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The 2019 NHL Entry Draft is less than two weeks away.
There, the Calgary Flames are scheduled to make a pick inside the top three(!) rounds for the first time since they selected Juuso Valimaki 16th overall in 2017.
While the potential for trading up – or, more likely, down considering the Flames don't own a 2nd round pick – exists, I thought it'd be fun to look at three potential targets with the 26th overall pick.
LW/C – Jakob Pelletier – Moncton (QMJHL)
Height, weight: 5'9', 160 lbs
The Flames need to add more talent to their system – particularly up front – and have shown they are not shy about taking an undersized player if they feel he can play (see Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane, etc.). Pelletier can play.
He averaged better than a point per game as a rookie in the QMJHL, and Arthur Kaliyev (102) was the only first-year eligible CHL player to record more points than Pelletier (89) this past season.
Pelletier was *very* productive at evens. He averaged more ES points per 60 than notables like Kaliyev, Kirby Dach, and Peyton Krebs. His on-ice impact was fantastic as well, with Moncton controlling ~16% more of the goal share with Pelletier on the ice than without.
Pelletier is smart, skilled, he sees the ice well, and he's not shy about getting his nose dirty (kind of like Mangiapane). I could see the Flames being attracted to that.
C – Connor McMichael – London (OHL)
Height, weight: 5'11', 175 lbs
Sean Monahan is a one-way guy with an injury history, Mikael Backlund is on the wrong side of 30, and the Flames don't have many long-term solutions at center beyond those two. I expect the Flames to draft a forward in the 1st round, and I wouldn't be surprised if they elect to go with a center.
McMichael is a smart, two-way player who can contribute with and without the puck. He has excellent vision and is a very creative passer. He'll utilize the boards, drop passes, one-touch passes, make plays from his knees, etc. – whatever it takes to find an open teammate, or lead one into space.
He can shoot (and deflect, particularly on the power play) but he's more a passer. In games I've tracked, his shot assist percentage is ~10% higher than his shot attempt percentage.
He's also really effective in the neutral zone. Though McMichael will dump the puck in if he is forced to, he generally does a good job of driving it up ice himself and successfully gaining the line via carry-in or pass-in. Defensively, he's really good at jumping routes and intercepting passes to get his team extra possessions.
I wouldn't say his offensive upside is sky-high but I do think there's enough there that he could develop into a modern-style No. 2 center.
LW/C – Egor Afanasyev – Muskegon (USHL)
Height, weight: 6'4', 200 lbs
The Flames have talked about adding more speed – an attribute Afanasyev doesn't exactly have a lot of – but he is big, strong, skilled, plays a premium position and, most importantly, is very productive.
He led his team with 27 goals, which is not exactly surprising given the rate he accumulated shots. Afanasyev averaged 11.5 per 60 minutes. For perspective of how impressive that is, snipers like Cole Caufield (11.45 per 60) and Kaliyev (10.03 per 60) averaged fewer in their respective leagues.
Afanasyev's efficiency is also eye-opening as he managed 3.21 points per 60 at even-strength. Bobby Brink, a very good bet to be chosen in the 1st round, is the only USHLer in this draft class who averaged more (3.41).
Skating is a concern given the pace of play in today's game, however, Afanasyev has a lot of attractive tools and GM Brad Treliving isn't shy about drafting USHLers (two of five 2018 draft choices came from there).
Note: numbers via Prospect-Stats.com, Scouching's prospect tracker, and manual data tracking.
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