The Calgary Flames battle the Anaheim Ducks in game two on Sunday. They go into the game having been blown out 6-1 in game one by a powerful Ducks offense. While Karri Ramo and the NHL Flames look to have a bounce back performance in Anaheim, we can take a look at the Calgary Flames prospect watch and see who will be contributing soon.
The importance of securing and developing young players cannot be overstated, as this years Flames team has exemplified. Calgary has had decent success as the young players they’ve drafted have led the team this season. Because they showed they can, they will now be expected to continue to do so. In the coming years, Sean Monahan, T.J. Brodie and of course Johnny Hockey are going to need some help. So lets check out who we can expect to come on and help the Flames continue their rebuild.
The rankings will be based on who can help the Flames most based on need and estimated time of arrival. There are some Flames draft picks who had fantastic seasons such as Eric Roy and Emile Poirier, but may be a couple years away from getting a chance to really contribute at the NHL level.
I wrote about the fact that the Flames are in the peculiar position of having a ton of cap space and being a good NHL team. While the front office may very well address some of the needs with that cap space, there is no guarantee that will be the case, and so the rostered/contracted players become all the more important.
- Goaltender Jon Gillies: Goalie is the most important position on the rink, and the Flames have a weakness there right now. While Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo combined for a pretty nice year, the Flames would be wise to get a player between the pipes that can be a consistent work horse. Jon Gillies does not have professional hockey experience, but just got done backstopping the Providence Friars to a NCAA Division I National Championship in April. Gillies has size and talent, and would be a welcome addition to a Calgary team that is set to lose Ramo to unrestricted free agency this summer.
- Forward Drew Shore: Drew Shore made his playoff debut in game one against the Ducks, which speaks to what the Flames expect of him moving forward. Shore is ranked second based mostly on need, as Mikael Backlund is set to come off the books this summer. Slotting Shore into a Centermen role could help offset the losee of Backlund as well as save the Flames some money. He is also a right shot, and could help fill a hole on the right side should the Flames decide to keep Backlund. He has a lot of professional experience compared to most of the Flames prospects, and should be the closest to being a contributor in the future.
- Forward Max Reinhart: Reinhart has some experience playing in Calgary already, which should help him become a bigger part of the team next year. With Drew Shore all but guaranteed to be in the NHL lineup, the Flames are going to have a couple more holes to fill up front. Reinhart is capable of helping the Flames at a depth role similar to what Granlund or Jooris plays now. Reinhart had a good year in the AHL, with a good training camp he could very well find himself in Calgary to begin the season.
- Defenseman John Ramage: Calgary is fairly deep on the back end. Mark Giordano is a boanfide number one, and has one of the better supporting casts of players in the NHL. While that may be true, three supporting defensemen will be UFAs this summer. Ramage is at a crossroads in his career. While d-men normally take a bit longer to develop than forwards, Ramage was drafted five years ago, and ideally would have been making a difference by now. He has the chance to move up and become a guy that can fill in and earn some time on what is a formidable back line, but he will have to show the capability in order to keep the Flames from trying to bring in another body. Another body that could come in the form of this list’s honorable mention Brett Kulak. Calgary being so deep on the backend minimized the need for blueliners on this list. If for some reason Ramage doesnt live up to what the Flames expect of him, Kulak could be another guy that will compete for a job. His measurable are similar to that of Ramage, but Kulak is a bit younger and has better offensive numbers, something the Flames obviously value. This situation could be key heading into next season.
- Forward Garnet Hathaway: Garnet Hathaway makes this list because of his size and his right handed shot. The former Brown University star but up decent offensive numbers this year in the AHL, and has a large frame. Another versatile forward that could help offset the roster turnover that will happen at the end of the season, Hathaway should be able to play a role in Calgary fairly soon. At 23 years of age, it would seem as though he is in prime position to carve out a spot for himself in Calgary going forward.
There you have it, the five (six) players in the Flames system right now that could possibly move on to play in Calgary next season. While some of them are already there assisting in the playoff run, some of these players should surface during the offseason as realistic options for a team on the rise. Coach Bob Hartley has shown that he isn’t afraid to use young players in big roles, and has found a system that has provided success during his tenure at the helm of the Flames bench. While each year provides a new challenge, the Calgary Flames have enough talent in their pipeline to be able to sustain the success they’ve found this season for at least one more year.