‘I’m just so grateful’: Calgary kid Andrew Basha headlines Flames’ haul on Day 2 of NHL Draft

Article content

Andrew Basha will have a familiar logo on his chest.

And a new number on his back.

The Flames selected Basha in the second round of the 2024 NHL Draft, giving this Calgary-raised left-winger an opportunity to transition from face-in-the-crowd to hometown hero.

“I guess I can’t wear No. 34 anymore,” Basha said. “Growing up, I always loved watching Kipper.”

Miikka Kiprusoff, of course, had his jersey number raised to the rafters this winter, so No. 34 is now off-limits.

Advertisement 2

Article content

No sweat. Basha, a playmaker rather than a puck-stopper, doesn’t mind selecting new digits, not if it means a chance to suit up for his favourite franchise.

This 6-foot, 187-pound buzzsaw is a graduate of the Glenlake Hawks minor-hockey system and Royals AAA program. You can bet there were a few pints tipped Saturday at The Garrison Pub, a popular watering hole that is owned by his father.

“It’s amazing,” Basha told Postmedia after hearing his name called at No. 41 overall. “Growing up in Calgary and being a Flames fan all my life, I don’t know if it’s set in to me as reality yet, but there’s just so much excitement and I’m just so grateful.”

Basha, who will turn 19 in November, notched 30 goals and 55 assists in 63 outings this past season with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. He oozes personality and apparently made a major impression during his pre-draft interviews. Thankfully, neither Craig Conroy nor Jarome Iginla demanded to know why he chose Kiprusoff’s number over their own.

“I think I’m an exciting player,” Basha said. “I play with a lot of speed. I’m very creative in the offensive zone with the puck, and I think my passing ability is very good. I play with a lot of IQ and just play with a lot of passion in my game.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

There was a clear theme for the Flames at the 2024 NHL Draft, a direction that was being lauded by analysts and by the C of Red.

“The one thing we talked about before the draft was adding more skill, bringing more skill in,” general manager Craig Conroy told reporters at Sphere in Las Vegas. “And I think we did that again today. Look at the guys we got — 30-goal scorers, 80 points.

“You look at the game today, you watch how teams are winning … I mean, you need to put up points. You need to make those high-end plays. Especially you see Edmonton, and we watch ’em all the time, and they’re high offence. Obviously, they have some of the best players in the world, but we had to add some of that to our group, and I think we were able to do that.”

Calgary’s haul at the 2024 NHL Draft included a pair of offensive-minded blue-liners in Zayne Parekh and Henry Mews, the Kingston Frontenacs’ leading lamp-lighter in Jacob Battaglia, the Mississauga Steelheads’ top point-producer in Luke Misa and a couple of Junior A dynamos in Matvei Gridin and Trevor Hoskin. Gridin won the scoring crown in the United States Hockey League, while Hoskin did the same in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Advertisement 4

Article content

The Flames also selected netminder Kirill Zarubin, power-forward project Hunter Laing — you may recognize the last name since his father, Quintin, played parts of four seasons in ‘The Show’ — and another local in defenceman Eric Jamieson, an Edge School alum.

“Parekh, Basha, Mews … It’s a lot of very offensive guys, and that’s very cool to see,” Battaglia beamed after being selected by the Flames at No. 62. “You can see there’s a plan in place for this draft class.”

Jacob Battaglia
Kingston Frontenacs forward Jacob Battaglia says he has intangibles that are similar to his favourite player growing up, Patrick Kane. Photo by TOM MARTINEAU /For Postmedia

Battaglia, after draining 31 goals and adding 34 assists for the OHL’s Frontenacs, certainly fits the mold.

“My favourite player was Patrick Kane and just watching him, I always wanted to be as skilled as him and as smart as him and I feel like I have a couple of intangibles that are similar to his game,” said this on-the-rise right-winger, listed by his new club at 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds. “I think I’m very good in the offensive zone. I think I protect the puck really well in the corners. I think I have a very good small-area game. I think I have a very good scoring touch, as well, and that came on pretty strong this year. And I think I can think the game at a fairly elite level, too, with passing and vision and hockey sense overall.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“I know my skating is something I need to work on, which I have already been working on for a while and it will continue to get better. I’m just really excited to see the player I can become.”

In that case, Flames fans need to be patient. It will be several years before any of these 2024 NHL Draft picks are anything close to finished products.

But for an organization that is in the early stages of a major roster remodel, you can do a lot worse than gambling on guys with big skill, high ceilings and a knack for helping the puck find the back of the net.

Basha is more biased than ever, but he believes his favourite team is trending toward a bright future.

“Growing up, we shared season-tickets with my dad’s close friends, so I went to tons of games and always loved cheering for the Flames,” he said. “I got to see how much more alive the city felt when the team is doing well and in the playoffs, and that’s just so exciting for me to know what that’s like. I just want to try to do my best to help the organization have that soon.”

[email protected]

Article content