The sure things, if there is such a thing, are already off the board.
The 2022 NHL Draft started with the Montreal Canadiens surprising their home crowd — and many of the pundits, too — by choosing Juraj Slafkovsky first overall, with projected top pick Shane Wright falling to fourth and landing in the Pacific Division with the Seattle Kraken, and with the Calgary Flames’ contingent stuck spectating after they previously traded away their opening-round swing.
The Flames are slated to step to the microphone toward the tail end of Friday’s second round at Bell Center — at No. 59 overall. They own just three selections, the others in the fifth and seventh rounds.
Fortunately, Brad Treliving must be getting good at the waiting game.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Treliving met in Montreal with Johnny Gaudreau’s agent, Lewis Gross, but didn’t get an answer about whether the superstar left-winger will be staying put at the Saddledome or splitting as an unrestricted free agent. That looms as franchise-altering news.
While it certainly won’t ease the nail-biting from a nervous fan base, this is worth keeping in mind — Gaudreau was, as a scrawny teen, a fourth-round steal in the 2011 NHL Draft.
The Flames won’t add an immediate contributor Friday, certainly not a ready-to-go replacement if Johnny declines their long-term contract offer, but it is possible to find difference-makers on Day 2 of the proceedings.
Calgary’s scouting staff, especially in recent years, has a record of doing just that.
Rasmus Andersson, Dillon Dube and Oliver Kylington were all second-rounders.
They swiped Andrew Mangiapane in the sixth.
Their prized goaltending prospect, Dustin Wolf, was still available in the seventh. He was selected fourth-from-last in 2019 and shared these words of wisdom for the incoming class on social media: “What position you get drafted at doesn’t define you. The hard work is just starting.”
“Ultimately, with any pick, you’re projecting these players at that age. So they’re certainly not finished products — far from it — on draft day,” Treliving said prior to his departure for Montreal. “That’s why all the background work, all the homework you do on these players, is so important. Because you’re saying, ‘OK, what are the physical traits, the skill, the smarts?’ and then also, ‘What is the mental makeup for that player to dig in and reach the potential that you feel he has?’
“Lots of players, you think, have great physical traits, but you may be worried, ‘Is the dig-in there? Is he going to attain the level of your projection or is it just considered-once-promising?’ And then all those things have to come together, right?”
Will it all come together for Friday’s newest Flames?
We won’t know for several years.
While there’s usually a future star snagged somewhere in the second round, they’re not immediately revealed.
At Nos. 155 and 219, Treliving & Co. are definitely looking at long-term projects.
“The mindset is the same as it always is. You have to hit on them,” stressed Flames director of amateur scouting, Tod Button, in an interview with the team website. “We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Oh, we only have three picks, so if we don’t hit on them, no big deal.’ That’s not how we operate. We’re given the resources to make sure we know these players at all levels.”
That doesn’t simply mean knowing how fast they can skate, how hard they can shoot, how much weight they can bench-press and how many points they put up on the power-play this past winter.
“The one single biggest trait, and it’s the hardest to evaluate, is what the player has inside of ’em that is going to make them go to the next level,” Button told Postmedia. “It’s something we always talk about — ‘He knows he has intensive work on his skating, so is he going to be able to commit to that? He has to get better and stronger in the gym. Is he going to commit to that?’ The insides and the mentality going forward, those are huge pieces that we’re always trying to get a handle on and improve how we do it. It’s a very key component.”
The Flames have been successful in finding some keepers in recent years. They’re hoping to repeat the feat with Friday’s welcomes.
“It is challenging, but scouting work isn’t just sitting at the rink and watching them,” Treliving said. “A big part of it is the evaluation, but you have to get to know these players as best you can. The background work is so important, and it’s not just sitting down with them for 15 minutes. You do a lot of work. That’s the job of the scout is knowing everybody in his area of him, not just on the ice but getting to know the people, getting to look under every rock and find out every bit of information that you can.
“A draft pick is sort of like a book on each player. Chapter 1 is how he plays and the traits that he has. Chapter 2 is the season that he had and the competition he played against and what he does well and what he doesn’t do well. And with the things he doesn’t do well, are those correctable traits? And then there’s all the background, the personality, the mental toughness, the grit in terms of, ‘Is he prepared to push through?’ You can have a ceiling however high, but is he going to have the strength to reach that ceiling? It’s really important and you have to work to get it, and our guys do a really good job of it.”
ICE CHIPS: The Canadiens claimed forward Filip Mesar — like Slafkovsky and second-overall selection Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), he hails from Slovakia — with the No. 26 pick, acquired from the Flames as part of the Tyler Toffoli trade.