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Flames focused on best-player approach

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The Calgary Flames, well aware of the cliché that it is, are hunting for the best players available.

But as Flames director of scouting Tod Button will suggest, the phrase is an over-simplification of a complicated process designed to help determine upside among those eligible for the annual NHL Draft process.

“The best player available is basically, for us, who is going to have the best NHL career out of all those players,” said Button, frankly. “It’s not the best player today. It’s not who had the best season. It’s not who is going to be the best player at the World Juniors next year. It’s who we think is going to be the best player … who is going to have the best NHL career.”

Defining the term is easy.

Defining the desired attributes to formulate what will inevitably constitute the best available player is a little bit more complicated.

“We look at a number of attributes for our scouts and for our organization of what we look for, what we value in players,” said assistant general manager Brad Pascall. “The attributes that we value, and as we’re out watching players throughout the year, what the ratings on those players are based on those attributes we value the most. Best player available in our mind is who best exudes those attributes now, but more importantly in the future.

“How do you project this player? Best player available for us is where we see this player in a Calgary Flames jersey, how they fit with the style of play that we want, and how they can enhance their game. What are their attributes now, and where will we see them (down the road). I think four years from now, when they’re playing with the Calgary Flames, or sooner, whenever it may be, it’s viewing those things and knowing where they’re going to be.”

The first round of the 2016 NHL Draft goes Friday at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Rounds 2-7 follow on Saturday.

Meaning there’s little time to determine how to slot perceived attributes of those eligible for the draft.

And little time remains to get the finalized list in order.

“You’re looking at the attributes,” Calgary general manager Brad Treliving stated. “You’re predicting future paths of 17-year-olds, 18-year-old boys. They’re going to develop. They’re going to get stronger. They’re going to get bigger. They’re going to improve in different areas. To us, important traits of today’s game is you have to be able to think the game.”

It’s not the only one.

“Speed and skill is always at a premium,” Treliving added. “So is being competitive. Competitive areas … it’s not necessarily someone that’s going to run over everyone and throw someone into the third row of the seats. That’s maybe a portion of it, a facet of being competitive, but to me it’s about who gets to the puck first, and on 50-50 pucks who wins the puck, and who’s willing to go to areas that aren’t pleasant to go to to score goals. Those are area of competitiveness.

“You’ve got a skill set, and to reach a level that that skill set is NHL level and can be successful in the NHL … how willing are you to put the work in and have the drive. To me it’s having that motor, the engine to reach whatever potential you may have. That’s how we define competitive nature. It’s not necessarily knocking three pains of glass out every time you run into a guy. In some cases that’s very useful … but ultimately there’s a puck, there’s an opponent, it gets thrown in the corner, it’s at center ice, it’s at the blue line, it’s a race … the game is a lot of individual one-on-one battles.

“That may be using your mind, your speed, your smarts, but how driven are you to have success and ultimately grow and reach the potential you can have. Those are all things we look at, as well as just the physical attributes.

“How skilled are you? Where can that go to? How well do you think?”

It all goes into determining the best player available.

“It’s kind of a catchphrase,” Button said. “For scouts when we look at it, who is going to have the best NHL career? In 20 years when you redo the draft, you want to say this guy was the best player.”

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