The Calgary Flames are very set on defence with a ton of options, including NHL talent and players in the system. The areas that will need reinforcements soon are upfront and in net. The Flames have a few pieces that should help in that regard in the near future.
The organization doesn’t have the strongest farm system, and prospect Connor Zary played his way off this list when he struggled in his first season as a pro. General manager Brad Treliving has made a lot of moves this offseason and might have to make more to improve his lineup without letting go of these untouchable prospects.
The Flames’ highest draft pick still in the organization, Matthew Coronato, is proving to be a great 13th-overall selection. He was taken in the 2021 NHL Draft after putting up 48 goals and 85 points in 51 games while playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL). He then suited up for Harvard University and played Division-1 hockey last season, scoring 18 goals and 36 points in 34 games.
If that wasn’t enough, Coronato really showed his potential as part of Team U.S.A. at the 2022 World Junior Championship. He recorded two points in two games before the tournament was shut down. He used the extra time to elevate his game and finished the rescheduled tournament with four goals and seven points in five games.
Coronato will return to Harvard for at least one more season, so the Flames likely won’t see him before the end of the season. Until then, he will be able to improve on his impressive totals from his first year in Division-1. The 19-year-old throws tons of pucks on net, is known for his great hands and strives to drive offence on every shift. As the Flames are weaker on right-wing, they will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of Coronato.
The Flames absolutely stole goaltender Dustin Wolf in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft, and he is their goaltender of the future. The team has Jacob Markstrom, who is 32 years old and has four years left on his contract, as well as Dan Vladar, 25 and a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Since goaltenders tend to take longer to develop, Calgary has the perfect timetable for Wolf to progress properly, become the backup, and then take over as the starter by the time Markstrom is on his way out.
After four seasons with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Wolf turned pro last season and spent the 2021-22 campaign with the Stockton Heat, the Flames’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. He was amazing, posting a 33-9-4 record with a 2.35 goals-against average (GAA) and a .924 save percentage (SV%) en route to being named the top AHL goaltender.
Wolf will compete for a spot in training camp this season, but more likely, he needs one more season to develop to allow him to take over the role of backup in 2023-24 after Vladar’s contract expires. Wolf has shown great promise at every level so far and has given the Flames hope that they can seamlessly transition from one elite starting goalie to the next in the near future.
Jakob Pelletier has been penciled in by everyone as the prospect who will make the Flames this season. Few players dominate as much as he did in his first pro season. He excelled with 27 goals and 62 points in 66 games before putting up four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games in the AHL. He somehow skipped the growing pains that typically come with making the jump from junior to pro.
The Flames lost two key wingers this offseason and only gained one back. A spot on the left wing has opened up on the second or third line for Pelletier. As his offensive game easily translated to the AHL, Calgary is hoping it will do the same in the NHL.
Pelletier was selected to the AHL All-Rookie Team and broke the team’s rookie points record. There is no reason he won’t see time in the NHL this season, as the Flames could use his scoring as soon as possible.
Coronato, Wolf, and Pelletier all project to be key pieces for the Flames moving forward and given their 2021-22 campaigns, they should stay with the organization no matter what.