While the Calgary Flames have had the unenviable task of trying to land a blue chip prospect late in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft over the past six seasons, they have seemingly stockpiled a few good assets that could indeed turn into solid pro's in the next few years.
And that isn't easy to do when you are consistently picking 23rd or higher year-after-year.
In 2005, the team selected 6'4", 220 lbs. defenseman Matt Pelech 26th overall. Pelech played in five games with Calgary late last season and picked up three assists. This season he has been a rock on the blueline for the Flames farm team (Abbotsford Heat), and has all the makings of a dominant NHL D-man.
In 2006, Calgary used their pick to select goaltender Leland Irving 26th overall. Irving should probably be playing in the show now, but the Flames want the twenty-one-year-old to get some playing time in the minors rather than sit on the bench. Last season, while with the Quad City Flames of the AHL, Leland went 24-18-2 with a 2.13 goals against average.
In 2007, the Flames picked Swedish star Mikael Backlund 24th overall. Backlund is a premier playmaker with incredibly soft hands who also boasts a heavy shot and is defensively responsible. So far this season the young centerman has 8 goals and 8 assists on the farm, and could be NHL ready as early as next season.
In 2008, Calgary used their 25th overall pick to scoop 6'3", 197 lbs. Windsor Spitfire winger Greg Nemisz, who like Backlund has all the makings of a legitimate scoring threat. So far this season, Nemisz has racked up 24 goals and 24 assists in 34 games, while playing with 17-year-old phenom Taylor Hall and was selected to represent Canada in the World Junior Championships. Am I the only one who would like to see Hall and Nemisz do their thing in Cowtown?
And finally in 2009, the team selected offensive defenseman Tim Erixon 23rd overall. Erixon, whose dad Jan Erixon was a defensive forward for the New York Rangers for 9 seasons, is a very talented blueliner that isn't flashy but ends up with points on the board most nights.
After years of selecting players like Rico Fata, Daniel Tkachuk, Chris Dingman and Brent Krahn with their first round picks, the Calgary Flames scouting staff is finally getting things right.
With Calgary's success over the past few seasons, GM Darryl Sutter can afford to raise his youngsters right and let them develop in the AHL.
Yes, I would love to see a John Tavares wearing the flaming C, and watch the Flames win a Stanley Cup every now and then.
But until then I'll have to be happy that my team is good enough to challenge for a playoff spot year-after-year thanks to the job Sutter and his scouts have been doing the past few seasons.
I mean it could be worse...I could be an Oilers fan!