The first few steps towards the new season are being taken this weekend by the Calgary Flames prospects. There are a lot of new faces in camp this year and more than one thing to watch heading into the main camp and pre-season…
The New Guys
Mikael Backlund, Ryley Grantham, Keith Seabrook, John Negrin, Keith Aulie are all turning pro this year. While Backlund has an outside shot of making the big squad, there’s a good chance he and everyone else listed will be skating for Abbotsford for a majority of the season. Nevertheless, all 5 players will look to make an impression. Aulie and Negrin are players the organization is very high on and are tabbed to be future top 4 defenders for the big club, while Ryley Grantham will be fighting (literally and figuratively) to make the Heat. Keith Seabrook, brother of NHLer Brent, was acquired this summer from the the Washington Capitals for a nominal draft pick. A top pairing defender for one of the strongest clubs in the CHL the Calgary Hitmen, Seabrook is smaller, less defensively capable but more agile version of his brother.
The Fringe Guys
Also new to the Flames farm mix are Jason Jaffray, Riley Armstrong, Garth Murray, Anton Stralman and Niklas Kronwall. The latter two players have NHL experience and will be in the mix for the 7th defender position on the parent club. Armstrong and Jaffray are AHL pros and should be capable top 6 players for the Heat. Both of them may qualify as injury call-ups, although they’ll be fighting for a Calgary cup-o-coffee with the likes of Kyle Greentree, Jamie Lundmark, David Van Der Gulik and pugilist Garth Murray.
Last year, incumbent Matt Keetley lost the starting position to rookie and former first rounder Leland Irving. Most expect Irving to begin camp as the de facto #1, but don’t expect Keetley to surrender so easily: the former 5th round pick won a Memorial Cup with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2007 and put up the same SV% in his rookie campaign (.912) that Irving managed as a freshman last season. Keetley is a quality goaltender in line for a bounce back while Irving is considered the “heir apparent” in Calgary as the next starter after Kipprusoff. Should be a good battle.
The Flames have also invited 3 undrafted players to camp this year: College defender Josh Meyers as well as goalies David Shantz and Daniel Spence.
– Meyers was a former 7th round pick of the LA Kings back in 2005. The 6’3″ defenseman spent 4 years at the University of Minnesota/Duluth where put up okay results. His best season was his final one, scoring 10 goals and 28 points in 43 games from the blueline. Hockeys Future had this to say about him:
Meyers is a defenseman that can play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the rink, but he’s not likely to ever be a point producer or a shut-down defender. Meyers is sound positionally and able to move the puck when called upon to contribute some offense in the right situations with a hard shot from the point.
– David Shantz has split time between the AHL and ECHL since going pro in 06/07, although he was high draft pick for the Florida Panthers in 2004 (37th overall). His stats in both leagues have been largely pedestrian, so don’t expect him to surprise anyone.
– Daniel Spence only turned 20 years old last January and was the #1 goaltender for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL during his final season (although he played a majority of Junior career with the Calgary Hitmen). In 54 games, Spence managed 29 wins and a .914 SV% – good for 7th best in the league. Undrafted as an amateur, Spence could land himself a pro contract if he has a good a camp, although he’d likely be ECHL-bound given the guys above him currently.
Calgary has invited some interesting undrafted guys in the past, including Richie Regehr (now in Europe), Dennis Wideman (top 4 defender in Boston) and Mark Giordano (beloved Flame). This modest batch probably won’t yield any future NHLers, but you never know…
So there you have it. Watch for more interesting developments as camp matures.