It didn’t take Sven Baertschi long to prove he was worthy of being taken 13th overall in last year’s NHL entry draft by the Calgary Flames.
Baertschi registered 94 points (33 goals, 61 assists) in 47 games with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks last season. He also had three goals in five games with Calgary when he was summoned on an emergency-recall basis in mid-March.
Calgary has the 14th pick overall in this year’s draft, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Pittsburgh, and looks to catch lightning in a bottle once again.
“I don’t know that there’s Baertschi-type quality at No. 14 this year,” said John Weisbrod, Calgary’s assistant GM of player personnel. “Everyone always talks about the draft depth based on the first round, but the draft is a multi-round process.
“Maybe this draft isn’t as deep perhaps as drafts gone by or next year’s draft in terms of the first round, but there’s opportunity to get a quality player in every pick and we’re going to make the most of it.”
General manager Jay Feaster says the Flames will be looking to build upon the momentum of last year’s draft. After taking Baertschi, Calgary selected forward Markus Granlund and defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon in the second round, forward John Gaudreau in the fourth and goalie Laurent Brossoit in the seventh.
“I think it’s a lot like winning,” Feaster said. “It is contagious. It is something that organizationally, you want to continue to make that push.
“That’s really what we’ve challenged our staff with, that this pick at No. 14 is critical for this organization and so are every one of our other picks. We have to continue to build our depth. That’s still the most important thing for the organization.”
Also at last year’s draft, the Flames dealt Robyn Regehr, Alex Kotalik and this year’s second-round pick (43rd overall) to the Buffalo Sabres for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. Feaster didn’t rule out the possibility of swinging more deals leading up to the draft or during it.
“I’m having conversations with teams all the time in terms of trying to improve our hockey team,” Feaster said. “We may do a deal between now and draft day.
“We may find ourselves with another pick. It may be another first- round pick. If there’s something we can do to improve our hockey team, we’ll do it.”
Craig Conroy, who serves as special assistant to the general manager, confirmed Feaster has been entertaining offers. However, he cautioned the Flames would only make a move that helps improve team depth.
“He’s been working diligently talking to all the GMs and trying to see where our best course is,” Conroy said. “You always want to improve and make your team better.
“I know Jay, he’s been knocking on everyone’s door. It’s just a matter of if we can get the deal done and if it works for us too.”
With assistance from Weisbrod, Conroy, director of scouting Tod Button and the entire scouting staff, Feaster is confident the Flames can get their list in the right order prior to the draft.
“What I do feel good about is that we’re an even deeper staff now than we were last year,” Feaster said. “Our task now is the same as it was last year: make sure we have that list in the right order.
“We’ll put the process through the decision lens software that we use to kind of check ourselves and test where we have guys rated. The most important thing and the mandate has been and will continue to be to make sure the list is in the right order because we’re going to draft our list.”
Feaster recalled the Flames made a critical last-minute change to their list prior to last year’s draft.
“We did make a switch and one of the switches we made was to put Sven Baertschi where we had Sven,” Feaster said. “We’ve reflected back on that as a staff and talked about the fact that while the player that we initially had ahead of him is a good player and we think is going to play in the league, we don’t think he’s where Sven is right now and we don’t think he has the upside Sven does. So, it’s critical that it be in the right order.”
Weisbrod is confident Calgary will be able to improve its depth this weekend.
“We have a lot of really good guys and smart hockey people and they’ve been beating the bushes all year long,” he said. “I feel really good, really enthusiastic about the draft as a whole whether it’s the first round or the fifth round or wherever it is.”