Another week, another reminder that the National Hockey League is still locked out. But don’t despair, as the Flames best and brightest prospects are starting their regular seasons – albeit in the American Hockey League or the Hockey East conference of the NCAA.
All this and more in this week’s news round-up!
DOWN ON THE FARM
To the shock of some, the Abbotsford Heat sent forwards Mitch Wahl and Ryan Howse, among others, to their ECHL affiliate in Salt Lake City following training camp. Both players have been a bit disappointing thus far in their pro careers for different reasons. A second round pick in the 2008 draft, Wahl was a dazzling offensive player before having an injury-riddled 2010-11 season in which he was limited to just 17 games due to post-concussion syndrome (among other maladies). He’s never quite been the same since.
Howse, a third rounder in 2009, found himself in the doghouse after showing up heavy to training camp last season. He gradually worked out of his funk and played rather well in a supporting role in the latter part of last season, but reportedly wasn’t that impressive at Heat camp. They’ll join Gaelan Patterson, James Martin, Bryan Cameron and Nick Tuzzolino with the Utah Grizzlies.
To the shock of none, Sven Baertschi and Max Reinhart remain in camp. As two of the Flames most highly-touted prospects, the expectation is that they will perform well at the AHL level. Baertschi scored some goals in the NHL last year, while Reinhart was rather good in a handful of regular season and playoff games with the Heat at the end of last season. Former Flames first-rounders Greg Nemisz and Leland Irving will also suit up for the Heat, as well as aspiring Flames grinder Lance Bouma.
In a more-interesting development, journeyman defenseman Steve McCarthy, who played under Flames head coach Bob Hartley with the ZSC Lions last season, has signed an AHL deal with the Heat. He’ll shore up a defensive group that outside of him and T.J. Brodie gets a little bit thin on talent, although it is rather heavy on grit and experience.
United States armed forces veteran Zach McKelvie will also suit up for the Heat. He had a two-year stint with the military that delayed his professional hockey career and reportedly he was rather good at camp, particularly at being an agitating presence on the blueline.
Junior and College
Turner Elson’s roster spot is safe in Red Deer, as they traded team captain Adam Kambeitz away on Tuesday. While Elson hasn’t played since September 23 due to injury, he was vying for one of three spots on the club for 20-year-olds.
Coda Gordon has eight points through seven games for Swift Current. Oddly enough, all of his points have come in three multi-point games. Despite this quirky consistency, the Broncos are undefeated in regulation this season. Another 2012 pick impressing is Ryan Culkin, who leads all defensemen in the QMJHL in scoring with 10 points in eight games. The Quebec Remparts are similarly excellent, with a 7-1-0-0 record.
Boston College beat down the University of New Brunswick 6-0 on the weekend in their only pre-season tilt. Bill Arnold had a goal and an assist and Johnny Gaudreau scored the game-winner. The Eagles open their season Saturday against Northeastern University. Matthew Deblouw had an assist for Michigan State in their pre-season win over the USA National Under-18 Team.
All of Calgary’s college prospects open their regular seasons this weekend, including a pair of games for Providence College against Sacred Heart University and Boston University that’ll see Jon Gillies and Mark “The Big” Jankowski make their NCAA debuts.
Markus Granlund now has five points in 10 games for HIFK Helsinki which is a somewhat underwhelming start to things for the Flames second rounder. Teammate Joni Ortio has grabbed the starting job and run with it, however, by recently recording two straight shut-outs. He has appeared in 11 of the team’s 12 games and has an impressive .927 save percentage so far.
Roman Cervenka;s KHL rights were sold to Lev Prague by Avangard Omsk at the end of September. Despite that, he continues to play for Slavia Praha in the Czech league and currently has three goals and nine points in seven games, good for second best on the team.
Finally, as everyone surely knows by now, Mikael Backlund played his first game for Vasteras yesterday and recorded two goals (one empty netter) and one assist. A decent start for a guy looking for some offensive success to put last year firmly in the rearview mirror.