January 23 2013 11:09AM
NHL hockey is back and all but the kids just keep rolling along in their various leagues. Roman Horak, Sven Baertschi and TJ Brodie are recent graduates, but the rest remaiin scattered across the CHL, college hockey and Europe.
The last time we took a look at NHL equivalencies, Gaudreau was out on an island by himself amongst the forwards while TJ Brodie led things to a non-trivial degree on the back-end. To be honest, not too much has changed in a month.
Incredibly, Gaudreau's scoring pace has actually improved post-WJC and he now boasts 31 points in just 18 games played. For the sake of comparision, at this PPG rate last year he would have scored about 76 points in 44 games rather than the 44 he managed (which was tied for the team lead).
Johnny's NHLE is the best I've seen from a Flames prospect since I started looking at the numbers. Even Sven Baertschi settled in at 49 during his 19-year old season in the WHL last year (and his NHLE was one of the best in the 2011 draft class at the time). In addition, top-10 picks from 2011 like Jonathan Huberdeau (35) and Ryan Strome (47) can't touch Gaudreau this year.
Eighteen games is obviously still a pretty small sample, but even if Gaudreau falls to a PPG player for the rest of the year he'll finish the season with 54 points in 41 games - a still well above average NHLE of about 44. An outstanding number, particularly for a teenaged college sophomore.
Other than Johnny G, there isn't too much else to talk about. Markus Granlund has made the biggest jump since last month, improving his NHLE from 19 to 26 and moving into 4th on the Flames prospect rank by this metric. Bill Arnold continues to have a pretty steady season as well while everyone else has steadily remained mediocre or worse.
At this point I think we can safely say Paul Byron and Greg Nemisz aren't prospects of interest given their ages (24 and 23 years old this year, respectively). Guys approaching their mid-20's who sport NHLE's in the 20's or lower better be able to grind and fight like a tough guy to make it to the show. That's true of neither of these gentlemen.
Nemisz's awful NHLE of 2 is in part a symptom of rust after returning from injury no doubt, but the former first rounder has found himself skating on 3rd and 4th lines for Troy Ward this year. He didn't get an invite to the Flames training camp as a result and I'd be surprised if the team bothered to re-sign him this summer. As some of you know, I attended the rookie camp during the summer and Nemisz visibly struggled against the other kids, despite being one of the oldest and most experienced guys there. For whatever reason, he seems to have a hit a wall in his development.
Nothing much has changed in the defender standings all year. Culkin has recently fallen off the pace and Kulak has begun to catch-up, but pretty much nobody in this group shows notable offensive acumen outside of Brodie right now. Wotherspoon has matched his career high in points already this year as 20-year old, but that just goes to show how little he scored previously.
Scoring isn't the full measure of any player, less so for rearguards, but nevertheless it's clear the Flames have a dearth of truly dangerous or dominant blueliners in the pipeline.
Ironically, the Abbotsford Heat have won their last four games, despite the graduations of key players Horak, Brodie and Baertschi. The offense hasn't quite come back to life (they scored more than 2 goals in exactly one of those wins) butt he defense/goaltending remains the club's primary strength. Both Brust and Danny Taylor have sub 2.00 GAA's and are first and third in the league in terms of SV% respectively.
With the trade of Henrik Karlsson, the Flames currently don't have another goalie with an NHL deal in North America. If Kipper or Irving goes down to injury, they may be forced to sign at least one of the farm stand-outs to fill in.
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