In Depth

Flames, Blue Jackets the envy of 2013 NHL draft

Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster would like to move up the NHL draft order Sunday, while Columbus counterpart Jarmo Kekalainen feels no pressure to make a trade. They are the only two men with the luxury of owning three first-round picks.

Rebuilding teams have 3 first-round picks

Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster, left, and Columbus Blue Jackets counterpart Jarmo Kekalainen, right, each have three picks in the first round of Sunday's NHL draft in New Jersey. Only nine other teams have had that luxury since 1989. (Canadian Press/Getty Images/

Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster would love the chance to say "thanks" again to Colorado counterpart Joe Sakic and shake his hand at the NHL draft in New Jersey.

While Feaster is appreciative of the trade the two consummated Thursday, with Calgary receiving forward David Jones and defenceman Shane O’Brien for forward Alex Tanguay and blue-liner Cory Sarich, he’s thinking bigger picture.

The ideal scenario, in Feaster’s mind, prior to the first overall pick being announced at the Prudential Center in Newark shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Sunday would see him parlay his three first-round selections, Nos. 6, 22 and 28 for Sakic’s top pick.

Round 1 draft order

  • 1. Colorado
  • 2. Florida
  • 3. Tampa Bay
  • 4. Nashville
  • 5. Carolina
  • 6. Calgary
  • 7. Edmonton
  • 8. Buffalo
  • 9. New Jersey
  • 10. Dallas
  • 11. Philadelphia
  • 12. Phoenix
  • 13. Winnipeg
  • 14. Columbus
  • 15. NY Islanders
  • 16. Buffalo (from Minnesota)
  • 17. Ottawa
  • 18. Detroit
  • 19. Columbus (from NY Rangers)
  • 20. San Jose
  • 21. Toronto
  • 22. Calgary (from St. Louis)
  • 23. Washington
  • 24. Vancouver
  • 25. Montreal
  • 26. Anaheim
  • 27. Columbus (from Los Angeles)
  • 28. Calgary (from Pittsburgh)
  • 29. Dallas (from Boston)
  • 30. Chicago

"Yeah, as a matter of fact," Feaster told reporters Tuesday when it was asked if he had already made that proposal to the Avalanche. "We’ve made no secret about the fact we would like to move up in the draft if we can."

Feaster and Columbus’ Jarmo Kekalainen are the only GMs in the 30-team NHL to have three first-round picks this year, with the Blue Jackets owning their own pick at No. 14, the New York Rangers’ at No. 19 (from the Rick Nash trade) and Los Angeles’ pick at No. 27.

On Thursday, Sakic gave every indication he would keep the No. 1 overall pick, saying "nothing’s changed. It’s quiet right now."

But, of course, that could all change with one phone call.

Feaster, whose Flames haven’t qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2009, would prefer to draft a player who had the opportunity to compete for a starting job at training camp in September.

'Open for business'

He said Calgary has "a lot of needs" including a top-six centre and is "open for business at a lot of different positions as we go into this draft."

Moving up from the sixth overall pick won’t be easy, Kekalainen suggested, as he has faced such a challenge first-hand.

At the 2007 draft at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Kekalainen ran the draft for the St. Louis Blues and was aggressive in his attempts to get into the top five by moving at least one of his trio of first-round picks.

"We tried every possibly scenario to try to move up from nine to one, from nine to two, from nine to three, and so forth. And we couldn’t even move from nine to seven," Kekalainen, who oversaw his first NHL draft in 1995 for Ottawa, said on a conference call earlier this week.

"I am cautious about thinking that with these three first-round picks that we are going to bring in a player that’s going to help us right away and make an impact on our team right away. That rarely ever happens unless you are at the top of the draft.

"When other teams know that there are good players and they do their homework," Kekalainen added, "it is not easy to move up."

There are plenty of aspiring NHL players at this year’s draft, which is considered a deep prospect pool.

Kekalainen told Hockey Night in Canada Radio in mid-February that he would be open-minded, saying the Blue Jackets would explore all their options when it comes to either keeping one or more of the first-round draft picks or offering them up for trade.

No pressure

He reiterated this week that having three first-rounders didn’t guarantee a trade at the draft. Kekalainen also doesn’t feel pressured to move a pick or two or three, but rather sees such a luxury as "a great opportunity for our scouts to make a big difference for us.

"It would have to be a very good deal for our organization to trade one of those picks," he said. "It’s a good draft, a deep draft like people have said. If we’re going to trade away a first-round pick, it’s going to have to be a player that makes a lot of sense for us now, and going into the future."

Columbus narrowly missed out on a playoff berth this past season, finishing ninth in the Western Conference with a 24-17-7 record. It was the first time the Blue Jackets had more wins than losses in a season since 2009, the only time the club competed in the post-season since entering the league in 2000.

Kekalainen, who owns four picks in the top 44, would like to boost the team’s offence and goal-scoring, the same message he delivered leading up to the April 3 trade deadline when he acquired three-time 40-goal man Marian Gaborik from the Rangers.

Only three Blue Jackets reached double-digits in goals during the 48-game season of 2013: Mark Letestu (13), Vinny Prospal (12) and Artem Anisimov (11).

Since 1989, nine teams have drafted three players in the first round, with Washington doing it twice from 2002 to 2004.

But there are no guarantees for success in such situations as the Toronto Maple Leafs discovered in 1989. Forwards Scott Thornton, Rob Pearson and Steve Bancroft went third, 12th and 21st overall, respectively, with only Thornton reaching 270 regular-season games in the NHL (285 points in 941 contests).

Kekalainen has witnessed decent results from his 2007 performance as forwards Lars Eller (209 games, 77 points) and David Perron (340 games, 198 points) along with defenceman Ian Cole (67 games, 11 points) remain in the NHL.

The top three trios from the first round in terms of combined point production are as follows:

2004 Washington Capitals (1,087 points)

  • Alex Ovechkin (1st): 601 games – 371 goals, 364 assists, 735 points
  • Jeff Schultz (27th): 399 games – 11 goals, 64 assists, 75 points
  • Mike Green (29th): 433 games – 94 goals, 183 assists, 277 points

2002 Washington Capitals (673 points)

  • Steve Eminger (12th): 488 games – 19 goals, 80 assists, 99 points
  • Alexander Semin (13th): 513 games – 210 goals, 242 assists, 452 points
  • Boyd Gordon (17th): 486 games – 39 goals, 83 assists, 122 points

2003 Los Angeles Kings (487 points)

  • Dustin Brown (13th): 641 games – 181 goals, 207 assists, 388 points
  • Brian Boyle (26th): 309 games – 46 goals, 36 assists, 82 points
  • Jeff Tambellini (27th): 242 games – 27 goals, 36 assists, 63 points