Last night’s drowning of the Duck prospects served as a nice way to ease into the week for a group of players that will be the core of the 2010/11 Abbotsford Heat. Tonight, the Flame youngsters have a different challenge awaiting them, as they confront a few famous young men wearing the colours of the Auld Enemy.
I won’t dwell on the effort the likely Heat put forth against the young Ducks last night. They were older, with a fair edge in experience compared to their Anaheim counterparts, and it was reflected in the result. Players like Rheault, Meyers and Armstrong should have an edge in this sort of set-up, and they took full advantage.
I don’t know as of yet if there will be any roster shuffling on Calgary’s part, but it seems certain that Leland Irving will replace Matt Keetley in net, and after last night’s meh performance by the former Medicine Hat Tiger, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I mentioned last night though, neither of these gents looked like they were anywhere close to NHL ready last season, and this evening’s encounter will be Irving’s opening effort in a season where it would be nice to see improvement from the first-rounder.
The bad guys have three very well-known prospects at this tournament, including two of Canada’s more famous juniors. Magnus Paajarvi was the standout amongst the three in the Oilers’ opening 4-1 win on Sunday, notching a pair of goals and looking a threat on the majority of shifts. The Oil split their top kids, with Hall and Eberle sharing a line with Milan Kytnar against the ersatz Canucks, and presuming that they all dress tonight, more of the same seems in order. Olivier Roy was good for the baby Grease in their opener, stopping 27 of 28 shots. Bryan Pitton and Tyler Bunz are the other Oiler goalies at this event, so one of them should get the nod for tonight’s affair.
I’ll be a bit curious to see how the Flame youngsters match their more illustrious opposition in this one. Players like Backlund, Wahl, Nemisz and Brodie are the closest equivalents on Calgary’s side to the Big Three in terms of age and pedigree, and as I mentioned in yesterday’s set-up, this level of competition is one where Mikael Backlund should be a clear step above most of his teammates. I’m actually hoping that his line gets a look at a Hall-Eberle duo. It’s never bad to see how your prospects look against their contemporaries, especially since Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi are likely to be mainstays of the grown-up Oilers for years to come.
Game time is 8:30 MT, with live streaming on the Flames’ web site, and audio on the Fan960. If/when any lineup news breaks, feel free to post it in comments.