Catching up with Flames prospects

Ryan Pike
December 17 2012 10:17AM

We're into the holiday season, which means that junior kids are off to World Junior camps, that college schedules are sparse to allow for final exams, and various European club teams are off to allow for holiday tournaments.

What better time to assess how the various Flames prospects are doing this year?

DOING AWESOME

- LW Sven Baertschi [Abbotsford (AHL)] In his first full year as a pro, Sven Baertschi is chugging along at just under a point-per-game pace. He's learning the defensive side of the game, but he's been a constant offensive threat for the Heat.

- LW Johnny Gaudreau [Boston College (HE)] The sophomore sensation is just 19 years old, but leads his conference in goals and game-winning goals, and is second in overall scoring. He's the best offensive player on perhaps college hockey's best team with 23 points in 14 games.

- G Jon Gillies [Providence College (HE)] Thrown into the deep end of being a starter in the NCAA as a freshman, on a team that was going to have more bad nights than good, Gillies has been more than up to the task. He's got a good goals against (1.95) and a strong save percentage (.928). Hard to ask for more.

- LW/C Roman Horak [Abbotsford (AHL)] Arguably the best player the Flames got for Tim Erixon, Horak is the leading goal-scorer for the Heat. After struggling to find his stride last year, he's got 18 points in 26 games and has driven the Abbotsford offense.

- C Ben Street [Abbotsford (AHL)] Signed over the summer, this former Penguins prospect has 19 points in 26 games and leads the Heat in scoring. He's a complete three-zone player and is the most pleasant surprise in Abbotsford.

- D Tyler Wotherspoon [Portland (WHL)] Reliable two-way defender, often paired with uber-prospect Seth Jones, turned a corner this year and added some offense to his game. He's among the WHL leaders in plus/minus (+34) and has 23 points in 29 games. He made Team Canada's roster for the World Juniors, too.

- D T.J. Brodie [Abbotsford (AHL)] The most versatile blueliner in Abbotsford, Brodie has 14 points in 26 games and quarter-backs the power-play. He's just as good as he was in Calgary last year and is far adn away Abbotford's best defender.

PRETTY GOOD

- C Bill Arnold [Boston College (HE)] In his third year in college, Arnold has matured into what Eagles coach Jerry York has called a “three-zone player.” Good on either side of the puck, Arnold has been a scoring threat for BC's power-play while playing a shut-down role against the other team's best players. He's “only” got 13 points in 14 games, but he's earning his time.

- D Chris Breen [Abbotsford (AHL)] 3 points in 26 games, good plus/minus, big and mean. His skating still isn't amazing, but he's learned to work around it and has had easily his best year of his pro career in Abbotsford so far.

- D Ryan Culkin [Quebec (QMJHL)] Playing on one of Canada's best junior teams, Culkin has 27 points in 33 games as an 18-year-old. He's doing really well offensively, but he's also really benefiting from being on Quebec. His +12 rating is possibly more a reflection that he's on when guys like Grigorenko, Duclair and Shaw are scoring than merely his defensive skills. That said, he's the team's scorer from the back-end and appeared for team QMJHL in the Subway Super Series.

- LW Turner Elson [Red Deer (WHL)] Captain and leading scorer for the Rebels this year. Provided a lot of solid grit and leadership as the team underwent a lot of changes off-ice. He has 23 points in 29 games as a three-zone, all-situations forward. He's 20 and is the best player on his team, as you'd hope he would, but he's also shown a lot of growth.

- C Matt DeBlouw [Michigan State (CCHA)] As a freshman, DeBlouw has become the Spartans' go-to tough face-off guy and leads the team in assists. He has 13 points in 17 games as a first-year player on a team that's below .500, but that has a handful of NHL draftees and will get better.

- C Mark Jankowski [Providence College (HE)] A true freshman, the Big Jankowski hasn't kicked the door in during his first year in college, but he's also never looked out of place. Moreover, he's one of the offensive leaders of a low-scoring Friars club and he's getting chances. Eight points in 14 games is pretty good for a guy who was playing high school hockey in Quebec last year.

- G Joni Ortio [HIFK Helsinki (SM-Liiga)] 11-13-5 record isn't great, but he's got a great 2.16 goals against and .926 save percentage. If only his team scored more.

- G Karri Ramo [Avangard Omsk (KHL)] He's got slightly worse numbers than last season. Still, he's a star goalie of a good team in the world's second-best league.

- D Patrick Sieloff [Windsor (OHL)] Culkin's numbers probably inflate how good he really is, while Sieloff's probably under-play it a bit. Sieloff's a moderately sized, mean dude playing a big, mean game. He's relied upon to create time and space for Windsor's forwards and to make guys think twice about trying to make pretty plays in the defensive zone. He's got 9 points in 34 games and a -3 rating on a team that's allowed more goals than they've scored.

- C Mitch Wahl [Utah (ECHL)] Good news: over a point-per-game and team leader in points! Bad news: he's tearing up the ECHL. He's done it before and then underperformed in the AHL.

- C Ben Walter [Abbotsford (AHL)] A veteran on the Heat roster rapidly approaching 30, he's provided some leadership and a lot of poise. He's also got 17 points in 22 games, good for third on the team in scoring. He's consistent, but it's unclear what his NHL prospects are at his age.

(C Mikael Backlund doesn't count as a “prospect,” but he's fit in here based on his excellent half-season with Vasteras. He has 27 points in 20 games in Sweden's secondary league.)

MEH

- G Laurent Brossoit [Edmonton (WHL)] 13-4-2-3 in 21 games, 2.65 GAA, .903 SV%. His back-up has more shutouts and a better goals against average and save percentage. Brossoit is very Jekyl and Hyde – he's had 11 starts where he's only allowed two goals or less, but he's allowed four or more on seven occasions.

- F Paul Byron [Abbotsford (AHL)] Injured for the first part of the year, Byron's still finding his legs as he has returned to the Heat line-up. He's got 7 points in 17 games this year and has struggled to finish, but he brings speed and skill to Abbotsford. At 23 years old and with his size a big question mark, his NHL prospects are starting to dim.

- F Bryan Cameron [Utah (ECHL)] Third-year pro is a point-per-game scorer in the ECHL. That said, it's the ECHL and it's probably too-little, too-late.

- LW Coda Gordon [Swift Current (WHL)] The Broncos haven't had the best year overall, and as one of the team's leaders, Gordon probably bears some of the blame for that. Then again, low tide lowers all boats, so his lower-than-hoped offensive totals probably aren't the end of the world. He's got 31 points in 37 games, but also has a disappointing -10 rating.

- F Ryan Howse [Utah (ECHL)] The winger has 7 points in 16 games in his second year of pro. He was recently called-up to Abbotsford for a cup of coffee and promptly got injured.

- D Brett Kulak [Vancouver (WHL)] Playing for one of the Dub's worst teams, Kulak is now a back-end leader for the Giants. The team is lousy, don't get me wrong, but he's getting a ton of quality minutes.

- D Brady Lamb [Abbotsford (AHL)] The big, bruising defender has 2 points in 16 games in his first year in pro and is frequently a healthy scratch. He's being out-played by Chris Breen, which is odd considering they're about the same age.

- D James Martin [Utah (ECHL)] The number-seven guy in Abbotsford last year, when he wasn't hurt, has played nearly as much this year as he did all season. He's put up 5 points in 19 games, but he's also remained in the black for plus/minus.

- F Gaelan Patterson [Utah (ECHL)] More of an all-around guy than Wahl and Cameron, Patterson's got 12 points in 24 games for Utah. It's not horrible, but it's not likely to earn him a renewal.

- D John Ramage [Wisconsin (WCHA)] He's the team captain and a shut-down defender and his plus/minus is the worst of the Badgers' full-time defenders. That said, his role isn't the kind that would reflected in the stats. He has 2 points in 16 games on a sub-.500 team.

- F Max Reinhart [Abbotsford (AHL)] Absolutely snake-bit offensively, but very effective otherwise.

DOIN' NOT-SO-GREAT

- C Markus Granlund [HIFK Helsinki (SM-Liiga)] 12 points in 28 games is a giant step backwards relative to last year for the 19-year-old. When we profiled Granlund after his big season, the primary question mark surrounding him was how he would fare without older brother (and superior player) Mikael Granlund on the team. So far, the answer is "not good".

- G Leland Irving [Abbotsford (AHL)] Third-string goalie behind two AHL veterans with unclear NHL prospects. This year it was expected Irving would climb up the organization's ladder, but he's back down on the lower rung.

- LW Nick Larson [Notre Dame (CCHA)] Larson has the lowest points-per-game of any Notre Dame senior, which is a bit scary when you consider he's one of the older players on a good college team. He's got 3 points in 18 games and is one of three Fighting Irish players in the red for plus/minus, and the one of those three who's played the most games.

- Greg Nemisz [Abbbotsford Heat (AHL)] Has only appeared in seven games so far due to injury, but doesn't look to have taken a meaningful step forward as a pro. He has zero points in seven games, is mostly invisible.

INCOMPLETE

- C Lance Bouma, RW Akim Aliu [Abbotsford (AHL)], F David Eddy and LW Michael Ferland [both Utah (ECHL)]

All these guys have been hurt for big chunks of the year, so it's hard to conclude anything about their shortened seasons.

(F Jiri Hudler, F Roman Cervenka and D Chris Butler aren't prospects, but they'd fit into this category if they were.)

 

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Now in his third full season covering the Calgary Flames and the NHL, Ryan Pike is a Calgary native and FlamesNation's managing editor. He's trying to keep his head up, his stick on the ice and is giving it 110% every shift. You can also find his work at The Hockey Writers, the Wrestling Observer and Tough Talk MMA.
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#1 Clay
December 17 2012, 10:41AM
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RE: Markus Granlund

Our pal Teemu has highlighted his struggles, but it sounds as if HIFK is very poorly coached (not an excuse).

He has 3 assists in 3 pre-tournament games for Finland. The WJC will be the best guage as to where his development is really at. If HIFK is a caustic environment, I wonder if its worth pulling him to North America early.

Joni Ortio, if Irving & Karlsson are gone next year, is hopefully given another chance to win the AHL starting gig. I dont see it happening with Ward. He, although a good coach, does not seem to have "goaltender development" in his skillset.

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#2 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 10:43AM
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@Clay

Seems Ward is like most coaches and just goes with the guy he trusts most at the moment.

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#3 Clay
December 17 2012, 10:46AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Seems Ward is like most coaches and just goes with the guy he trusts most at the moment.

That's all fine and well, but development needs to play in as well.

It can be a meritocracy, but if there is no potential for Brust/Taylor to get a 2way contract, do them the honor of packaging them in an AHL trade where they might have an opportunity elsewhere, and we get to play "our guys".

Meritocracy can mean putting players in a position to succeed, even if its not here.

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#4 Vowswithin
December 17 2012, 10:50AM
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Poor Irving, had hopes for that guy. Things are looking good in the whole. Any word yet on Sven?

Sure hope those t-shirts get in soon. Might not make it in time to be a Christmas present.

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#5 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 11:00AM
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@Clay

I suspect the organization isn't really sold on Irving as a prospect and there isn't much interest from the powers-that-be to give Irving developmental preference. Outside of him soundly outplaying the options, that is...which he hasn't.

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#6 Clay
December 17 2012, 11:10AM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I suspect the organization isn't really sold on Irving as a prospect and there isn't much interest from the powers-that-be to give Irving developmental preference. Outside of him soundly outplaying the options, that is...which he hasn't.

I agree, I think Irving is close to gone

I'm more worried that if we bring Ortio across the pond and Brossoit turns pro they get the minutes they need.

I think we have to make better use of the ECHL affiliate. Goalies dont need the best league to develop. I think its more adjusting to preparation and building good habits. Looking at the best goalies in the game, they dont always have the greatest minor league numbers.

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#7 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 11:19AM
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@Clay

Fair enough. I suspect the team will lean a bit harder on its affiliates to give guys like Ortio some minutes if they think they have value as future NHLers.

That said, in the end goalie prospects have to be good at stopping pucks in order to get playing time, full stop. That's why it's a much tougher developmental road for goalies and another reason I advocate not taking them with high picks.

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#8 RexLibris
December 17 2012, 11:50AM
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I wouldn't put Ortio and Brossoit on the same level in terms of their development curve. Ortio looks ready to be a starter in the AHL, or at least as mentioned, given a chance. Brossoit will be done his junior career and is anything but ready to jump in as a starter in the AHL.

The Grizzlies for a year would be my recommendation for Brossoit. He'll need to play, but brought along patiently. At least having Ramo and Ortio affords the Flames the time needed.

Sounds like Nemisz isn't even worth keeping around as an extra NHL forward at this point. My guess is that roster spot goes to Horak, then?

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#9 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 11:55AM
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@RexLibris

Horak is way ahead of Nemisz at this point. I don't think anyone was penciling Nemisz onto the big team's roster anyways.

Frankly, Horak's in tough to make the team if/when action returns. Calgary has 14 NHL forwards signed including Baertschi, so even if they manage to get rid of Matt Stajan somehow, that's still a complete roster.

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#10 negrilcowboy
December 17 2012, 12:13PM
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good bye nemitz good bye leland.

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#11 Primo
December 17 2012, 12:13PM
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RYan..as usual nice updates on the prospects! Agree with Clay's comments regarding Ward's inability to coach/develop goaltenders. Unless he is getting direction from the Flames brass he has virtually destroyed Irving's future within the Flames organization. To give development preference to a couple of goaltenders that are even signed by the Flames does not make sense to me. Irving was decent in his call ups with the Flames last year. The organization should have built on that!!

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#12 Clay
December 17 2012, 12:23PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I wouldn't put Ortio and Brossoit on the same level in terms of their development curve. Ortio looks ready to be a starter in the AHL, or at least as mentioned, given a chance. Brossoit will be done his junior career and is anything but ready to jump in as a starter in the AHL.

The Grizzlies for a year would be my recommendation for Brossoit. He'll need to play, but brought along patiently. At least having Ramo and Ortio affords the Flames the time needed.

Sounds like Nemisz isn't even worth keeping around as an extra NHL forward at this point. My guess is that roster spot goes to Horak, then?

Agree completely

Ortio is the forgotten about man, but his trade value is probably far less than what he is worth on the ice at this point

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#13 Clay
December 17 2012, 12:30PM
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Primo wrote:

RYan..as usual nice updates on the prospects! Agree with Clay's comments regarding Ward's inability to coach/develop goaltenders. Unless he is getting direction from the Flames brass he has virtually destroyed Irving's future within the Flames organization. To give development preference to a couple of goaltenders that are even signed by the Flames does not make sense to me. Irving was decent in his call ups with the Flames last year. The organization should have built on that!!

I wouldnt say Ward has killed Irving. Ultimately, a player's development rests on his own shoulders.

I agree and am afraid that Ward will be a little self serving trying to get an NHL job. He will continue to ride guys like Irving/Taylor at the same time as Brossoit and Ortio enter the most crucial years in their development.

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#14 Baalzamon
December 17 2012, 12:30PM
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Rex touches on something interesting: start Brossoit in the ECHL until he's ready for the AHL. Makes sense.

so we could have something like: Ortio/Taylor (on a 2way of course, no way does he stick around for another AHL deal) in Abbotsford and Brossoit in the ECHL. Sounds good to me.

only real problem is the # of goalie contracts in there.. that's 3 contracts for goalies not in the NHL, then 2 for the guys that are. Maybe a random AHL vet instead of Taylor.

Honestly, I've been disappointed in Nemisz. His skating has actually gotten WORSE somehow, and the rest of his game has taken a big hit. He looks like Ivanans out there (except, for some reason, he looks small. Max Reinhart looked 8 feet tall in comparison).

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#15 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 12:35PM
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@Baalzamon

Nemisz just hasn't seemed to develop at all in the AHL. I still play NHL 11 and am in the 2014-15 season I think with my "GM Mode" team. Nemisz has stuck around for the Heat and never progressed beyond a 74 rating in the game.

That's about as accurate a simulation of the real thing as it gets I'd say.

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#16 Baalzamon
December 17 2012, 01:57PM
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@Kent Wilson

in Highschool I probably would have tried to calculate the odds on that, lol. weird, prophetic stuff. Anything else that might end up happening?

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#17 T&A4Flames
December 17 2012, 02:06PM
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To be fair, Irving has had a bit of tough luck. This year in was stuck in no mans land, no chance with the locked out Flames and then a sudden PTO contract with Abby. Plus last year being bounced around and the birth of his 1st child. Can be a bit of mind game for him I'm sure.

As for Ward, he is paid primarily to coach the Heat to wins, development comes a close 2nd. He has to develop all the players, not just Irving. A winning atmosphere is the best way to develop young players. Leland just needs to focus and get some wins and win back the starters role.

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#18 Baalzamon
December 17 2012, 02:25PM
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I just realized that the Flames are the only team to have 3 prospects on the preliminary American WJC roster. Not bad for a bare cupboard.

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#20 RexLibris
December 17 2012, 03:04PM
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@Baalzamon

Wish I could take credit for it.

The Oilers have been doing that for awhile. Roy spent last year in Stockton while Bunz has been doing it this year.

I believe Dubnyk spent some time in the ECHL as well.

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#21 Sincity1976
December 17 2012, 04:38PM
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I think we might be being a bit harsh on Nemisz. He has progressed a fair bit. His skating was the biggest knock against him and, although it is still not good, it has improved a lot. It looked like he was going to break out last season as well starting with close to a PPG production. He fell on his face in Jan/Feb but finished the season strong.

That said, if he doesn't pick things up quickly I think he is a long shot to be a routine NHL player let alone the top 6 player he was drafted to be.

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#22 SmellOfVictory
December 17 2012, 06:16PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Nemisz just hasn't seemed to develop at all in the AHL. I still play NHL 11 and am in the 2014-15 season I think with my "GM Mode" team. Nemisz has stuck around for the Heat and never progressed beyond a 74 rating in the game.

That's about as accurate a simulation of the real thing as it gets I'd say.

Too bad it looks like Howse isn't going to blast into the mid-80s like '11 would have us believe.

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#23 Kent Wilson
December 17 2012, 06:47PM
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@Sincity1976

Here's whats really harsh: the two guys picked immediately after Nemisz in 2008 were Tyler Ennis and John Carlson.

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#24 Baalzamon
December 17 2012, 07:06PM
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@Kent Wilson

Carlson, in particular, would have been nice.

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#25 loudogYYC
December 18 2012, 10:53AM
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The 2008 draft wasn't really a deep one, but even then, Calgary missed on their first 2 picks as per usual under Dinosaur Sutter.

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