The FlamesNation Great Top 20 Prospect Rerank

christian tiberi
December 25 2016 08:00AM

Until late June, there's really no more exciting time for the youth of hockey than tomorrow's World Juniors Championship. It's the biggest stage for the stars of tomorrow, and always provides hype and discussion that lasts all the way until the actual draft.

Seeing as this is pretty much the midway point for prospect hockey, we here at FN figured that we would revisit our prospect profiles from the summer and see how our minds have changed over the first half of the season. It's quick and painless, but also informative.

Dropped

#20: Ryan Culkin

Already in a cautious position at #20, the 2012 draft pick fell off due to a multitude of reasons. He suffered an injury that took away the first two months of his season, got buried behind some blue-chip defensive prospects, and has all-around been usurped by great play from those around him.

#17: Mason McDonald

There already was a lot of pessimism surrounding the 2014 second rounder, and his sub .900 SV% in the ECHL helps confirm that.

#16: Brett Pollock

Part of the Kris Russell bonanza, the former Dub standout got pushed out of the Stockton picture due to impressive depth, but his lackluster ECHL performances kick him off of the list (we still prefer him to Russell, however).

Also receiving votes

Mitchell Mattson: one point

I put him at #20. Congrats to him and congrats to me for voting for him.

Kenney Morrison: two points

The Heat blueliner has his own little fanclub here, headed by Taylor and other Christian. 

The top 20

#20: Nick Schneider 

Position
Team
Previous Ranking (PR)
SV%
G
Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Not ranked (NR)
.897

The Medicine Hat Tiger was a surprise acquisition last offseason, but he appears to be paying off for the Calgary Flames. He still holds a stunning W-L record in the WHL, but his save percentage has been slipping week-by-week which has caused some concern.

Related: Digging into Nick Schneider's crazy win-loss record

He's barely holding onto this spot, but if he returns to his previous form, he could solidify his spot in the table. He needs to win the Tigers games, the Tigers shouldn't win him games.

#19: Linus Lindstrom

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
C
Skelleftea AIK (SHL)
19
26-1-4-5

One of the fourth rounders from the previous year's draft, Lindstrom has slowly been making strides in the Swedish Hockey League, a tough ask for an 18-year-old. He's been a reliable 3/4C for the big team, playing minor minutes but making the most of them.

A near-consensus across the board at 19 (except for one #18 vote), we seem to like Linus. However, we just don't know enough about him to consider moving him up. Maybe he comes over to North America one day, but for now, he'll sit comfortably in his own little #19 spot.

#18: Eetu Tuulola

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
RW
Everett Silvertips (WHL)
NR
23-8-7-15

Our own junior philosopher, a fan of scoring goals, has cracked our rankings this time. Probably due to the fact that he's in a more accessible environment.

Playing third line minutes on a deep Everett team, Eetu has made the best of his limited time. An injury took away a few weeks of his season, and he struggled in the immediate aftermath, but he's slowly rounding back to form.

#17: Daniel Pribyl

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
C/RW
Stockton Heat (AHL)
9
18-4-7-11

Unfortunately, we have soured on Pribyl the most, dropping eight spots and out of the top 10. We were excited by a young, right-shooting forward with four years of pro experience in a league he dominated. We were let down by someone who has been a middling AHLer so far.

Now, there's still plenty of time. He's a second/third line option down in Stockton, and he's still adjusting to the North American game (not helped by the fact that he spent his summer recovering from an ACL surgery, natch). If he can bring his Czech game overseas, he could become a top 10 prospect yet again.

#16: Emile Poirier

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
LW/RW
Stockton Heat 
13
25-4-10-14

It's sad to say, but the once promising Poirier is slowly slipping down our rankings, and he might fall off by the next go-around.

In his third year of AHL action, Poirier has yet to reestablish himself as the dominant force he was in his first year of pro hockey. Younger, and equally or more promising wingers are taking over Stockton, pushing Poirier further down the rotation. Even with a year left on his deal, there has to be some substantial improvement for him to stake his claim 

#15: David Rittich

Position
Team
PR
SV%
G
Stockton Heat
NR
.941

Going from zero votes the first time around to 15th place this time, Rittich is the biggest surprise of this re-rank. Brought in just to be a goalie on a team that only had one other goalie, the Czech was an unknown quantity, putting up alright numbers back home.

Since arriving, he has stolen the job from Jon Gillies (amazing, considering that Gillies has also been pretty dang good), and helped put the Heat on top of their division. Now his numbers are likely to fall at some point this season, but the fact that he has worked his way into being a prospect of note is promising. He's a safety net, and a sturdy one at that.

#14: Matthew Phillips

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
C/LW
Victoria Royals (WHL)
15
34-24-21-45

The pint-sized monster from Victoria has earned many comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau, and not only because of the similarities in size. Phillips, looked over (literally and figuratively) in the 2016 draft, has turned into the primary avenue of offence for the Royals, scoring 42 primary points so far this season.

He only moved up one spot, but he's still only 18 and has a whole bunch of talent in front of him. He has a whole WHL season left (and no AHL eligibility until 2018) so there's still time for him to become even better. Phillips is a very exciting player for the Flames, and hopefully he's here sooner rather than later.

#13: Brandon Hickey

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
D
Boston University (Hockey East)
10
17-3-5-8

Hickey has been in a constant battle for positions with a stacked BU blueline. Occasionally, he's been a succesful first pairing defender, an area where he's able to score and succeed offensively. Most of the time, he's been used as a second pairing shutdown guy, to varying results.

In his junior year, Hickey has a limited window to separate himself from the pack and make a convincing case for why the Flames should keep investing him. In a very deep defensive corps, he should (in theory) be the leader ahead of younger players like Charles McAvoy and Chad Krys.

#12: Dillon Dube

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
C/LW
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
14
10-1-10-11

It's been pretty hard to judge Dillon Dube based on his handful of appearances this season. We weren't enthusiastic on him in the first place, which kept him in a low spot in the initial rankings. An LBI kept him out of the first month and a half of the season, and he's been alright in his short time with the Kelowna Rockets.

Thankfully, Hockey Canada has helped guide our decisions. He was named to the WHL's team for the CHL-Russia challenge, even though he was injured at the time. More impressively, he made Team Canada's WJC squad, ahead of superstars like Nick Merkley and Sam Steel. Team Canada loves his versatility and his dependability in all areas of the game, which is hopefully what we'll see on display starting tomorrow.

#11: Tyler Parsons

Position
Team
PR
SV%
G
London Knights (OHL)
7
.916

One of the second round picks from the most recent draft, Tyler Parsons got off to a rough start for 2016. He came out of the gate struggling, and was then shut down because of injury.

Recently, he has rebounded back into one of the OHL's best goalies, and received a spot on Team USA. Although it is uncertain whether or not he will be the #1 goaltender for his country for the next two weeks, he's still a prospect Flames fans can get excited about. 

#10: Morgan Klimchuk

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
LW
Stockton Heat
18
24-9-9-18

The "most improved" award goes to Morgan Klimchuk, who has doubled his points total from last year in just under half of the time. Once written off as a Feaster draft bust, Klimchuk has shot up the rankings, developing as a strong two-way winger for the farm team.

Related: Reevaluating Morgan Klimchuk

He's also our most divisive prospect, with a range of #6 to #16. His improvement in the stat boxes has been impressive, but it was only for a short time. He still has plenty of time to continue growing and hold onto his spot, but it's a sketchy location for him.

#9: Andrew Mangiapane

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
LW
Stockton Heat
6
24-7-13-20

Do not take Mangiapane's drop as a sign of us being negative. There's simply just some great talent that jumped ahead of him. The 2015 sixth round selection is still one of the Flames' best prospects, putting up points at a staggering and constant rate in the AHL. He's currently battling it out for the rookie scoring lead, tied for fifth place as of the time of this writing.

Related: Setting a timetable for Andrew Mangiapane

There was no pressure on Mangiapane to push for an NHL job this early in his career, but he appears to be in the battle for a place already. If he can push himself just a little bit more in the second half of this season, there's probably no reason he isn't an NHLer next year.

#8: Brett Kulak

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
D
Calgary Flames/Stockton Heat
12
15-0-3-3 (NHL)/5-0-3-3 (AHL)

Kulak started the season in the NHL, proving that he could be a handy third pairing defenceman in the sparse moments he did play. Sent down in favour of Tyler Wotherspoon, Kulak has been impressive in his short time in the AHL.

Related: Brett Kulak is now a regular NHLer

In the first prospect rankings, we hedged our bets on the young defender, but now we're more convinced. He's already a reliable option for the NHL team, and with a bit more seasoning, could see a full 82 games next season (for the right team, fingers crossed).

#7: Mark Jankowski

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
C
Stockton Heat
11
22-6-12-18

In his first professional season, Jankowski has become a key player for the Stockton Heat. He has settled in nicely with them, becoming a useful top six forward and a handy powerplay specialist.

Related: Where does Jankowski go from here?

His season thus far has removed some of the doubt surrounding him, though some still remains. The third oldest prospect (behind Kulak and a to-be-named fellow 2012 draftee) on this list, he only has a small window to prove that he is an NHL talent. Otherwise, he might end up in spot #16 next time around.

#6: Adam Fox

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
D
Harvard (ECAC)
8
11-1-15-16

A surprise in the third round, Adam Fox has become one of our favourite prospects so far this season. He did only move up two spots, but considering that he's 18 (the only one inside the top 10) and is knocking on the door of the top five, you can't short-sell him.

Fox is currently stunting on his NCAA competition. He's going to be an important member of the USA WJC team, and will probably be Harvard's MVP at the end of the year. It's rare to see a defenceman dominate the NCAA. It's even rarer if they're 18.

#5: Hunter Shinkaruk

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
F
Stockton Heat
2
14-7-5-12

Heading into the season, we were all expecting Shinkaruk to challenge for an NHL job in the preseason, and perhaps work his way onto the squad as a 13th forward. Then Kris Versteeg came along and Hunter went back to Stockton.

And he's more or less staying there for the foreseeable future. During his tenure with the Flames, Shink couldn't stick on a team with many, many winger injuries. He's doing a fine job in the AHL, but he's in very real danger of getting stuck in that tweener zone that so many prospects fall into. Maybe a good 2017 will place him back into heavy consideration.

#4: Rasmus Andersson

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
D
Stockton Heat
4
25-2-14-16

Although we already held him in high esteem, Rasmus Andersson has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Although still eligible for the OHL, Andersson stepped up to the plate in the AHL and has become a serendipitous source of offence for the Heat.

We were also very divided on Rasmus as a prospect. He mostly ranked high (two third place and two fourth place votes), but is also low on some people's radars (one sixth place vote, one 12th place vote). He certainly does have a lot of points, but many of them are secondary and he doesn't drive offence the same way the Swede above (below?) him does.

#3: Oliver Kylington

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
D
Stockton Heat
5
25-4-9-13

Our very own smooth skating Swedish defender, Oliver Kylington has taken strides in his second professional season. He's already surpassed his points total from the year before, and has been Stockton's man to lean on. He'll also be Sweden's man to lean on, as he'll be leading their blueline at the WJC.

Everything about Kylington as he currently is is impressive considering he's still just a teenager. He still has time to grow into what many said he would become, but if he's even halfway there right now, it's very, very promising.

#2: Jon Gillies

Position
Team
PR
SV%
G
Stockton Heat
3
.913

We're still hyped for Gillies. After missing his true rookie season with an ACL injury, he has bounced back and started to repay the faithful with stellar performances with the Heat.

But to make that next step, Gillies could use a bit more consistency. He's had stretches of the year where he was absolutely poor and stretches where he was a brick wall. Of course, he's pretty good already. It's now just a matter of being pretty good every night.

#1: Matthew Tkachuk

Position
Team
PR
GP-G-A-P
LW
Calgary Flames
1
32-7-12-19

Well it's hard to hand this to anyone other than our reigning number one prospect. In 32 games, Tkachuk the younger has shown flashes of Tkachuk the older: scoring goals, driving play, chewing mouthguards, punching faces, and "making friends." He's been a joy.

Related: Matthew Tkachuk: The season's biggest surprise

It was questioned whether or not he would get past the all-important 10 game mark. We didn't know if he was going to contribute enough to stick around. Fortunately, he has not only proven himself to be a capable NHL player at this point, he's one of the better forwards on this team. He's also chipping away at the myth of him being a passenger player; his underlying numbers have been great among an excellent rookie class.

As this is going up on Christmas, we will give you, the readers, a present. It's Tkachuk's shift on the third goal against Vancouver, the team that defied common sense and passed him over so Matty could become a Flame. It's a Christmas present, from a Christmas (in June) present.

A7a8b26c0c6f7632d9b7501b6d73265f
A Young Gun in my own right. Follow me on twitter @hashtagswag777 or drop me a line at chris.tiberi at gmail
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#1 Grayone
December 25 2016, 08:28AM
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Morning Chris and a Merry Christmas to all at FN!

While waiting for my heavenly host to wake up, I popped in and you have written a very good column. I enjoyed the ranking and the thoughts. Well done.

I find myself really looking forward to watching Sweden and the USA @ the World Juniors. Obviously because of Kylington and Fox. Yah kinda wish you could fast-forward 2-3 years and see where they ended up eh? But no (or is it yes?), we get to watch, observe and catalog their progress. Nice.

Thanks again to you, Ari and all the contributors within FN ... the Flames should be so fortunate!

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#2 FL@med
December 25 2016, 09:25AM
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Granlund has 14 points so far... Just saying..

Merry Christmas!

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#3 The GREAT WW
December 25 2016, 09:38AM
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I wonder where Demko would be on this list?

Is Tkachuk still a prospect? He is the best player on the big club right now....

WW

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#4 Just.Visiting
December 25 2016, 11:08AM
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Thanks for doing this follow up to the summer rankings. I hope that you repeat this in the future.

My overall comment is how pleased I am with how far the organization has come in such a short time. Prior to the last few years, the Flames' drafting history was extremely disappointing for over two decades. Two decades!!!

Some miscellaneous observations.

I'm with Chris that Mattson could be a sleeper. I remember seeing his video clip from the draft and thinking that he had a very intriguing mix of size and hands. Definitely a mix worth a shot at where he was taken.

Nice to see Tuulola make the list this time. I was surprised that he didn't in the summer rankings. Size, hands, grit and confidence who has had some injury challenges this year. A right handed Tkachuk light? It was surprising to me that the Finns didn't select him for the WJC. I suspect that he will move up this list more as he transitions more fully to the NA game.

Pribyl's is being developed very differently than I had expected. Given that he was signed as a RW and that this is our most glaring weakness, what's he doing at centre? Why not flanking Janko on the right side? Hopefully, he recovers well from his injury.

Nice to see Rittich doing so well lately. He was being written off by many observers during camp. If he keeps playing this way and the Flames look like they are unlikely to make the playoffs, perhaps we look at trading one of the goalies near the trading deadline and bring up either Rittich or Gillies as the backup to see what they can do to understand how best to approach next year?

I'd probably flip Klimchuk and Parsons because I think that Parsons offers a very different potential upside. Similarly, I'd probably flip Shinkaruk and Janko, as I think that Janko brings more of an all round game and just sees the ice very differently.

And what a find Fox appears to have been!

Really looking forward to watching our prospects in the WJC.

Thanks again for the article.

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#5 Stu Cazz
December 25 2016, 01:04PM
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Nice work on this list! I think you have under rated Nick Schneider. I think he and Parson's are the real meal deal and present the Flames with some nice goaltender options for the future. With Schneider let's not make the same mistake the Flames and 29 other teams made with Martin Jones. The WHL teams they play on can be a big factor in a young players development. As an 18 year old Schneider was outstanding in the AHL as an injury fill in.

As much as I would like Shinkaruk and Poirier to succeed I'm afraid they may have the same fate as Mason McDonald. Other than Shinkaruk I really like your top 10.

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#6 Just.Visiting
December 25 2016, 03:58PM
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I forgot to add this when I posted previously.

Thanks to all of the writers for their efforts to inform and engage the fans.

While it may at times seem like a thankless job to put yourself in the cross-fire, your contributions are greatly appreciated by the vast majority who post or lurk here.

Hope you have a great holiday season!

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#7 The Fall
December 25 2016, 07:49PM
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Rass has the highest ceiling of all the kids.

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#8 FL@med
December 25 2016, 07:54PM
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Anyone know whats up with Kenney Morrison? Is he still considered a prospect?

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#9 Könniek
December 25 2016, 08:12PM
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Holy hell that depth at LW

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#10 The GREAT WW
December 25 2016, 09:30PM
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Könniek wrote:

Holy hell that depth at LW

Yup. We have nothing on the right wing.

Jake Virtanen for Jankowski needs to happen...

WW

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#11 Burnward
December 25 2016, 10:49PM
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@The GREAT WW

Oooooh, yes please.

Tkachuk-Bennett-Virtanen in about three years. Yeeeeesh. Most hated.

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#12 OKG
December 26 2016, 12:09AM
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FL@med wrote:

Anyone know whats up with Kenney Morrison? Is he still considered a prospect?

Skating is great, play away from the puck is decent and I like the way he uses his size these days. Still makes generally subpar decisions with the puck and can't hit the net to save his life in the O zone. Could be a good "Modern #6", a la Ian Cole but lacks the elite IQ/skill to be much more. I like him as a prospect if you can get over the limited upside. I'd prefer Morrison over Engelland on our bottom pair next year or the year after and I hope they don't not-qualify him. I can't see him ever playing top four though.

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#14 ChinookArchYYC
December 26 2016, 08:04AM
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Does anyone know where and how to watch the Heat on-line?

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#15 Burnward
December 26 2016, 08:30AM
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Just started thinking about how much fun Tkachuk is going to have against McDavid all these years and started laughing.

Matty is a gift.

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#16 Baalzamon
December 26 2016, 10:05AM
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@The GREAT WW

Virtanen? Really, that's your target?

Aim higher, dude.

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#17 icedawg_42
December 26 2016, 10:35AM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Virtanen? Really, that's your target?

Aim higher, dude.

I agree that the right wing talent 'Target' should be higher, but I'd love Virtanen for Jankowski. I was also a little surprised by Tkachuk's positioning in this list, doesn't the word "prospect" suggest there could be a scenario where he's not a regular on this team? That kid didn't knock down the door, he blew it to shreds.

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#18 Stu Cazz
December 26 2016, 01:02PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Virtanen? Really, that's your target?

Aim higher, dude.

Agree. Virtanen will never make the NHL. Jankowski is a keeper!

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