In this edition of Calgary Flames News & Rumors, the Flames, along with the rest of the league, will not play again until after Christmas due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, defenceman Juuso Valimaki, who is able to continue playing given that the American Hockey League (AHL) is still going, is hoping to make the most out of his time with the Stockton Heat. In other news, Matthew Coronato, who was selected in the first round of the 2021 draft, is their lone representative at the 2022 World Juniors. Last but not least, former Flame Curtis Glencross made headlines earlier this week after helping a stranger in need on the side of a highway after she had struck a deer with her vehicle.
Flames COVID Situation
While many teams have had a rough go with COVID-19 cases lately, the Flames have arguably had it the worst. They haven’t played since Dec. 11 due to an outbreak in their locker room, and aren’t scheduled to return until Dec. 27 in a game against the Edmonton Oilers.
This morning, it was announced that goaltender Dan Vladar had been added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, meaning that the only Flames who have yet to be placed on it are Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman, and Michael Stone. The good news however is that it sounds like none of the players are experiencing significant symptoms. Hopefully, they can get back to the ice in just under a week, but that remains to be seen.
Valimaki Looking to Make Most of AHL Stint
Back on Dec. 2, the Flames decided to send Valimaki to the AHL. It didn’t come as a major surprise given that the 23-year-old was healthy scratched more often than he played, as he struggled to find a role in the top six. To his credit, however, he is taking the demotion in stride and is looking to improve his game during his time with the Heat.
“To this date, I haven’t been able to really bring the full me to the NHL,” Valimaki said. “The type of player I am when I play my best is a two-way player with a lot of offensive upside and power play, that kind of stuff.”
Valimaki also discussed what was said to him by the Flames coaching staff, and from the sounds of things has a good relationship with all of them.
“The biggest thing coming from them is just to play games,” he said. “That’s what I want to do, build confidence and build my game. Obviously, there are things Darryl [Sutter] has talked to me about a lot ever since he came in, being quick, hard, and firm, and playing that type of hockey. Obviously, I’m going to try keep working on those things. It’s important for me to try to continue playing NHL-type hockey and not go through the motions.”
So far, so good for Valimaki in Stockton. The Finnish defenceman has appeared in six games since being demoted and has six assists thus far. It is a promising sign from a player who showed so much promise as a prospect just a few short years ago.
Coronato Cracks Team USA Roster
While Flames fans won’t get to watch many prospects play at the 2022 World Juniors, they will get to watch one of, if not the best, prospect in their pipeline. Selected at 13th overall in 2021, Coronato cracked the Team USA roster for the upcoming tournament and is expected to play a big role for them. To this point, he has been practicing on the team’s first line with Matthew Beniers and Brett Berard.
Coronato was viewed by many as the best pure goal scorer in his draft class after scoring 48 goals in 51 games with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League in 2020-21. He has followed up that incredible season by posting six goals and 12 points in 11 games with Harvard University as a freshman. For many Flames fans, this tournament will give them their first opportunity to watch Coronato, and you can bet they will get excited by what they see.
Glencross Helps Stranger in Need
Earlier this week, Glencross made the headlines for helping a stranger in need. (from ‘Cami Kepke: Calgary Flames alumni Curtis Glencross gives stranded fan a big assist’ , Global News 12/20/21). The former Flames forward noticed a car on the side of the road, one that belonged to a lady named Shayne Hill. Hill says that she had cars passing her for roughly 15 minutes before a stranger pulled up behind her. Her phone had died, so the stranger (Glencross) told her to go warm up in his truck and gave her his phone to call for help.
She said that after the man said he was coming from a hockey clinic in Lethbridge, and introduced himself as Curtis, she began to put things together.
“I just kind of looked at him and I was like, ‘Curtis Glencross?’ That’s when it kind of dawned on me who I was sitting beside,” Hill said. “He just kind of laughed, and I totally had a fangirl moment. I was like ‘Holy smokes. I’m sitting beside this guy who I watched on TV growing up!”
Oddly enough, the two happened to run into each other a week later at a minor hockey game in Airdrie. Hill said she made sure to thank Glencross once again for his good deed and was able to get a picture with the former NHLer.
Up Next for the Flames
As mentioned, the Flames are currently scheduled to take the ice once again on Dec. 27 in a game against the Oilers. After that, they have a back-to-back set on the Thursday and Friday of that week against the Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets, followed by a game versus the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday to close out the week.
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Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.