Flames Top 15 Prospects 2013: #7 Mark Cundari


mark cundari

Pic via Scott Haselius

We don’t know much about Mark Cundari.

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Hell, I’d bet the first time most of us had ever heard of him was when he was traded for Jay Bouwmeester – but that lack of familiarity hasn’t affected him negatively in the Flames’ prospect pantheon.

As a member of that dominant Windsor Spitfires team from a few years back, Cundari scored at a pretty healthy rate for defensemen: 131 points over his 248 OHL games, or about .53 PPG (NHLE of about 13). He went undrafted, likely as a result of his size (5’8, 180 at the time) but signed with the St. Louis Blues about a month after the 2009 draft.

Over the last three years with the Peoria Rivermen and the Heat, Cundari upped his NHLE to about 16 – and while not a huge jump, an improvement nonetheless. He led the Rivermen in scoring last year from the blueline with 7 goals and 25 points in 57 games and was voted an AHL all-star. I assume it’s because of his size that he’s seen as a offensive defenseman, but I think he plays with a little more emphasis on his defensive game than is thought to be the case.

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  Justin Ryan Kent Hayley BoL
Cundari 7 NR 4 6 11

Cundari’s stature is interesting: as a defenseman, one would expect that to be able to effectively play the body and position oneself in front of the net at the NHL level he’d need to be a little taller than 5’9 – and while in most situations that may well be true, Cundari tips the scales at 200 pounds, leading me to think his strength is more than enough to get him by in the NHL. I don’t believe his injury risk is abnormally higher as a result of his height.

On the positive side, I do like the way Cundari skates: his strides aren’t choppy and his upper body seems to be relatively static when he has the puck. He also seems patient when he’s in position for a pass or a defensive play. According to Hockey’s Future, though, he could improve his overall game by improving and tweaking his decision making when he has the puck. He definitely has some tools, but being as he’s just turned 23 it’s possible the development time for those tools has already passed.


It’s hard to make any concrete pronouncements about Cundari’s NHL worthiness at this point for a multitude of reasons, but I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t on the Flames opening day roster next year. It is unknown at this point if Cundari’s ceiling is as a 6th or a 4th defenseman – that’s something that should be come clearer the more he plays and the more we watch.

While I wasn’t a fan of the return for Jay Bouwmeester, Cundari is likely going to be a legit NHLer and that’s better than nothing. Maybe with a bunch of PP time he can crack 20 points next year.

Flames Top 15 Prospects

  • Burnward

    The fact that he will probably be in the NHL next year puts him above the two goalies that right now are showing more potential and promise with a high degree of risk.

    Liked Cundari’s game when he came up the end of last year, and while season ending auditions are not the best way to necessarily best way to evaluate prospects right now I would pencil him in at the number four spot next to Wideman before I would place either Butler or Smith in that spot.

    If Berra can turn into a backup goaltender that can play 30 games and win 18 of them and Cundari can provide even half the offense he showed in his call up and provide puck movement and steady defense on the second pairing than the Blues trade looks like it might be okay. Not the best trade the Flames could have made, but it will be okay.

    Best case scenario is that Cundari continues to develop and is basically a Giordano with more offense and less physicality and grit.

  • Burnward

    Not to keep rehashing the past and the deadline trades, but for general interest sake. I would love to see where the FN panel would have ranked Alexander Khokhlachev in their prospects.

    I think that Matt Bartkowski probably does not make the list but would be higher than Hanowski. Question is how much higher ranked would Khokhlachev be than Agostino?

  • Parallex

    Truth be told of the four guys we got at the deadline Cundari was the only one I’d ever heard of (a result of being part of that awesome Spitfires team).

    I think he’s a legitimate NHL’er hard to say what exactly his ceiling is given that in his cup of coffee he ranged from looking top 4 worthy down to AHL worthy… offhand I’d call him a bottom-pairing D now with middle-pairing potential when he has more experience.

  • Bikeit

    I see him more as an Andrew Ference type player and that is not bad. Still choked to this day when the Flames traded Ference. Hopefully Cundari will right that mistake.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    With undersized guys or undrafted guys-for whatever perceived flaw (as long as they have legitimate NHL skills) the plus you get is attitude and/or work ethic.

    The ‘chip – on – the – shoulder’ effect. You can see Cundari has that. The true test will be how he plays over a full season.

    I think these underappreciated guys might just need a legitimate opportunity, where there aren’t guys above him on a depth chart because of perception.

    To use an NFL analogy- take a guy like Danny Amendola. I watched the hard knocks season where he was with the Cowboys. Any mistake he made was essentially his walking papers. They had bigger guys who would always be given the benefit of the doubt. Yada yada yada, Amendola got a legitimate shot with the Rams and now his value in the league is very high (witness his FA contract).

    To be sure- if you are undersized you have to be rather exceptional in other areas. Did Cundari show something exceptional? What is he really good at? If he has that exceptional trait is it something Calgary is missing? I think Calgary’s situation is ideal for him. Hopefully he runs with it.

    • piscera.infada

      Just word of mouth, but I hear his shot is massive. We all witnessed that wrister in his first game, but I hear he has one hell of a clapper as well.

      It seemed to me like he played bigger than he is too. Again, we’ll need to see that over a full season, but I’m actually really excited about him.

  • Colin.S

    How did Ryan not have him Ranked? That’s what I’m wondering, the kid is going to play in the NHL, whether it’s in a 3/4 pairing or 5/6 pairing is yet to be seen. While Ryan has ranked guys that may never make the NHL at all. I’m curious to see his whole list.

  • Colin.S

    Liked what we saw from him end of last season…needed to settle down a bit out there, but definitely has some game. Comparison wise, Torey Krug? But a little more solid?

  • schevvy

    Cundari played quite well with Brodie in the 4 games he played at the end. Has a great shot and seems to have poise (!) with the puck. He will hopefully end up as a top 4 d-man/2nd unit PP guy, which is a lot better than I thought after the J-Bo trade. How does Ryan not have him ranked? I definitely couldn’t come up with 15 guys better than him.

    Unrelated: Game 1 tonight. Who you guys got winning it all? I’ve got the Bruins in 6.

  • schevvy

    I would have him competing for a top 15 in the Flames prospect list but certainly lower than this. Hopefully we get some better prospects soon because this guy at 7 is scary. Was he even top 7 on the organizational depth chart for his position in St. Louis much less overall?

  • schevvy

    @ jeff lebowski

    agreed… we need to haveo openspots in our lineup for these guys to compete for… make them feel that they have a chance… no more jd watt or tim erixon situations

  • piscera.infada

    Did anyone hear Cundari’s interview on The Fan yesterday?

    He sounds like a professional. I also found his description of what his role is going forward apt. “They want that in your face nastiness, and to be solid defensively. [To] use [my] explosiveness to be a momentum changer.”

  • TheRealPoc

    Every time I saw him play last year, I thought his skating looked horribly inefficient. As if he’s trying to take 2 strides to do the same work of the average NHLer’s 1. Part of that might be due to his frame…but regardless, the very last thing I would’ve taken out of his game that I liked was his skating.

  • TheRealPoc

    He has an explosive take off and many times throws more hits per game than his entire team combined. I love his creativity and tenacity. This is the type of player we need. Plays an extremely aggressive game competes at any cost.