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Drafting and development is crucially important to the success of a hockey club. One of the reasons for the Calgary Flames’ challenges in sustaining themselves during the early part of the salary cap era was their failure to draft effectively.

Since Brad Treliving became general manager in 2014, that hasn’t been nearly as big a problem. Heck, drafting and development has quietly become an organizational strength.

Attributing the 2014 picks to Treliving might not be entirely representative, as he joined the organization after the scouting year had been completed (at Brian Burke’s direction). He called the names, but the draft list was compiled largely without him.

Including 2014, Treliving has drafted 35 players – three goalies, eight defensemen and 24 forwards. Excluding 2014, that tally is 29 players – two goalies, six defensemen and 21 forwards.

Here’s a rundown of the Flames’ draft history since Treliving arrived in town, sorted by round:

Draft 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
2014 Bennett McDonald
Smith
Hickey n/a n/a Ollas-Mattsson Carroll
2015 n/a Andersson
Kylington
n/a n/a Karnaukhov Mangiapane Bruce
2016 Tkachuk Parsons
Dube
Fox Lindstrom Mattson Tuulola
Phillips
Falkovsky
2017 Valimaki n/a n/a Ruzicka Fischer Joly Sveningsson
2018 n/a n/a n/a Pospisil
Koumontzis
Roman
n/a Pettersen Zavgorodniy
2019 Pelletier n/a Nikolayev Feuk Nodler n/a Wolf
2020 19th 50th n/a 96th 143rd 174th 205th

Early on, the Flames tended to over-value size and grit at certain junctures. Mason McDonald, Hunter Smith, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, RIley Bruce and Stepan Falkovsky were all big kids. None of them played any NHL games (and none of them really moved the needle at the AHL level, either).

The impressive thing that the Flames have done, though, is skew more towards players with higher offensive ceilings over time – especially in the later rounds. Smaller forwards like Andrew Mangiapane, Matthew Phillips, Emilio Pettersen and Dmitry Zavgorodniy have been a hallmark of the Flames’ late round selections recently, as has “small” goalie Dustin Wolf (who is six feet tall and only small but goaltender standards).

Of the 35 drafted players since 2014, 19 of them have signed entry level deals with the Flames: Bennett, McDonald, Smith, Carroll, Andersson, Kylington, Mangiapane, Tkachuk, Parsons, Dube, Tuulola, Phillips, Valimaki, Ruzicka, Pospisil, Pettersen, Zavgorodniy, Pelletier, and Wolf. Of those, seven have played NHL games with the team. (Additionally, Phillips was recalled but never dressed.)

Three other drafted players signed ELCs elsewhere: Fox (who was traded to Carolina and signed with the Rangers after a subsequent trade), Hickey (who was traded to Arizona and signed there) and Falkovsky (who was non-tendered and signed with Los Angeles).

Now, the interesting thing about the Flames’ drafting under Treliving is they haven’t changed a ton. Tod Button is still the head of scouting, with Treliving, the AGMs and the area scouts involved. The AGMs haven’t changed significantly, aside from Chris Snow being promoted as analytics have become a bigger part of the process. Heck, the area scouts haven’t changed much.

The big change has been a tweaking of the qualities the team emphasizes in their scouting, as Treliving discussed during the pause:

Without getting too deep in it, we’ve put an emphasis on certain qualities that we think are important for players to play in today’s game. And skill, you need skill. So to me, when you look at skill, hockey sense and competitiveness, it’s hard to play in the game if you don’t have an elite quality in one of them. That’s what we continue to try to find. You need to have a real competitive spirit to be an NHL player, so we focus really on those three aspects.

It’s worth noting that the clear definition of qualities scouts are looking for was something that Jay Feaster and John Weisbrod put into place before Treliving arrived. The Treliving regime simply tinkered with those definitions slightly, added a few college and European scouts, and adding some analytics to the stew.

Treliving also noted during the pause about late picks: “…when you’re getting into the seventh round, you’re not finding the perfect player. But you’ve got to find an elite quality. So you always step back: what’s going to get him to the league?”

More often than not, the Flames have found players in the late rounds with competitiveness and offensive upside but not a ton of size. It would be arguably better if they had some larger players who can score, or even medium-sized ones, but life’s not perfect and their drafting has been pretty effective nonetheless.

Are you pleased with the state of the Flames’ drafting of late? What are your hopes for the 2020 NHL Draft? Sound off in the comments!