The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for October 6 and 7, conducted remotely. The Calgary Flames currently definitively possess six picks: 19th, 50th, 96th, 143rd, 174th, and 205th. They may also possess the 81st pick depending on whether the Edmonton Oilers decide to transfer their third-rounder to Calgary (as part of the Milan Lucic trade) this year or next.

You might know James Hardie as the name of a house siding brand; however, this year’s crop of draft-eligible prospects features a winger of the same name whose lethal shot is more than capable of dislodging a few Hardie-board panels. Depending on who you talk to, Hardie could fit in the top 90 or he could fall all the way to the seventh round. Let’s examine whether Hardie is a guy the Flames should target next week.

Scouting Report

None of Hardie’s OHL peers shot the puck as relentlessly as he did in 2019–20. Hardie peppered opposing goaltenders this year with 252 shots, the most of any first-year draft-eligible OHL player (including the likes of Cole Perfetti and Jack Quinn). And his shot works: he scored 34 goals this year to lead the Mississauga Steelheads and finish in a tie for 18th in the OHL, behind Jacob Perreault, Perfetti, and Tyson Foerster for first-year draft-eligible prospects.

Even better: they weren’t dinky little floaters from above the hashmarks. Hardie boasts an incredible shot that is nearly unmatched in his draft class. His wrister whips with force and accuracy from anywhere in the offensive zone, and he gets it off with a very quick flourish.

Hardie possesses dazzlingly quick hands in close to the net. He has great instincts to find loose pucks near the cage and is able to capitalize on rebound chances more often than not. Some of Hardie’s offensive capabilities are on display in this video (look for #14 in white and blue):

Of course, anybody projected to go in the later rounds of the NHL Draft is going to have some flaws. Hardie isn’t a particularly defensive-minded player; he didn’t play on Mississauga’s penalty-killing units at all and he sometimes lacks engagement away from the puck. Still, Hardie finished top-15 in the entire OHL this year with 11 power play goals, only behind likely first-round prospects Foerster, Perreault, and Quinn in terms of first-year eligible players.

Hardie also isn’t particularly big. His 5’11”, 176 pound frame certainly isn’t undersized, but it also limits his ability to be a physical force. That said, the biggest impact a player can make is on the scoresheet, and Hardie has thus far had no issues with doing just that.

The numbers

After a tepid OHL debut year in 2018–19 which saw him score 15 goals and 22 points in 62 games, Hardie exploded in 2019–20 with 34 goals (leading Mississauga) and 29 assists for 63 points in 59 games. He did it without a lot of help, too: outside of Thomas Harley, a blue-chipper for the Dallas Stars, the Steelheads were pretty unremarkable this year and finished with the sixth-worst record in the OHL.

As mentioned, Hardie led all first-year eligible OHLers with 252 shots on goal. He also scored seven game-winning goals, tied with Quinn for the most among 2020-eligible players.

Availability and fit

These days, it feels like the Flames lack finishers. Guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Derek Ryan, Matthew Tkachuk, and Mikael Backlund all have goal-scoring elements to their games, but they seem better-suited as playmakers — none of them really have the pure sniping ability of Sean Monahan.

The Flames have been searching for scoring wingers for years, trying out James Neal, Troy Brouwer, and Mason Raymond in their top-six at varying points in time. They all came to the team on big UFA contracts and none of them worked. Perhaps it’s time for the team to change course: could drafting and developing more guys like Hardie finally expand the Flames’ collection of pure goal-scoring talent? 

Hardie’s projected rankings are all over the place. To illustrate the disparity between different publications’ lists: McKeen’s has him ranked in the third round, 80th overall; The Athletic’s Corey Pronman has him going in the seventh, way down at 199th. Central Scouting has him ranked as the 163rd-best North American skater. He’s 71st on Scott Wheeler’s rankings over at The Athletic, but he’s at 130th on Steve Kournianos’ list at The Draft Analyst.

As mentioned, the Flames currently have the 19th, 50th, 96th, 143rd, 174th, and 205th picks in the draft. If they decide they want to pick Hardie, they almost certainly won’t pick him with either of their first two picks; however, it wouldn’t necessarily be shocking to see him picked at any of their other four spots.