While the NHL will spend two days casting its gaze on hundreds of 18-year-old prospects at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the focus in Calgary will be on a 27-year-old veteran.
If, in fact, general manager Brad Treliving agrees with the ever-growing belief in Calgary that it’s time for Johnny Gaudreau to be traded, it’s expected to happen during the NHL’s virtual draft next week.
Treliving has a history of using the two-day event to effect significant change to his roster with big trades, and given the team’s latest first-round exit, there’s plenty of reason to believe this year will be no different.
Or, will the flat cap further complicate a trade of such significance and play a role in ensuring the GM stands pat by doing little more than drafting six or seven players and filling his hole in net and on the blue line with unrestricted free agents?
With five of his defencemen tabbed to hit the open market Oct. 9, it wouldn’t be surprising if he used the draft to trade for an impact defender.
The only thing that would be shocking is if Treliving goes through this off-season without making some sort of splash via trade or on the open market.
CGY 1st (19th overall), CGY 2nd, EDM 3rd (Conditional, Oilers will inform whether it’s this year or next), SJ 4th, CGY 5th, CGY 6th, CGY 7th.
Potential targets in Round 1:
Braden Schneider, D
A right-handed defenceman who plays a solid two-way game with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, the Prince Albert native had seven goals and 35 assists in 60 games where he played on both special-team units. The six-foot-two, 209-pound defender excels in taking the body and patrolling his own end.
Kaiden Guhle, D
The left-handed defender has been doing it all with the Prince Albert Raiders, where the six-foot-two, 186-pound defenceman had 11 goals and 40 points in 60 games. Known for his skating, competitiveness and big shot, he’s also a physical presence who many believe could make the jump to the NHL earlier than most.
Dylan Holloway, C/LW
What a splash it would be to draft a local from nearby Bragg Creek, Alta. The six-foot-one, 203-pound forward has used his physicality at the University of Wisconsin to help post modest offensive stats. The 2019 CJHL player of the year with the Okotoks Oilers was the second-youngest player in the NCAA last year, but by season’s end, he’d looked at home as a versatile, two-way power forward who posted eight goals and nine assists in 35 games as a freshman.
Last year’s first pick: Jakob Pelletier
Picked 26th overall by the Flames, the speedy left-winger had 32 goals and 50 assists in 57 games last year with the Moncton Wildcats where the captain racked up 232 points in 182 games over three seasons. The five-foot-nine, 165-pound playmaker was traded to Val D’Or in June where he will almost certainly play as a 19-year-old this season, while also being a shoo-in to play for Canada at the world juniors.
He missed last year’s Christmas tourney due to a concussion, but was included in Canada’s virtual selection camp this summer.
With the Flames top-nine forward ranks set, Pelletier would be a long shot to make the Flames in camp in a normal year, but with the NHL schedule still in flux, he will undoubtedly start the year with a stacked Foreurs team that made him captain right after trading for him.
Signed to a three-year entry deal by the Flames, Pelletier is tabbed to be a future sniper if the diminutive winger, who finished eighth in QMJHL scoring last year, can translate his game at the next level.
A player of tremendous character, Pelletier’s two-way play netted him a plus-57 rating, not to mention recognition as the league’s most gentlemanly player.
Given the fact the Flames have gone three years and 14 straight picks since they picked a defenceman (Juuso Valimaki went 16th overall in 2017) it’s hardly surprising their shortfall organizationally sits on the blue line.
The Flames did well to shore that up during the pause when they inked 24-year-old college hotshots Connor Mackey and Colton Poolman, as well as 23-year-old Swedish star Johannes Kinnvall. The latter will spend the upcoming season in Sweden while the other two will likely spend some time on the Flames’ roster this season.
It would be easy to suggest the Flames will target a defenceman with their first-round pick (19th overall) on Oct. 6, but Treliving insists his draft strategy will focus once again on drafting the best player available, regardless of position. Still, no one would be surprised if the Flames took a defenceman or two, particularly if qualified right-handed blue-liners are available.
While the team’s starting goalie tandem is up in the air, pending whichever free agent Treliving inks to join David Rittich, it’s likely the Flames comfortable with Tyler Parsons and Artyom Zagidulin in the AHL, while CHL goalie of the year Dustin Wolf is progressing brilliantly in Everett.
Up front, Glenn Gawdin and Adam Ruzicka are close to pushing for NHL jobs, while Mathias Emilio Pettersen, Martin Pospisil, Luke Philp, Matthew Phillips and Dmitri Zavgorodny are intriguing up-and-comers who have important seasons ahead of them to prove they’re continuing to progress.
With Dillon Dube graduating to the big club last year and Andrew Mangiapane the year before, the team could sure use some more high-end forward depth moving forward.