Flames 8 – Ducks 4
For a first effort, the young Flames acquitted themselves quite nicely this evening, beating the Baby Ducks 8-4 in Penticton. The prospects were full value for the win, out-shooting their California counterparts 41-22 in a game where the ice tilted pretty hard from the second period onward.
As you might expect for this sort of contest, the cohesion for both teams was on the low side, but Calgary’s youth had more than a few gents make a nice impression. First amongst them would be Jon Rheault. I’d presume a 24 year old would be a player that could have his way, and he did, authoring a 4 point night including a hattie. He looked quicker to the puck than virtually every other skater, and he should be a useful guy in Abby this season. His center, Mikael Backlund, looked like he was in second gear most of the evening, playing well within himself. He certainly wasn’t remotely close to bad, just not dominating. Greg Nemisz was also just OK, and I hope people realize that he might be a guy that needs a few years to mature. When the game is on the boards, he’s decent enough, and he showed a bit of that tonight, but his skating isn’t there yet. I do like the fact that he plays a fairly sound game away from the puck, though. That’s one thing that I’ve always noticed, even as I’ve questioned his movement.
The one player of the higher-end young prospects whose skill really jumped out at me was T.J. Brodie. His skating is NHL quality-plus, so a solid apprenticeship down on the farm for a couple of years might well result in a very valuable player for the Flames come about 2012 or 2013. Mitch Wahl made a very nice pass on the Cameron goal, showing a nice bit of vision, and he just looks like a smart pro every time he’s on the ice. Gaelan Patterson doesn’t look out of place, either, and I’d suspect he might have a good year as a member of the Heat this season. He won’t score a pile, but he appears to be the sort that could manage to be a good player without top-end skill.
Matt Keetley had a pretty pedestrian go of things in net. He and Leland Irving have a pile of work to do before they have a sniff at any level higher than the AHL. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Joni Ortio have a go at this event, just to see how he looks against some older players.
Anyhoo, the game was one-way traffic for the last two periods in favour of the good guys. My sense is that tomorrow’s affair versus the junior Greasers might be a better test.