Brian Burke isn’t buying the idea that a winger like Patrik Laine could surprise the hockey world by being drafted first overall, no matter which team wins Saturday’s NHL Draft Lottery.
“Auston Matthews is the consensus No. 1 pick, league-wide. I’m hearing this late whispering that he’s not, and I think those are teams trying to throw people off the scent. I think he’s a lock,” the Calgary Flames president said during his Facebook Live chat.
“He’s a lot like Jack Eichel. Not similar in style of play, but in the impact he’s going to have. I think he’s going to play right away and be a good player. I don’t think he deserves the ‘generational’ tag like [Connor] McDavid or Sidney Crosby, but I love this kid.”
Scanning the top of the 2016 NHL Draft class, Burke sees two “ledges,” where talent among the prospects drops off: one after the top three selections (Matthews, Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi) and another after the eighth-overall pick.
Conveniently, Calgary can pick no lower than eighth. The Flames have a 26.3 per cent chance of leaping into the top three and cannot pick fourth.
“Our worse drafting scenario is eight, and we’re happy at eight,” Burke said.
The only guarantee is that the Flames will take the best player available, regardless of position.
“If you draft by position, you’ll make huge mistakes,” said Burke, who prefers to adjust his depth chart via trade. “You gotta take the best player.”
What else we learned from Burke:
- He brought a couple of lucky charms to the lottery. They’re in his pocket.
- Burke said the Flames have the best positional balance of the seven Canadian teams.
- He reiterated his opinion that teams should not be allowed multiple number one draft choices.
- He’s never played the draft simulator: “I’m in a bad mood enough. I don’t need to play video games.”
- Laine and Puljujarvi will both play right away, and Finnish hockey is the closest to North American hockey.
- Draft position has no bearing on the Flames’ goaltending plans.
- There is no timeline to sign RFAs Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
- If the Flames do land the No. 1 pick, they’ll listen to offers for it.
LISTEN: Ryan Dixon and Gare Joyce host a live version of the Tape II Tape podcast on the Sportsnet radio network Saturday night at 10:00 ET/ 8:00 MT with full coverage of the NHL Draft Lottery. Listen now | iTunes | Podcatchers