Michael Fabrig (@gotitotti) was nice enough to contribute a list of his top first round prospects in the Flames' wheelhouse. Michael has a relationship with NHL scouts and does a ton of analysis on prospects. His insight on future NHLers is impressive. Have a read!
Choice 1: Tomas Hertl - C - 6'2" - HC Slavia Praha - Czech
Comparable: Derek Stepan
Reason: The Flames are lacking a high-end Centre; every team in the league wishes for a player like Hertl -- blessed size, skill, and most importantly -- acumen. Hertl projects to be a top-6 forward with abilities to be versatile on the wing. His Czech team did better than expected at the WJHC -- Hertl was the only draft-eligible to named the top-3 on his team. Hertl is a very smart player with high-end skills. I think Hertl's progression will continue, if it does, by next-year around, he'll be deemed a steal at 14.
Choice 2: Zemgus Girgensons - C - 6'2" - C - Dubuque Fighting Saints - USHL
Comparable: Ryan Kesler
Reason: As a big factor why Brian Burke was convinced in Ryan Kesler's leadership, and ability to score and have a rugged presence, Girgensons seems so convincing that he plans to use to the same game-plan to get to the big leagues. Girgensons has a play-making side that is rather 'underrated'. The scouts that I've talked to are convinced that after a year at Vermont, he'll be more than ready to play in the NHL. After viewing his playoff performance, I was convinced that he could have scored more goals if it wasn't for the broken jaw. Girgensons makes a whole lot of sense as a Calgary Flame, he's big and skilled, and plays C! The question is -- will he be good enough to be a top-6? That question is why I had Hertl over Girgensons. I wouldn't be surprised if Girgensons, someday, becomes a captain somewhere in the NHL. Roberts Lipsbergs and Nikita Jevpalovs are 2 other Latvians that are starting to put Latvian hockey on the board. Great to see Latvian hockey getting bigger and better.
Choice 3: Andrei Vasilevski - G - 6'3" - Tolpar UFA - MHL.
Comparable: Tuukka Rask
Reason: Simply put, the Flames are, inevitably, going to have to start thinking and finding a way to have a future goalie after Kipper. Leland Irving and Karri Ramo look like good corner-stones to bank-on, but, at this point, they're not proven that they are the guys of the future. Vasilevski is blessed technically; his in-tangibles make it very convincing to see that he will be in the NHL one day. The Russian-factor is something that might turn-away some teams from drafting him; I haven't seen a Russian Goaltender look this promising in a long time.
Choice 4: Michael Matheson - D - 6'2" - Dubuque Fighting Saints - USHL
Comparable - John Carlson
Reason: Michael Matheson has the size and shot to eventually be a great top-4 d-man in the NHL. Consistency has been the biggest knack that scouts have on Matheson. His shot, ability to jump in the play, and silky-smooth skating ability are easy enough to take a stab at the former Lac Saint-Louis Lions scoring star. Matheson was dominant in the USHL playoffs -- he had 4 goals in 5 games. His pedigree showcases a player that rises to the occasion come playoff-time. Playing with Boston College next year will help his game mature; his defensive work with get a great challenge, the eventuality, it will let him mature there. His offensive abilities are very profound; I think Matheson will take these intangibles with him when eventually comes to the NHL -- at that point, teams will be salivating. You picture Matheson, Giordano, T.J. Brodie -- a great core that will make it hard for teams to deal with.
Choice 5: Pontus Aberg - RW - 5'11" - Djurgarden - Elitserien
Comparable: Mathias Tedenby
Reason: a scoring winger is something that adds huge value to a team. Tedenby is faster and has more skill -- Aberg has a better ability to shoot the puck like a sniper. With a majority of Aberg's points coming in the first-half of the season, its scary to think what his point totals would have been if it wasn't for the shoulder injury. We've seen what that has done to guys like Hall and Kesler in the big leagues, and what it had done to their statistics. Aberg is a bit of a risky pick -- but with the organization very shallow with Right Winger's, taking a guy like Aberg could fast-track the player to not only come in the league, but, make a positive contribution.
Choice 6: Derrick Pouliot - D - 5'11" - Portland Winter Hawks - WHL
Comparable: Erik Karlsson
Reason: No doubt, Derrick Pouliot is a game-breaker. His offensive skills are at the same level as Morgan Rielly. Watching the Top Prospects game, for me, the guy that really impressed me was Pouliot. The defensive side to his game is very questionable at times. At the end of the day, his position is a defense -- a team is drafting with the expectation for him to play that position. I think his offense, skating ability, and the ability to join the rush at the right times make him a catch. I think Pouliot has more transferable skills than Murray and Dumba -- hence, why I have him higher. He has some natural abilities that will separate himself from other competitors for a roster spot. I personally think that Dumba's Phanuef-life approach to the game will quickly wash away -- he's 5'11". Ryan Murray, like Jay Boumeester, has tremendous skating and longevity to probably be an Iron-Man in the NHL, but I don't see him having a wow-factor. It's like guys like Victor Hedman, Braydon Coburn, and Luke Schenn -- guys that when looking back, you might have not taken them so high if you knew how they'd translate in the NHL.
Thanks again to Michael for his contributions. He will have his full rankings (rounds 1-7!) up on the site soon. You can follow him on twitter @gotitotti.
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