Some Good News – Flames Prospects Update

 

 

As Flames fans and management are left to wonder what to do with the team in the big leagues, there is some good news for the organization beyond the NHL. A number of Calgary’s futures are having themselves a pretty good start to the season and given the way things are going for the Flames currently the kids may become important sooner rather than later. Here’s a look at some of the stand-outs.

Sven Baertschi

Calgary’s 13th overall pick in June is crushing things to start the year. With six goals and 24 points in just 11 games, Baertschi’s PPG pace is good for first in the WHL, tied with former first round pick Emerson Etem. Over a full season, Baertschi’s scoring pace projects to 157 points in 72 games.

It’s worth noting, of course, that 11 games is a tiny sample size and Baertschi is unlikely to continue to score at that rate all year. He has also garnered some 54% of his point totals on the PP through the early going, which is somewhat less indicative of dominance than if he was killing it at even strength.

All thst said, Baertschi’s high volume of points as an 18-year old are highly encouraging. He is only five points behind team leader Ty Rattie despite playing eight less games. Anyone who saw the kid compete in the Flames training camp and preseason would likely agree that Baertschi didn’t look at all out of place amongst seasoned pros at times and even spent large sequences or entire games being one of the most dangerous players on the ice. Calgary hasn’t had a forward prospect score more than 100 points in junior (at any age, let alone a teen) in recent memory and I can confidently say Baertschi had the most impressive training camp of any first timer I’ve seen since I started writing about the team.

A lot of arrows point in the right direction for Baertschi. It’s way too soon to dub him as a "savior" or any such thing, but there’s little doubt he’s the most exciting prospect this organization has seen since Dion Phaneuf.

Greg Nemisz

The early returns for second year pro Greg Nemisz are also encouraging. The 21-yaer old had a just okay debut in Abbotsford last season but seems to have taken a step forward this year. He leads the Heat with 11 points in 12 games and has upped his shot rate from 1.8 per game last year to 2.3. That doesn’t sound like much, but it translates to 30 more shots over the same amount of games played (68).

It’s clear now that Nemisz is not going to be a high end offensive player at the NHL level and his apprenticeship in the minor leagues is likely to continue a bit longer. Nemisz is an average skater and not the most naturally aggressive forward, but has good hockey IQ and high utility. He’s a player that can skate on the wing and down the middle as well as on any special team. HIs ceiling is likely that of an above average 3rd liner in the bigs.

Michael Ferland

Anyone who glances at the WHL scoring leaders currently will probably be surprised ot see the Flames former fifth round pick Michael Ferland sitting 4th overall in the league (15g-16a-31pts in 19 games). Picked more for his energy and truculence back in 2010, Ferland has combined with What Kings linemate Mark Stone to form one of the most potent offensive duos in the league through the early going.

Stone is a 6th round pick of the Senators who put up 106 points last year (almost double Ferland’s 56) so there’s little doubt the latter might be riding coattails somewhat. With that caveat in mind, Ferland was another teen that stuck out to me during the prospects tournament and a few preseason contests. It’s clear he isn’t merely a pest or pugilist who dumbly runs around the ice looking for trouble. He can skate well and seemed to have good instincts with the puck on his stick.

His results may be somewhat inflated by playing with a high-end linemate, but Ferland showed some tools in training camp and it’s notable he’s the guy sticking with Brandon’s star thus far. His 56 points also came in just 56 games last season, a PPG pace that projects to 72 points in a full season, so it’s not like Ferland has no business playing on a scoring line.

John Gaudreau

 

I had never heard of John Gaudreau when the Flames called out his name in the fourth round this past June, but once I researched him a bit I was highly encouraged by the choice. A tiny dynamo out of the USHL, the 145 pounder led the Dubuque Fighting Saints in scoring with 36-goals and 72-points in 60 games.

The smallest player the Flames have ever drafted moved on to Boston College this year and despite his size and the fact that freshmen rarely get much ice time in college hockey, Gaudreau has five goals and 10 points through 10 games played. He is bay far the highest scoring 18-year old on his team through the early going and has already won Hockey east "rookie of the week" award twice and was named the rookie of the month for October. It’s not just about the point totals either – the kid is getting rave reviews from scouts and spectators. "eaglehockeyblogger" of the Boston College Hockey blog had this to say about Gaudreau recently:

Johnny Gaudreau. Buy a ticket, watch this kid play. I promise it will be worth the money. The kid is spectacular…

Of course, there’s no doubt Gaudreau will have to get bigger to eventually make the show. The smallest players in the league currently are Brian Gionta* and Martin St. Louis and neither of them are south of 160 pounds (although I am highly suspicious of their listed heights and weights one NHL.com. I’ll eat my shoe if St. Louis is actually 5’8" and 175 pounds). Good news is Gaudreau only turned 18 in August and has a number of years to grow and put on some weight.

*Speaking of Gionta, the Habs winger is a Boston College alumnist.

Bill Arnold

Not to be outdone by his diminutive new teammate, Bill Arnold hass emerged as one of Boston’s best players this year. His 14 points are one behind team leader and former first rounder Chris Kreider and he is apparently a strong presence at both ends of the ice to boot. Boston College Hockey blog routinely notes Arnold as a reason the team won after victories:

Bill Arnold was great. Arnold had two goals but what is not on the stat sheet is his defensive zone coverage. I love him on the PK because he does a great job of clearing the puck out of the BC zone on the kill and his +/- is now + 5 on the season.

Like Gaudreau, Arnold was named Hockey East player of the month for October and is winning high praise from his coach:

"He’s taken a real leadership role for us," said BC head coach Jerry York. "He’s only a sophomore but he’s really become one of our go-to guys both with and without the puck. I think he’s shown some real improvement from last year to this year and I thought he had a pretty good freshman year for us."

Unlike Gaudreau, though, Arnold already has NHL size at 6′ and 215 pounds. Previously cast as "shut down" defensive center, it looks like Arnold is rounding out his game. If he can permanently add scoring to a stable of skills that already included defensive acumen and hard work he will rapidly climb up the Flames prospect charts.  

Max Reinhart

Reinhart’s output isn’t quite as eyepopping as Sven Baertschi’s, although his eight goals and 19 points are both team leading marks on the Kootenay Ice so far. Reinhart is billed more of a two-way center than a primary offensive force and that’s the role he played during his break-out 79 point season last year. He frequently matched up other team’s best lines and was instrumental in the Ice’s notable post-season run last year, scoring 27-points in just 17 games. He’s another teenager who stood out in training camp this year. While he wasn’t as explosive as Baertschi, Reinhart was clearly one of the cleverest players on the ice, frequently intercepting passes and threading pucks through coverage.

Reinhart isn’t going to turn into the long sought after #1 center the Flames have been after ‘lo these many years, but there’s a lot of indications he’s on track to be a NHL player, which is a win when it comes to 3rd round picks.

  • yomamen11

    Hey Kent, what about Tyler Wotherspoon? In some after-draft interviews he was speaking, that he feels more like offensive D-man than scouts consider he is. And he has decent 3 goals already this season (7 points). Do you see any potential in him?

  • SmellOfVictory

    Yes indeed. You Flames fans are all correct. Miraculously Feaster will see the light and change his strategy from rebuild on the fly to total blow up, causing his team to finish last and draft Yakupov. Then, because American born superstars are lining up to play for Calgary, both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are going to sign with the Flames. Oh right and I forgot, Backlund will emerge as a number one center, somebody will take the Stajan contract of their hands and Horak is legit. Its all turning up roses in Calgary.
    Well done.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I’m scared. Scared that the current clowns running the flames are going to totally screw up the development of these prospects. I guess only time will tell.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I was never a fan of Leach as a pick. I’d rather have seen Sutter take a flyer on Kabanov (end result might be neither of them become NHLers, but Kab certainly has the raw ability).

    In addition to just being generally thrilled with the Flames’ prospects this year, I’d like to point out that I’m pretty hecka excited to see all three of Backlund, Horak, and Brodie playing in THE SAME GAME.

  • flamesburn89

    Last year Leach recorded 30 points, which is his career high. However, he did so in just 56 games. Over the course of a full 72 game season (WHL only has 72 games) he’d have had around 38 points. In the games I saw Leach play in last year’s WHL playoffs, I thought his offensive game was pretty good. He’s never going to wow you, but he gets pucks through from the blueline and makes crisp passes out of his own zone.

    • The NHL-to-WHL equivalency is about .30. So a defender managing 38 points in a season equals about 19 in the NHL. That’s not anything worth considering, really.

      I assume he’s getting some PP time and such in junior, but probably won’t get that if he ever makes the show given 19-point guys rarely see the man advantage in the big leagues. That means we’re probably being generous with the expected point total there.

      If Leach makes the jump it will most certainly be as a “defensive” defenseman.

  • T&A4Flames

    With the news of Brodie being called up, do you slot him in with Smith in the bottom pairing? I would assume so but I have no idea with Sutter. I hope Brodie plays well, all reports say he’s been playing well in Abbotsford and hopefully that play carries over.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    After we do all of what I mentioned above, our cap position is roughly as follows next year:

    -Parise 7.5 (projected)
    -Iggy 7.0
    -Tangs 3.5
    -Bourque 3.3
    -Glencross 2.55
    -Jokinen 2.5 (pojected)
    -Backlund 2.5 (projected)
    -Moss 1.8 (projected)
    -Baertschi 1.4
    -Horak 0.8
    -Bouma 0.7
    -Jackman 0.6 (projected)

    -Suter 7.0 (projected)
    -Bouw 6.7
    -Gio 4.0
    -Babchuk 2.5
    -Butler 1.25
    -Brodie/other .74

    -Kipper 5.8
    -Karlson .862

    Total payroll = 63,120,415. Cap space = 3,179,585 – leaves room for Stajan buyout or more $$ for UFA’s if needed. Move Bourque & we have even more room for UFA’s & future signings.

    When Iggy & Kipper come off books, even if they’re re-signed it should be for lower cap hits. This leaves room in future years to re-up prospects like Horak that perform well & deserve raises.

    • T&A4Flames

      Yep, I would hope there would be some attraction from UFA’s to a team that isn’t afraid to spent to the cap and is HUNGRY for a championship. There could also be the added benefit of knowing that this (at least in another year or 2 at the most) would be yours. All decisions would be made with you, being the center piece, in mind. Something I think hurt Parise a little when NJD signed Kovalchuk.

      If your going to pay Moss 1.8mil I may consider Stempniak instead. Not that I dislike Mosser but he is injury prone and will be 30. Stemp I believe has not been so injury prone and is younger.

      If we could sign Parise, we would have no need for Bourque as our left side would be very deep; Parise, Tangs, Glenx, Baertschi etc.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    @ T&A4Flames

    There’s gotta be some benefit of being a cap team, right? Thing about Parise is I hear the guy is a beast in terms of posession & moving the play up the ice.

    @ Everton FC

    Ya, the Bourque thing is what I struggle with a bit. I think Bourque’s counting stats mask his underlying poor play a bit. That’s why I say trade him if the return is good & you can dupe a GM at the deadline who’s desperate. Otherwise don’t trade him for what he’s actually worth – as he can still provide some offense. Upside to trading him is also clearing the cap space for more kids to get a shot.

    I like Moss as a 4th line energy guy, if we can get him signed for relatively cheap. He’s killed opposition 4th lines in that role before. Otherwise you might as well clear more cap space for those free agent signings.

    I went with Bouma on the 4th line just cuz he seems more like the grind-it-out energy guy. Do the Flames project Nemisz as a 4th line option in the future, or more of a 2nd/3rd line guy with more offensive flare? My thing is I’m not a fan of bringing up kids that you project to be higher on depth chart & giving them limited 4th line minutes, if that’s not where you project them to stay for their whole careers.

  • everton fc

    “Bouma was great in the first 5 games this season, often dominating on a line with Desbiens”

    There’s Desbiens again! Ha!! Couldn’t resist…

    What about Ben Walter? True, he’s no kid, but is he no longer a prospect? Not a prospect, but anyone think Kolanos gets a look up here if he continues to put points on the board?

    How has Stefan Meyer looked thus far? Any details??

    If Brodie’s coming up… Who’s making room? Sarich??

    @Bean-counting Cowboy

    Not a bad post!

    As for Gaudreau… I like this kid. But short something miraculous, I can’t see him on the other side of 160 pounds.

    • Krys Kolanos is 30 years old, playing with a bunch of 18-22 year olds. Of course he puts up points. He has bounced around the NHL and AHL for years and I doubt he’d put up anything significant at the NHL level. Otherwise, he’d already be playing consistently, at least on a 4th line somewhere.

      • everton fc

        Yeah, I hear you. BUt if he’s producing… if he’s somehow found the fountain of youth… I’d like to see what a guy like this can do. You never know. He could be a nice addition w/Jackman… Nemisz…

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    If I were GM, this is what I would do for next year:

    Baertschi makes the team next year. Hagman, BMO, Kosto, Leblond, Stempy & Sarich are not re-signed. They are dealt for any return possible come deadline time. If Stajan can’t be traded come deadline time, he can likely be traded to a cap floor team in the summer – if not, he’s bought out next year.

    Trade Bourque, only if the return is good. Jokinen wants to stay in Calgary. He’s only signed if he agrees to a pay cut, otherwise – see ya, you’re not getting any younger. Moss/Jackman are re-signed before deadline if only a minor increase is given, if not traded for picks/prospects. I’m not hurt if they aren’t re-signed.

    This summer, push hard for quality free agents that you can build a team aroud – such as Parise and/or Suter. People say free agents won’t want to come to Calgary, but money talks. What other cap teams will have the cap space of the flames next summer?

    Perhaps Delerious dream lines:

    Parise/Backlund/Iginla
    Tanguay/Horak/Baertschi
    Glencross/Jokinen/Moss or Bourque
    Jackman/Bouma/Moss or prospect

    Gio/Suter
    Bouw/Butler
    Hannan or depth D/Babchuk

    If one or none of Suter & Parise can be landed – then you change things a bit, such as adding more youth/prospects to the roster.

    So.. Would you give me the GM job?

    • SmellOfVictory

      Man and I thought I was dreaming…….but at least in my dream Calgary owns all those players. Well, except for Yakupov…..

      But look dudes, Suter, Weber and Parise are not coming here so don’t get yourselves all excited becuase you will only be disappointed.

      Calgary’s rep as a possible contender ended 2 seasons ago. Our rep now is: old, slow, in disarray and getting worse.

      As far as money talks……Feaster offered Richards $6-7 million more than anyone else and we say how that went. So much for his big gambit to set himself up as savior. Pure folly IMO.

      Let’s see…..’89 Flames…..Suter, MacInnis, Vernon, Roberts, Fleury, Nieuwendyk, Otto, Peplinski, Hunter, Loob, etc.

      We will not go anywhere until we go back to the building through the draft. Patch jobs through trades have a limited shelf life.

    • T&A4Flames

      I’ll give it to you Bean Counter. I like the cut of your jib….

      If we could go the route the Flyers did and throw a ridiculous amount of cash and term at a guy like Parise, ala Daniel Briere, getting other FA should be easier. Of course, it restricts your cap down the road but it hasn’t seemed to hurt the Flyers too much.

  • thymebalm

    Jeremy re Bouma: That’s not true. Bouma was great in the first 5 games this season, often dominating on a line with Desbiens, but the goals just weren’t coming so he got shifted back in rotation. It’s bad luck for Bouma, not poor play. He’s unlikely to become an offensive star anyway.

    • jeremywilhelm

      He must have been hurt to start the season. He didnt look good and now he has been out for a week or so.

      I gotta disagree. He was laying a few hits but i think he was thinking he could be more of a Lucic than a Jackman. Hopefully he gets back on track.

  • How has Bouma been looking? I’ve always felt he could be a solid 3rd liner, maybe even 2nd as he’s not the fastest or the most skilled, but he has high hockey I.Q. and can play a good 2 way game. His versatility, effort, and leadership were noticable back in the WHL with Vancouver. I thought he accounted himself quite well in preseason, but I haven’t heard much about him in Abbotsford.

    • He’s looked okay so far. 16 points in 17 games. That said, he turns 20 in January so he should be several steps ahead of his peers.

      Holland has never been a PPG player in junior and he might not get there this season despite being older. His ceiling is therefore pretty limited.

      • I was wondering about Holland as well, I thought he was invited for tryouts for this years world jr. team? Has he still got a shot? With the injuries to some of the expected jr players like Murphy & Huberdeau, will that improve his chances & will Reinhart get any consideration?

        Wolf, kind of on some of the same pages as you are but you cant just go all kids because we would be like the Oilers & score 3- 1st over alls in a row. As much as that may seem what the doctor ordered, losing as bad as the Oilers have is incredibly painful. Oilers are actually benefitting with decent veteran players & I would say Ryan Smyth & Scabibullin are the reasons Oil is going to be in the hunt for a playoff spot this year. I think you really have to plan a transitional type of rebuild Feaster is probably contemplating.

  • Captain Ron

    The future:

    Baertschi – Backlund – Reinhart

    Gaudreau – Horak – Arnold

    Ferland – Arnold – Nemisz

    Yes, I know, delusions of grandeur, but I need something to hang onto with this organization and this particular dream makes me feel better.

    Now the only problem is where to fit Nail Yakupov in after we draft him this coming summer.

    • jeremywilhelm

      Oops, I just realized I put Arnold in there twice. Perfect, Yakupov slides into the first RW position, Reinhart slides dwon to the 2nd RW and ARnold stays as 3rd line center. 🙂

  • Captain Ron

    As previosuly posted, the Flames now need to look at building around the likes of Backlund, Horak and Baertschi. Not all of the players listed above will make it, but they give me hope. Time to usher in a new era starting with this season’s trade deadline.

  • Captain Ron

    Kent,

    You missed a couple

    Joey Leach is now the leader of the Kootenay Ice blue line, and has scored 12 pts in 18 gms for the Ice

    http://whl.ca/stats/show/type/skaters/ls_season/238/subtype/6

    The other guy I was pleasantly surprised with is Laurent Brossait. He doesn’t blow you away with flash, but has a good frame in the net, and rarely gets sucked out of position. I’ve watched him several times this year. He’s 4th in the WHL in wins with 10, and tied for second in games played at 16. He’s posted an impressive 0.913 save percentage on a team well known for defensive zone coverage.

    He reminds me of Martin Jones, and we all saw how his style and poise in the net projected into pro hockey with the Manchester Monarchs.

    He is also a very confident kid, which, as a goalie, you need (follow him on twitter to see for yourself @lbrossoit

    http://whl.ca/roster/show/id/788

    http://whl.ca/roster/show/id/788

    • On Leach – I watched him this year and wasn’t overly impressed with his mobility. I think he’ll have to take huge strides to eventually make the show. And given that his career high in points is 30, he’ll have to do more than have a nice 18 game spate to convince me there’s anything to that part of his game.

      As for Brossoit, I don’t pay much attention to goaltenders as prospects unless they are lapping the field. Most of them take forever to develop and many don’t ever get beyond “career back-up” so that’s why I didn’t do a write-up on him.

      Thanks for the heads up though.