With No. 9 pick, Flames looking for 'best player' available, plain and simple

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Take the best player available or draft for need?

Tod Button doesn’t even wait for the question. His answer is clear.

The Calgary Flames’ director of amateur scouting has done enough interviews over the years to know it’s going to get asked eventually.

“Best player,” Button said. “There’s nothing further than that. We don’t have to dissect it to mean anything more. We’re going to have a choice and there’s 11 or 12 guys for that No. 9 spot. Maybe in the past, you’d usually have six, but we think we have 11. We have them in order right now and we’ll have our final meeting and we’ll pick the guy left on our list.”

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It’s going to be a big weekend in Las Vegas for the future of the Flames. In addition to the No. 9 overall pick in Friday’s draft, they’ve also got the 28th overall selection and two picks in each of rounds two, three and four.

By the time the weekend is through, they’ll have added considerably to their stock of young players.

Inevitably, there will be an outsized amount of attention that’s paid to who the Flames take at No. 9. The organization does need to keep its options open because there is so much variance in what could happen when the teams ahead of them in the draft step to the podium.

Speaking late last week, though, Button was feeling confident about the player they’ll get.

“There’s probably seven defencemen and five forwards in that mix,” Button said. “With that said, the odds might be that you get a defenceman, but we’re going to get to Vegas, do our top-15 in so and then we’ll put that in place and do the rest of the draft.

“Those other picks are just as important as the first one, but we know we’re going to get a good player at No. 9, for sure.”

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For months, the Flames have been open about being willing to move up and/or down in the draft and GM Craig Conroy told Flames Nation’s The Barn Burner show this weekend that it’s more likely that the team will find a partner related to the No. 28 pick than their No. 9 selection.

Conroy also acknowledged that while drafting a centre would probably be ideal, like Button had said, getting the best player possible is the priority.

As for the No. 28 pick, Button said the Flames’ approach would likely be quite similar to their earlier selection.

“At No. 28, we’d still be in the ‘best player available’ (zone),” Button said. “After that, can pick or choose. We’ll have our list in order, but we’ll have them also categorized by what type of NHL player we think is there. I don’t want to say we’ll fill out a roster, because that’s not what we’re trying to do, but all of these kids have some upside, so we’re excited.

“Having eight picks in your first four rounds is exciting because you have that option, whereas when you have one pick in the top 60 or two in the top 100, you’re more crossing off names than talking strategy or moving up to get a guy who you think has value like we did with (Oliver Kylington in 2015). You’re not turning your brain off at the table with so many picks in the first four rounds.”

The addition of Denis Grebeshkov scouting Russia and significant advances in analytics capabilities over the past 20 years have given the Flames more information than ever on young players in the draft. Button did note that he was impressed by the calibre of Russian players this year and said that they’ve got a deeper than ever pool of players they could take in the later rounds.

With that No. 9 pick, though, the Flames are going to take the best player available.

That couldn’t be more clear.

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X: @DannyAustin_9

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