A Brief Glance At The Heat

 

Toronto Marlies vs. Abbotsford Heat, 01-05-12
– pic via catherinejoy

 

With all this chatter about the recent signings from the Calgary Flames, there have been a few questions in the comments about the AHL affiliate of the Flames, the Abbotsford Heat. In the interest of fostering discussion of some of these future Flames, here’s a quick glance at the Heat’s prospective players.

As per usual, things may change in the intervening weeks so a more in-depth examination will follow as we approach the start of training camp.

FORWARDS

Abbotsford Heat - Max Reinhart

There are quite a few interesting prospects that could suit up for the Heat. The likelihood of seeing them in Abbotsford is based on the likelihood of the Flames shipping out some NHL bodies to make room for them in Calgary. So for now, there’s a possibility that Corban Knight, Roman Horak and Sven Baertschi could be on the farm. It’s not a strong possibility, but it exists. The same moderate possibility exists for Lance Bouma to return to the AHL. I’d bank on Blair Jones either getting claimed off of waivers or clearing and spending time in Abbotsford.

Beyond that group, there’s 2011 second rounder Markus Granlund, Ben Hanowski and Max Reinhart, leading the charge as far as farmhands who may lack top-line skill – or in Granlund’s case, North American experience, but showed well at development camp and in other instances during the past year or so. Ben Street, Greg Nemisz and Paul Byron also have NHL experience, but Byron and Street failed to sizzle at the NHL level last year and Nemisz struggled with injuries. All will be hoping for a chance to take a step forward and challenge for an NHL spot.

That leaves a handful of question marks. How will Josh Jooris translate from the college game? How will Michael Ferland put off-ice distractions out of his mind and become a full-time pro now that the WHL is off the table? Can Ryan Howse find his conditioning? Can Carter Bancks stay healthy and perhaps get another call to the NHL? Can Turner Elson translate his work ethic at the WHL level into a regular gig at the AHL level? Can David Eddy avoid the ECHL?

There’s a good possibility that the Heat will have some very good AHLers in their top-six, but it’s almost impossible to guess which guys will be in what roles until training camp shakes down. And this is ignoring the possibility of some guys that were in Abbotsford on AHL deals – specifically Brett Olson, Quintin Laing, Adam Estoclet or Tyler Ruegsegger – returning in some capacity.

DEFENSE

There’s a chance that Derek Smith could be bumped out of the NHL roster and end up here. Or, like Blair Jones, he could be waiver fodder for another club.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of newcomers: Tyler Wotherspoon and John Ramage both have World Junior experience – Ramage won some hardware but his college team fizzled, Wotherspoon won a WHL Title but left Ufa empty-handed last year. Chad Billins brings a Calder Cup ring with him from winning the AHL’s title with the Grand Rapids Griffins last year. Mark Cundari will probably return for a full season, but he could also be the first call-up to Calgary based on his performance late last year with the big club.

A trio of returnees will try to anchor the back-end: James Martin was the number-seven guy last year, suffered an injury and bounced between Abbotsford and Utah. Chris Breen impressed at Calgary’s truncated training camp, was one of the last cuts, but also got injured. Ironically, the injuries to these guys helped elevate the stock of Drew MacKenzie, who signed an AHL deal out of college and ended up playing nearly 30 games for the Heat. At this point, he’s probably ahead of Martin on the depth chart.

Both Patrick Sieloff and Ryan Culkin could suit up here, although that would involve Culkin signing and would make Calgary’s pro contract situation a bit precarious. Given that Jay Feaster tends to like to operate with some flexibility, it’s not probable. Sieloff could turn pro at 19 because he began his junior career in the US development system (which is a loophole in the CHL/AHL agreement), but rushing a teen who has only played 69 games over the last two years and a guy who didn’t quite dominate his peers last year doesn’t seem to make much sense at this time.

As you can see, a lot is in flux on the back-end. Presuming that Smith is otherwise occupied, Abbotsford’s starting six on the blueline is probably Wotherspoon, Ramage, Billins, Cundari, Breen and MacKenzie. Outside of the first pair of guys, the rest are all known quantities at the AHL level and have performed well in their roles.

GOALIES

First off, let’s presume that Karri Ramo sticks in Calgary and one of Joey MacDonald and Reto Berra ends up in Abbotsford. That creates a three-headed monster also involving Joni Ortio and Laurent Brossoit. Somebody ends up in Utah, and Abbotsford probably rotates between three guys who have never played in the AHL on a regular basis (or are in their 30s and have a bad back, if it’s MacDonald).

Goaltending, as it is for the parent club, may be the single biggest question mark in Abbotsford. Brossoit’s arguably had the best prior resume of all the suitors, but he’s also 20 and has played as much professional hockey in net as I have. He should be at least basically competent given his junior career, but there’s a bit of a jump for him. Ortio and Berra have been on the big ice for years, which may also play a role.

Depth Chart

With all the above in mind, here’s how the depth chart is stacking up in Abbotsford (assuming Bouma, Horak, Baertschi and Knight make the Flames):

Street – Reinhart – Hanowski
Byron – Granlund – Nemisz
Bancks – GoBlair Jones! – Jooris
Ferland – Eddy – Elson
Howse

Breen – Cundari
Billins – Wotherspoon
Ramage – McKenzie
Martin

Berra, Ortio
Brossoit

CONCLUSION

The Heat will feature a great deal of question marks and quite a few players that Flames fans have heard of. Who ends up playing in the Fraser Valley will depend on what happens in training camp, as there’s likely to be competition in the Flames camp and the potential for a lot of player movement before the season starts.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Lots of people posting their Flames roster so here is mine; remember I’m for rolling 4 lines and getting the kids to develop by not hiding them: Cammi, Stajan, Jones; Hudler Knight TJG,Sven Backlund, Glencross; Horak, Monahan(9games)Stemp and I would keep Jackman as my extra. On D: Wiedman &OB ;Gio&Russle, TJB and Cundari with Bulter as my extra in net the B&B brothers fron Europe.When Monahan goes back down I would probably bring in Bouma. Each line has at least one guy who has scored 20 or more at least once in his career, one guy trying to prove soemthing to management(either a kid or someone we traded for) and someone who can take care of themselves and is not afraid to hit. This allows the kids to learn to play as NHLers and to play in every situation. It will also allow Cammi, Stajan and Stemp to play and possibly be traded by the end of the year. This would have the heat weak upfront but that shows how desperate we are for the College kids the recent draft kids to finish junior.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Paul Byron is not, has never been, never will be, and was never going to become, an NHL talent.

    I really can’t fathom how anybody could have ever thought differently.

    I’m also sick to death of people bringing up Fleury and St Louis as examples that a small guy can make it in the NHL.

    OK, quick game, which one of these things doesn’t belong here?
    1) Theo Fleury
    2) Paul Byron
    3) Martin St Louis

    I’ll give you a clue, it’s the one who has never been seriously discussed as being possibly the single most skilled hockey player in the entire world at some point in time.

  • Section205

    Flames are drafting, developing and acquiring more and more college players these days. Gaudreau, Agostino, Arnold, Gillies, etc. I expect that trend to continue with upcoming trades and drafts.

    So the gaps in the system are left to reside on the Heat lineup, for now.

    One more year and the Heat should have more college and junior players coming in, while the college system will be reinforced as well.

  • everton fc

    Street – Reinhart – Hanowski
    Byron – Granlund – Nemisz
    Bancks – GoBlair Jones! – Jooris
    Ferland – Eddy – Elson
    Howse

    Breen – Cundari
    Billins – Wotherspoon
    Ramage – McKenzie
    Martin

    Berra, Ortio
    Brossoit

    First, I don’t see Ferland on the 4th line. In fact, I think he’ll move up the chart quickly, if he gets his head right and shows up for camp ready.

    Second, I agree – why did they re-sign Byron? Save-face, I know. But you look at some of the NHL-level guys Feaster brought in, it hasn’t been a good crop at all. Outside Stempniak and Wideman, whose grossly overpaid.

    To my second point, Jones was hailed by Feaster and many here. Now, he’s a 3rd line centre in the AHL.

    Of the forwards, Granlund may get the first look. Then Reinhart of Hanowski. But if Ferland can put it together, score some goals and prove he can drop the mitts with the toughest dudes in the AHL – hey, Akim Aliu got a call up, and Ferland’s certainly a better player than Aliu by year’s end.

    If Nemisz earns a shot at the big club, good for him. If Bancks does, I’ll be happy. Like Bancks.

    As for the d-men, I see Cundari on the big club. But that’s me, and I’m not sold on hiom being more than a replacement player. No way Seiloff’s in Abby. Nor Culkin. Actually, the d-men look young, but interesting. Breen and Wotherspoon may surprise in the main Flames camp.

    Where did Kolanos and Walter end up?

  • I don’t like to hijack a thread, but wanted to mention that PuckDaddy is starting a cool series on the best in team history by nationality. Flames will be up soon (perhaps one of the fine bloggers of this site will be writing the piece).

    For the record, and without much thought, my picks:
    Canada – Iggy (over Fleury/Big Al/Nieuwy/Lanny)
    USA – Suter (tight race w/ Mullen/Conroy/Otto)
    Russia – Makarov (who else)
    Czech – Reichel (again, not much competition)
    Slovakia – ?? (Petrovicky, I guess)
    Sweden – Loob over Nilsson (but it’s close)
    Finland – Kipper, of course
    Rest of World – Reggie (born in Brazil)

  • Depth in all the wrong places. That’s basically the Flames’ calling card. Too many middle-rotation wingers, too many backup goalies. Short on everything else.

    Pretty much the only thing they got right is depth in AHL defensemen. A refreshing change from last year, to be sure.

  • That Forward group looks aweful, I usually try to catch a Heat game or two whenever I visit the lower mainland, but man, watching a Heat game may very well be watching a team never go past neutral ice with that forward group.

    Defence and Goaltending may be all right though. Still glad that Feaster went with all Forwards in the first round in this years draft, as our current Heat roster shows, there is very little to be excited about at the forward position.

  • Parallex

    That’s a pretty fugly forward core unless Granland adjusts well to the smaller ice and Reinhart is more like he was in the Dub… even at the AHL level it’s fugly. Blueline back looks pretty good though. I tend to think they ought to roll with Berra Ortio between the pipes with Broisset in the ECHL… no failing on Broisset he’s just the youngest and least experienced so it makes sense to give him the lower assignment at least initially.

    You think this is what the Heat will roll with or do you think that there are some AHL only contracts forthcoming for a Jaime Lundmark/Kris Kolanos/Chris Bourque/Quinton Laing type or two? Thus relegating other folk to Utah.

    Also don’t AHL teams tend to roll with at least one face-puncher?

  • Thanks for #goblairjones’ing the depth chart, that felt nice.

    As far as goaltending goes, my guess is Berra/Brossoit are the two guys (and my prediction is Brossoit gets the bulk of the starts, say 60-40)

    As far as I know, there’s nothing stopping the Flames leaving Ortio in Finland again for another year and developing there.

    It’s better for him than backing up Berra, and there’s better skill for him there to go up against than there is for Brossoit (for example) in the ECHL.

  • We’ll be endeavouring to utilize our network of spies, scouts and contacts to keep y’all abreast of what the various prospects – Heat and otherwise – are doing once the season kicks off in Octoberish.

  • T&A4Flames

    Still waiting on CGY to go out and sign Blum. Another young guy with NHL experience that could up the competition and right shot to boot.

    Wideman-TJ
    Blum-Gio
    Butler, Smith, Cundari, Breen……

  • Lordmork

    Of course, I don’t expect the Flames to conjure those types of players out of thin air. Here’s hoping the last few years of drafting, and the years going ahead, herald big improvements in the overall development of players.

  • Lordmork

    Thanks for the write-up. I was feeling optimistic about the Heat, and I’m still optimistic about the development of some of the players who’ll be there. But I have to admit that I’m a bit worried about the organizational depth. There are some people who’ve played some NHL games and who can bring that experience, but I’d really like to see the Heat full of players who can step up and really step in in case of injury. But with Sven, Horak and Bouma probably moving up to Flames, and Brodie having already made the team, who then fills those roles? I am hopeful that some of these guys will be able to become NHL-in-waiting players.

    • Cundari, Reinhart, Jones and Street are close to replacement level give or take Im sure. We’ll see how Granlund, Wotherspoon and Breen do as well.

      It’s a thin group though. There are zero stars in waiting on the Heat this year.

      • Lordmork

        Well, it should be fun to watch the Heat this year to see who makes the most of it. I enjoyed the regular updates on them during the lockout, although we heard a lot less about them later in the season. Could we get weekly or at least regular updates on the Heat or something similar in the upcoming season?

        • We can try.

          The issue with the Heat last year was two-fold: the season started and the focus shifted to the Flames. In addition, the Heat were pretty bad in the latter half of the year and almost every player of interest eventually made his way to the Flames roster anyways.

          • Lordmork

            And fair enough! I know you guys have other things to cover when the season is ongoing. There are some players on the Heat that I’m interested in (Elson, Wotherspoon, Brossoit) so I thought I’d ask!

    • Here’s what I have.
      Glenx
      Stajan
      Cammy
      Galliardi
      Backlund
      Stemp
      Hudler
      Jones
      Jackman
      Bouma
      McGratten
      Knight
      Jones
      Begin?

      I think they have to move someone to give Sven the needed top 6 spot and still someone else to give Horak a needed top 9 spot.

      • Here’s my Flames depth chart currently

        Glencross – Backlund – Cammalleri
        Baertschi – Stajan – Stempniak
        Jones – Knight – Hudler
        Galiardi – Bouma/Horak – Jackman
        McGrattan

        Blair Jones is assigned to the Heat. Steve Begin hasn’t been re-signed by the team.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I would have no problem with Jones in Abby. My only concern is that Horak plays on the 4rth line with the Flames and never gets a chance to develop his offense. Or Sven playing anything but top 6.

          • keep in mind opening night depth charts tend to change radically as the season moves a long, either due to injury, player development or player movement. I expect some combination of Stempniak, Stajan, Cammalleri and maybe even Hudler won’t finish the year out with the team. And someone always gets injured for long periods of time.

            If Horak starts out on the 4th line, my guess is he will get ample opportunity to move up should his performance warrant it.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I think it depends a lot on Ferland. It’s thin if he has issues, but if he steps into the role this season, they could look okay from a scoring perspective.

      Also on the note of the contract limit that was brought up in regard to Culkin: why, oh why, in the sweet crap, did Feaster have to re-sign Byron? I’d rather see Culkin in the AHL any day than that useless player. Not that Culkin absolutely can’t be signed, but it would absolutely help if Byron wasn’t around from a contract limit standpoint.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I think calling him a useful body is an insult to useful bodies as NHL players go, but that’s just me. If they’re going to sign sub-replacement level NHLers to two-way contracts as callups, they should at least go with guys who are a little bigger.

          Size shouldn’t trump talent, but all Byron has is speed and a chippy attitude. You can find that in tons of other guys who are a few inches taller and a few pounds heavier.

          I might have a slight bias against him because I hated that Regehr trade so much, though.