Baby Flames at the World Juniors


2010 WJHC
– pic via OddyOh


A number of the world’s top hockey countries held evaluation camps this month in anticipation of the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden and it’s generated a little buzz in the Calgary Flames world as a number of it’s prospects received invitations to these camps. While not many fan bases pay much attention to which of their prospects get invited to a summer orientation camp, things seemed to be a little different in Calgary this year.

With the team rebuilding and an emphasis on young players and prospects stronger than ever, the Flames find themselves in possession of something foreign to them in recent history – a solid prospect base. Five Flames hopefuls were at the Junior Evaluation Tournament in Lake Placid, New York this month, including the much scrutinized Mark Jankowski – playing for Team Canada and there could be as many as eight(!) baby Flames representing their country this winter. 

History Lesson

And so arises the matter of Flames property playing at the World Junior Championships – more specifically, Team Canada. In the last decade, a small number of Flames prospects who have donned the red maple leaf at the WJC, including Dion Phaneuf, Dustin Boyd, Leland Irving, Keith Aulie and Greg Neimisz.

Phaneuf is the only one of the group that has turned into something substantial at the NHL level and made the team more than once. He finished his WJC career with 10 points in 12 games. He and Dustin Boyd are the only two that made noise at the tournament – Boyd scoring at a point per game clip through 6 games. Keith Aulie was on the shut-down pairing with Tyler Myers, though he wasn’t featured much on the PP or in the offensive zone.

The rest made the team as filler. Irving was a backup goaltender and then didn’t even make the team the following year despite his experience and eligibility. You can argue the only reason Nemisz was on his respective team was because of his "chemistry" with Taylor Hall, even though they didn’t play on the same line for Team Canada. Nemisz had one point in six games while Irving scored experience points from the bench. The Flames haven’t had two or more guys on the Canadian squad in the same year most years sent one or two guys at the tournament total.

In recent years they’ve sent a respectable number of guys to the tournament – a number that has steadily increased with an impressive 5 last year. As metnioned, there’s the potential to have upwards of 8 guys at the tournament this year – including 4 guys for Team Canada. Here’s how that breaks down: 

The Canadian Boys

Sean Monahan, OHL, 18 – 6th overall, 2013

Invited to Team Canada Summer Camp

The big centerman seems like a lock for the Canadian squad at this point, as long as the Flames don’t keep him in the NHL. He’s put in excellent performances at the evaluation camp this week and nearly made it last year, as an underage player. Even if he makes the NHL squad, I’d expect the Flames release him for what is always a huge experience for U20 players.

His role on the team appears to be of the top 6 variety at this point. He may even play on the top unit, but that all depends on guys like Nate MacKinnon playing on the team or not. I’d expect a healthy scoring clip around a point per game from Monahan this winter.

Emile Porier, QMJHL, 18 – 22nd overall, 2013

Invited to Team Canada Summer Camp

While Porier is relied upon as an offensive player with his junior team, Gatineau, Team Canada Head Coach Brent Sutter has used Porier in a more of a checking role so far at camp and the big left winger has impressed using his size and blistering speed to paralyze opponents on the fore check. If he can have a solid start to the year, he’ll definitely be invited to the winter selection camp.

He’s a big, quick skating two-way player – the kind Sutter loves to use to shift momentum in games and annoy the opposition. Poirier would fit well into Canada‘s bottom six and penalty killing units, putting in tough minutes and maybe chipping a goal or assist here and there. I wouldn’t have very high offensive expectations for him.

Mark Jankowski, NCAA, 18 – 21st overall, 2013

Invited to Team Canada Summer Camp

In my opinion, non-invitee Morgan Klimchuck has a better shot of making the final cut than Jankowski. Janko was used as a checker for most of the camp and that’s really not the role he excels at – he’s an offense first guy. An offensive game belongs in the Top 6 and at this point, but his performance level doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the top of the rotation for Team Canada at this point.

That said, he’s a big, solid skater and you always hear of "guys adjusting their roles" for the team, so if Brent Sutter likes him in a checking role, there’s always a chance. He can help his cause by starting off strong in college this season.

Like I said, Sutter liked to deploy him as a defensive staple so if he somehow falls ass backwards into a roster spot he’ll find himself playing a few minutes a night in the bottom 6. Some penalty killing and defensive starts I’d imagine would be his focus for the duration of the tournament. No point expectations whatsoever.

Morgan Klimchuck, WHL, 18 – 28th overall, 2013

Not Invited to Team Canada Summer Camp

I was baffled Klimchuk wasn’t invited to the camp for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is he offers tremendous defensive value with higher offensive effectiveness than probably Jankowski at this point. He fills that role of a pesky third liner checker that can bury one on you if you’re not careful. The type that win games and championships.However if he can go to Regina this fall and continue his solid, steady game maybe he can benefit from someone sucking to start the year and get an invite to the winter camp and find his way on the team.

A third/fourth line role seems appropriate with a goal here and there. He’ll be a big part of the 2014 team though, for sure.

Those Americans

Jon Gillies, NCAA, 19 – 75th overall, 2012

Invited to Team USA Summer Camp

Played decent to start the camp and then played ridiculously well in his final game against Canada. Not much to say because not only is he a lock, he’s the odd’s on favourite to start in goal for the USA. He was a backup on the gold medal winning squad last year.

I expect him to be one of the best goalie’s in the tournament.

Patrick Sieloff, OHL, 19 – 42nd overall, 2012

Invited to Team USA Summer Camp

Was very good and consistent throughout the camp. By all accounts he’s improved his offensive game considerably, in particular his puck moving which is good to see for a guy who’s strength lies on the defensive side of the puck. Not only is he a lock for the team, he could be named the Captain of the squad this year. Sieloff wore an "A" last year.

He’ll probably be on the top pairing – top 4 at the very least – and will be relied on heavily on the penalty kill. Maybe he’ll even make an appearance on the power play but I don’t expect big point totals out of him.

Tim Harrison, NCAA, 18 – 157th overall, 2013

Not Invited to Team USA Summer Camp

A really good start to the year could get the pesky Harrison noticed. There are plenty of guys that can fill the role that Harrison would though so I wouldn’t get to excited about his prospects.

He’d be a bottom 6 guy. Purpose: Agitate the other team. 

That One Euro Guy

Rushan Rafikov, MHL, 18 – 187th overall, 2013

Didn’t have a Summer Camp

A regular on Russia’s national junior teams, Rafikov represented his country at the U17’s, U18’s and U18/19’s in the past season so I’d say he has a good shot at making the U20 team this winter. Not much is known about him, but I’d say a durable, two-way defenseman who has a good history with his country’s hockey federation is in decent shape.

Anyone’s guess where he play’s if he makes the team though. Maybe Top 4 with some power play time? I honestly have no clue but he has put up decent points historically internationally so maybe an offensive type role could be in order.


The Flames could send 8 promising youngsters to the World Juniors this year, which is a testament to the quality they’ve wrangled out of recent drafts Team Canada has proved to be one of the toughest teams to crack, so having 4 legit contenders to make the roster is really something be excited about. If all 4 guys make the cut, the Flames would represent more than a quarter of the Canadian forward corp. The other 4 guys also have the potential to make noise at the tournament (except maybe Harrison).

All the more reason to tune in this holiday season.

  • BurningSensation

    Christian; I was wondering if you were at the tournie or are you like most of us reading into the reports. I am wondering if any one in FN was actually there and had eyes on the ground, I know I didn’t. I like your perspective on the players and would just like to add the following about the Canadian kids; Klimchuks stock may rise becasue he’s a WHL and Brent will see him first hand. I’m worried for Poirier as he is in the Q and may not be as much in immediate picture. Monahan played well enough and is big ticket guy so I’m sure he won’t slip through the cracks. Janko’s chance are very slim. As far as the others I think you bang on about the US kids and I suspect about the Russian; we might watch that team with greater attention to him.

  • McRib

    Nice article, I agree that Morgan Klimchuck should have been invited, but a strong start from him will go along way. He is on Hockey Canada’s radar after a strong U18 performance in the spring. Considering Jonathan Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Tom Wilson, Max Domi, Bo Horvat, Scott Laughton & Brendan Gaunce all have a chance to crack NHL Rosters we might only see 14 Forwards from this camp back at the Winter Selection Camp. You gotta think 20-24 forwards will be invited there, I cannot see many other Forwads ahead of Klimchuk for an invite and I actually think Klimchuk could easily beat out guys like Ryan Rupert, Félix Girard, Mark Jankowski already at this camp, plus injuries. He actually has a good chance to make the final roster in my opinion.

  • McRib

    Canada’s Summer Camp is often bizarre. A few years ago, Patrick Holland was invited for no apparent reason, while Max Reinhart was bafflingly left off.

    Even this year; Why Ryan Rupert? Even more confusing was the fact that he wasn’t an injury replacement.

  • BurningSensation

    Aside from Monahan and Gillies, who will presumably be fairly high-profile guys in this tourney, I’m dying to get a look at our ‘ultracompetitive’ Russian defender.

    He just sounds like a beauty of a hockey player.

  • McRib

    Looking at Rushan Rafikov’s 2012-2013 stats in the MHL. Where players like Valeri Nichushkin only had a point per game in the MHL. Rafikov’s 10 points look decent for a young defenseman, not to mention first rounder Nikita Zadorov had as many points as him last year in 1/2 as many games.

    Only eight Russians went in the NHL Draft, I don’t mind taking a flyer in the 6/7 Round at all on a rusky as I can guarantee Rushan Rafikov would not have been a seventh rounder if he was Swedish or Canadian. Lets put it this way according to the draft the Flames got the second best Russian defense prospect available as only Nikita Zadorov went ahead of him. NHL CSS had him 21st in their final rankings for european skaters.

    • He’s an intriguing pick. Russian players might be “undervalued” relative to their talent thanks to the perception they will flee for the KHL, so I don’t mind taking a longer look at them.

      Hopefully he plays at a higher level this year so we can get a better idea of his performance.