NEWARK, N.J. - The Calgary Flames are in full rebuilding mode, and their three first-round picks could play a major role in that process. That's their thinking after taking forwards Sean Monahan, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk in Sunday's NHL draft.
General manager Jay Feaster had opportunities to trade picks for immediate help, but it wasn't difficult to resist that.
"At the end of the day for us there were guys that they were a year or two years away from unrestricted free agency," Feaster said. "We're committed to the rebuild, and we talked about it as a management group and said it's not the right way to go about the rebuild in terms of moving the picks for guys that are going to be UFAs."
Monahan, the centre Calgary took sixth overall, is most likely the closest of the three to being NHL-ready. Feaster has already had conversations with Monahan about making the team next season.
"I want to play. That's my goal," Monahan said. "I want to play this year, and I think I can. I want to make an impact and I want to be a reliable player out there, too."
The Flames could use reliable players after trading winger Jarome Iginla and defenceman Jay Bouwmeester last season. He's interested in trading Michael Cammalleri, too, and younger players are expected to fill those holes.
Monahan was the captain and leading scorer of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, who went 16-46. He knows a thing or two about being part of a rebuilding effort like what's going on in Calgary.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's going to be a challenge and I'm always up for a challenge. I think I'm going to be a part of that team and help that team win, so it's going to be a fun time."
Feaster mentioned a desire to add more size throughout the organization, and the Flames did so in the six-foot-two Monahan, six-foot-one Poirier, the 22nd pick. Talent, not size, was the focus.
"We didn't base anything on any of these three guys on size," director of scouting Tod Button said. "Size was an added bonus. They're all good-size kids. They all play the game properly. They're not shy, they play in traffic. So that's more important to us than their actual physical stature."
Demeanour may have been a factor, too. Monahan and Klimchuk, the 28th pick, have proven to be focused individuals.
"They're serious about being pro hockey players and for sure that helps," Button said. "We don't look at it as a negative if a kid has a little bit more of a loose side, but for sure Sean and Morgan are serious about where they want to go and what they want to be when they get older."
There's not much about the Flames that will be old next season, unless Feaster is unable to trade Cammalleri and goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff decides to return. Right now the idea seems to be getting younger, and they did so with their first-rounders.
"I think 20 minutes after the first round everybody comes away satisfied," Button said. "I don't think you'll find anybody that says, 'I can't believe we took him.' We're really excited."
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