The Calgary Flames haven't been particularly strong lately at the development part of the drafting process, but maybe they're starting to turn the corner.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter did a terrific off-season job of beefing up the third and fourth lines and that has had a trickle-down effect on the homegrown prospects.
The unheralded signings of Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque have turned out well. Bourque is solid on the second line and a capable replacement on the first line when called upon. Glencross has been brilliant on the third line, providing excellent checking with his speed and a surprising scoring touch.
It has almost been through osmosis then that prospects drafted by the Flames have flourished this season. Dave Moss has already bettered his point total from last season and Dustin Boyd has already matched last year’s goal total; both look to be second-line producers. Eric Nystrom doesn't get a lot of ice time on the fourth line, but considering he was flirting with first-round flop territory a year ago, he has come a long way.
Winger Brandon Prust has shown he can eat some minutes and do some scraping on the fourth line and Adam Pardy has endeared himself well as a sixth or seventh defenseman for now and perhaps much more down the road.
How's that for development?
For a franchise that drafted extremely poorly between 1997 and 2002 – the best of the bunch from 63 draft picks being Chuck Kobasew, Travis Moen, Matthew Lombardi and, now, Dave Moss – the Flames are showing impressive inner-growth.
Is it the drafting or the developing that’s improving?
Dion Phaneuf was going to make it regardless of which organization developed him. There's no other yield from 2003. Boyd, Prust, Pardy and maybe Kris Chucko are the proceeds from 2004. Unfortunately, the 2005 and 2006 drafts may not yield a whole lot in terms of NHL talent and it's far too early to say with any degree of certainty about the Flames picks in 2007 and 2008. (Watch for The Hockey News Future Watch issue in February for the consensus opinion on Calgary prospects.)
Development, now more than ever in today's salary-capped NHL, is paramount for a team's ability to stay strong from within.
This column also appears in the Calgary Metro newspaper.
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