Five Things: Who's Gonna Make It, Part 3

Ryan Lambert
August 14 2014 08:30AM

1. Picking up again

So I've now looked at eight different prospects and borderline NHLers the Flames could use this season and largely concluded that only three or four of them (Sven Baertschi, Johnny Gaudreau, and Ben Hanowski are all probables, while I rank Markus Granlund as a call-up simply because of the NHL club's center depth) are really going to get a serious shot in the coming season. That's not a bad average, either half or a little less than two-fifths.

But that also means the bottom of this team's roster is getting very crowded, and doesn't portend good things for the last four forward prospects who I think seem at least somewhat likely to get a cup of coffee or more this season. And yet, here they are anyway, four guys who have little to no shot of making the team next season, but whose merits will be discussed nonetheless.

2. Corban Knight

Knight is a guy like Granlund: He's pretty good at the AHL level and he's crowded out of the picture because if there's one thing the Calgary Flames have, it's a load of decent to pretty good NHL centers.

Knight's problem is that Granlund had almost as many points as he did in the A last year, despite playing 18 fewer games, and that they play the same position. Calgary needs extra centers like it needs extra fighters at this point, and a guy like Knight seems more like a second- or even third-choice call-up at best. He was used sparingly in the NHL last season when he was up for those seven games, and put in a huge position to succeed when he was. He didn't do much with the opportunity, which doesn't say a lot for him.

The other problem with this is that of the three sure-thing centers from the AHL last season, Knight is the oldest. He's currently 23 but will be 24 by the time this current season starts. As we all know, the age-24 and 25 seasons are usually about the peak of a hockey player's ability to produce, so it's really getting to be now-or-never time for Knight. This is the problem, to some extent, with getting older college players (Knight, of course, having been acquired in a trade after making it clear he wouldn't sign with Florida): They're pretty close to “complete” and you have a limited window before their value starts to drop off.

If Knight doesn't make it this year, then, I'm not sure there's a time at which he will. Positionally, the deck is just super-stacked against him.

3. Emile Poirier

Another place the Flames don't need much help is on Poirier's side. The left wing is a tough nut to crack for anyone, especially a first-year pro like Poirier. There's Hudler and Raymond and Glencross and Bollig and Gaudreau and Baertschi all in his way, by my count.

The good news is that, like the team's other left wings, maybe he can be shifted to the right if he really impresses. The additional good news is that he's a little older than Morgan Klimchuk and as such can be stashed quite safely in the AHL, rather than being sent back to junior. The latter, at this point, doesn't seem like a path that would benefit him.

With that option in mind, Poirier is a guy who might get your usual eight- or 10-game run-out with the big club at some point, because injuries happen, but he can get a full year of pro hockey to make his case for a bigger role next season. That has to be the goal, and because of that aforementioned center depth, he'll at least have someone pretty good to get him the puck for Adirondack.

4. Max Reinhart

The 60th and final victim of Calgary's center depth, Reinhart strikes on as someone who's probably too good at scoring in the AHL (63 points in 66 games), but not enough of a difference-maker at the NHL level to warrant more than a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, it's tough to say whether his numbers were due to luck or skill, because he took a huge step forward in production, but the numbers when he was with Calgary are, umm, underwhelming.

In terms of how easy his minutes were, he didn't get the treatment of Monahan or Colborne, but he was close, and he didn't produce like either of those guys. With that said, the AHL numbers are a little too overwhelming to say that he's not an NHLer or anything. 

So the question, then, becomes who of he or Granlund is the first call-up. Do you go with Granlund, because he looks like the better actual-NHL prospect and you want to give him the added look? Or do you go with Reinhart because he's maybe a little bit better at giving you scoring pop right now, at least in theory? It's an interesting question, and were I making the call I'd err on the side of fostering better prospects, but I certainly get the argument in Reinhart's favor here.

Consequently, I'd say that he's pretty solidly behind Granlund but ahead of Knight when it comes to center call-ups, but that's all he is at this point. He just turned 22 a few months ago and has a few more years before we should be screaming about the what-ifs of it all.

5. David Wolf

There are a few reasons I include him here despite my conscience screaming that I shouldn't:

a) He's been playing pro hockey for a while now and put up decent enough numbers in the German league that I don't think you can really act like he's little more than a fighter. I haven't seen enough DEL games in my life to know what 40 points in 48 games for a guy with 152 penalty minutes last year means.

b) Here's his bio on Eliteprospects: “Wolf is a big winger who likes to play a physical game. Has alright speed and hands for his size.” If that doesn't scream Brian Burke/Bob Hartley Guy, nothing does.

c) He's a wing, so there are fewer players in his way.

d) Fights.

My official prediction is that he plays significantly more games than he deserves based on his on-ice contributions. Gotta be hard to play against. 

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 coachedpotatoe
August 14 2014, 08:50AM
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Ryan do you not pay much attention to what happened in the AHL last season. Rhino played almost only on the wing last year with Granlund as his center and will likely play there again this year. Poirier in his debut in the AHL also played on the RW with these two in the AHL playoffs and will likely play on the RW this year. Regardless of his position Rhino will be in tough as the Flames have depth on the LW as well.

Wolf has to outplay both McG and Bollig(or they get injured) so he will be an AHL regular.Knight on the other hand will be in competition for the historical 4th line center. Backs, Monahan, and Stajan are ahead of him on the depth chart. Who else are on the depth chart: Byron(plays both wing and center), Bouma and Colborne but both were better on the wing and then the prospects: Bennett(whom I expect he will get his 9 and go back to the OHL), Granlund, Knight, Arnold, Jooris so depending on the role required by the team he has a chance as a call up.

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#2 dude
August 14 2014, 09:09AM
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Yeaaaa

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#3 vowswithin
August 14 2014, 09:27AM
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Man what a weird feeling to be watching a battle between prospects to make the team.

It wasn't long ago that it was a battle for any of our prospects to show enough of anything to even be considered for a call up....

CENTER DEPTH!!

Backlund Stajan Monahan Bennett Granlund Arnold Reinhart Knight Janko unchained (one day?.... maybe) (also play/ed C) Bouma Byron Colborne

Goal depth also looking great, if we could just improve Right wing depth and D we would be looking quite nice. I would imagine a few players could be converted into D and RW though trade.

Hayes for free would help the RW in 2 days.

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#4 BurningSensation
August 14 2014, 09:33AM
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@vowswithin

'Janko Unchained' is pure win

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#5 dick
August 14 2014, 09:42AM
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I think Poirier has spent most if not all of his junior career as a right winger not a LW.

Dick

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#6 Parallex
August 14 2014, 09:47AM
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I think Knight and Wolf have a decent shot at getting call-ups this year actually. You know... size/truculance yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

This is just another gap year for the Flames anyways and prospects should be eye'ing next year to bust into the NHL anyways. The team will probably (hopefully) be selling off more veteran talent at the deadline and won't have to replace it with free agents since the money to reach the floor will be gobbled up by the Backlund and Brodie extensions along with salary retained in trade (maybe).

We are starting to get a glut of forwards in the system to the extent that even if we have the standard bust rate we might not have enough space for them all (why did Stajan get a 4 year deal again?) so the team ought to be looking at some futures for futures trades to shore up what's in the pipeline with regards to blueliners.

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#7 BP
August 14 2014, 10:05AM
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"He was used sparingly in the NHL last season when he was up for those seven games, and put in a huge position to succeed when he was. He didn't do much with the opportunity, which doesn't say a lot for him."

Used sparingly and huge position to succeed? Can you clarify what was meant here?

These are his EV line combos:

43.8% HANOWSKI,B - KNIGHT,C - MCGRATTAN,B 42.7% HANOWSKI,B - KNIGHT,C - WESTGARTH,K 5.6% KNIGHT,C - MCGRATTAN,B - REINHART,M 5.1% BYRON,P - KNIGHT,C - REINHART,M 2.8% GALIARDI,T - KNIGHT,C - REINHART,M

He averaged 7:54 TOI/Game (0:17 PP), all according to dobberhockey

I think it was more of getting some games under his belt rather than a failed 'huge opportunity'.

It will be a great training camp, and I'm looking forward to see how things shake out.

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#8 Trevor
August 14 2014, 10:20AM
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Poirier is RW

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#9 coachedpotatoe
August 14 2014, 11:18AM
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Parallex wrote:

I think Knight and Wolf have a decent shot at getting call-ups this year actually. You know... size/truculance yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

This is just another gap year for the Flames anyways and prospects should be eye'ing next year to bust into the NHL anyways. The team will probably (hopefully) be selling off more veteran talent at the deadline and won't have to replace it with free agents since the money to reach the floor will be gobbled up by the Backlund and Brodie extensions along with salary retained in trade (maybe).

We are starting to get a glut of forwards in the system to the extent that even if we have the standard bust rate we might not have enough space for them all (why did Stajan get a 4 year deal again?) so the team ought to be looking at some futures for futures trades to shore up what's in the pipeline with regards to blueliners.

A gap year, in which the team should be giving the following forwards an extensive look at the NHL to evaluate them at this level(yes they can and should also play in the AHL): Johnny, Granlund, Sven, Rhino, Ferland,Knight,Wolf and Hanowski/Jooris as these are the guys we need to assess this year. The others Agostino, Arnold, Poirier(who I think is really close), and van B all could use and spend the bulk of this season in the AHL. The younger guys including Bennett need to play in the CHL.

For me I want this gap year to be meaningful and the only way to do so is to let the kids develop and see what we have.

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#10 Parallex
August 14 2014, 11:33AM
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@coachedpotatoe

Except we can't do that because the salary cap requires spending so we need guys making real money on the team (for most of the season anyways) and so long as we have those guys making real money on the team we don't want to kill their value (quite the opposite actually) so they ain't gonna be sitting, there's no point bringing all those guys up since they'll just be sitting out games.

One (maaaaaybe two if the Flames are inclined to have a young fringe guy like Cundari be the 7th D-man) additional younger guys will make the team out of camp. Everyone else will have to bide their time in their respective developmental leagues and hope for a injury/post-trade call-up.

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#11 coachedpotatoe
August 14 2014, 11:41AM
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Parallex wrote:

Except we can't do that because the salary cap requires spending so we need guys making real money on the team (for most of the season anyways) and so long as we have those guys making real money on the team we don't want to kill their value (quite the opposite actually) so they ain't gonna be sitting, there's no point bringing all those guys up since they'll just be sitting out games.

One (maaaaaybe two if the Flames are inclined to have a young fringe guy like Cundari be the 7th D-man) additional younger guys will make the team out of camp. Everyone else will have to bide their time in their respective developmental leagues and hope for a injury/post-trade call-up.

I'm not expecting them all to be up at one time but we need to see them play. I would personally sit some other guys first. I would have 2 maybe three spots on the 12 being kids and when they struggle send them back down and bring up who has earned the call up. How do we kill the value of DJones or McG?

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#12 Bean-counting cowboy
August 14 2014, 11:50AM
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Lambert, your credibility would increase if you knew at least as much as the average FN reader with respect to what positions our prospects play.

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#13 PrairieStew
August 14 2014, 11:57AM
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Over the next 18 months you should see several veteran forwards jettisoned. Glencross, McGrattan, Byron, Jones, Hudler and perhaps even Stajan. You need to know what you have - so you need to see the young guys at the NHL level - but you also need to see them excel at the AHL level. I, too would like to see alot of up and down with all of these prospects this year.

I'd like to see Wolf on an all euro unit with Sven and Granlund. That, combined with Boston College unit ( looking forward to Hayes signing tomorrow), those lines could be interchangable - all up with Calgary or down on the farm as the #1 unit.

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#14 JayD54
August 14 2014, 12:59PM
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Trevor wrote:

Poirier is RW

And isn't he also shelved until November, recovering from shoulder surgery?

And on a totally unrelated matter, have I missed something or are the Flames still without a radio announcer to replace Peter Maher?

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#15 Craig
August 14 2014, 01:02PM
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Poirier is a left wing who has primarily played on the right wing while in the flames system because of the obvious shortage. First time he was tried at right wing was last years development camp.

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#16 Craig
August 14 2014, 01:04PM
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http://flames.nhl.com/club/player.htm?id=8477486

Look at his listed position.

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#17 Jeff Lebowski
August 14 2014, 01:25PM
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Parallex wrote:

I think Knight and Wolf have a decent shot at getting call-ups this year actually. You know... size/truculance yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah.

This is just another gap year for the Flames anyways and prospects should be eye'ing next year to bust into the NHL anyways. The team will probably (hopefully) be selling off more veteran talent at the deadline and won't have to replace it with free agents since the money to reach the floor will be gobbled up by the Backlund and Brodie extensions along with salary retained in trade (maybe).

We are starting to get a glut of forwards in the system to the extent that even if we have the standard bust rate we might not have enough space for them all (why did Stajan get a 4 year deal again?) so the team ought to be looking at some futures for futures trades to shore up what's in the pipeline with regards to blueliners.

Exactly. Gap year, evaluation year, call it what you will.

They have to identify their keepers. BT stated this.

Who makes the team out of camp, who is first call up is really just stories, fan fodder, granular fan micro managing.

This team is in flux. Changes are imminent so I certainly don't pay much attention the meritocracy arguments. What players do at the NHL level is the only consideration (outside of those who are limited to career AHL or lower). There is essentially zero sample size at NHL for all of these kids.

I think they have a clear idea of how many NHL games played are required to get a read on them. It might take 2 seasons to get the kids the games they need (depending on age). If, in that process kids displace vets, all the better.

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#18 coachedpotatoe
August 14 2014, 01:29PM
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Craig wrote:

http://flames.nhl.com/club/player.htm?id=8477486

Look at his listed position.

Players are often listed how they were drafted not where they are currently and most recently have played. Rhino is listed almost everywhere as a center although he has spent most of his two years as a pro playing on the wing. That is why you listen or watch the games. Poirier is listed as a lw but played almost of last year as rw and on the rw with the heat. he will likely be be tried as a rw and be moved there. There has been rumors that he will be ready for camp but we will have to wait and see.

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#19 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
August 14 2014, 01:30PM
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Craig wrote:

Poirier is a left wing who has primarily played on the right wing while in the flames system because of the obvious shortage. First time he was tried at right wing was last years development camp.

Uh, no. He has played as a RW on Gatineau for more than 90% of his shifts in the last two years.

They experimented a bit when Reway came back from injury, with Karabeck playing RW, but it didn't last long. He finished the season, as well as the playoffs, on a line with Dunn that did the heavy lifting for Gatineau.

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#20 beloch
August 14 2014, 01:36PM
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Re: Wolf

The DEL has a NHLE conversion factor of 0.52. That suggests it's a tougher league than the AHL, but a relatively small sample size of DEL players going to the NHL might make this a bit unreliable. Wolf's older age also makes NHLE a bit tricky to figure, since it usually factors in a year of development.

All that being said, Wolf's NHLE is 35.5, which puts him ahead of all LW prospects except for Gaudreau. There's certainly hope that this guy can play hockey. A functional forward filling the obligatory enforcer spot would certainly be a boon for the Flames.

Wolf's PIM do suggest he's a goon, but what kind of goon? Does he get into a lot of fights protecting his team, or does he just take supid, undisciplined penalties? Wolf's NHL debut is going to be one of the more interesting aspects of this season.

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#21 Craig
August 14 2014, 02:03PM
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@coachedpotatoe

Your right I've never watched a Gatineau game.

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#22 Baalzamon
August 14 2014, 02:44PM
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In an interview conducted roughly five minutes after he was drafted, Poirier said he was a Right Wing who played a little left wing.

This was before the Flames had done any handling of him at all.

I think it's somewhere in here

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#23 RustyStrombone
August 14 2014, 03:03PM
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JayD54 wrote:

And isn't he also shelved until November, recovering from shoulder surgery?

And on a totally unrelated matter, have I missed something or are the Flames still without a radio announcer to replace Peter Maher?

No announcement yet, but it is rumoured that Derek Wills will be doing PBP on the radio (it's been announced that he's joining an NHL team, but the team has yet to officially announce it.

Also heard that Kelly Hrudey will be doing colour on TV for Flames broadcasts. No idea who will be doing PBP. Maybe Mark Lee after being let go by CBC?

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#24 Kent Wilson
August 14 2014, 04:35PM
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@beloch

I'll be honest...I don't trust that DEL NHLE translation factor. The sample is pitifully small and Im not sure the last time it was updated.

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#25 BJ
August 14 2014, 04:51PM
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Does our depth at C really stand in the way of these guys?

Cant Granlund and Reinhart for example be shifted to the wing?

Havent some of these guys already been moved to the wing for a length of time?

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#26 beloch
August 14 2014, 05:21PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I'll be honest...I don't trust that DEL NHLE translation factor. The sample is pitifully small and Im not sure the last time it was updated.

Yup. It is indeed suspicious. When was the last time the Flames brought someone in direct from the DEL anyways?

Personally, I just hope Wolf is better than McGrattan. That's not too much to hope for, is it?

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#27 coachedpotatoe
August 14 2014, 07:24PM
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Craig wrote:

Your right I've never watched a Gatineau game.

Craig: It's one thing for you as a general reader to not get it right but if regular writer contributor does not do his home work it is another thing. This site has had many people correct people about both Poirier and Rhino for months and to see it wrong in a lead story just gets frustrating.

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#28 everton fc
August 14 2014, 10:36PM
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PrairieStew wrote:

Over the next 18 months you should see several veteran forwards jettisoned. Glencross, McGrattan, Byron, Jones, Hudler and perhaps even Stajan. You need to know what you have - so you need to see the young guys at the NHL level - but you also need to see them excel at the AHL level. I, too would like to see alot of up and down with all of these prospects this year.

I'd like to see Wolf on an all euro unit with Sven and Granlund. That, combined with Boston College unit ( looking forward to Hayes signing tomorrow), those lines could be interchangable - all up with Calgary or down on the farm as the #1 unit.

I agree with this comment. I think McGrattan has a job after his playing days w/the Flames. I think he's well respected in the organization, as a person. What he would/could do, can't say. Nor do I say one way or another he should be retained after he hangs up the skates.

I know he's young and has had a blown out knee and off-ice issues, but still no real belief here Ferland gets a look longer than a cup of mud, this season. I really think he's in the league full time in 2015. And I also agree Wolf will get the same long look, and may be a real diamond in the rough for this organization if he can actually skate and play both ways at this level. He's a better 4th line option than McGrattan. He and Bouma on the same line would be interesting.

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#29 Colin
August 14 2014, 10:40PM
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In Canada centre is spelled centre. Center is an american spelling of the word centre.

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#30 Skuehler
August 14 2014, 11:34PM
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Pretty sure The Pear plays centre

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#31 Baalzamon
August 14 2014, 11:47PM
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Colin wrote:

In Canada centre is spelled centre. Center is an american spelling of the word centre.

An astute observation.

Here's another one: Lambert is American.

Here's the thing: I'm Canadian. I spell it center.

So sue me.

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#32 Colin
August 19 2014, 11:47AM
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@Baalzamon

Interesting that Lambert is american. Not sure on the rules when an american is writing on a canadian website. As for you baalzamon, that is just pure laziness eh. I am Canadian! And I spell like a Canadian too eh!

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