As the dust settles on the Iginla frenzy, Flames fans are left with a hole in their collective hearts and a glimmer of new hope in the form of Ben Hanowski, Ken Agostino and a fresh first round pick.
I won’t lie, the Penguins return strikes me as underwhelming. In looking at previous big name rentals, most guys garnered at least one high-end prospect as well as a first rounder and perhaps a roster player. Calgary got one of those things.
Which isn’t to shovel dirt on the new kids already. In Hanowski and Agostino the Flames got a couple of players who might turn out down the road. They just aren’t the potential high impact kids one may have hoped fo or expected from moving a player of Iginla’s caliber.
With that said, here’s some background on each guy:
Ben Hanowski – 22 years old, C/LW
A former third round pick in 2009, Hanowski was a really big deal in high school hockey. He scored a record setting 405 points during his time in HS, crushing the previous mark of 378 points in Minnesota. That incredible offense never really translated at the next level, though, where Hanowski has put up merely good numbers with St. Cloud State of the WCHA. His career best in college was a team leading 23 goals and 43 points as a 20-year old, a high water he failed to improve upon as a senior this season (16 goals and 29 points in 34 games).
Hanowski is a bigger guy at 6’02", 200 pounds and is described as having good hockey IQ and a hard shot. Skating is typically considered his weakness since he’s not the fastest guy around. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus describes Hanowski as having 2nd line upside:
He is a smart player who makes quick decisions, and who displays above-average playmaking skills and good awareness off the puck. Hanowski has solid size, protects the puck well and is willing to do the dirty work in the tough areas. His best skill is his high-end shot. Hanowski’s main issue is his skating, which isn’t horrible, but is certainly below average. He projects as an okay second line forward who is good on the power play. He should be turning pro soon, and as a 22-year-old forward, his transition to the pro game will be interesting to watch. For Calgary’s sake, they hope he can hit the ground running given he is an older prospect. They can sign him by August 15th, otherwise he become a free agent.
At 22 and with 4 years of post secondary under his belt, Hanowski should be about ready to turn pro, so the Flames will be able to test his mettle at the AHL level as soon as next October.
Ken Agostino – 20 years old, LW
Like Hanowski, Agostino tore things up in high school. He finished his HS career with well over 200 points and finished as Delbarton, New Jersey’s highest scoring player ever. Chosen in the 5th round by Pittsburgh, perhaps because he was a smaller player with just okay speed at the time, Agostino has been a bit more prolific than Hanowski in college with two straight seasons of a better than point-per-game average for Yale University.
Agostino has marginally better (more consistent) offensive results in college but most think he ultimately has a lower ceiling than Hanowski. Again, from the Corey Pronman link:
Smart and skilled forward although I wouldn’t describe him as dynamic, more above average in both areas. Even though he is fairly small (5’11"), he is a strong player who grinds out pucks in battles and he has a good on-ice work ethic. I have heard divided takes on his skating, with one source saying it is solid, and another saying it could use some work. I sit somewhere in the middle, saying he is average but could have a better top gear for a smaller guy. The soon-to-be 21-year-old winger projects as a third line forward.
Clearly Feaster and Weisbrod’s weighting of things like "character and smarts" played a role in targeting both of these players, as well as the organization’s new found fascination with high school prospects and collegiate hockey.
Obviously I have personally never seen either guy play, but from my research and talking to various people, it sounds like Agostino and Hanowski are at about the same prospect level of, say, a Max Reinhart or Bill Arnold – smart, versatile forwards who could become useful NHL players if things break right, but who nevertheless do not have a high impact ceiling. Those certainly aren’t terrible pieces to have, but there’s a non-trivial chance they will turn out to be little more than AHLers as well.
Which is to say, the organizational chain that turned Kent Nilsson into Joe Nieuwendyk and then into Jarome Iginla won’t be carried on by either of these forwards. For the Flames to convert Jarome into a new franchise cornerstone, they will have to work magic with the Pens 25-30th overall draft pick in June.
We’ll take a look at who they may be targeting at that point in the draft later this week and closer to the draft in June.