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Steinberg's Slant: Depth Drafting

by Pat Steinberg / Calgary Flames
The Flames selected TJ Brodie in the 4th round (114th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft

The first round of the NHL Draft has been very kind to the Calgary Flames in recent years.

Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund are full-time NHLers, while names like Emile Poirier, Sam Bennett, Sven Baertschi, and Mark Jankowski remain top prospects in the organization. While the first round of the draft is important, it isn’t everything.

Many NHL front office folks will tell you a draft is truly successful when you come away with two players who end up playing in the show. That’s why the next six rounds of any given draft are just as important as the first. Even if you hit on your first round pick, you’re still counting on at least one later round selection to pan out long term.

Recent championship teams will show you the value of solid depth drafting. Chicago boasts Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad, while Boston has Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic. The Flames aren’t a championship team, but with TJ Brodie, Johnny Gaudreau, and Lance Bouma, they have later round picks making a huge impact.

Gaudreau is the most topical right now because he’s lighting the league on fire and is a bona fide Calder Trophy contender. Boasting first round skill and offensive vision, Gaudreau was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft (104th overall).

Player Drafted GP-G-A-PTS-PIM
Lance Bouma 2008 – 3rd round, 78th overall 156-11-17-28-69
TJ Brodie 2008 – 4th round, 114th overall 222-14-70-84-68
Johnny Gaudreau 2011 – 4th round, 104th overall 37-13-17-30-0

It’s amazing to think that a player like Gaudreau would have 103 players picked ahead of him, but it happens every year. Maybe it was his draft day size of 5’6 and 140 pounds, or maybe playing with Dubuque of the USHL didn’t have him on a lot of scouts radars. But thanks to a little subterfuge from head amateur scout Tod Button, Calgary got their guy. Or, in this case, stole their guy.

The 2011 Gaudreau selection came just three years after the Flames had performed fourth round robbery with Brodie. Having picked four forwards already, Calgary stepped to the podium at the 2008 NHL Draft and picked the relatively unknown Saginaw Spirit defenceman at 114th overall. Had they known he’d become as important to their long term plan as he has, the Flames would have selected Brodie far earlier -- there’s no question.

The 2008 draft will always be known as the year of the defenceman and could be one of the greatest ever at that position. Names like Doughty, Pietrangelo, Karlsson and Josi -- among others -- all came from that class. It’s not a stretch to say Brodie might have been the biggest blueline steal there was that year.

But Brodie wasn’t the only future NHLer the Flames would come away with in 2008. Calgary’s first two picks (Greg Nemisz and Mitch Wahl) didn’t pan out, but their third round pick certainly has.

After two seasons with the Vancouver Giants, it was pretty clear Bouma was going to be a heart and soul type player for whatever team selected him. The 78th overall selection that year has become just that as well as an instant fan favorite.

From blocked shots to game changing hits, Bouma has worked for every minutes he’s ever played in the NHL. That’s exactly what the Flames were hoping they were getting when they made him a third round pick six-and-a-half years ago.

Brodie, Gaudreau, and Bouma are three depth picks that have turned into full time NHL players.

With NHL games on their resume already, 2011 second round picks Markus Granlund and Tyler Wotherspoon aren’t far from joining them in that category. The better news from a Calgary perspective is that they might be getting some company in the coming years.

2012 fifth round pick Ryan Culkin has been one of Adirondack’s biggest surprises in his first year of professional hockey. Bill Arnold and Michael Ferland were 2010 fourth and fifth round picks, respectively and 2013 seventh round selection Rushan Rafikov is currently turning heads for the Russians at the World Juniors.

So, yes, the first round has been very important for the Flames over the last number of years. But, it’s pretty accurate to say the team has done equally as well in the later rounds as well. That fact bodes very well as this team looks to continue their ascent into the league’s upper echelons.

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