Flames’ 2022-23 Line Predictions

The 2022-23 NHL season is nearing as we are just one month out from the start of preseason. That being said, teams will have a general idea of what they would like their lines to look like. But there will still be a lot to figure out. A line of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm wasn’t the original plan for the top line last season, but it worked out. With a couple of key new faces in the lineup for this coming season, chemistry will be something to figure out.

The top-six will have to include stars Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri, while there could very well be a prospect or two who sneak into the lineup. As for defence, MacKenzie Weegar will be inserted into the lineup, which will change the look around. Let’s take a look at the line predictions for the Flames at forward, defence, and in net.

Forward Lines

Line 1: Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli

The top line of the Flames will have a very tough time recreating the chemistry and dominance put together by the trio last season. That same production shouldn’t be expected from whatever top line is put together for the Flames this coming season, at least not right away. Huberdeau is new to the team and will need time to not only adjust to linemates, but all of his teammates, coaching style, and environment. He is a top player in this league who put together a ridiculous offensive season we should have seen coming for four or so years now. He will replace what the team lost in Gaudreau in terms of amazing playmaking ability. He could very well improve the power play while contributing equally as much at even strength.

Elias Lindholm will have to adjust to new linemates after a career year, but don’t expect any sort of big drop-off. He has now proven himself as a number one centre in this league and can score, put up points, and play stellar defensive hockey. He finished second last season in Selke Trophy voting as well as received some votes for the Lady Byng. He will be the anchor defensively, and Huberdeau should help him push for 40-plus goals again next season.

Elias Lindholm Calgary Flames
Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tyler Toffoli was acquired in a trade last season from the Montreal Canadiens and played 37 games for the Flames. In that time, he scored 11 goals and 23 points, which is a solid production. Toffoli isn’t considered a point-per-game player, but he should be expected to score 20-25 goals each season. With much better linemates, the expectation can even grow further to 30 goals. Seeing as there isn’t any other top-line right-wing talent on the team, Toffoli will have a long leash and should provide offensively, even if he isn’t counted on in other zones or special teams.

Line 2: Andrew Mangiapane – Nazem Kadri – Dylan Dube

I’m taking a chance here as the Flames should and giving Dylan Dube an opportunity in the top-six. He has improved his goal-scoring every season since entering the NHL and has done so without the need of the power play. Last season he scored 18 goals on the third line playing beside lesser and aging talent. Next season he could greatly benefit and once again take a step forward beside newly acquired Nazem Kadri.

Kadri will likely slot in on the second line as he has played his best there his entire career. He had solid seasons in Toronto in that role, as well as a career year last season with the Colorado Avalanche. It’s not a matter of talent, as the veteran centreman has proven he is very good at shadowing top opposing players and getting under their skin. The Flames would do best in spreading out their top six or even top nine to allow for much more balanced scoring, rather than the top line carrying the offence like 2021-22.

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche
Nazem Kadri with the Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Andrew Mangiapane is right where he should be. He gives the second line a lot of goals and was a big topic of conversation over the first half of last season. He potted 35 goals and has begun to prove that he is one of the team’s most reliable goal-scorers. Flanking a centre like Kadri instead of Mikael Backlund can see Mangiapane’s offence further improve as the Flames will need him to keep up his production and make up for the goals that were lost this summer.

Line 3: Jakob Pelletier – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman

This season the Flames should look to spread out the production throughout their offence. That means it would be ideal to drop Backlund and Blake Coleman down to the third line together as they worked well as linemates. Coleman doesn’t put up the offence needed for a top-six player and was very good in the back-to-back Stanley Cup runs with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a third-line player. He put up worse offensive numbers than Dube last season, and Coleman is strong defensively even if he doesn’t get a ton of credit for it.

Backlund has started to slow down, more so offensively, but remains a very good defensive forward. He has received votes for the Selke Trophy in five of the past six seasons, including finishing 13th last season. The Flames have slightly decreased his playing time over the past few seasons, and he could remain in a role where he can succeed by dropping down one more line. His veteran presence and defensive responsibility will be perfect alongside the third member of the third line.

Jakob Pelletier should finally get his shot in the NHL after dominating in his first season pro in 2021-22 with the Stockton Heat. The Flames’ 2019 first-round draft pick scored 27 goals and 62 points in 66 games, and a third-line role is generally a good starting point for talented rookies. It’s not too much pressure to play in the top-six, but he would be out of a fourth-line checking role which would only stunt his growth. Having a mentor like Backlund could help his overall game as Pelletier adjusts to his first year in the NHL.

Line 4: Milan Lucic – Kevin Rooney – Trevor Lewis

The Flames made an addition to the fourth line for next season in Kevin Rooney. He is versatile, but he isn’t the most gifted offensive player. He will do just fine in a fourth-line role for the team and should get into a good amount of games. Vying for a spot on the fourth line as well, who could take playing time away from Rooney is unsigned restricted free agent Adam Ruzicka. Rooney scored six goals and 12 points in 61 games last season with the New York Rangers, playing nearly 14 minutes a game, whereas Ruzicka got into 28 games with the Flames, putting up five goals and 10 points in just over 10 minutes of ice time per game. As Ruzicka remains unsigned for now, I am slotting Rooney and Trevor Lewis in the lineup.

Kevin Rooney New York Rangers
Kevin Rooney with the New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lewis may not put up many points, but his value comes in his defensive play and veteran leadership. He logged a ton of shorthanded minutes, which is ideal for a bottom-six player to do. He also plays a brand of hockey head coach Darryl Sutter loves in that Lewis made 176 hits while registering just 12 penalty minutes over the entire season. He was an NHL-regular last season but could see his time dwindle just a little this season if the Flames’ prospects start to push for spots.

Related: Calgary Flames Still Have Free Agent Talent Available

The final member heading into the final year of his contract is Milan Lucic. His offensive production may have continued to drop from what he did in recent seasons, but he plays his role of an enforcer very well. The big forward is one of the most physical and intimidating players in the league that can still chip in some goals. What the Flames don’t have to worry about is Lucic missing games as he is as durable as players come.

Defence Pairings

Pairing 1: Noah Hanifin – Rasmus Andersson

The Flames couldn’t have asked for a more effective top pairing of Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson last season. They were effective in every regard. Both set career highs in points with 48 and 50, while they had a Corsi for percentage of 55.29, goals for percentage of 58.93, and expected goals for percentage of 56.19.

Neither are true number one defencemen, but both worked extremely well together to form one of the best first pairings in the league. The Flames have no reason to change pairings around to separate these two, and both proved they can handle matching up against opponents’ top players.

Pairing 2: Nikita Zadorov – MacKenzie Weegar

Nikita Zadorov was very effective alongside Erik Gudbranson last season. He played his game very well, and that’s a physical brand of hockey. He’s a massive body, and his efforts are focused defensively. Though he could very well be an option for the third pairing, the results after spending over 100 minutes alongside Christopher Tanev weren’t ideal.

MacKenzie Weegar Florida Panthers
MacKenzie Weegar with the Florida Panthers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The big addition on the back-end is MacKenzie Weegar, and there is no chance a player as impactful offensively and defensively as him would be slotted in any lower than the second pair. Since the top pairing shouldn’t be broken up, this underrated defenceman should do well on the second pairing with whomever he’s paired with.

Pairing 3: Oliver Kylington – Christopher Tanev

A third pairing that could easily be the second pairing on many other teams is Tanev and Oliver Kylington. They were very successful last season playing over 1000 minutes together. Though they had easier matchups than the top pair, the results were no less impressive. Their goals for percentage was 61.96, outscoring opponents 57 to 35 while they were on the ice at five-on-five. The duo’s expected goals for percentage was also 56.86.

To keep these two together, I figure the pairing must stay this way, while both Kylington and Tanev play a little less. As all pairings are strong, a likely scenario is that nobody plays a ton, and nobody gets too little playing time. Without a trade, there is no place for young defencemen like Juuso Valimaki, Connor Mackey, and Nicolas Meloche in the top six.


Jacob Markstrom – Dan Vladar

Nothing should change in net for the Flames. Both goaltenders did very well and helped the team finish third-best in goals against last season (six behind the leader). With an even stronger defensive core in front of Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar, their numbers should at the very least stay the same.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Goaltending isn’t an area the Flames have to worry about as the team also has Sutter’s coaching strategy in place. He gets the most out of all of his players defensively, and that includes the new additions to the team this season.

Markstrom is coming off of the best season in his career, where he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting. He went 37-15-9 with a .922 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average, an amazing nine shutouts, and 26.1 goals saved above expected. Vladar completed his first full season in the NHL and greatly improved his numbers from the five games he started in 2020-21. I would expect his numbers to once again improve under a solid team and even better team defensively in his second full season as a backup.

Though the Flames went through some scares, Brad Treliving has pulled the team back, and they look primed to do some damage once again in 2022-23. What do you think of the lines? Would you change anything? Let me know in the comments below.

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