While FlamesNation will be covering the rest of prospects camp, official members weren’t able to make it down today for day one. Instead, I asked for some thoughts from those who did attend and was taken up on the offer by Christian Roatis who kindly put together this very thorough report for us. For anyone else who has attended, I urge you to share your own thoughts in the comments as well.
By Christian Roatis
The Calgary Flames annual development camp kicked off Monday in Calgary as most of the Flames top prospects got together for Fitness Testing and a 45 minute on ice session. A couple notables missing include Bill Arnold (back) and Mitch Wahl (management decision). Wahl was once considered a top prospect a couple of years ago, but his AHL career was sidetracked by a concussion early in his rookie campaign.
The Flames also had 27 players attending the Development Camp on Amateur Try-out agreements, including Dan Bakala, Sean Callaghan, Jared Coreau, Connor Hardowa, Ross Johnston, John McGuire, Wade Murphy, Eric Robinson, Carter Rowney, Tim Schaller, Garrett Thompson and Frank Vatrano.
The first group hit the ice just before 3:30pm, followed by the second at 4:30. The first thing noticed was that only 2 of the 3 goaltenders listed to be in Group A were on the ice. It was later revealed that Joni Ortio was suffering from a knee injury and would not partake in any of the ice times or events planned this week.
Michael Ferland – I always thought of Ferland as a big checking line player with limited offensive upside and poor skating ability. In other words, a stereotypical Darryl Sutter player. I was shocked to see how well he moved around the ice, distributed the puck and how well he shot.
My view on Ferland has changed completely and while it was only one ice time, I firmly believe that if he continues this play he could see time with the big team this season and maybe even be a Top 6 forward in the future.
Markus Granlund – Poor guy has had to live in the shadow of his brother for most of, if not all of his career but has still made a pretty good name for himself. The kid has tremendous skill and hockey sense and it was all on display Monday afternoon. He moved around the ice effortlessly and always looked to be in control of the puck. He hooked up with Johnny Gaudreau a few times to create little slices of hockey magic.
The only thing that underwhelmed me a little bit was his shot, it didn’t seem to be all that hard or accurate but that’s always something that you can work on and improve.
Johnny Gaudreau – I mentioned he and Granlund were in on some pretty plays and it seemed like all he did was make you sit back in your seat and say "Wow, what a guy." He’s about as tall as a Jarome Iginla action figure but boy is he skilled. There were no one on one drills but he still showed off his great hands and wicked shot. Another diamond in the rough from the 2011 Draft haul.
Carter Bancks – Although he wasn’t the fasted player out there, nor the most skilled there were two things that stuck out about Carter Bancks: his relentless work ethic and the .45 magnum he used as a stick. He not only had one of the hardest shots but the one of the most accurate. He let a couple bullets fly that shot top corner before the goaltenders had a chance to react. He was also among the most hardworking guys on the ice, just as advertised.
Jared Coreau – He was one of the invitees to camp and first thing that stuck out at me was the 2.31 GAA and the .931 SV% he posted last year playing for Northern Michigan in the CCHA. He’s a big man at 6’5 and very athletic for his size. He moved around the crease well and didn’t let in many goals. He’s only 21 and has lots of room to develop and with Brossoit and Gillies not ready for Abbotsford and Irving likely seeing more time with the Flames next year, Coreau would fit in perfectly in Abbotsford.
Dustin Sylvester – Good skater, good passer, great shooter. Can you ask for anything more? He made quite the good impression on the first day of camp. He looked confident and played just like that. A shifty little player with a nice skill set fills that 22-28 age gap Feaster keeps talking about.
Carter Rowny – A little known kid out of the University of North Dakota played really well. He skated well and packs a pretty good shot. Probably wont be more than an AHLer but had a real good showing.
Mark Jankowski – I wasn’t too thrilled by the pick either, but after actually seeing him play I’ve gotten a lot more optimistic. He skates really well and clearly possesses great hockey IQ, the kind of stuff Feaster and Co. drool over these days. He’s also got a great shot. Real hard and accurate.
The one downside to the kid is his weight. It looked like his stick weighed more than him, but if he packs on a few pounds the Flames may have something.
Tyler Wotherspoon – He missed last years camp due to a shoulder injury, so this year was his first in Flames threads and he sure didn’t disappoint. He skated well, passed with the best of them and also showed a pretty lethal shot from the blue line. The best thing about him is he seemed to play with a kind of swagger the Flames lacked last year.
Wotherspoon also has the tools to be a dynamic two-way Top 4 defensemen. I’d say he and Brady Lamb were the top 2 defensemen today, an area that severely lacking in the Flames system.
Ross Johnston – Yikes. He looked like he came straight from Midget 10. He was slow, un-coordinated and nothing seemed to go his way. He had trouble holding onto the puck and I think I saw him raise the puck twice. Not a good showing for a guy on a try-out.
Connor Hardowa – Another guy on a try-out contract, Hardowa only stood out a few times, those times being when he botched a play or missed a pass. He’ll really need to pick it up if he hopes to land a spot in Abbotsford this fall.
Chris Breen – For quite a while now the talk about Chris Breen is how mobile he his for a big man and how he has the potential to be quite a steal being signed as a UFA out of junior. Honestly, I don’t see it. His skating was pretty poor, his passes lacked that ‘crisp’ element to them and seemed to have trouble getting around the ice. Are people seeing something I’m not?
Brett Kulak – I was expecting bigger things from Kulak, but he disappointed me. He seemed to lack confidence and it reflected in his play. His passes weren’t great and he seemed hesitant to add creativity to some of the drills, instead doing them kind of like a robot, except not perfectly every time.
Sean Callaghan – Slow and pretty poor passer. He didn’t move well and seemed to be lacking in every category imaginable. He played exactly like the tough guy he is.
– Baertschi was good as usual but didn’t do anything to stand out.
– This was the best group of prospects I’ve ever seen at a Flames prospect camp, which goes to show that Feaster and Co. are trying to replenish the cupboards.
– Frankie Vatrano is fat. Really fat. At times I thought Peter Griffin was doing the drills.
– Brady Lamb sported a full beard making him look like he was thirty
While it was only the first day, this group of prospects can give Flames fans a little confidence that the cupboards aren’t all that bare and that there some quality prospects currently in the system.