March 11 2013 12:48PM
Life isn't great in Flames-land nowadays, but don't fret, as there's a lot of good stuff happening for Calgary's prospects! The playoffs are approaching!
AHL & ECHL
The Abbotsford Heat are 28-25-3-6 overall and sit eighth in their conference. But they hold a one-point lead over the ninth-place Oklahoma City Barons for the last playoff spot, and the Barons have four games in hand. Yep, four.
The Heat are (obviously) hoping that the return of Sven Baertschi can spark the team. They're 2-6-0-2 in their last ten, and have generally floundered without the high-end talent (Baertschi, Brodie) that left the team when the lockout ended. They do have a lot of good players, though. Max Reinhart has found his groove, Roman Horak (still) leads the team in goal-scoring and Ben Street leads the team in shots by a country mile.
In the ECHL, the Utah Grizzlies are 25-29-4-5 and sit seventh in their conference. They'll make the playoffs. They have nine games left.
Flames fans will have a lot of junior hockey to watch over the next few weeks. Important playoff hockey. The only teams/players not heading to the playoffs are Brett Kulak's Vancouver Giants and Patrick Sieloff's Windsor Spitfires. Sieloff was also out with a groin issue and has been shut down for the year as a precaution.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have clinched first place in the WHL's Eastern Conference. Laurent Brossoit won 32 games, has a 2.29 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and five shutouts. Not to be out-done the Portland Winterhawks have clinched first in the entire WHL. Tyler Wotherspoon has 36 points in 58 games, which is pretty good, and a plus-59 rating, second-best in the entire CHL behind teammate Nic Petan.
The Saskatoon Blades turned a corner once Michael Ferland arrived at the trade deadline. They've won their division. Ferland has 31 points in 30 games, which is pretty great for a guy that didn't play much this year, but probably shows the gap between the AHL and junior.
The Quebec Remparts have clinched a spot in the QMJHL. They'll likely play Chicoutimi or Victoriaville in the first round. Ryan Culkin is tenth in QMJHL defensive scoring with 43 points in 64 games.
Finally, Red Deer and Swift Current have also both clinched. Red Deer captain Turner Elson (57 in 63 games) and Swift Current winger Coda Gordon (58 in 68 games) both have similar point production, but Elson's plus/minus is much better (plus-27) than Gordon's (minus-4).
NCAA conference playoffs are either already underway or about to begin, depending on the conference.
Boston College didn't win their conference, but have a good playoff spot. They'll face Vermont in the first round. Johnny Gaudreau had seven points this weekend and won the Hockey East scoring title with 46 points in 31 games – which also places him fourth in all of Division I. All the guys ahead of him played more games and didn't miss time to go win a gold medal at the World Juniors. Slackers. Bill Arnold quietly had a strong season with 33 points in 34 games.
Providence College will play New Hampshire. Mark Jankowski ended the year with a respectable 16 points in 30 games, but the bigger surprise was Jon Gillies. He went 15-10-6 with a 2.06 goals against average, a .932 save percentage and five shutouts. Gillies was a huge difference-maker for the Friars, which is a rare feat for a rookie netminder.
John Ramage's college career is just about finished, but Wisconsin has gone on a nice stretch lately. They'll play the highly-touted Minnesota-Duluth team in their first round. Ramage has 13 points in 36 games this season in his second campaign as Badgers captain.
Michigan State was last-place in CCHA, but upset Alaska this weekend to advance to the quarterfinals. Their reward? A series with the top-ranked Miami Redhawks. Yay. Matt Deblouw has 18 points in 39 games. Notre Dame will play Bowling Green in the quarterfinals. Senior Nick Larson has 8 points in 35 games and is likely no longer a prospect of note.
Avangard Omsk has lost both of their first two games to Traktor Chelyabinsk. Now they trek off to Chelyabinsk for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Wednesday. They'll be trying hard to avoid the sweep. By most accounts, Karri Ramo hasn't been great in the first couple of games.
Meanwhile, HIFK Helsinki will be the best of the “bubble” playoff seeds that will play play-in series starting on Thursday. Most likely they'll face SaiPa or Lukko, depending on Tuesday's games. Joni Ortio is 23-19-9, with a 2.39 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and four shutouts. Markus Granlund has 30 points in 50 games, only slightly less than he scored with his uber-talented brother last season. HIFK's new coach (who started in January) has had his contract renewed. The team played much better with him as the coach.