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Treliving marks draft with productive first day

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Brad Treliving knew he was going to be able to nab a blue-chipper.


The Calgary Flames general manager was hoping to net himself a goaltender, too.

Check, again.

It was a productive few hours to say the least.

But he might not be done.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Treliving said. “You want to keep adding. We moved some picks last year obviously so we want to keep that cupboard filled up.

“We’ll get back to the hotel and crank it back up.”

What he did manage to get done was fruitful.

Treliving drafted London Knights forward Matthew Tkachuk six picks into the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY before flipping a second round pick (No. 35) and a conditional third round pick in 2018 to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goaltender Brian Elliott.

Both are great fits for Treliving’s Flames.

On Tkachuk, Calgary drafts an 18-year-old who played on the most prolific line in the Canadian Hockey League in 2015-16, riding shotgun with Toronto Maple Leafs first rounder Mitchell Marner and Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak.

With them, Tkachuk netted 30 goals and 107 points in 57 regular season games, 20 goals and 40 points in 18 playoff games in earning a J. Ross Robertson Cup as OHL champions, and five goals and eight points en route to hoisting the Memorial Cup.

“He’s a player that we really like,” Treliving said. “The one thing about Matthew is that he’s competitive. Brains and competitiveness are two big attributes, and he’s a guy that’s real smart -- he has played with really good players and can think and play with really good players -- but to me he plays in the guts of the game. He has innate ability around the net and he goes to the places where you have to to score goals in this league. He’s an absolute pain in the rear end to play against.”

“We were excited to say the least when he was there. It’s a good day.”

There’s a thought that he could be the missing piece from a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, or a match with Sam Bennett -- eventually.

“It’s easy to say he’s playing with good players, but to me you have to have a brain to play with good players,” Treliving said. “His hockey sense goes along with good hands and a real bite to his game. He’s a dirty SOB to play against.

“He has the mind the play with top players.”

On Elliott, the Flames acquire a much-needed goaltender who, according to Sportsnet, has the second-best save percentage since the start of the 2011-12 season at .925 -- trailing only Cory Schneider at .926.

“We really like Brian,” Treliving said. “He had been on our radar for a long time. I think he’s one of these guys that is really mature and he’s a late bloomer. Maybe he doesn’t get the fanfare a lot of other guys get, but when you really dig into the numbers this guy has been one of the best goaltenders in the league over the last number of years.

“The other thing is the character of the person. You talk to teammates and coaches and he is loved by everybody he’s played with. Everyone I’ve talked to says he’ll be the hardest worker you have in practice, he’ll drive your practice, and he’ll make your players better at practice because he doesn’t like to allow a puck in.”

The numbers confirm that.

At .930, Elliott led the NHL in save percentage among goaltenders who played in at least 15 games. His 2.07 GAA tied him for second in goals-against-average with John Gibson, too.

They’re reassuring statistics for a team that struggled in the crease in 2015-16.

The Flames surrendered an NHL-high 257 non-shootout goals, and had a league-low .892 save percentage while running with the combination of Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom.

Understandably, goaltending was at the top of Treliving’s to-do list.

He can cross that one off with the second day of the draft getting underway Saturday morning.

But there’s plenty left to be done.

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