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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Breaking Down the Flames 2015-16 Roster: How Things Look as of July 2

The elevator that runs from the press box to the dressing room areas at the Saddledome has a capacity of around 12. It's not unusual, however, for 17 bodies to squeeze in there after a game with team personnel, building staff and media all urgently trying to catch a lift.

When it's overly crowded like that, it's a suffocating and uncomfortable feeling.

Well, welcome to one of the Flames roster conundrums. With the signing of highly sought-after UFA right-winger Michael Frolik on Wednesday, Calgary is left with 17 forwards that could or at least should be in the NHL this season.

As you know, you can only play 12.

Factor in two extra forwards the team will likely carry on its roster and at this point, you still have three too many forwards for the number of available jobs.

It's a similar situation between the pipes where the re-signing of Karri Ramo has left the team with three goalies at the moment. There's only one net.

With the first day of free agency in the books, it's time to take stock of the Flames roster and see exactly where we're at. Below is a look at how I view the roster as of right now. Obviously, there will be changes to come as I have 28 players listed and a NHL roster can only be 23 players maximum.

Note that age listed is as of October 1, 2015 and dollars are cap hit figures per General Fanager.


2015-16 Roster (28) $66.7M

Here is the breakdown by position. As you can see, team payroll is slanted very heavily towards the defence although that will change quite a bit a year from now.
  • Forwards (17) $28.2M *5 RFAs
  • Defence (8) $29.6M
  • Goalies (3) $8.9M
Now let's drill down further and take a look at each position as it stands today.


Forwards (17) $28.2M

Starters (12):
Gaudreau 22, $925K - Monahan 20, $925K - Hudler 31, $4M
Bennett 19, $925K - Backlund 26, $3.58M - Frolik, 27 $4.3M
Bouma 25, RFA - Stajan 31 $3.13M - Jones 31,$4M
Ferland 23, RFAJooris 25, RFA - Colborne 25, $1.28M

Extras (5):
Bollig 28, $1.25M, Byron 26, RFA, Granlund 22, $768K
Raymond 30, $3.1M, Shore 24, RFA


What's Next?

Instead of addition, now it's time for subtraction as they need to whittle down the number of bodies to 14. There are a few different options for doing this:
  • Trade - Jiri Hudler and David Jones are both going into the final year of their existing contracts and will be a UFA at season's end. With new contracts and big raises owed in 2016-17 to core pieces Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano, It's hard to envision the club having space to fit either of Jones or Hudler and definitely not both of them. Thus, the time to look at a deal for one or both might be right now. In addition, other players could also be traded with Mason Raymond -- two years left at $3 million AAV -- being someone that comes to mind given how he was used (or not used) last year.
  • Demotion to AHL - While his eligibility to go to the AHL without clearing waivers will expire soon, Markus Granlund may go back down again simply because it's easy to do. Micheal Ferland could be demoted also but if his coming-out-party in the playoffs is any indication, the Flames would much prefer to have his physicality in the NHL.
  • Place on IR - The unknown is a player or two could end up hurt and if so, that helps alleviate the logjam. There's no guarantee of this but it seems inevitable that at least one forward will get nicked up and start the year on injured reserve.
  • Place on Waivers - If fans were making the decision, Brandon Bollig would top the list for this option. However, they're not and the guys in charge like Bollig and the character, toughness and playoff experience he brings. Instead, Drew Shore would more likely be the guy to be put on waivers. Let's not forget they only gave up Corban Knight (so essentially a fourth round pick) to get Shore so if he gets claimed, it's not the end of the world.  

Prediction?

With the season over three months away, my guess as of right now is one player is traded and one or two will end up on the injured list. Now if it's only one to IR and a demotion is needed, Granlund and Shore are the two most likely candidates and personally, I'd keep Granlund and put Shore on waivers to get down to 14 forwards. I'll also predict that Shore slips through unclaimed and reports to Stockton, although I'm not wagering my house on that.


Defence (8) $29.6M

Starters (6):
Giordano 32, $4.02M - Hamilton 22, $5.75M
Brodie 25, $4.65M - Wideman 32, $5.25M
Russell 28, $2.6M - Engelland 33, $2.92M

Extras (2):
Wotherspoon 22, $925K, Smid 29, $3.5M


What's Next?

I don't think the Flames are done on defence. I see the Flames adding a cheap, veteran depth defenceman, similar to how they signed Raphael Diaz just before the season began last year. Although it won't be Diaz this time as he just signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers.

As for Ladislav Smid, I fully expect him to start the season on the IR so he's a non-factor for now and has a cloudy future. If Smid opens season on long-term injured list, that would also subtract his pricey cap hit and open up some space.

Meanwhile, everything we've heard the club say about Tyler Wotherspoon needing to win a job tells me that they will bring in some experience to be that No. 7 guy with Wotherspoon destined to begin the season in the AHL again unless he really impresses at camp and can 'earn' his way into the top seven.

The wildcard is Czech defenceman Jakub Nakladal. He's 27 and is coming off one season in Finland and four seasons in the KHL prior to that. He could surprise at camp and win a job although he's on a two-way deal so it would make sense to start him in the AHL to give him time to adjust to the North American ice.

Prediction

My guess is they bring back David Schlemko to be the seventh defenceman. The 28-year-old played well in a third pairing role last year after joining the team in February. If there's an injury to someone on defence to open the season, Nakladal also makes it with Wotherspoon assigned to Stockton to begin the season.


Goaltenders (3) $8.9M

Starters (2):
Ramo 29, $3.8M
Ortio 24, $600K

Extra (1):
Hiller 33, $4.5M


What's Next?

Re-signing Karri Ramo to a one-year deal came as a bit of a surprise. Also raising some eyebrows was the $3.8 million he received in getting him to sign just two hours prior to when he would have become a free agent. Aggressively pursuing the 29-year-old and offering that type of loot to keep him off the open market strikes me as part of a bigger plan that may already be in the works. My sense at this point is Calgary prefers Ramo and will look for an opportunity to unload Jonas Hiller, who has one year left on a deal that pays him $4.5 million.

What I think is safe to assume is it will be Joni Ortio and one of those two vets moving forward, not both of the vets. Ortio is on a one-way contract deal for 2015-16 and while the $600,000 amount is modest and they'd gladly pay that to him in the minors, he has to clear waivers in order to be sent down and I doubt he would. After grooming Ortio for as long as they have, after he looked so good in that five-game stretch last January and with him just 24 years old, I just cannot see the team risking losing him for nothing.

Prediction

There's no urgency to get down to two goalies. After all, it's only the start of July and the season is still over three months away. Goalie situations around the league can change rapidly once training camp begins and pre-season games begin. Perhaps a team loses their No. 1 goalie to injury or concerns grow about the readiness of a prospect expected to be the back-up. If waiting for a goalie need to develop elsewhere means they carry three goalies into October and maybe even into the regular season, that won't be ideal but it can be tolerated for a short period.


Busy Summer Coming Up

For general manager Brad Treliving, I don't think he's heading out on vacation anytime soon. There are still moves to be made, a whole pile of RFAs to be signed and with four players heading into their UFA seasons, extensions could be in the offing and/or trades could be possible. It stacks up to be an interesting July and August.

For a young prospect like 20-year-old right winger Emile Poirier and other prospects looking to make the jump from the AHL, it sure looks like he will be destined for a second season in the minors and that's perfectly fine. Having the luxury to not rush prospects is the type of depth the NHL's best hockey teams have. Calgary finding itself in that situation is a positive sign.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Flames Keep Getting Better, Expectations Keep Getting Greater

The 2015-16 NHL season in Calgary is going to be different.

Really different.

Not necessarily in a bad way, mind you. In fact, it should be different in a very good way. But the season, this team, there's just going to be a different feel.

Last year's Flames had a unique charm about them that we won't see again in this city for a very long time, if ever. They were an adorable, easy-to-root for, hard-working bunch that rolled up their sleeves and went balls to the wall every game. What they lacked in overall skill, they made up for in try and heart.


Last Year's Likeable Lot

There were multiple contributors to the charm of the overachieving 2014-15 team.

First, there were the club's many effervescent personalities. To name just a handful, there was coach Bob Hartley with his daily quips. little Johnny Gaudreau with those cheeks that every grandma wanted to reach out and pinch, Jiri Hudler and his impish grin, the battered and bruised shot blocking extraordinaire Kris Russell, and leading the gang was the always engaging captain, the Mr. Everything, Mark Giordano.

Secondly, there was their entertaining style of play. Fast and physical on the forecheck, quick transitions up the ice, defence continually jumping up into the rush. Sure, there were also countless fire drills in their own end but more often than not, they somehow found a way to survive and hey, there's nothing more exciting than sheer panic and angst. Of course, who could forget how exhilarating it was to watch their never-say-die third periods that made every final 20 minutes an endless ride on a heart-stopping roller-coaster.

However, colourful characters and thrilling action aside, the biggest part of their charm was their unexpected success. Calgary was the underdog team that overcame long odds. The Flames were the nerds that kept finding a way to defeat the jocks.

To start the year, the Flames were dismissed and kicked to the curb by almost everybody. Most predicted they would finish in the bottom three overall. The odds of ending up with Connor McDavid were better than making the Stanley Cup playoffs. Personally, I had them finishing 27th as a best-case scenario.

As Calgary kept winning, they became the subject of much scorn from the burgeoning advanced stats community for defying all statistical logic and winning games despite being badly outplayed. They rarely had the puck it seemed, yet it rarely seemed to matter. As the victories piled up, it galvanized the fan base, who embraced their inexplicable success and rallied against the Corsi advocates determined to discredit them.

In the end, it was a magical year in which veterans like Lance Bouma and Dennis Wideman had career seasons, unheralded guys like Josh Jooris had breakout years, and even a guy like Deryk Engelland, who had legions of critics, eventually won over many of his doubters.


Heightened Expectations

When you win when you're not supposed to, those wins taste extra sweet. You savour them and you celebrate them. But that was last year's team.

That season, that team, that's long gone now. Suddenly -- in the span of five days -- the expectations have been raised and raised significantly.

Expectations were always going to go up this season anyway because regardless of how narrowly Calgary squeaked into the playoffs last year, when you go two rounds and make it to the final eight, there are expectations that accompany that.

But now those expectations for this season have gone up exponentially after these two very significant acquisitions.
  • Dougie Hamilton, acquired from Boston on Friday, comes in as the team's highest paid player making $5.75 million annually on a six-year deal. Sure, he's only 22, but it's not his birth certificate that will be judged, it will be his on-ice performance and it will be scrutinized heavily given his monthly stipend.
  • Today, another big acquisition was made in the signing of free agent right-winger Michael Frolik to a five-year deal for an average annual value of $4.3 million. It wasn't a bumper crop of UFAs this summer but for me, Frolik -- 10th overall pick by Florida in 2006 -- was the best forward available and now he needs to live up to that hype and validate his rich deal.

"We want to be in a situation where more is expected," said general manager Brad Treliving on Wednesday afternoon. "When you take a good player like Dougie and you add him to a defence that has good players, the expectation is the group is going to be better."

When I asked how his expectations have now changed, Treliving didn't get into specifics in terms of standings or anything like that, but when you add two pieces like that to a team coming off a season in which they made the post-season, making the playoffs again will be the baseline for where expectations begin this year.

"We told our team this at locker clean-out day. I talked about how we all have to be better and it starts with me," Treliving said. "What we accomplished was nice but ultimately it was just a step. The fact that we had the season we had is going to raise expectations, that's just human nature and we can't shy away from those."


Organic Improvement

In addition to the new personnel, expectations for this season were naturally going to rise anyway given all the talented young players on the team that are at the stage of their career in which they should only be getting better.
  • Gaudreau scored 24 goals as a rookie, can he score 30?
  • Monahan scored 31 goals as a sophomore, can he score 35?
  • Lance Bouma went from 5 goals to 16, can he repeat that?
  • Can Micheal Ferland and Sam Bennett pick up where they left off in the playoffs?
  • TJ Brodie and Mikael Backlund have gone from making $2.125 million and $1.5 million respectively to cap hits of $4.65 million and $3.575 million. Can they keep getting better?
  • Karri Ramo re-signed for $3.8 million after making $2.75 million the past two seasons. Will he be more consistent? 

Fair or not, the bar gets raised when you have a good season both for the team and the individuals. Where bad seasons are dismissed as blips, good seasons become the new standard to which performance is measured.

"This is what happens when you want to be good. There's more expected and there is more pressure," said Treliving. "We have to start living like a team that wants to be good."


A Game-Changing Summer

Coaches and managers on every NHL team say the same thing every year. "We expect to win," they'll solemnly declare. "This season will not be a success if we don't make the playoffs." Treliving and Hartley were consistent with that message leading up to and throughout last season and while I rolled my eyes when I heard it in September, what else are they going to say?

You just have to know that with expectations also comes a dose of reality, whether it's admitted publicly or not. Why did Hartley win the Jack Adams Award last year despite barely making the playoffs? Because that's how little was expected in reality from last year's team.

However, with these two moves the Flames have made in the last week -- the addition of $10 million worth of salary to the team payroll, the expectation to win in this city just got very real, very fast. This time when I hear, "We expect to win" this September, there will be no snickering.

The pressure on this team this year will be greater than it was a year ago. Calgary has transitioned into a new phase in the rebuild where expectations are higher, criticism will be sharper, and tolerance will be less. Close losses won't cut it. Constantly falling behind won't cut it. Losing streaks won't cut it. And most importantly, not making the playoffs won't cut it, nor should it.

With the depth of this defence core, with the a team payroll suddenly much closer to the cap ceiling than the cap floor, this has been a game-changing summer.

"I think those expectations are a good thing," said Treliving. "To me, that means you found good people and the people you already have, have had success so there should be expectations."

Will the pressure to win make this season any less entertaining? It shouldn't. I doubt fans will complain if Calgary spends more time in the offensive zone firing pucks on net and less time chasing around their own end. It will just be different... and if all goes well, much easier on your heart and on your fingernails.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Free Agent Frenzy 2015: 12 UFA Possibilities the Flames May Be Eyeing

"I'd like to order a goalie, a defenceman and a forward."

"Got it. Your total comes to $27.2 million, please pay at the next window."

Last year on July 1 in his first trip to the NHL fast food restaurant Free Agent Frenzy, new Flames general manager Brad Treliving left the drive thru with Jonas Hiller (2Y/$9M), Deryk Engelland (3Y/$8.75M) and Mason Raymond (3Y/$9.45M).

That was a pretty expensive visit but he was hungry. With the spare change in his pocket, he then returned two days later and picked up the equivalent of a slice of garlic bread in defenceman Sena Acolatse (1Y/$700K NHL or $150K AHL).

When it comes to signing veteran NHL free agents over the last five years, Calgary has alternated between making significant moves and not. Here's a recap of notable players signed within the first two weeks of July 1 going back to 2010. This excludes the re-signing of players already with the team.

2014 - Busy - Signed Engelland, Raymond, Hiller
2013 - Quiet
2012 - Busy - Signed Jiri Hudler.
2011 - Quiet (Derek Smith and Guillaume Desbiens do not count as "notable")
2010 - Busy - Signed Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen, Tim Jackman


That trend would suggest this Wednesday could be a quiet one for Treliving and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case. After all, he's just coming off a busy weekend at the draft in which he acquired Dougie Hamilton. Plus, he already signed two defencemen in the spring in Kenney Morrison and Jakub Nakladal.

That said, if he does ink anyone on Canada Day, here are a dozen UFAs that might be of interest to the hockey club for various reasons. While this year's UFA group would hardly be considered a bumper crop, there are a few good fits in there for Calgary should the money and term make sense.

Note that if Treliving does bring in a defenceman, that could mean the end for a veteran already here. A name that you think about in that regard is Dennis Wideman, whose value has never been higher after a career season. Wideman has a big contract with two years left still at $5.25M. With Hamilton's arrival and Wideman potentially in line for a reduced role, maybe there's a top four fit elsewhere out there and the 32-year-old can be moved for an asset. It's something that is at least worth exploring.

A couple goalies are on my list also. As I documented here, there is a need to bring an established goalie to Calgary either this summer or next at the very latest. If Treliving pulls the trigger and brings in a goalie right now, that likely means Jonas Hiller would be shopped around.


12 Unrestricted Free Agent Possibilities:

1. RW Michael Frolik
Size - 6-foot-1, 198 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract Average Annual Value (AAV) - $3.3M
Pro - Fills a void on RW, entering his prime, decent size, solid scorer, favourable advanced stats
Con - Will likely cost over $4M per season.

2. C/RW Eric Fehr
Size - 6-foot-4, 212 lbs
Age - 29
Last Contract AAV - $1.5M
Pro - Size, can score, brings character, good on PK, versatile, could be undervalued
Con - Injuries have plagued his career

3. D Cody Franson
Size - 6-foot-5, 213 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $3.3M
Pro - Big, has upside, heavy shot, plays right side, entering prime, favourable advance stats
Con - Has moved around, used sparingly in playoffs, will be expensive, will he ever fulfill his potential?

4. RW Joel Ward
Size - 6-foot-1, 226 lbs
Age - 34
Last Contract AAV - $3M
Pro - Physical, good hands, big game player, character guy, can play top six, might come cheap
Con - Older so too much term would be risky and rumour is he's asking for four years.

5. RW Justin Williams
Size - 6-foot-1, 189 lbs
Age - 33
Last Contract AAV - $3.65M
Pro - Perfect fit as second line RW, tons of playoff experience, big game player
Con - Like Ward, age does not make him a long term fit if he's looking for lots of term.

6. G Jhonas Enroth
Size - 5-foot-10, 166 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.25M
Pro - Solid veteran, just entering his prime, athletic, second round pick pedigree
Con - Small, hard to gauge his upside after playing in Buffalo, hasn't proven himself as a No. 1

7. C Cody Hodgson
Size - 6-foot-1, 192 lbs
Age - 25
Last Contract AAV - $4.25M (bought out by the Sabres)
Pro - Top 10 draft pick pedigree, shoots right, could convert him to RW, young, potential upside
Con - Attitude concerns, what went wrong in Buffalo?

8. D - Johnny Oduya
Size - 6-foot-0, 190 lbs
Age - 33
Last Contract AAV - $3.375M
Pro - Veteran with tons of experience, Stanley Cup winner, close friend of prospect Oliver Kylington
Con - Shoots left, could be expensive for what he brings given his resume, age isn't ideal

9. D Matt Bartkowski
Size - 6-foot-1, 196 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.25M
Pro - Still young, cheaper third pairing option, good depth add, almost traded for him once before
Con - Limited upside, would he even be an upgrade over Nakladal or Wotherspoon?

10. D David Schlemko
Size - 6-foot-1, 190 lbs
Age - 28
Last Contract AAV - $1.187M
Pro - Useful depth player, cheap, versatile in can play increased minutes short term, knows team
Con - Bottom pair skills

11. RW Chris Stewart
Size - 6-foot-2, 228 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $4.15M
Pro - Has first round pick pedigree, plays RW, capable of being a power forward, still young
Con - Career has been on a steady decline, dressing room fit a concern, lots of risk

12. LW Matt Beleskey
Size - 6-foot-0, 204 lbs
Age - 27
Last Contract AAV - $1.35M
Pro - Plays physical, can score, top six potential, coming off a breakout season, young
Con - Offence may have been a blip, will command big (too much) money


Honourable Mention

G Karri Ramo
Size - 6-foot-0, 215 lbs
Age - 28
Last Contract AAV - $2.75M
Pro - Familiar, still young, has shown glimpses of No. 1 potential, has been getting better
Con - Might be expensive, play can be inconsistent, hasn't proven he can be a No. 1



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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Flames GM Brad Treliving: Kicking Ass and Taking Names at the 2015 NHL Draft

One hand on the steering wheel of his red Ferrari, neatly-pressed Armani suit, steely-eyed look on his face under his jauntily worn white fedora, and with a cigar dangling.

That's my image of Brad Treliving as he rumbled through the palm tree-lined streets of Miami Beach on Friday like a badass crime boss. Imposing, emotionless and chock-full of swagger, the head of the Flames family was in town for the weekend to take care of some 'business' and he wasn't leaving until he got what he came for.

Now apologies to Floridians for the crass stereotype but I've never visited that part of the U.S. so what I envision comes from watching hours of Miami Vice and CSI: Miami. Nonetheless, it's an apt way to describe the methodical approach by Treliving over the past 48 hours and the heists he pulled off during the 2015 NHL Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.


Man on a Mission

Ken Holland, David Poile, Glen Sather, Doug Wilson. These are general managers that have been at their current post for at least a dozen years. Treliving has been in the role for 14 months. At age 45, there are only two GMs younger -- Winnipeg's Kevin Cheveldayoff and Chicago's Stan Bowman.

However, if he was supposed to be reserved and cautious, nobody told him that.

Since the 2014-15 season ended, Treliving has been upfront about what he wants to get accomplished this summer. The most pressing area? Addressing the lack of organizational depth on the blue-line.

This issue became magnified late in the year after Mark Giordano was lost for the season. That left Calgary with TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell to shoulder a majority of the minutes with rugged Deryk Engelland taking on a much larger role than ideal in the top four.

Beyond that, the team was left to scramble together a bottom pairing out of unwanted veteran Raphael Diaz, who signed after coming to camp on a tryout. David Schlemko, who had been on waivers twice before being claimed by the Flames in February. Journeyman Corey Potter, who is a nice man but did not have the tools Calgary needed. Oh yeah, and Tyler Wotherspoon, who just wasn't ready yet -- although was still miles ahead of the team's other defence prospects, which says more about the lack of depth than how fast Wotherspoon has developed.

To address this pressing need, Treliving got started long before getting to the East Coast last week. The initial few rounds he fired into the air came earlier in the spring:
  • In March, he signed 23-year-old Kenney Morrison. Signed after playing the past three seasons at Western Michigan University, the right-hand shooting blue-liner is 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds.
  • In May, Treliving looked overseas in adding 27-year-old Jakub Nakladal. Having played last season in Finland after four years in the KHL, the Czech native is similarly sized at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and he also shoots right. 


Shots Fired

It was once he settled in at the Flames temporary headquarters in Florida last week that Treliving really made some noise. The fireworks began on Friday afternoon when he packaged up his first three picks in the draft -- 15th, 45th and 52nd and sent them to Boston in exchange for 2011 ninth overall pick Dougie Hamilton.

Big, established, highly touted, a 22-year-old two-way defencemen, who is still getting better. These are not the ilk of player that typically changes area codes in today's NHL. I mean we're talking hardly ever. This is the calibre of player that teams lock up, not ship out.

Friday night was supposed to belong to Edmonton and Connor McDavid but hours before his name got called, the move that had everybody talking came from the other end of the province. In this piece from yesterday, I looked at the Hamilton trade from eight different angles.

If Friday's blockbuster deal made everybody stop what they were doing and pay attention, Treliving kept their attention on Saturday through a blend of savvy selections and some more slick maneuvering on the draft floor that landed Calgary a potential first round talent at the cost of two third round picks.

But first, finally, came the Flames first selection of the 2015 NHL Draft.


Round 2, 53rd pick, Rasmus Andersson, D

Have you heard of Aaron Ekblad? Last year's first overall pick and NHL's Rookie of the Year in 2014-15 was the top scoring defenceman in Barrie (OHL) two years ago with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 58 games.

Replacing him as top scoring blue-liner for the Colts this year was Swedish-born Rasmus Andersson, who had 64 points (12 goals, 52 assists) in 67 games. What we know is he's 6-foot-0, 212 pounds, and shoots right. Most mock drafts had him going in the middle of round 2 with Craig Button listing him 31st in his year-end rankings. He is said to have a very hard shot but needs to work on his conditioning.


Time Out, Calgary 

When NHL Central Scouting released its the midterm rankings in January, Oliver Kylington (pronounced shillington) was ranked as the No. 1 international skater. But then his stock began to fall.

For those -- and there were many -- surprised the Swede never went on Friday night, that amazement and wonder grew as Saturday unfolded. 31, 32, 33, 34.... player after player came off the board yet Kylington remained out there. Through 40 picks, still available. Through 50 picks, still available. Through 59 picks, still available.

Treliving could not resist any longer. He had to get this player. It was time to make another bold move. This time he called up Don Maloney, his old boss in Arizona and consummated a deal that saw him ship both of Calgary's third round picks (76th, 83rd) to the Coyotes for their pick at No. 60. Boom.


Round 2, 60th pick, Oliver Kylington, D

The big question is why did this young man fall so far? Rumblings included an inconsistent year in Sweden in which he played for three teams. Also, there were reports he left a poor impression with many teams during the pre-draft interview process.

But there seems to be no denying his raw talent. He's billed as being one of the fastest skaters in the draft and has great vision. Then there's this. Two years ago, he became the youngest player to ever score a goal in the Swedish Hockey League finding the back of the net at age 16.

Notably, he spends much of his off-season training with Chicago defenceman Johnny Oduya, saying he's learned a lot from their mentor-like relationship. Oduya, who has two Stanley Cup rings, is 33.


Taking Inventory

Let's recap where we're at.

Treliving came to Florida armed with one first round pick and two second round picks and with designs on strengthening Calgary's defence.

He turns all three of those picks into three defencemen. One is a rising star with three years of NHL experience that immediately plugs into the line-up, one is a guy that was billed as 'high risk/high reward' except when you get a player like that at No. 60 -- nearly into the third round, only the 'high reward' aspect applies at that point. The third guy was a solid d-man projected to go early-to-mid second round and maybe even creep into the first, who Calgary got late in the second.

All in all, that's a damn good haul.


Sending a Final Message

With the bulk of his work on the blue-line done, then came a long wait. Very long. Calgary had no picks in rounds 3 or 4 so 75 players came off the board before Treliving returned to the mic. However, when he did, he made a couple more picks that also look like very smart selections:

> Round 5, 136th pick, Pavel Karnaukhov, LW

A 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, the 18-year-old played right under Treliving's nose last season with the Calgary Hitmen. Karnaukhov notched 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 69 games. It was his first season in North America and the Hitmen coaching staff raved about him.

> Round 6, 166th pick, Andrew Mangiapane, LW

Passed over in last year's draft, the 19-year-old is small at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds but very talented. A teammate of Andersson with Barrie, Mangiapane put up 104 points (43 goals, 61 assists) to finish eighth in OHL scoring. He was also a late riser in the prospect rankings. At midterm, he was ranked 147th among Central Scouting's North American skaters. He finished up 85th. Meanwhile, Craig Button had him 44th overall on his final rankings list.

> Round 7, 196th pick, Riley Bruce, D

At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, the 17-year-old prototypical stay-at-home defencemen is built out of the Keegan Kanzig mold. Bruce has played two seasons in North Bay (OHL) and in 109 regular season games, he has no goals and only seven assists.


Closing Thoughts

As Treliving motored back out of Miami Beach on Saturday (with Hamilton stashed in his trunk), he does so having left quite a mark on the 2015 NHL Draft. That chalk outline you see? That might as well be Bruins GM Don Sweeney. All those empty shell casings littering the streets? The results of multiple conversations had and impactful moves made.

Treliving has very quickly forged for himself a reputation as a shrewd GM, who means business and isn't afraid to go after what he wants. You get the sense that he's going to be the first to know when players are available, not the last.

While he may have had numerous critics a year ago, who scrutinized his first few moves -- the Brandon Bollig trade, the Engelland signing, the Devin Setoguchi signing, but he's made almost all the right moves since:
  • Locking up TJ Brodie to a five-year extension early.
  • Locking up coach Bob Hartley to an extension early.
  • Extending Mikael Backlund for three more years at a favourable cap hit.

And at that, even the Bollig and Engelland moves didn't turn out that bad in the end given the increased role both playerd late in the season and into the playoffs. And as for Setoguchi, he was cheap and no-risk anyway.

The bottom line is Treliving admitted a need on the back end and already the Flames have brought in six new defencemen that weren't part of the organization last season -- five of which are the calibre of players that fans can legitimately be excited about.

It seems that not only does the Flames future continue to look bright on the ice, it's looking even brighter in the front office.



By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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