Calgary Flames 2014-15 Preview: Forwards

A year ago, the departure of Jarome Iginla left onlookers worried that the Calgary Flames may struggle to score. A year later, the departure of Mike Cammalleri has left onlookers with the same exact questions.

Last season, the scoring void left by Jarome Iginla was filled by committee (and the arrival of 2013 first round pick Sean Monahan). The hope among Flames fans is that once again, the departure of an establish goal-scorer will be replaced in the aggregate. It might not work out quite as well as things did last season.

A LOOK BACK

Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2012-13 Flames relied heavily upon Mikael Backlund, Mike Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak, Jiri Hudler and Matt Stajan to eat up the tough minutes. Veteran Curtis Glencross missed a massive piece of the year and struggled otherwise. Newcomer David Jones was decent when he was healthy, which is half the time. T.J. Galiardi was in and out of the line-up. But newcomers Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne established themselves as everyday players, with Monahan scoring 22 goals as a 19-year-old rookie, and Lance Bouma rebounded from missing a year with an injury to become a bottom-six fixture.

Hudler led the team in scoring with 54 points, while Cammalleri’s 26 goals was tops on the team. Monahan was the only other player with 20 goals or more.

THIS YEAR’S OUTLOOK

Among those gone from last year: Cammalleri, Stempniak, Galiardi and Kevin Westgarth. Including defensemen, the departed players represented 47 goals, or 23.3% of Calgary’s 202 goals scored in 2013-14. Yes, a team in the bottom third of the league in scoring lost almost a quarter of their offense. It could be a long year.

Returning to the NHL roster this year is a fairly decent, if goal-deprived, core: Joe Colborne, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, David Jones, Curtis Glencross, Matt Stajan, Jiri Hudler, Lance Bouma and Brian McGrattan. They’re joined by newcomers Mason Raymond and grinder Brandon Bollig. Backlund, Glencross, Raymond and Jones are good possession players, but the forward group lacks scoring depth. At all.

This core of 11 are likely to be joined with a trio of team’s “tweener” group: Devin Setoguchi, Paul Byron, Sven Baertschi, Johnny Gaudreau, Max Reinhart, Markus Granlund, Sam Bennett and Michael Ferland. Setoguchi, Reinhart, Ferland and Byron are likely bottom-six energy guys, though Reinhart has the advantage of being able to play all three forward roles.

The players that could provide some significant offense are Granlund, Baertschi, Gaudreau and Bennett. Granlund had a great first pro season, impressing at both the AHL and NHL levels. Baertschi has yo-yoed between the NHL and AHL over the past two seasons, but is incredibly talented with the puck. Gaudreau is perhaps the best offensive talent to come out of U.S. college hockey in 20 years. Bennett was the 4th overall pick in June – representing Calgary’s highest pick ever – has impressed with his puck-handling and ability to battle through traffic despite his slight frame. Based on camp thus far, expect to see both of Gaudreau and Bennett in Calgary to begin the regular season.

Sam Bennett
Sam Bennett (Terry Wilson /OHL Images)

Four minor leaguers might eventually find their way to Calgary: former collegiate stars Corban Knight and Bill Arnold, German import David Wolf, and former first round pick Emile Poirier. Arnold in particular was lauded as one of the NCAA’s top two-way players before having an offensive explosion as Johnny Gaudreau’s centerman, while Emile Poirier impressed in a short AHL stint last season after graduating from the QMJHL.

Even if Gaudreau and Bennett turn out as well as Sean Monahan did last season, the Flames will have a tough time matching last season’s offensive output.

A LOOK AHEAD

The majority of Calgary’s most exciting prospects are in the professional ranks now, but there are a few that could turn pro in the near future.

Primary among Calgary’s non-pro prospects is 2012 first rounder Mark Jankowski. Lanky as heck, Jankowski has filled out over the past two seasons with Providence College and developed into a quite underrated two-way forward, albeit with middling offensive production. Depending on how his team does this year, he may turn pro, but most expect him to do the full four years in school. Also in the NCAA are rugged energy player Tim Harrison at Colgate and Matt Deblouw at Michigan State. Both are aspiring to fill bottom six energy roles; Harrison probably has the inside track based on his size and success to-date. Deblouw might not be a prospect of note anymore, particular given his struggles last season.

2013 first rounder Morgan Klimchuk (Regina) is a three-zone talent, with good instincts away from the puck and underrated skill with it. He need sto pack some size on his frame, but he’s also got another year of junior left, so he’s got time to fill out. Gigantic OHLer Hunter Smith (in Oshawa) and WHLer Austin Carroll (in Victoria) round out the prospect base. Both are big, rugged and have scored at the junior level. Both will likely turn pro next season.