To round up our series on what the Flames have in the system, I wanted to focus on two ends of the future spectrum. To me it is like bringing this story to completion in full circle. With all the different aspects that I have talked about, and all the different possibilities of what the Flames up-and-comers have to offer the future of this organization, I want to end this series with the blue chip prospect and the dark horse that comes with him.
THE DARK HORSE
In 2010, in the 7th round, the Flames drafted Patrick Holland. Was he a gamble? In the 7th round, players aren’t generally seen as gambles, or highly touted for that matter. Maybe he was one of those players that were overlooked by scouts, even those of the Flames. After all, he is a player that, at least at the CHL level, can do it all.
In Holland’s draft year, he had 36 pts in 59 games and was a +2. Not a standout year by any mark for the rookie, but was decent. It was a learning curve year for him; he was playing his off-wing, but it showed his diversity. The scouting report on Holland was that he was offensively gifted but had a lot to learn on the defensive side of his game. And learn he did.
In the 2010-11 season, Holland registered 62 pts in 71 games, and was a +10. He was given a more prominent role on the Tri-City Americans, and he used the opportunity to develop his all around game. Part of his talent comes from good vision of the ice. He is a good set up man, but is also capable of scoring the clutch goal when his team needs one. Holland already demonstrates the traits of a solid two-way player, as he can be used in a shut down role of the opposition’s top lines. Arik James over at M&G had the opportunity to interview Patrick, and one of the things he asked him was, if his dramatically improved defensive play was turning him more into a defensive specialist? Holland didn’t agree… but didn’t pass it off either.
"Not entirely, but I’ll take whatever role is given to me. And no matter what role you have on the ice, you do have to play both ends. It’s not a sport where you can just be an offensive guy. Either way I try to take care of my own end first and then when I get my chance in the offensive zone, I just try to make the best of it."
I’m really hoping that Holland gets the chance to showcase the kind of value he can bring to the Heat, and eventually the Flames. Another year with Tri-City is going to be the opportunity to let it all hang out and be that dominant two-way player that he can be. If he can add some muscle to his frame and still be able to increase his developmental curve, like he has over the last two years, then he should be a key asset for Canada at the World Junior Championship. A good performance at a tournament like the WJC, could remove the ‘dark horse’ tag off of him, and give the fans really something to be excited about for the future.
THE BLUE CHIP
Sven Baertschi is the guy we have all been waiting for. Or at least that’s what we, as fans, are building him up to be. If Holland was the ‘dark horse’, then Baertschi is the thoroughbred. He represents a lot of what Calgary stayed away from in prior drafts under Sutter. This kid is all about offense and he knows it too. In his rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks, Baertschi scored 34 goals and 51 assists for 85 pts, in just 66 games. Some skeptics claim that most of his success was due to him playing with offensively charged, potentially higher draft picks. Sven mostly saw time on the 2nd line with Cunningham and Rattie, rather than the top line of Niederreiter, Johansen and Ross. While lines were sometimes shuffled, having Baertschi on the 2nd line provided more balanced scoring.
The one thing about Baertschi that I noticed right off the bat is his confidence with and without the puck. He has very quick hands, but what makes him more dangerous is his lack of hesitation with the puck. If he needs to make the pass, he does it, and precisely. But if the shot is there, he’ll see that too; and is accurate when he lets it go. At a young age, Sven shows an acute hockey IQ. Offensively he is the complete package, a nifty puck-handler, and his ability to know where everyone is on the ice, makes him, according to central scouting, one of the best at distributing the puck.
Obviously the Flames are counting on Baertschi to play a major role in this organization’s future, and for good reason. He is as determined to develop as they come. He is not the biggest kid and although some scouts have said he doesn’t have the blazing speed that is usually present when a player lacks size, Portland’s head coach, Mike Johnston believes that he works at showcasing his skills in a more complete fashion.
"Quick, skilled, very fast type of player… I don’t think anyone can stay on the ice as long as he does. We have to tell him to get off the ice 45 minutes after practice ends. He stays out there forever to work on his game. He works on inside-outside moves, quick shots and little foot movement."
Since he has been quite the topic of conversation this off-season, I’m sure many people have seen what Baertschi is capable of skill ad talent wise, but this kid is a lot of fun to watch when he gets going! So courtesy of Hockey Draft Videos…
IT’S TURBO TIME!
For a guy that has been said to have a lack of speed, he looked alright to me. Making plays at a fairly high speed but maintaining complete control of the puck is a lot more appealing than a guy who can skate like the wind, but always runs the risk of having the puck poked off his stick, or even over-skating the puck into the zone. Smart controlled play with moves made at full speed is going to be a huge asset for the not so huge player. Even though he has been known to avoid physical play; who cares? I don’t want a guy like this out there running guys like he’s Matt Cooke. He is drafted as an offensively skilled guy, and as long as plays responsibly and uses his vision of the ice to his benefit; then he doesn’t need to be overly physical. Even without the physical dominance, he is not a player that shies away from tough play inside close quarters. That’s just smart hockey.
In the wake of the Tim Erixon signing (or absence of signing) fiasco, Baertschi was quickly put to paper shortly after the Flames called his name 13th overall at the draft. Even though I’m sure one had nothing to do with the other, it was nice to see Feaster and company obviously think enough of this kid to not even risk a potentially devastating repeat of events.
Watching the Flames prospect game, I was very impressed with the play of Baertschi and Holland. Those two, together with Max Reinhart, seemed like a good fit and controlled a lot of the play when on the ice. All three will return to their respective CHL teams when the season starts, but I really like the start these guys, and hopefully the players that follow them, will add in the future development of the Calgary Flames.
When you recycle the same sludge through a broken filtration system, you still get sludge, only a different colour. Stay the course Jay Feaster! Things looks sketchy and uncertain right now. However, if you continue to fill the Fountain of Youth with dynamic players, each adding something unique to this organization, then as someone said, somewhere, at sometime… Hope springs eternal!