Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Hockey Wilderness mock draft. We’re doing things a little differently this time around. You’ll still be getting the same great draft profiles, but we’ve gone ahead and condensed the format to drive through all the picks in the first round in the 10 days leading up to the draft. In prior seasons we’ve brought you a pick each day up to the draft, but now we’re bringing 3 picks each day, culminating with the 31st pick right on draft day.
The Calgary Flames have emerged from a rather deep pit that recently enveloped the franchise, as the team went five consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance between ’09-’10 and ’14-’15, when it finally qualified but then fell in the second round to the Ducks. The Flames missed again in ’15-’16, in a season that saw them earn a measly 77 points in the standings, matching the lowest point total that they managed during the aforementioned five-season-long swoon. The ugly response to their first playoff appearance in six years resulted in the firing of Coach Bob Hartley, who was just one season removed from winning the Jack Adams Award for his efforts in returning Calgary to the playoffs.
The Flames rebounded nicely this past season, however, as they saw continued growth from Johnny Gaudreau (no pun intended) and Sean Monahan, the emergence of gritty and skilled rookie Matthew Tkachuk as a rugged contributor at the ripe old age of 19 years old, and the addition of Brian Elliott in the goal crease. Despite Elliott having… not his best season in Alberta, second-time NHL Head Coach Glen Gulutzan helped return the team to legitimacy.
There’s suddenly a young core in Calgary that hasn’t existed there for quite a while. The group is proving that there are players within the roster that are capable of leading the team to the playoffs already, so further infusing young talent to this roster will only push the club further into the realm of legitimate contention.
Calgary has some solid depth up the middle, with Mikael Backlund and young studs Monahan and Sam Bennett centering the top three lines. However, with Backlund only signed through the upcoming season and 33-year-old Matt Stajan centering the fourth line, there is definitely opportunity for a young center to join this group in the near future, particularly one with size and room to develop. The Flames have found a good theoretical fit in this theoretical draft, by selecting Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans with the 17th overall pick.
The Scouting Report
Rasmussen is a big, physical presence that has future power forward written all over him. There is an expectation that he will continue to get bigger and stronger as he grows into his huge frame, but all reports indicate that he skates well despite his 6’ 5,” 215-pound frame. As ISS Hockey’s Director of Scouting, Dennis MacInnis, says of Rasmussen, “[There is] big time upside if he puts it all together. Still growing into his body. A raw offensive product that will need more seasoning.” He’s a good Canadian boy who will fare well in a good Canadian market.
While Rasmussen ran into some injury woes at the end of his WHL season, he did manage 32 goals and 33 assists in 50 games for the Americans. Assuming he continues to grow and develop, he projects into a top-six center in the NHL. Rasmussen is not a sure thing to be a star, but there’s no question that he’s on the right track to becoming a positive contributor to an NHL team within a couple of years.
How He Fits the Wild
Minnesota hasn’t relied only on size and physicality to build its team into a perennial contender, but there’s no doubt that the organization still values big bodies that can gain space and contribute at both ends of the ice. With Charlie Coyle coming off of perhaps his worst season as a member of the Wild, Nino Neiderreiter’s contract situation in a state of uncertainty, Tyler Graovac playing himself out of town, and Alex Tuch failing to take advantage of his first opportunity with the Wild, there has to be some concern that the muscle of the team isn’t panning out quite the way that Chuck Fletcher had hoped. Jordan Greenway is still developing and looks like a good prospect, but apart from him and Tuch, there are no other large, imposing players skating down the pipeline for the Wild right now.
The addition of a player like Michael Rasmussen, especially later in the first round, would very much be a welcome one for Minnesota. He can contribute offensively and impose his will physically on other teams… what’s not to like?
How Could the Wild Get Him?
As it has been bandied about quite a bit, there are definitely trade talks going on in the Wild organization right now, with players such as Neiderreiter, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba being discussed. If Neiderreiter were to somehow end up getting dealt, and it happened to be to Calgary, it would make a ton of sense for a first round pick to come back to the Wild. Should the traded entity indeed end up being Nino, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fletcher have a desire to add a physical forward right back into the mix.
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