BUFFALO, N.Y. — It’s been a busy month and an even busier draft weekend for the Calgary Flames.
The Flames made nine picks over the course of two days in Buffalo, used another selection in the acquisition of a new starting goaltender, and hired a head coach earlier in June.
Matthew Tkachuk led the fleet of selections at the NHL draft, a scoring winger from the juggernaut London Knights junior program. Tkachuk scored 20 goals in 18 playoffs games, adding a pair of goals in the Memorial Cup championship game, including the overtime winner.
The 18-year-old son of long-time NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk and one of five players from the St. Louis area selected in the first round, Tkachuk adds another skillful young piece to a Flames complement that already includes Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett.
Calgary knew Tkachuk would fall to the No. 6 hole when Columbus passed on Jesse Puljujarvi with the third overall pick, selecting French-Canadian forward Pierre-Luc Dubois instead.
“Kid’s kind of pain in the ass,” Flames president Brian Burke said of Tkachuk, who was overly enthused to join the club, describing them as his desired landing spot. “We don’t have enough guys who are pains in the ass. And the way I like to play, I like guys who are pains in the ass.”
Flames general manager Brad Treliving said Tkachuk symbolized the kind of player Calgary tried to draft over the weekend: competitive, skilled talents who can think the game.
“Everybody talks about his brawn and his ability to score, but this guy, he’s got an elite mind,” Treliving said of Tkachuk, who finished fifth in OHL scoring during the regular season. “He can play with top players, he can think the game at a high level and he plays in the areas that aren’t fun to play in.”
After dealing the 35th overall pick along with a conditional third round selection in 2018 for St. Louis Blues veteran goalie Brian Elliott, Calgary ended up using all eight of their other selections on Saturday. Treliving said he sensed a static trade market, telling his draft day team to “lock in” and get ready to make every pick.
With their first selection in the second round, the 54th overall, the Flames added Tkachuk’s Knights teammate, goaltender Tyler Parsons. A Michigan native, Parsons led the OHL with a 2.33 goals-against average and .921 save percentage last season.
He’s another long-term option in goal for the club, joining American netminder Jon Gillies, who missed most of last season after mid-season hip surgery.
“Our guys were screaming at me as the picks were coming up that if he’s there they wanted to grab him,” Treliving said of Parsons, describing the goalie as competitive and athletic with a winning pedigree.
Calgary solved its current needs in goal through the acquisition of Elliott, formerly one half of the Blues goaltending tandem. The 31-year-old has the second-best save percentage in the league over the past seasons, finishing with a .930 last year.
“He’s had to fight for the net in St. Louis because management (there) has always felt there’s a goaltender there that’s his equal,” Burke said. “That’s certainly not the situation with us.”
Beyond the crease, the Flames added four centres at the draft, including Western League pivot Dillon Dube, who put up a point a game for the Kelowna Rockets Swedish centre Linus Lindstrom big six-foot-four USHL centre Mitchell Mattson and Matthew Phillips, a diminutive centreman from Calgary who posted 76 points in 72 WHL games.
The Flames selected a pair of defencemen: American Adam Fox, who’s attending Harvard in the fall and compares his game to Colorado point man Tyson Barrie, and later Stepan Falkovsky, a Belarusian who debuted for the Ottawa 67’s last season.
Finnish winger Eetu Tuulola rounded out the group.
As busy as they’ve been, the Flames still need to sign Gaudreau and Monahan, consider unrestricted free agents, and hire assistant coaches to the staff of Glen Gulutzan, who was hired to replace Bob Hartley on June 17.
“We’re happy with it as everybody is right now,” Treliving said of the draft. “These kind of drafts everybody will get all excited here right after, ‘can’t believe he was there at this spot’ and the reality is (that) it’s going to take time.”