Flames Top-10 prospects, List and Interview



Hockey Prospectus’ writer Corey Pronman recently released his Flames top-10 prospects list. Pronman concentrates almost completely on the issues of prospects and amateur player procurement, so rather than simply post the list I decided to supplement his ranking with an interview discussing his methods and some of the particulars about the Flames system.

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1.) For those unaware, share the basic methods or process you use to evaluate prospects. Do you rely on quantitative data, first-hand observation, second hand reports or some mix therein?

I watch every player myself a handful of times to make sure I have a grasp of who the player is, and then I talk to scouts and executives to supplement those notes. I only use stats as a glance-only reference, since there’s way too much context missing in basic stats (QUALCOMP, Corsi, Zone Starts etc.) that using scouting-based observations in my opinion is the only way you can get a truly accurate feel of a player.

2.) What factor(s) do you use to grade prospects when you’re putting together a top-10 type list?Current NHL readiness, future ceiling, overall raw ability, etc? Are some weighted heavier than others?

The most important factor is just their overall talent level, and at what projected level I think they can control possession in the NHL. That means looking at a player’s skills on the puck, their hockey IQ, puck-moving ability, etc. among many other factors that dictate puck possession. The closer they get to the NHL, the better you have a grasp of how projectable they are in the league and to what degree so it helps their value. In terms of raw upside, that’s just a case of risk management at times and how much a certain risk is worth in terms of the possible value. I also look at market values too by positions amongst some other things. Puck possession skills though are far and away the most important when it comes to evaluations, everything else is secondary.

3.) For interests sake, where would you have ranked Tim Erixon if he was still Flames property?

I have him as a top 15 prospect in the NHL (2011 picks included), so #1 obviously. He’s probably the best defensive prospect in the league behind Adam Larsson and maybe Brandon Gormley.

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4.) You rank the Flames latest first-round pick Sven Bartschi as their best prospect currently, but note that his physical game is fringe at best. To what degree will he have to improve this area of his play before he can make the leap to the NHL?

It’s just strength, and it’s a common liability in nearly all 18 year old prospects. Most prospects are able to just get their work done in the gym to fix it, but there’s enough players who haven’t been able to do it, that it’s something you have to note and keep in the back of your head during evaluations. His intangibles point towards him working to fixing it, but with how physically poor he looked at times (despite showing good work ethic in the physical areas) it may take a few years.

5.) Your scouting report on Greg Nemisz makes him sound a lot like current Flame David Moss (albeit a bigger and perhaps slower version). Would you say that’s his potential ceiling in the NHL?

I’m not comfortable comparing players to one another, but I think Nemisz’s ceiling is a bit beyond that.

6.) John Gaudreau didn’t make your top-10. Where would you rank him amongst the Flames prospects overall?

He’d be in the 11-14 range. He’s a tremendously skilled player, but there’s not enough to his package beyond his skills. He was basically the TJ Tynan of this year’s draft. Tynan last year was praised as a top-end skills and playmaking forward, but as a very small player with only average skating, and that’s more or less the reports I’ve gotten on Gaudreau. Tynan went undrafted last year out of the USHL, went to college, improved his skating tool significantly, ended up being the best player on a team that went to the NCAA championship game, and went in the 2nd round this year. Gaudreau’s assets are in all the important areas, but he’s never going to improve his stature, so if he just gets that extra couple steps in his skating he could be a prospect who flies up the Flames’ prospect list. Until then, he likely is going to have an AHL-only tag applied to his name.

7.) Leland Irving was also left off the list and you state he is in danger of being passed on the depth chart by Joni Ortio. How close is Irving to being a "first round bust"?

He’s close, and I’d say he’s on a tight leash currently to make a push to show he’s an NHL-er before he gets the "no prospect" tag. I also said that Irving has been passed by Ortio (rather than in danger of being passed – ed.).

Thanks again to Corey for taking the time to answer my questions. For reference sake, here is how Pronman ranks the Flames prospects currently:

1. Sven Bartschi, Left Wing
2. T.J. Brodie, Defense
3. Greg Nemisz, Right Wing
4. Max Reinhart, Center
5. Ryan Howse, Left Wing
6. Chris Breen, Defense
7. Paul Byron, Center
8. Mitch Wahl, Center
9. Roman Horak, Center
10. Lance Bouma, Center

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Make sure to swing by HP to see read the explanation behind the rankings and a scouting report of each player.

  • thymebalm

    Oh man, that comment about Erixon must be a stab in the heart to Flames fans.

    It would kill me if the same had happened to the Oilers.

    But it’s not the first time, not the last, this kind of thing will happen. . . .

  • thymebalm

    Yeah the Erixon thing hurts. I believe he was the top 4 D that the Flames originally slotted in for this year or next. I’ve said for a while that the Flames have prospects but only two top end guys. Sometimes though guys come out of the woodwork due to great scouting (Zetterberg) so we’ll see!

  • PrairieStew

    Not signing him (Erixon)would have hurt more. If Horak is pushing for a spot next year and Granlund is on this list at that time, then you’ve made the best of a bad situation.

  • mayhemsince1977

    I read the article (since the rain today wasn’t depressing enough).. ugh!

    The names on the list are still promising, but it is sad not to see some of the more prominent names left off the list (Mr. Irving)!

    I wonder how the prospects feel knowing that a kid that is still a couple of years from making the jump is ahead of everyone.

    Not that this matters since the Flames still have too many roster players to really give these guys a shot.

    Sure hope we have some big surprises this year.

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    I thought Gaudreau should be on the list. Reminded me a bit of Tyler Ennis who I watched closely in the Vancouver-Medicine Hat Series a couple years ago. It’s a real tricky list. Bartschi and Brodie seem like the only sure bets – maybe Howse and we’ve seen what Bouma can do. I sure hope Breen becomes a poor man’s Tyler Myers and Nemiscz can be a serviceable power forward (though his days as a First Liner are done).

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    I paroozed the HP website and thay had a ranking of all 30 NHL Teams prospect lists Post 2011 Draft and Ottawa’s prospect depth was ranked at number 4 and the maple laughs were ahead of the oilers….. ya… umm really???

  • PrairieStew

    Lots of skilled, but smaller guys with holes in their games and ceilings well short of game-breakers.

    I worry about a future similar to what Buffalo and Edmonton are just pulling out of now. Too many Cogliano, Nilsson, Brule types.

    Imperative that we move our big assets at this year’s trade deadline and finish bottom 5 for 2 years because otherwise we’re going to die a slow death and a long, fruitless rebuild before finally being forced into a secondary ground zero rebuild.

  • Again, until Irving gets a shot at playing more than 25 games in the NHL we should refrain from labeling him anything.

    It’s not his fault that 1. Miikka is around and 2. the Flames are always in such a precarious playoff fight they cannot afford a loss.

    This is why Kipper plays so many games and why they’ve tried (how many?) older/unsuccessful back-ups.

    If we’re labelling the #26 pick anything because he’s not going to usurp Kipper or convince anyone he can benefit from 10 games in a #2 role then we’re all fools.

    Call me when Irving has a .980sv% in the AHL cause that’s what it’ll take

    that or injury.

    Let’s be realistic.

    Was Cory Schneider a “close to being a first round bust” when he posted a .919sv% when he was 24 in the AHL?

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    … by the way. Schneider was the #26 pick in 2004 two years earlier than Irving in 2006 in the same slot and he only arrived last year.

    How ’bout we give Irving the time he deserves to grow.

    • Corey Schneider’s worst year in the AHL (.916) in terms of SV% is still better than Irving’s best. In his sophomore season, Schneider was named the AHL’s best goaltender.

      Irving still has some time to figure things out, but he hasn’t done that much to be excited about as a pro. As has been said in this space previously, Irving probably has this season to convince the organization he has a ceiling higher than “career back-up”.

      • Yes, I’m quite familiar with Schneider’s stats as well as Irving’s.

        Maybe we just need a definition.

        What is a .005 distinction worth in player equivalent?

        Is it the difference between a 10 goal season and a 50 goal season?

        Maybe we need to also discuss sample size.

        Is it worth labeling the future based on so few games (136 AHL games for Schneider, and 101 for Irving?)

        Perhaps we should talk about team wins

        A division winning Moose team (when Schneider was celebrated) vs a young, poor pk’ing oft injured team in Abby.

        Point is, a lot of people are putting a lot of chips in the middle when they’ve only seen a pair of twos.

        Point is we don’t even know what Schneider is, nevermind Irving. It’s all too early to be labeling anything based on AHL sv% and small sample size. Right? Right.

        • I understand your point.

          For me, however, three straight years of mediocre results in the AHL is an arrow going in the wrong direction. It may be too early to start “labeling” him anything, but we’re far enough along that we can start assessing what kind of pro he is, yes? He turns 24-years old this year. I personally think you need about 3000 shots to start to suss out a goalies save rate. Irving has hovered around a .911 SV% through his first 3000+ shots in the AHL.

          That’s not good enough to be anything more than a so-so back-up in the NHL, if that. Therefore he will have to take a very real step forward to challenge for a starters role in the future. And therefore he’s in danger of being a first round bust if that doesn’t happen.

          Now, maybe he does improve. Goalies are tough…some guys take big leaps forward in their mid-20’s, other guys don’t. It’s one of the most difficult positions to predict, as GM’s prove year after year. But it is not entirely unreasonable to look at his body of work so far and say some very real progression has to happen for Irving to be anything more than a replacement level puck stopper.

          • That’s fair.

            I do agree that their are early signs that Irving may need more time developing, and that he’s going to have to put in a hell of a lot of work to get where expectations are.

            That’ll take time, and time we have. Kiprusoff ain’t going anywhere soon for more than one reason, especially when guys like Vokoun are signing for 1.5. And we got Karl for 2 more.

            I just think a boatload of people would be going over the moon if we had Schneider, and Irving has two years (04 vs 06) to get there.

            I’m not saying Irving is an equal talent to Schneider, but I am saying he’s on an equal timeline.

            I’m also saying that although there is a distinction between them, I don’t buy it that that distinction is:

            Schneider (26th pick) = trade Luongo (not your sentiment)
            Irving (26th pick) = backup at best, “1st round bust.”

            Cause that’s a VERY large distinction

  • McKeneasy

    Hey Kent,

    Thanks for the post. These projections and lists are a great read and provide insight into where a player is at. I do however think they lack context in terms of how accurate has Corey been in the past.

    its great to make predictions but if you are right 5% of the time then where is the value?

    Can you or Corey shed some light on his “record” as it were?

  • @Mckeneasy

    This is my first year where I say I have been able to have this kind of comprehensive knowledge of the prospect world to do these type of columns for all 30 teams and have a good amount of certainty in the information.


    I have no track record to double back on, but then again this isn’t based purely on my thoughts/observations as I get a fair amount of notes from pro scouts and executives who do have track records if that is a concern for you.