When the Calgary Flames won their first and only Stanley Cup in 1989, they did so with help of players like Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Hakan Loob, and Mike Vernon. What those players have in common is that they were all original Calgary Flames draft picks. That's proof that you need to be able to draft and develop your players if you want a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. That statement rings even more true in today's salary cap world of the NHL.
The above mentioned players were just some of the great players that the Flames drafted during the 1980s. The 1990's however weren't so kind to the Flames, as arguably the best players they drafted were Cory Stillman and Derek Morris. They were serviceable players, but they did not turn into the franchise players the Flames had hoped for. The 2000s were a little bit friendlier for the Flames with the selection of players like Dion Phaneuf and T.J. Brodie, who are both players that continue to be solid NHL players to this day.
This list will contain players from the last three decades of Calgary's first round draft selections. Not all the players included on the list were complete busts, although a few of these players would never even play a single NHL game after being drafted. A couple of the players on this list had decent NHL careers, one player even won two Stanley Cups. Some of these players might of been great if wasn't for suffering career altering injuries.
After struggling for the last few years in the standings, the Flames have put together a promising prospect pool. Their current roster has a few Flames draft picks that are quickly turning into star players like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Sam Bennett. It looks like Calgary has learned from their past draft mistakes.
Here are the top 15 worst draft mistakes in Calgary Flames history.
15 Chris Dingman - 1994
Chris Dingman had a great junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League. He put up great numbers, but could also be a very physical player. The Flames selected him 19th overall, hoping he could turn into a great power forward for the team. Unfortunately Dingman's offense from his junior days did not translate to the NHL. However he was able to maintain his toughness and physicality. He played only one full season for Calgary registering just six points, but still put up 149 penalty minutes. After moving on from the Flames, Dingman would use his physical game to win a Stanley Cup for both Colorado and Tampa Bay.
14 Trevor Kidd - 1990
Trevor Kidd had a decent career after being drafted 11th overall by the Flames, where he played nearly 400 games in the NHL with four different teams. Kidd's best season in the NHL came during the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, where led all goaltenders in games played with 43. The main reason Kidd makes this list despite not being a total bust is that the Flames in hindsight clearly drafted the wrong goalie of the 1990 draft. The only other goalie drafted in that year's first round was future NHL legend Martin Brodeur, who was taken by the Devils with the 20th overall pick. Hard not to imagine what the past two decades could have looked like for the Flames if they had Brodeur between the pipes.
13 Kris Chucko - 2004
Kris Chucko was a star in the BCHL when the Flames selected him with the 24th overall pick. After his draft year, Chucko decided to attend the University of Minnesota, before turning pro two years later. He would play three seasons with Calgary's affiliate in the AHL. His best season was in 2008-09 when he recorded 51 points in 74 games. It was during that season where he would get his first and only NHL call up with the Flames. He played just two games and failed to register a point. The following season he would battle both neck and head injuries, which eventually forced Chucko into early retirement at just the age of 25. Players drafted right after Chucko included Cory Schneider and Mike Green.
12 Jason Muzzatti - 1988
Jason Muzzatti made a name for himself as one the best goalies in college hockey while playing for the Michigan State Spartans. After staying in college for four years, the 21st pick of the 1988 draft turned pro heading into the 1991-92 season. He spent almost the entirety of his time with Flames franchise in the minors. The one start he got in net for Calgary was terrible, as he allowed in eight goals. Muzzatti was claimed off waivers by Hartford in 1995, where he would go on have the most success of his NHL career. He spent two years as a backup for the Whalers, where his numbers were mediocre at best. He had quick stints with the Rangers and Sharks before he left for Europe in 1998. Muzzatti's one claim to fame is playing for Italy at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. A few picks after the selection of Muzzatti goaltender Stephane Fiset was picked by Quebec and Fiset would go on to play nearly 400 NHL games.
11 Leland Irving - 2006
Leland Irving had absolutely stellar numbers in the Western Hockey League. The Flames selected Irving 26th overall and he was the fourth and last goalie taken in the first round of the 2006 draft. He spent his first couple of season with the Flames minor league affliate in the AHL. He put up solid numbers while down there and eventually earned himself a call up as an injury replacement in 2011. Irving wasn't too impressive in his seven game stint with the Flames and was sent back down to the minors. Irving would have another short stint with Flames during the 2012-13 season before heading to Europe the following season. The next two goalies drafted after Irving were Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth, both of whom have had a good amount of success in the NHL.
10 Tim Erixon - 2009
After being selected 23rd overall out of the Swedish junior league, Erixon was never able come to terms on a contract with the Flames. His rights were eventually traded to the New York Rangers in 2011 and his tenure with the Rangers only lasted 18 unremarkable games, before he was traded again. Erixon has not been able to solidify a spot on an NHL blueline to date. He has spent the majority of his career in the minors and a trip back home to Sweden seems inevitable at this point. Marcus Johansson was selected by Washington with the pick that immediately followed Erixson and it's safe to say you know who turned out to be the better Swedish prospect.
9 Greg Nemisz - 2008
Greg Nemisz had a great career in the Ontario Hockey League. In his couple of seasons in junior, he was an over a point per game player. The 25th overall pick in the 2008 draft continued that success with a good first pro season in the AHL. That same season he earned a call up with the Flames, playing six games and recording his first NHL point. That first point turned out to be his last as he would play just nine more NHL games in his career. He battled numerous injuries the last few seasons of his career and retired in 2015 in order to pursue a coaching job in the OHL. Notable names taken after Nemisz include Tyler Ennis and John Carlson, who were the next two picks.
8 Matt Pelech - 2005
The Flames drafted Matt Pelech with the 26th overall pick in the 2006 draft. It was a decision that surprised some as his offensive numbers were poor. However, the defenseman had good size and showed he could be a physical force. He turned pro for the 2007-08 season and played the entire year for the Flames minor league affiliate in the AHL. He recorded only nine points but was among the team leaders in penalty minutes. He got his first taste of the NHL the following season, when he suited up for five games with Calgary. After the 2010-11 season, the Flames let Pelech walk as a free agent. He then joined the San Jose Sharks organization where he was able to get into just a handful of NHL games. He spent most of the time in the minors racking up penalty minutes, before taking off to Europe in 2015. The Flames would have been a lot better if they had taken fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen, who went a couple picks later to Dallas.
7 Niklas Sundblad - 1991
Scouts were comparing Niklas Sundblad to the next Esa Tikkanen, a guy who was feisty but could put pucks in the net, so Calgary took him with the 19th overall selection. His time with the Flames was short, as he only stayed for three seasons in North America and spent almost all his time playing for the Saint John Flames of American Hockey League. Though, he did manage to get into two NHL games with the big club. To make things worse, the Flames missed out on drafting some great talent like Ray Whitney and Ziggy Palffy, who were selected shortly after.
6 Jesper Mattsson - 1993
Jesper Mattsson was selected 18th overall out of the Swedish Elite League. He continued to play in Sweden for two more seasons after he was drafted, before making the trip over to North America. He would spend just two and a half seasons playing for the Flames AHL affiliate, producing decent numbers. Midway through his third season in the Calgary organization, Mattsson left back home to Sweden for good. Finnish hockey legend Saku Koivu was selected just three picks after Mattsson.
5 Bryan Deasley - 1987
Bryan Deasley was coming off a great first season for the University of Michigan, when the Flames decided to take him with the 19th overall pick. After one more season in college, he played a year for the Canadian national team. He was the third leading scorer on the team with 38 points in 54 games. The next year he turned pro and played for the Flames IHL affiliate in Salt Lake. He would play for four seasons in the minors before retiring in 1993, having never played a single NHL game.
4 Chris Biotti - 1985
Chris Biotti must have been a smart man considering he played for Harvard University. It's a good thing he's well educated because his hockey career was pretty brief. After being taken with the 17th overall pick in 1985, he played three mediocre seasons with the Flames affiliate in Salt Lake. He then played two seasons in Italy before calling it a career. Luckily for Calgary they drafted future captain Joe Nieuwendyk in the second round, so the draft was not a complete waste.
3 Brent Krahn - 2000
Brent Krahn was the second goalie drafted in the 2000 draft after Islanders took Rick DiPietro with the first overall pick. The Flames selected Krahn 9th overall, hoping they had their starting goaltender of the future. He spent eight years in the Flames system without getting into a single game with Calgary. He signed with Dallas in 2008 where he would see his one and only game of action in the NHL. Krahn retired just a few years later in 2011. In hindsight Calgary would of been better off drafting Brooks Orpik, selected nine picks later (it was a weak first round), who could of solidified their blueline for years.
2 Daniel Tkaczuk - 1997
Daniel Tkaczuk was a star offensive player in junior, averaging 1.4 points per game. It looked like the 6th overall pick could become the Flames offensive catalyst for years to come. After his first pro season in the American League, the future continued to look bright for Tkaczuk as he was among the top rookie scorers in the AHL. The following season Tkaczuk would see his first and only NHL action of his career. In 19 games he recorded 11 points, which is not too bad for a rookie in the NHL. Despite showing some promise, he would never get a chance to play in the NHL again. A few years later he left North America for Europe, where had several successful seasons. Notable names selected shortly after Tkaczuk include future rookie of the year Sergei Samsonov and three time Stanley Cup winner Marian Hossa.
1 Rico Fata - 1998
Rico Fata was a highly touted prospect, so it wasn't too much of a surprise when the Flames picked him with 6th overall pick. His stint with the Flames organization ended up only lasting three years, in which he spent the majority of his time in the minors. In the 27 games he managed to get in with the Flames, Fata recorded just one assist. The best part of his career was his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He even got a chance to play on a line with Mario Lemieux. He recorded a career high 34 points in the 2003-04 season. It was all down hill from there for Fata, as he was out of the NHL for good a few years later. Notable names drafted later that first round include, Alex Tanguay, Simon Gagne, and Scott Gomez.