If you were to have asked Calgary Flames fans two months ago what they would be doing at this time, they would have told you they were hoping to be watching their team in the playoffs. Unfortunately, due to the NHL pause which began on March 12, that has not been the case.
Although it is tough to look forward to next season with the outcome of this year being unknown, the Flames do have some prospects that should get their fans excited.
Top 10 Flames Prospects
1. D Juuso Valimaki, Calgary Flames/Stockton Heat
- Draft information: 2016 1st Round (16th overall)
- Season stats: Did not play (injury)
The 2019-20 season was an extremely frustrating one for Juuso Valimaki. The 21-year-old Finnish defenceman was not able to play a single game due to tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while training this past August. The injury required surgery and kept him off his skates completely until late January.
It was extremely unfortunate for both the Flames and Valimaki, as he was expected to be a regular on the team’s blueline this season. Despite the injury, he remains a high-end NHL prospect. The 2018-19 season marked his first as a pro. He appeared in 24 games with the Flames, posting one goal and two assists, and another 20 with the Stockton Heat of the AHL, scoring four goals and 14 points. Assuming he is able to stay healthy next season, he will play for the Flames and has a chance to play a big role.
2. LW Jakob Pelletier, Moncton Wildcats
- Draft information: 2019 first round (26th overall)
- Season stats: 57 games played (GP), 32 goals (G), 50 assists (A)
The Flames made what appears early on to be a very good draft selection in Jakob Pelletier. His junior team, the Moncton Wildcats, were sitting in second place in the entire QMJHL prior to the season being cancelled, and Pelletier played a very big part in that. The 19-year-old was tied for second in team scoring, and had an outstanding plus/minus of plus-57.
Pelletier will more than likely make the jump to professional hockey next season. It remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Flames give him some time in the AHL to begin next season. However, a big training camp could change that. Regardless, he is a great talent and is a big part of the team’s future.
3. G Dustin Wolf, Everett Silvertips
- Draft information: 2019 7th Round (214th overall)
- Season stats: 46 GP, 1.88 goals-against average (GAA), .935 save percentage (SV%)
It is still extremely early, but the Flames may have what could end up being the steal of the 2019 draft in goaltender Dustin Wolf. He has posted spectacular numbers throughout his three-year junior career with the Everett Silvertips, including his combined record of 88-31-4.
Going into his draft year there were concerns from scouts on his size, as he currently stands at just 6-foot, 165 pounds. Although that’s small by today’s goaltending standards, he is still just 19 years old and should be able to fill out over time. He will need some time in the minor leagues to get adjusted to professional hockey, but the nearly undrafted goalie has the potential to be the Flames future starter for a long time.
4. C Emilio Pettersen, University of Denver
- Draft information: 2018 6th Round (167th overall)
- Season stats: 36 GP, 13 G, 22 A
Emilio Pettersen, also known as the ‘Norwegian Gretzky’ was selected late in the 2018 draft by the Flames after finishing his season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound centerman has since spent his last two seasons at the University of Denver, both of which he has put up big numbers.
In a combined 76 games spent with the University of Denver, Pettersen put up 65 points. His 35 points this season were good enough to lead his team in scoring. The 20-year-old, much like Wolf, will need some seasoning in the minors, but has a chance to be a key contributor to the Flames roster in the near future.
5. C Matthew Phillips, Stockton Heat
- Draft information: 2016 6th Round (166th overall)
- Season stats: 38 GP, 15 G, 18 A
This season marked a big improvement for 22-year-old Matthew Phillips. This was his second season playing for the Stockton Heat, and he fell just five points shy of last year’s total despite playing in 27 fewer games.
He had some big seasons for the Victoria Royals in the WHL, including his draft year where he scored 37 goals and added 39 assists. He also saw himself slip in the draft due to his size of just 5-foot-7, 155 pounds. (from ‘Flames take long look at prospect even smaller than Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Sun, 09/09/2019) However, as current Flame Johnny Gaudreau has proven, undersized players can make a big impact in the NHL.
6. Glenn Gawdin, Stockton Heat
- Draft information: 2015 4th Round (116th overall, St. Louis Blues)
- Season stats: 53 GP, 16 G, 31 A
Glenn Gawdin was drafted by the St. Louis Blues, but became a free agent after they decided not to sign him to an entry-level deal. The Flames scooped him up shortly after, and he has now spent the past two seasons with the Stockton Heat. Much like Phillips, he significantly improved his numbers this season compared to the season prior where he put up 38 points in 64 games.
Though he is older than the other players on this list, he is still just 23 years of age. If he has a good camp this fall he may be able to play some games in the NHL this upcoming season, something he has not yet been able to do.
7. RW Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Rimouski Oceanic
- Draft information: 2018 7th Round (198th overall)
- Season stats: 40 GP, 29 G, 38 A
The Flames appear to have made yet another solid late-round pick, grabbing Russian forward Dmitry Zavgorodniy in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. The right-winger had his best junior season to date with Rimouski Oceanic, putting up three more points than the season prior despite playing 27 fewer games.
The talented 19-year-old is very skilled and is an intriguing prospect for the Flames. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to professional hockey next season.
8. C Adam Ruzicka, Stockton Heat
- Draft information: 2017 4th Round (109th overall)
- Season stats: 54 GP, 10 G, 17 A
20-year-old Adam Ruzicka provides the Flames with something not many others on this list have, which is size. The 6-foot-four, 220-pound Czech native has all the talent to become a big-time goal scorer, as he proved in his final year of junior with the Sudbury Wolves where he put up an incredible 24 goals in just 30 games.
The concern with Ruzicka seems to be his motivation, as he has been known at times to play with a lack of urgency. A big season with Stockton next year could see Ruzicka rise up this list.
9. C Ilya Nikolayev, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
- Draft information: 2019 3rd Round (88th overall)
- Season stats: 53 GP, 17 G, 15 A
Ilya Nikolayev is one of the most interesting prospects on this entire list. At the time of his draft, not much was known of the young Russian centerman. Fast forward to now, and there are still plenty of unknowns. The 18-year-old recently finished up his second season in the MHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and while it wasn’t a terrible season, he only posted 7 more points than the season prior yet appeared in 12 more games.
Nikolayev is expected to remain in Lokomotiv’s system for the 2020-21 season, and then will have a decision to make on whether or not he wants to come over to North America. Due to him still being very unknown, he comes in lower than some may have expected, as some have him much higher on Calgary’s top prospects lists.
10. C Martin Pospisil, Stockton Heat
- Draft information: 2018 4th Round (105th overall)
- Season stats: 26 GP, 3 G, 7 A
Martin Pospisil played in his first season with the Stockton Heat as a 20-year-old this season. That wasn’t originally the plan, as he was committed to play for St. Lawrence University but was later on deemed academically ineligible. Once that happened, the Flames decided to sign him to an entry-level contract and have him develop his game in the minors.
Pospisil brings both skill and grit to the organization. He showed the grit during his first season with the Sioux City Musketeers, posting 258 penalty minutes in 49 games, and skill in his second season with 16 goals and 47 assists in 44 games. Though this year’s point totals aren’t very impressive, he is still very early in his development and has plenty of time to get more adjusted to the professional game.
Flames Lacking Defensive Prospects
As this list shows, the Flames have some exciting prospects, however, they don’t have many defencemen in the pipeline. The upcoming 2020 draft will be very important for Calgary, who currently have both their first and second-round pick in what is expected to be a deep draft.
They may also have a third pick from the James Neal trade with the Oilers, although that is unknown at this time because of the NHL pause. Regardless, this is a very big draft for the Flames who can add even more prospects, perhaps on the back end, to the mix.
Former Jr. A player turned writer. Cover both the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and am part of both the Flames Faceoff and Oilers Overtime podcasts.