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Flames Watch: Analyzing Calgary in Future Watch

The much-anticipated Future Watch issue hits newsstands next week and unfortunately for Calgary fans, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture about the strength of the Flames development system.

The issue profiles each of the top 10 prospects for the 30 organizations and trumpets the top 75 overall. A panel of 22 NHL scouts does that analysis.

Calgary has two prospects in the top 75, 2007 first-rounder Mikael Backlund is No. 14 and 2008 first-rounder Greg Nemisz is No. 59.

Calgary’s prospect report card grade is ‘C’ which ranks 26th. That’s based on the Flames’ top 10 prospects and their 21-and-under NHLers, of which Calgary has none.

The report card grade isn’t as bad as it sounds. Future Watch has a handicapping system by which Calgary’s selection position the past four drafts is taken into account. The Flames have an average first pick of 25th overall since 2005 and that ranks 23rd amongst all teams. So Calgary’s report card rank (26th) is subtracted from its average draft slot (23rd), for a minus-3 difference from the norm. Not great, but not terrible (for comparison, Montreal has one of the best handicap ratings at plus-16).

It’s no secret the Flames have struggled in the department of drafting talent and developing prospects.

The years with Al Coates as GM (1996-99) were lean. Derek Morris (13th) and Toni Lydman (89th) panned out in 1996, but only an under-achieving Oleg Saprykin (11th in ’99) materialized out of 31 picks the next three drafts.

Craig Button came in with excellent scouting credentials, but his three drafting years were so-so. Jarret Stoll (46th) and Travis Moen (155th) from 2000 developed with other teams and Chuck Kobasew (14th in ’01) and Eric Nystrom (10th in ’02) made it, but with less impact than expected. David Moss (220th in ’01) and Matthew Lombardi (90th in ’02) were wins.

It’s too early to fully assess the Darryl Sutter era, but after a good start (Dion Phaneuf, ninth in ’03) there has been a lot of waiting.

Brandon Prust (70th in ’04) and Dustin Boyd (98th in ’04) look like decent role players, but successive first picks since 2004 have been slow to develop: Kris Chucko (24th in ’04), Matt Pelech (26th in ’05) and goalie project Leland Irving (26th in ’06). Irving dropped out of last year’s top 75 list in Future Watch 2009.

This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.

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