January 16 2016 08:00AM
Based on his performances in his brief audition so far, it seems like Micheal Ferland has earned himself a spot on the wing (for now) beside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The Calgary Flames have had a unique challenge this season: they have one or two offense-generating players - Gaudreau (and sometimes Monahan) - and that makes it pretty easy to shut them down if you're an opposing team.
So if Gaudreau is the key to Calgary's success - and he is - it makes complete sense to try to surround him (and Monahan) with the best players possible to ensure his (their) success. The Flames coaching staff has tried out eight different players alongside Gaudreau and Monahan, most recently sophomore NHLer Micheal Ferland.
Here's how they've done (ordered by ice-time alongside Gaudreau and Monahan).
273:57 played; 49.7% Corsi For; 11 goals for, 14 goals against
Two keys here. First, Hudler spent his time alongside the kids at the beginning of the season when nothing went in for Calgary and everything went into their net. The trio's PDO is 97.6, indicating some poor puck luck. That said, Hudler's largely been a perimeter player this season - whether due to injury or general unwillingness to go to the net - and he's been decidedly less-than-amazing all year.
86:37 played; 41.7% Corsi For; 7 goals for, 4 goals against
Jones played with the kids more recently. Generally, they spent a lot of time in their own end. However, because Gaudreau got white-hot during the time he played with Jones, their goal differential is pretty good. That's a bit of a smoke-screen, though, as their PDO is 111.1 (which is damn high). Jones has good size and is a pretty solid north-south player (and has a good shot), but may lack the high-end skill to hang with the kids.
40:38 played; 53.8% Corsi For; 0 goals for, 0 goals against
With Big Joe on the wing, Gaudreau and Monahan have spent a lot of time in the offensive zone - as Colborne is effective at getting the puck into the zone along the perimeter. And they general some shots, many of them from the perimeter. But Colborne hasn't been very effective with the puck once he's in the offensive zone this season, so it's up to the other two guys to generate scoring chances.
24:55 played; 56.1% Corsi For; 1 goal for, 0 goals against
Raymond is to a certain extent a smaller, faster version of Colborne. He's not a guy that really battles in the corners a lot or goes to the tough areas much - admittedly, that may be because he broke his freakin' back in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. That said, Raymond's a good skater and just needs to be put with finishers to be effective. Unfortunately, since he's somewhat lost his finishing ability since he doesn't go to the net as much as he used to, teams aim to block his set-ups to the finishers to negate him.
22:10 played; 51.1% Corsi For; 0 goals for, 0 goals against
Ferland's an interesting fit on the Gaudreau/Monahan line. He's an underrated skater and has pretty good wheels once he gets going. And he's also big enough that he can use his size and momentum to go where he wants to go on the ice. He hasn't displayed high-end offensive skill quite yet, but he also has showed flashes of strong play around the front of the net. He's on the top line right now.
20:02 played; 57.1% Corsi For; 1 goal for, 1 goal against
Jooris spent a little time up on the top line this season. He's a good fit because he's a right shot and can take face-offs, which really maximizes how Monahan can be used strategically as a face-off-taker. Jooris has good size and plays a good physical two-way game, but he arguably lacks high-end puck-handling skill and his offensive numbers have been powered by having a good shot. That said, the kid can motor, and probably made the NHL by virtue of working harder than most players in camp.
18:55 played; 48.4% Corsi For; 2 goals for, 2 goals against
Frolik spent time on the top line briefly in late October, when the Flames had an awful record and were trying anything they could to shake things up. The fit wasn't amazing; Frolik was just starting to figure out Calgary's systems and then was thrown with the top guns, and he's more of a high-end complementary skilled player rather than an offensive catalyst anyway.
15:46 played; 40.7% Corsi For; 2 goals for, 0 goals against
Bennett's been thrown in with Gaudreau and Monahan here and there throughout the year, partially by accident and partially as a last resort. (For example, he briefly appeared with them during the rout over Florida because Micheal Ferland went for a change right before an offensive rush up the ice.) He's got high-end skill but primarily plays the left side, and putting him on the top line puts all of Calgary's high-end offensive talent on one line and makes it too easy to set defensive match-ups.
WHO'S THE BEST FIT?
At this point, the two best fits are probably be Hudler and Ferland. Hudler has the skill to play with Gaudreau and Monahan, but hasn't consistently gone to the guts of the ice this season. He does have the built-in chemistry with them from last season, though. And Ferland? Ferland's still very much an untapped resource as an NHL player, in the sense that his limitations haven't really been explored or established. All we know for sure is that he's got some size to him and once he gets moving, he tends to go where he wants to go on the ice. And it's his use of his size and the fact that he's still emerging as a player that makes him a really tantalizing player to use with the team's top line.