Big draft ahead, Flames top scout believes team is better positioned to hit on picks than a decade ago

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In the NHL, draft picks represent potential.

If you’re the Calgary Flames, you’re looking at your deep cupboard of coming picks and dreaming of what the future might hold.

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But there’s another side to that: Picks don’t always work out — as the Flames know all too well.

And Tod Button, the team’s director of amateur scouting, knows that the last time the Flames had the opportunity to add as much talent as they do this year, it didn’t go perfectly.

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“There’s been a couple years, 10 or 12 years ago, when we missed out on a few. (We had) a couple trades and multiple picks, especially in the first round,” Button said. “We’re aware of the past and we’re not going to let the past affect the future but, for us, for the scouting staff, it’s really, really exciting to go to a draft and know you have the chance to change the future of a franchise.”

Button didn’t go into specifics, but it feels pretty safe to assume he’s referring to the 2013 NHL draft.

That year, the Flames had traded Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester and received first-round draft picks as part of the packages they got in return.

The picks came in at 22nd and 28th overall, and with the team hitting a home run by taking Sean Monahan at No. 6 in the draft, there was potential to establish a bright future if the Flames had nailed their next two selections.

But the Flames instead wound up with Emile Poirier at No. 22 and Morgan Klimchuk at No. 28, neither of whom would have the type of long career you’d hope for from a first-round pick.

Now, it’s worth noting that the Flames scouting staff did decently in the early 2010s with their later round draft picks, especially taking Johnny Gaudreau in the fourth-round in 2011.

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But imagine if the Flames had added a couple blue-chip prospects with those first-round picks in 2013. Missing on those selections is something Button brings up on his own when he spoke this week.

And, with another treasure trove of draft picks in the Flames’ possession over the next couple of years, Button and the Flames scouting staff is laser-focused on ensuring history doesn’t repeat itself.

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You have to be able to look back at your drafting and say ‘here’s where we made a mistake, it’s not going to happen again’ or ‘Here’s where we missed on that,’“ Button said. “I think we’ve put a lot of pieces in place with analytics and development and mental process that are very, very helpful. I’m confident we’re not going to make those mistakes, but we’re still dealing with 17-year-old kids, so a lot can change in a couple years.”

I’m confident we’re not going to make those mistakes, but we’re still dealing with 17-year-old kids, so a lot can change in a couple years.

Tod Button

With 71 points through 72 games, the Flames currently have the eighth-fewest points in the NHL with 10 games to go this season. The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes all are within four points of them and, with the Flames dropping five straight games, it’s entirely possible that those teams will leapfrog them in the standings.

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So their first pick should yield a high-end prospect, they have another first-rounder acquired from the Vancouver Canucks and could have two second-round picks, as well.

There are a lot more picks coming over the next couple of years, too. Button and his team of scouts are going to be front and centre as the Flames load up on young talent.

And with Craig Conroy in charge as general manager, there seems to be a clearly articulated vision. The scouting staff is bigger and has more sophisticated tools at its disposal, too.

That doesn’t make the draft process fool-proof, but there’s a confidence that the Flames can come out of this year’s draft on June 28 and 29 in Las Vegas with a solid foundation of talent to carry the organization forward.

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“I think we have a way more experienced staff than we did in those years,” Button said from outside a junior rink earlier this week. “And to be honest, sometimes, at that time there was a lot of management influx, a lot of changes. You’re getting pulled and pushed in a lot of different directions. That’s no excuse, that’s how it was, but we’re confident things will be way different than it was in years-past.

“For us, for the scouting staff, it’s really, really exciting to go to a draft and know you have the chance to change the future of a franchise, that’s exciting for us. That’s why we go to the rinks. That’s why on a Monday night I’m here to watch players.

“It’s what we do and it’s part of the job and this is how we contribute to the overall organization, so it’s exciting in that regard.”

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