Flames’ Sutter Impressed by Prospects, Future Looks Bright

After the big batch of cuts at the Calgary Flames’ training camp a few days ago, Darryl Sutter was really impressed with what he saw from the players who were sent down. He spoke on it saying, “There’s guys in every group that were really good. Quite honest, there’s guys in that group (of cuts) that outperformed guys that are still here, but because of age or the ways their contracts are… you know what, it’s a good group and you can tell they’re the right kind of guys.”

This sends a couple of messages. First, there is cause for concern with where the current team is at. If the inexperienced players who were forced to be cut due to age and type of contract are outperforming veterans and NHL-calibre players, then the team needs to shape up real quick. Second, this is a great thing for the future in Calgary with the level of compete and skill shown by the young players.

Cause for Concern for Flames Players

A big theme and something the Flames needed most to figure out was the middle-six wings. With Tyler Toffoli slated to play on the top line, that left a handful of players jockeying for position including Dylan Dube, Blake Coleman, Jakob Pelletier, and Sonny Milano.

Pelletier, who was projected to make the team this season and play on the third line, was sent down to start his second pro season in the American Hockey League (AHL). His rookie season went very well and was the main reason why he was thought to be starting the 2022-23 season with the Flames.

Dillon Dube Calgary Flames
Dillon Dube, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Milano didn’t impress and had his opportunity to play on the second line. He was released from his professional tryout (PTO). The other two, Dube and Coleman, are the two remaining and the players who will fill the right-wing spot on the second and third lines. Dube has been practicing on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Andrew Mangiapane, and when Sutter was asked about Dube earning the role, he said, “Because nobody else has yet.”

If nobody has actually earned the second-line winger role that is currently with the team, that means whoever is playing there shouldn’t be in that role at this point in time. Sutter stated he likes Coleman and Mikael Backlund together, and that will be on the third line, so Dube seems like the choice and must step up. With how the battle for the wing has gone in preseason for the Flames, that is why there has been talk that they will need to add a top-six forward this season.

The Future Looks Bright in Calgary

It is unfortunate that because of the age and the way the prospects’ contracts are that the ones who performed the best aren’t able to stay with the team. But they impressed Sutter regardless with the remarks that it’s a good group and they are the right kind of guys. With even more development, there will be a lot of competition in the near future for full-time spots on the Flames. A few should even reappear at some point later this season.

Dustin Wolf Calgary Flames
Dustin Wolf, Calgary Flames (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

Not only have the prospects that were sent down in the big wave impressed Sutter, a few including Jeremy Poirier and Dustin Wolf also made a great impression. Sutter said, “Connor Zary was really good, and we still have the one boy (Poirier) here, defenceman, he’s a good player. (Cole) Schwindt, who came in the trade, he’s a good player. Dustin (Wolf) is still here, he’s a good player.” All four of these youngsters are expected to be on the Flames’ roster within the next two years, so the work and skill they all showed provides confidence in the next wave of talent that will graduate.

Related: Flames’ Long-Term Picture Very Clear After Weegar Signing

As players on the current roster’s contracts start to run out, they start to demand more money or move on, and it will be integral that the young players are ready for the responsibility. As they have already shown they can compete with the current talent on the team, it may keep the window to win the Stanley Cup open for longer than anticipated.

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