The Flames Fifteen: #14 – Chris Breen



If we had done this review a year ago, Chris Breen probably would have placed a lot higher on the list. A free agent signing out of the OHL, the towering 6’7" defender became a favorite of then coach Jim Playfair. The big guy was a top-two defender for the Heat under Playfair and was consistently singled out by the bench boss as a kid who was close to make the jump to the big league.

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I was always pretty suspicious of those claims myself. Despite being a huge defender (who wasn’t merely a goon) Breen was somehow unsigned and undrafted coming out of his junior career. A guy with that sort of size has to have a least one significant fault for scouts to ignore him so completely.

And he does. Like many other big guys, Breen has problems getting around the ice. His skating and mobility are very real issues, obvious as soon as you slap eyes on him in either practice or game action. He also has limited offensive acumen and isn’t a great puck handler either.

New Abby coach Troy Ward was obviously less enamored of Breen than his predecessor because of these issues and the sophomore tumbled down the depth chart this year as a result. Of course, it didn’t help the kid that the organization signed a whole bunch of capable veteran types last summer, including Clay Wilson, Derek Smith, Brett Carson and Jordan Henry. 

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Player Kent Justin VF WI Scott
Chris Breen N/R 15 N/R N/R 13

[HockeyDB] [EliteProspects] [Hockey’s Future]

*Reminder – The evaluators were asked to rank players, and we sorted the rankings via a simple point scale-number 15 on each list got one point, while number 1 on each list got 15. The criteria for who was included was pretty simple: players the Flames control who are 23 and under (excluding Mikael Backlund, since he’s already a bona fide NHLer).

Corey Pronman also ranked Breen in the top-15, giving him just enough points by this method to squeak in. Of course, there’s a better than even chance Breen will be bumped out once the club chooses a few worthwhile kids in the upcoming draft.

Because he will turn 23 in June, has no offense to speak of and can’t get around the ice efficiently, Breen’s ceiling is strictly limited to depth defender/injury call-up. Obviously his size is a boon to some degree, but the game tends to favor swift defenders with vision and puck skills at the highest levels these days.

Rewind 10-15 years and Breen probably would have had a brighter future ahead of him.

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The List

Player   Kent   Justin   WI   Scott   VF   Final Rank
Chris Breen   0   15   0   13   0   14
Tyler Wotherspoon   0   14   0   0   10   15 

  • Vintage Flame

    Seeing how far Breen dropped out of favour with Ward makes me wonder what Playfair saw in him to begin with. That’s not necessarily a shot against Playfair, but given the success Ward has had on the developmental side, it just leaves me wondering about Breen.

    If the ‘promising play’ was there to begin with, then why wasn’t there enough there to work with for Ward.

    I didn’t have Breen in my top-15, and like Kent said, once the Flames add some kids in the draft, I would fully expect Chris to drop off the lists of those who did have him on it.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I’ve watched him a couple times and liked him both times, but thats to small of a sample size to make an accurate assesment.

    It’s to bad to, playfair did make him look so good that I had hopes. However I wonder if it just takes him so much longer because of his size. Be interesting to see where he fits next year on the Heat. The only D with an expiring contract is Jordan Henry(I doubt he returns) so it’s unlikely that Breen is going to get anymore Ice Time, especially with Leach and Lamb also ariving.

  • I ranked Breen inside the top 15 because he’s a guy who in time could fill in on the 3rd pair of an NHL team and be effective due to his size. I think of a guy like Hal Gill who has come a long way with very little skill due to his size, good coaching and I’m assuming a lot of hard work.

    I’m not high on him every making the Flames though as I’d prefer we get stronger skating defensemen.

    But, ya can’t teach size and one thing Playfair did well was coach big defenseman. I’m sure Playfair would want to scoop him up for whatever organization he’s with should he get the opportunity as Kent suggests may happen.

  • Vintage Flame

    Only other comment I’d like to make on the Article, it’d be cool to see “The List” in the same type of Chart as the chart you have in the middle, but with an added column for Final Rank. Also with a clickable link on the players name back to the original article.

    • Vintage Flame

      Kent added the ongoing list at the bottom of the article. It will grow as the articles come out obviously.

      Since this is for Breen, I linked Wotherspoon’s name back to his article for you. Is that what you were looking for?

      • SmellOfVictory

        That’s awesome, mostly cause I can see myself going between articles a bunch just to see why guys are ranked where they are, and it sucks to have to back a bunch to try and find that one page.

        Also, @Justin, so how exaclty does Pronman’s evaluation factor into the placing of someone on the list, cause it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that a mystery rank is factoring into the Rankings.

        • SmellOfVictory

          It’s only a mystery because Pronman is a scout/professional ranker of sorts, and I don’t think he wants to divulge his opinion explicitly as a result. His ranking is quite valuable to the end result, despite being kept secret.

          • Jeff Lebowski


            mostly. a large chunk of his rankings are also behind a paywall at hockey prospectus, as well.

            he gave us his 1-15, I combined it with the others I had previously and voila! rankings.

  • supra steve

    Wanna explain the points system again? As I undestood it Wotherspoon had one 10th place vote and one 14th place vote (6points for 10th, 2points for 14th) for a total 8 points.

    Using the same scoring system Breen has one 15th (1pt) and one 13th (3pt) for 4 points. So how is Breen ranked as the better prospect?

    Is the absence of Pronman’s voting the spoiler?

  • RexLibris

    I’d almost forgotten about Breen. Hockey’s Future (not the be-all and end-all of prospects, but some good information when taken in stride) has him listed as 9th on the Flames prospect depth chart with Wotherspoon as an also-ran in their list.

    The Flames really needed more picks this year to start to fill the gap in their development cycle. If they graduate Baertschi this year and have Ferland and Reinhart slated to enter the NHL the season after they are going to need more bodies, capable bodies, to fill in afterwards.

    There certainly is the chance that Feaster could use this summer to move a player or two and stock up on a few extra picks for 2013. This June, I think, with the exception of a possible trade of Iginla, Calgary’s draft die is already cast.

    ******SPOILER ALERT******
    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that that Swiss prospect, Sven Baertschi (sp?), tops the list here. I had a look at him on eliteprospects and his numbers don’t look so bad. 😉

  • Franko J

    Teams no longer draft defenseman based on just their size with zero ability to move the puck up ice or with lack of mobility to make plays. Breen may be good for the AHL, but to play at the NHL, they have to be able to skate. All you have to do is look who was the best defenseman this year.
    The draft class of 2012 is oozing with Dmen who have some size, but are very skilled and very good skaters.

  • thymebalm

    I’ve never seen anything to really impress me with Breen. I got the feeling that his tires were being pumped right from the get-go because he was signed due to a lack of draft picks. Sutter trying to make it seem ok that we didn’t have picks, because look at this gem of a free agent we scooped up anyway.

    He’s a stay-at-home stay-in-the-AHL defender. I would never call him up over Connelly or Wilson or even Piskula.

    To me, Breen has ZERO NHL potential, and is a place holder until the Flames can re-invigorate their backend. They’ve done wonders with their young offensive core in the last couple of seasons, but its time to get some quality prospects on the backend. Breen doesn’t fall in this category.