Seeds grow on Flames farm

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

The Calgary Flames have plenty of former first-rounders in their lineup.

Few of them, though, have pulled on a Flames cap and jersey at the NHL draft.

Re-signing goaltender Brent Krahn -- their No. 1 choice, ninth overall in 2000 -- this week gives them a handful of opening-round picks of their own in the system but only defenceman Dion Phaneuf (2003, ninth overall) has made any sort of impact.

The cupboards, however, are no longer bare when it comes to 'homegrown' prospects.

The Flames for years struggled to transfer their farm-team success to the parent club and many young players quickly plunged off the average fan's radar screen.

Flames GM Darryl Sutter has helped set up a deep stable of youngsters and an exclusive farm team on which to mould them.

The AHL affiliate is moving to Quad Cities after two years in Omaha but the flow of incoming talent hasn't diminished. Sutter has repeatedly stated in recent months he's saving room for some of his younger players to compete for spots on the big club next season.

There are plenty -- including a couple of those remaining Flames first-rounders -- hoping to make the jump and join Phaneuf, who has already been a force for the Flames over his first two seasons.

"It's great for the organization. It's a lot more guys to compete with at the same time but that's healthy," said winger Kris Chucko, the Flames' top pick in '04 (24th overall). "When you see that many guys there, it's a realization that you're not just going to get a token spot up there, everyone's got to earn it.

"You've got to be strong on our team to even get a chance on the next team. I think it's a lot healthier for the organization."

Eric Nystrom (2002, 10th overall) suffered a shoulder injury in the pre-season last year but may finally be ready to prove he has skills. Chucko left college early to go pro last year and was steady on the wing for the Omaha Knights in his AHL debut, scoring 14 goals and 28 points over the full slate of 80 games.

Matt Pelech -- chosen by the Flames 26th overall in '05 -- is an intimidating 6-ft. 4-in., 224-lb. rearguard coming off his best junior campaign (five goals, 30 helpers in 58 games last season with the OHL Belleville Bulls). A jump from junior to the NHL is asking a lot but Pelech is one of seven 2005 picks signed by the Flames before the recent retention deadline who will bolster the depth on the farm as other worthy candidates move up.

While the top picks get the initial glory, there's a lot of value to be found in the later rounds and the Flames roster in October may offer proof.

Guys like Brandon Prust (third round), Dustin Boyd (3rd) and Andrei Taratukhin (2nd) will try to make more of an impact in camp and the success of undrafted free agents such as blueliner Mark Giordano speaks for itself.

David Moss started last season in Omaha but finished as a top-six forward with the Flames. He was a fourth-round pick in 2001.

"Mosser's up there and it looks like he's earned himself a spot -- deservedly so," said Chucko. "He was great for us in Omaha. It's a big summer for everyone. Everyone thinks they have a chance and everyone should have a chance."


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