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While we have yet to see the 2013-14 Calgary Flames in action, the expectation is that they'll be a bottom feeder in the NHL once again.
On paper the Flames have plenty of holes and the team will play in one of the tougher divisions in hockey. Calgary will be lucky enough to face the likes of the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks on a regular basis under the new divisions and will surely collect their fair share of losses.
Calgary isn't close to the caliber of any of those teams and won't be finishing ahead of at least one of them and competing for a playoff spot, so there isn't much hope for this season.
That said, there is reason to be excited for Flames fans. The team seems to be heading down the right path and appear fully committed to their rebuild.
Flames fans will get to see young players like Sven Baertschi, T.J. Brodie and perhaps Sean Monahan, among others, given big roles with the team and put in position to succeed and develop into the best players they can be.
This season will likely be a failure in terms of team success, but if Baertschi, Brodie, etc. take steps forward in their development, it will be a) a successful year for Calgary and; b) provide some entertainment and optimism for Flames fans.
With all that in mind, whether Flames fans want to hear it or not, the team will likely finish at or near the bottom of the league standings.
That leads me to my next point.
Should the Flames be picking 1st overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, who should they pick?
While many fans seem set on picking Sam Reinhart or William Nylander because a) they're both really good and; b) family/team connections, etc., I'm inclined to believe Aaron Ekblad, as of now, would be the best pick for them.
Looking at the Flames system, they've made great strides in building it up, especially at center and on the wing.
Tyler Wotherspoon looks like he'll be a good player on defense, but besides him, I don't see much of anything in the pipeline on the back end. Patrick Sieloff is a good prospect, but I've scouted him several times and I don't buy into the hype that many put around him.
Sieloff is a big hitter and is good defensively, but he's not great defensively and there's not much in the way of offensive upside. To me, he looks more like a third pairing guy than a top-4 defenseman many Flames fans think he will become. I like him, but I'm not sold on him just yet.
I've seen Aaron Ekblad over 100 times and he is the real deal. Simply put, he can do it all. He's 6'4, 200+ pounds and he can skate very well. He's big, not afraid to be physical and is a rock defensively. He can move the puck, QB a power play and has a booming shot. He's also extremely smart and can play and exceed in all situations.
In 76 regular season/playoff games last season, Ekblad scored 14 goals and added 51 points while posting a combined +40 rating. He put up those numbers despite playing against the best competition he possibly could have faced.
While his play along with Reinhart, Nylander and the rest of the 2014 draft class will determine exactly where he goes, if there's a two or three horse race and Ekblad's among the group, I think the Flames would be smart to go with him. If they have the opportunity to do so, that is.
I believe in taking the best player available with need being the tiebreaker, and to me Ekblad is a legitimate contender for the top selection and would fill much more of a need than Reinhart or Nylander would.
What do you guys think? Have your say below and in the comment section.
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