A quick gander at the left side of the Calgary Flames offence suggests it’s the last position that needs bolstering, thanks to Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and Andrew Mangiapane.
However, the drafting of left winger Jakob Pelletier wasn’t about filling holes on the current roster or trying to predict a future weakness.
It was about picking the best player available when the Flames picked 26th overall.
And if there was ever a doubt the undersized sophomore with the Moncton Wildcats wasn’t made up of the type of stuff the Flames were looking for, it was erased during a recent interview with the club.
“We’ve gotten to know him a lot and what we love about him is his competitive spirit,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving from the draft floor in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.
“We asked, ‘why you,’ and he said, ‘because I’m going to win the Stanley Cup.’”
Confidence is key, but Flames scouts liked most that it comes with a package of skill balled up in a five-foot-nine, 161-pound frame that just doesn’t quit.
Although the 18-year-old scored 39 goals and had 89 points in 65 games with the Wildcats, his competitiveness is considered perhaps his greatest asset.
“They asked me what separates you from the others and I say, ‘I’m a winner and I want to win and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win,’” said Pelletier, who met with the Flames once again early Friday.
“I think it was a the fourth or fifth time I met with them, so I had a good feeling, and when I had a talk with them this morning, it went well.”
Ranked 27th amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting, Pelletier is considered to be a shifty, two-way player who models his game after Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
“I think I’m a small guy who can play big,” he said. “I’m a competitor and can play at both ends of the ice.”
Because of his size, Pelletier is the type of player who wouldn’t have had a chance at going in the first or second round five or 10 years ago. However, smaller, speedier players like Gaudreau have opened the door for a lengthy list of diminutive players to be drafted in the first round Friday to continue bolstering the game’s speed.
The Flames had plenty of undersized forwards and defencemen to choose from with their late-round pick, but opted to continue a trend that had seen them choose one blueliner and nine forwards their last two drafts.
“I’m not a big fan of comparing people but he’s a (Brendan) Gallagher-type,” said Treliving.
“He’s not going to pull you out of your seat with a toe-drag but he’s going to play in the guts of the game and bang away in the crease. He’s a high-end competitor and high-end thinker. He’s ultra smart.
“His worth ethic and will and want and competitiveness are off the charts and he’s got skill.”
As Treliving is quick to point out, this was a late-round pick and time will decide who is right and who is wrong at every draft. But Treliving said it’s an attitude and drive like Pelletier’s that made him an easy player to gamble on.
“You don’t pick a guy because he thought of some good answers in an interview,” said Treliving. “But he believes it. He is wired that way. Everything is about winning and about team.”
Treliving raved about the fact an ankle injury hobbled Pelletier going into the playoffs, but he insisted on playing on it anyway to try helping the team.
Same goes for the under-18s where many suggested that due to injury he shouldn’t go and risk his standing as a ranked first rounder.
“He said, ‘I’m going,’ – he’s going to make it or die trying,” said Treliving, who has four more picks to make Saturday.
“To me, you bet on those guys. He’s got a motor to push himself to maximize his ceiling. He’s got talent but it’s not perimeter talent.”
He isn’t expected to make the jump from the QMJHL this fall, as the Quebec City native will focus instead on adding muscle to a frame eerily similar to Gaudreau’s.
Some believe a premium should be placed on adding some size to the Flames organization given how physical the two Stanley Cup finalists were.
However, a large part of why the Flames lost to Colorado in five games was that they couldn’t keep up with the Avalanche’s speed – something Pelletier can bring in a year or two when he’s ready to start playing with men.
“He certainly can play with speed, but I like his will,” said Treliving.
“We value competitive and smart people.”