The last time we did this, Michael Ferland was coming off a career season with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was one of the top scorers in the Western Hockey league. As a result, he was ranked as the Flames 7th best prospect by FN at the time.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, however, pro hockey is the great weeder course in a prospects development path and is the primary hurdle many hopefuls tend to stumble at. So although he is already "pro sized" at 6’1", 210 pounds, and known for a rough style of play, Ferland was nevertheless overwhelmed by the pro game like so many kids tend to be.
The 21-year old rookie showed up at training camp out of shape and dogged by a charge of aggravated assault after a summer bar brawl last year. A frequent healthy scratch, he only played seven games for the Heat and another three games in the ECHL (managing just one assist between them) before being sent back to the WHL as an overager. Ferland eventually found his footing again with the Saskatoon Blades scoring eight goals and 29 assists in 26 games down the stretch.
The fact that he was rebuffed so completely by the pro game is unfortunately a huge red mark and step backwards for the youngster. Part tough guy, part power forward, Ferland’s package of skills is highly coveted at the NHL level: a big guy who can play hard and drop the gloves, but still has enough skill to put up points is a creature every GM and coach wishes for.
However, the professional hockey takes a huge physical and mental toll on players relative to the lower levels and some guys never develop the level of character, hockey sense or discipline it requires to succeed. Ferland seemed primed to step right into the AHL after a glowing season in junior last September, but instead he fell on his face.
Which isn’t to say the big left winger can’t get things going in the right direction this year. Now that he’s 21, junior hockey is no longer an option so there’s no safety net should he fail to make an impression with Troy Ward again. Ferland has the benefit of time, size and a decent junior resume but I doubt his career with the Flames will survive another another trip over the first hurdle.
If Ferland is to be a prospect of note going forward, he has to not only be a full-time AHLer next year, but an impact AHLer at that. We’ll see if he’s up to the challenge.
Flames top 15 prospects
- 14 – Michael Ferland
- 15 – Mark Jankowski
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