Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving adamantly believes in taking the best player available at the NHL Draft.
He sees it as a function of team building and delineation of jobs. The scouts are tasked with finding the best draft-eligible players for the future and it's the manager's job to address any issues with the current roster.
"The thing we hammer home to our scouts is I firmly believe you get the best talent; who you feel is the best talent," Treliving said. "It's the manager's job to address organizational needs. … You put people in the spots that you think are going to be the best players. We'll address depth and reserve-list issues. If you've got too much of one [position] and not enough of the other, that's the manager's job to address that through trades, not through the draft. You start saying we need a left defenseman or a right winger, maybe further down in the draft as you start saying what have we picked so far, maybe you start looking at it then. But especially at the upper end of the draft, you get them in the order of who you think is going to be the best player."
The 2016 NHL Draft is at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on June 24-25. The first round is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) and Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports 2, SN).
The obvious need for the Flames is in goal. They allowed a League-high 3.13 goals per game this season, and the four goaltenders who played at least one game, Karri Ramo (unrestricted), Jonas Hiller (unrestricted), Niklas Backstrom (unrestricted) and Joni Ortio (restricted) can become free agents July 1.
But with the No. 6 pick in the first round, there's little chance of the Flames selecting a goaltender.
"I think there's more forwards in that area," Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy said. "But the defensemen, there's probably three or four defensemen we really like also. It just depends. We're deep on defense; we're young with [T.J.] Brodie and [Dougie] Hamilton, we have [Mark Giordano] signed for six more years. You'd like to add a forward but we've always said we're going to take the best player. Whoever's there at six, we're going to take them."
A right wing could be an option; Conroy said Michael Frolik is the only right wing signed to an NHL contract. Josh Jooris is a right-shot center who played right wing at times during the season. But that doesn't necessarily mean the top right wing draft prospects, Julien Gauthier of Val-d'Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or Alexander DeBrincat of Erie in the Ontario Hockey League, will be the pick.
"A right-handed right winger would be nice," Conroy said. "With that said, guys can move all over the place. Some guys like it, some guys feel more comfortable. We always ask guys, you're a left shot, do you play right wing? Or they'd say they'd rather play the right side as a left shot."
If there is a particular player the Flames covet, they have a bit of ammunition to move around in the first round. In addition to the No. 6 pick, they have three second-round selections: theirs (No. 35), the Florida Panthers' from the Jiri Hudler trade (No. 54) and the Dallas Stars' from the Kris Russell trade (No. 56). They also could move back a few spots, accumulate more assets and, with the difference in talent in the top half of the draft so slight, still get a player they really like.
"There may be opportunities to go back and still potentially get that guy," Treliving said. "So we're having discussions in all parts of situations, more so going back than going up. But I like where we're positioned. I think that's probably more realistic. We'll see how things develop. If I had to handicap right now, I'd say we'd be sitting where we are."
Whichever player they select, there will be no rush to get him to the NHL. That's partly a function of the youth of the Flames' roster; their top two offensive producers are left wing Johnny Gaudreau, 22, and center Sean Monahan, 21. Other players expected to play big roles next season are forwards Sam Bennett, 20, and Hunter Shinkaruk, 21. Brodie, who led Calgary in average ice time per game (25:15), is 26. Hamilton, who had personal NHL bests in goals (12) and points (43) this season, is 23.
"That's not a priority," Treliving said. "It's a function of where our team is at. We put people in the League earlier. In a perfect world you'd like to have those people take time, develop and be ready to help you win when they get there. You want them, when they show up, they're ready to contribute. Some are [immediately NHL-ready]. But we're not basing it on who's going to get to the League the fastest. When they get there we want them to be the best."