The Flames Rookies clashed with the Oilers Rookies last night at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C and did nothing to make anyone feel warm and fuzzy about what the Flames had coming in their system.
Without Hall, Eberle, and Paajarvi in the line-up the Oilers group looked deeper and more skilled than a Flames line up that featured Mikael Backlund. Both teams opened the scoring in the first period with power play goals but from that point on it was the Oilers group that showed more. Even without their big three, the Oilers led the game in chances and shots for most of the affair. The Flames managed to catch up and pass them on shots late in the game when the Oilers were defending a lead.
For his part, Mikael Backlund did not impress at all. The Flames will need him to step up his skating and his physical determination if he is to be even a contributor on the third line of the big club.
The best Flame on the ice was T.J. Brodie. The Young Flames defenseman did a solid job all night long of moving the puck but his work along the wall and in front of the net needs seasoning yet if he is to be truly effective in the NHL. He may be a sixth or seventh D man if the Flames have to trade a blue liner to get under the cap.
Meanwhile, another highly touted defenseman of the Flames John Negrin picked up a power play marker but looked very average behind his own blue line. The Oilers were able to victimize him a number of times with soft dump-ins to his corner, which led to turnovers in the Flames zone.
Young net minder Leland Irving made enough big stops that they should want to see just how far he could develop given the time and experience. Once he learns to be more consistent in his positioning, his game will improve.
That being said the game was fun to watch as the effort was definitely there. A few of the boys also wanted to be sure everyone in the building knew they were more than willing to drop the mitts and get after it as well. In the second period, there were a couple well-coordinated skirmishes. The best of which was a tilt between Flames Chris Breen and the Oilers Cameron Abney that was a pretty even go round until Abney nailed Breen with a hay maker right on the beak, knocking the Flames hopeful to the ice.
The one thing this Rookie tourney has done is prove that everyone was right – there is little in the system coming for the Flames. However, if they make the right trade (which they have to make due to being over the cap) they might actually be able to acquire a couple young assets for the future.