PHILADELPHIA, PA -- We're just one day away from the 2014 NHL Draft and Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving can't wait to get his first draft with the organization under his belt.
"I'm excited because this really starts the time that you can help build your team," Treliving said during his pre-draft media address. "Although there's a lot of excitement around the draft itself and obviously July 1, those aren't the only two days to build your team.
"This is just the start of it. I wouldn't categorize it as saying putting my stamp on it; now's the time we can be aggressive and be creative to get better. This is all about getting better. This isn't about any one individual trying to come up here or put their stamp on and those types of things. This is about getting better, and it starts at the draft with the picks we can make and we'll see what other things we can do both around the draft and leading into free agency."
Last year, the Flames nabbed Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Keegan Kanzig, Eric Roy, Tim Harrison, Rushan Rafikov, and John Gilmour with their eight picks and they're hoping to land another solid selection of prospects on Friday and Saturday.
"We're excited where we're at right now, picking fourth, five picks in the first three rounds," Treliving stated. "We've got a plan going into Philadelphia. We'll see how things unfold over the next week but I do know it's going to be a busy week.
"We've spent a lot of time in the last several weeks with a number of the young men, both at their place and we've brought in a number of players. We've poked, we've prodded, and as we've told them, this process isn't created to make them uncomfortable but these are very, very important decisions."
And now, some points to ponder:
- Not having a clear-cut first overall pick makes this draft so intriguing. The amount of debate about where Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Leon Draisaitl will go has reached an almost obscene level and I have no doubt it will continue up until Friday night at 5:00 PM.
- With no consensus first overall pick, Flames GM Brad Treliving and his scouts have prepared for a multitude of situations. "In my mind, there are nine different scenarios in how the first four could go," Treliving stated on Monday. "Obviously, that comes into play whether somebody moves the picks or so on and so forth. We’re prepared for every scenario. It’s an interesting time because very seldom, first of all, do you get such a lack of consensus. Secondarily, not very often does the team holding the first pick publicly talk about the potential of it moving. Those are a couple different dynamics, but whoever is there at four, we’ll have a nameplate and a jersey all ready for them."
- Speaking of the debate about where each top prospect will fall, there is also still a lot of chatter about Ekblad falling a bit because he is a defenceman. The lack of rearguards that have gone first overall over the years is somewhat understandable – generally, defencemen take longer to come into their own and don’t have nearly as straightforward development as forwards do. However, when you look at what Ekblad has done since he entered the OHL as a 15-year-old, it seems a bit silly to deem him unworthy of that first overall pick because of his position. He’s physically mature, is extremely poised, and the majority of scouts seem to think he’s bound for the NHL this fall.
- The Sam vs. Sam discussion is fascinating to watch. Bennett ended up usurping Reinhart on the NHL Central Scouting’s final North American skater rankings but Reinhart was the ISS’ top choice. Dubbed as the Einstein of the forward class, Reinhart can dominate a game quietly – something most high-ranked forwards can’t do. There is no one else in this class that can read the game like Reinhart can. Bennett is much more of an in-your-face player. He’s extremely competitive, chippy, and has wicked speed. No matter where they fall on Friday, the teams that land a Sam are going to be very happy.
- Treliving feels there will be a lot of movement heading into the draft and is ready for just about any situation come Friday. "I think it’s going to be as busy and as volatile of a draft week as we’ve seen in recent memory," he said in his pre-draft media address. With teams willing to trade their first round picks for immediate roster upgrades, there could be plenty of deals made prior to and at the draft.
- There is a lot of chatter about the lack of depth on defence in this draft class but there are some very intriguing pieces in the mix. Like I said before, defencemen generally take longer to develop and while they may not be as highly touted as some of their forward counterparts are right now, there could be some gems unearthed in later rounds.
- You hear a lot about teams looking for right-shot rearguards and seven of the ISS’ top ten defencemen? Righties. Ekblad, Roland McKeown, Anthony DeAngelo, Julius Honka, Jack Dougherty, Jack Glover, and Joshua Jacobs are right-handed and all of them play in North America, giving teams ample opportunity to view them.
- There is also decent size in the ISS’ top ten ranked blueliners. Eight of ten are over 6-feet and five of them are over 190-pounds.
- ISS head scout Ross MacLean took some time to chat with last month about potential sleepers and one name that jumped out at me was the aforementioned Joshua Jacobs from the Indiana Ice of the USHL. The defensive defenceman is 6-foot-1, has passed the 190-pound mark, and is a strong skater. His hockey sense has been rated very good by the ISS and he has above average puck skills. He’s still figuring out how to consistently exert himself physically but with his size and commitment, that will come. Check out Flames Radio for a few more names on MacLean’s sleeper list.
- Is a goalie going in the first round? Given their development path is extremely unique and harder to predict, a lot of teams shy away from using their first round pick on a ‘tender. If one does end up being selected on Friday night, it will likely be Thatcher Demko from Boston College. At 6-foot-4, he’s got NHL size and he’s extremely athletic, snapping into position very quickly. The California kid plays a hybrid/butterfly style, another thing NHL scouts love.
- When talking about Calgary Hitmen draft-eligibles, the names dropped are Jake Virtanen, Travis Sanheim, and Ben Thomas but there are a couple more that should be on your radar. Chase Lang, ranked 148th by the ISS, still has a ways to go before his lanky frame is ready for the pros but he’s got the skill set that could carry him a long way; he’s a great skater, can play a steady two-way game, and can chip in offensively. Russian Radel Fazleyev is the ISS’ 172nd ranked skater but if he wasn’t limited to 38 games this year, his stock likely would have risen. Like Lang, he needs to get stronger but he has excellent speed, can be dominant with the puck, and is very creative.