with some offensive upside.

Staying true to script, Calgary then picked in the 74th spot, taking Reinhart’s teammate, defenceman Joey Leach. Along with being from the same junior club, Leach was also off the board in terms of CSS ranking. At 120th amongst North American skaters, this seems a bit of a stretch to jump up 36 spots for a team that needs scoring and already has some mid to high-end stay-at-home defender prospects.

The 103rd choice was another former Flames’ son, John Ramage. A defensive defenceman, he spent the last season with the Wisconsin Badgers of the NCAA.  Ramage was also somewhat of an off-the-board pick, ranked 131st by CSS, but it appears his puck-moving skills and ability to play with some grit are his primary assets. If nothing else, Calgary may be stocking up on a number of defensive assets in the system.

Described by some as a steal at the 108th pick, it’s tough to see why centre Bill Arnold fell from 36th ranked prospect to 108th draftee.  Selected from the US National Team Development Program, he is a tough kid who appears to fill the role of a prototypical Sutter-type player – gritty and tough to play against. He may have some knocks against him because of his skating ability, but does have some offensive upside.  He’ll be working on his overall game at Boston College next season.

The Flames’ next pick was at 133rd and they selected Michael Ferland from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.  Another pick in the Sutter mold – Ferland is a feisty player, having accumulated 85 PIM to go with 28 points in 61 games.  At this point in the draft, not much more to expect from this guy.

Having traded their 6th round pick away, Calgary’s final pick was at 193rd from the Tri-City Americans, right winger Patrick Holland. Little detail here, but with a 7th round pick you hope you pick someone who might give you a few games in the NHL, but more likely than not the AHL or not at all.  There is however, some offensive skill that might be tapped. He’s another long-term project.

Overall, the Flames stayed away from the high profile, high-risk pick Kabanov and stayed close to home with all 7 picks coming from North America.  In addition, while familiar names appeared, Calgary didn’t seem to address what appears to be their most glaring issue, goal-scoring.  None of these prospects are labelled for the NHL at this point and most of them are in the gritty/feisty/grinder category.  While it’s great to be tough to play against and a good defence is the best start to a good offence, just who is going to be that offence? Iggie isn’t going to be around forever and with no-one to get him the puck, points are pretty hard to come by.

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