Due to the team’s recent slide in play over the last couple of years, the Calgary Flames have built themselves a decent prospect pool from high draft picks. The Flames have been playing fairly well this year, which creates great optimism for the team and their young guns who have yet to play at the NHL level. If the team can keep their hot play up for years to come, they can become a serious contender with the help of prospects.
At the Draft last season, The Flames picked up one of the more promising players in the eyes of many scouts, Sam Bennett. Bennett is a player that plays with character on the ice. He gives everything he has and more. Last year Sam had his best year in the OHL, scoring 91 points in 57 games. He had 36 goals, which most came from his quick release and ability to get to open space. Most of Bennett’s goals come from his shot, but he is not afraid to be flashy either.
Courtesy: Calgary Flames Future Watch
In this example, Bennett uses his speed and body to get by defenders, and eventually the goalie. He makes a great check to get the puck first, then makes his way up the middle of the ice. He is not afraid to he straight into chaos. Bennett makes a nice effort to shield the puck, makes his way around one last defender, then dekes the goalie for the goal.
At the beginning of the season, Sam Bennett and the Calgary Flames revealed that Bennett had suffered an injury and would need surgery. Bennett had a nagging shoulder injury towards the end of his 2nd OHL season, and he would need the surgery. This has Bennett out for 4-6 months, which he has already participated for 2 out of the 4 to 6.
Bennett was recently asked about the progress of rehab to his shoulder and how he feels about it. He told NHL.com there was no problem with the operation and “I’m really happy with the progress so far. I’ve gone a solid month now of solid rehab. I’m starting to do some strength work now too and I haven’t had any issues so it’s all positive”.
To put Sam Bennett’s impact on the ice in perspective, this year, Bennett’s OHL team, the Kingston Frontenacs are scoring at a 2.77 goals per game pace. That is 2nd worst in the OHL. When Bennett was with the team last year, the Frontenacs scored at a 4.43 goals per game pace. That was 4th in the league.
So not only does Sam Bennett have skills that help him individually, the center also has an ability to get the most out of his teammates offensively. Another Flames draft pick has the same quality in him, and that is Johnny Gaudreau.
Gaudreau is having a Calder trophy worthy season on the Flames NHL roster. The former 30-goal scorer at Boston College is playing his first full year with the Flames and hasn’t looked back since the start. The 4th rounder has 27 points in 35 games and is quickly grasping the skill it takes to play at the NHL level.
Gaudreau has a sense of where to be on the ice in all situations. His hat-trick on December 22nd personifies what Johnny is best at.
Johnny’s first goal wasn’t a pretty goal, but he used a key skill on the play. He was a the right place, at the right time, and was able to beat Johnathan Quick on the rebound. His shot fantastic as well. Although he had a wide open net, Gaudreau still had a quick release on it and made sure no one had a chance of stopping it.
The second goal was a thing of beauty. He gets the puck in Gretsky’s office and doesn’t see a play out in front. So he creates one himself and cuts to the net. This goal is exactly the kind of goal you will see from Johnny again and again. He creates plays on his own, and finishes those chances he creates. Plus he had a great eye to see Quick’s five hole open. Many players would try to go up high and increase the odds of missing the net.
On the third goal, I know it was a lucky bounce, but he had great quickness on the play and was able to split the defense to create the play. Obviously, he was looking for the pass back to the trailer. If he had made the pass it still would’ve been a great play though. Expect more and more of this in the future, Flames fans.
One thing that the Flames do not have going for them is depth, talent wise. At each position there are one or two guys who will potentially make an impact on future teams as the time comes. Then there is a alight drop off as to players that the team can use, and will be productive, in the next few years. One player trying to prove those wrong is Morgan Klimchuk.
Morgan is having himself yet another point per game season in the WHL. Playing for the Regina Pats, Klimchuk is 2nd on the team in scoring with 27 points in 25 games. Klimchuk also presents a quality even strength goals for percentage at 64%. That is above the league average. Klimchuk is a pure goal scorer and should not be taken lightly. He is catching fire at the right time as well. After his season in the WHL, Klimchuk can make his way to the AHL with the Flames Adirondack Flames. Klimchuk played 4 games with them last season, but didn’t register a point.
A player a the other end of the spectrum is Sven Baertschi. Baertschi was drafted in 2011 at 13 overall and has yet to end a season as a Calgary Flame. 2013-2014 was supposed to be Baertschi’s year. He was projected to catch fire and be a full-time Flames player, but it hasn’t worked out like that. He is still a good two-way player, and he is still maturing, but Sven Baertschi has yet to eclipse 15 goals since his draft year season. In fact, he hasn’t had 30 points in the same amount of time either. It is still very possible that he can catch fire and have a productive season in the AHL.
Another part of the Flames prospects that is rather sub-par is the defense. There is again a couple of guys that headline the top in Tyler Wotherspoon and Patrick Sieloff, and then there isn’t much else. But one diamond in the rough is Boston University, and 3rd round pick, Brandon Hickey. Hickey is turning heads at the college level, which isn’t hard when playing behind potential superstar Jack Eichel. The 6’1″, 176 lbs defenseman isn’t the biggest blue-liner you’ll ever see, but he make you remember him. Not including Ahti Oksanen, who occasionally plays forward, Hickey leads defenseman on the team in scoring.
The Flames have some really good prospects on their hands that will be deadly over the next few years. It will certainly be fun to watch how the team develops before our very eyes. They may be good now, bu they’ll be even better later.