On the eve of free agency, it’s fair to wonder if the Toronto Raptors have put themselves in a pickle. There is no guarantee Fred VanVleet or Jakob Poeltl will re-sign with the club, which could spell big trouble. Everyone expected Craig Conroy to make a big splash in Nashville. Well, at the very least, he nailed the ‘big’ part. Clearly, size still matters to the Calgary Flames. One day after selecting hulking winger Samuel Honzek in the first round, Conroy put his first stamp on the team by picking up two more super-sized forwards, amongst a crop of sizable prospects, to mark his first draft as Flames GM. Although he didn’t make the sort of headlines many expected from a GM being forced to contemplate trades for several stars, he made a statement of sorts with four of his six picks standing 6-foot-3 or taller. The haul of heftiness confirmed that despite the departure of beefy advocates Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter, the organization still stresses the importance of size in the Western Conference. “Absolutely size matters,” said Conroy while on his way to the Nashville airport. “As a player I always found it harder to play against big guys, so when you can add size to your lineup it’s a bonus. “We put the list together and it worked out well that the guys there had size and were guys we liked. “Even with Axel (Hurtig) in the seventh round, we saw him in Switzerland. He’s a heavy, hard-hitting defensive defenceman who can kill penalties.” Conroy was especially proud of how he was able to land power forward Aydar Suniev in the third round, with a pick he finessed just two days earlier with the Tyler Toffoli for Yegor Sharangovich trade. “I feel really good (about the draft), especially getting Suniev with the third rounder – that wouldn’t have been able to happen if we didn’t make the deal,” said Conroy. “He’ll take some time, going to college, but that power forward game is something we’re looking forward to.” After being unable to trade for a first rounder, Conroy tried in vain to swap for the last pick in the second round to land Suniev 80th overall. No go. “The person I wanted was still there (16 picks later), so it was a lucky day,” said Conroy, who personally scouted five of his six picks extensively. “Maybe Suniev is a guy I liked too much and saw too much. “But he’s fearless going to the centre of the ice. He’s willing to go to the hard areas to score goals and he’s got a real knack for it.” 32 Thoughts: The Podcast Hockey fans already know the name, but this is not the blog. 32 Thoughts: The Podcast with Jeff Marek and NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman is a weekly deep dive into the biggest news and interviews from the hockey world. Find new episodes weekly wherever you get your podcasts. Find latest episodes Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter Follow Jeff Marek on Twitter Suniev finished tied for the BCHL goal scoring lead with 45 goals, and finished third with 90 points in 45 games for the powerhouse Penticton Vees. At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, the Russian-born Suniev is committed to UMass next season. Heretofore dubbed The Giant Draft, Conroy selected Honzek’s Vancouver Giant teammate Jaden Lipinski in the fourth round, a 6-foot-4, 209-pound right shot centre who can play wing. The Scottsdale, Ariz. native said he only played three games on the same line as Honzek, but looks forward to teaming up more with him next season as he works on adding muscle to a frame he uses effectively at both ends of the ice. “Shane Doan came up to me to shake my hand and congratulate me and I was star struck – I didn’t know what to say,” said Lipinski of his childhood idol, who he’s modeled his game after. “He was very good in all areas of the game – he was a horse. “If I can gain 15 pounds I could start playing like him and using that size.” A lofty goal. The smallest of all Flames draft picks was second round pick Etienne Morin, a 6-foot, 180-pound workhorse defender with the Moncton Wildcats. The left-shooting defenceman, who played upwards of 40 minutes in some playoff overtime games, posted an impressive 21 goals and 72 points in 67 games last season – good for third in the QMJHL amongst blueliners. Some draft experts saw him as a potential first rounder, with a few prognosticators deeming him the best defenceman available in the draft. The ceiling is high for the physical rearguard who said he surprised himself with his offensive output, especially after losing 13 pounds from a mono diagnosis that kept him out of the Hlinka Gretzky tourney last summer. Conroy rounded out his picks with Russian netminder Yegor Yegorov, a 6-foot-3, 183 pound 17-year-old with Moscow Dynamo Jr., who was hand-picked by Flames goalie guru Jordan Sigalet after the youngster went 9-4 with a 2.25 GAA and .915 save percentage. The Flames last pick was Swedish defenceman Axel Hurtig, a physical, stay-at-home sort whose most impressive numbers revolve around his 6-foot-4, 202-pound frame. Conroy arrived in Nashville under an immense spotlight, as the rookie GM wrestles with the reality of having to trade Noah Hanifin, as well as the possibility of also having to move Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. “I don’t think there was a big splash to be made,” said Conroy. “Even when we made our (Toffoli) trade, you’re looking for picks. “You didn’t see anyone even trade a pick in the first round, which never happens (not since 2007). “It was a deep draft and nobody was giving up any picks, so I was comfortable to even get a third.” Conroy reiterated on Wednesday he does not see free agency day on July 1 as a deadline of any sort to make decisions on several core players whose futures in Calgary are cloudy heading into the final year of their contracts.  “The one thing is you don’t want to do something just to make a big splash,” he said. “It might take a little more time than people think or want, but they also don’t want you to do a bad deal.  “If there isn’t a splash anytime soon, not a worry. “If I wanted to give players away, I could have done that already – it needs to make sense for the Calgary Flames. “Everyone has a contract next year, so if we have to go into the season with them, that’s not ideal, but we have to do what’s best for us.” More from Sportsnet Every Calgary Flames draft pick from 2023 NHL Draft As Oilers chase Cup, losing Yamamoto and Kostin a necessary consequence

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