The Flames thinned the herd a bit more today, assigning Corban Knight, Michael Ferland and Max Reinhart to the Abbotsford Heat, as well as Keegan Kanzig to Victoria in the WHL. The interesting name there is Corban Knight, who was tabbed to make the Flames out of college when he was acquired this summer. After watching him for a few games, I agree with the coaching staff that he has some strides to take before he’s a legit NHLer. Ferland going down might disappoint some, but just sticking around camp this long is a huge step forward for the big winger. If he can continue his strong play for Abby, Ferland will be an injury call-up sooner rather than later.
That leaves potential bubble guys Derek Smith, Roman Horak, Sven Baertshi, Ben Street, Pat Sieloff, Sean Monahan, Lance Bouma and Reto Berra on the parent roster. With most a lot of incumbents already established, the Flames only have a couple of spaces up front and maybe one on the back-end up for grabs, though injuries to Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler may mean added opportunity at first.
So who makes the cut? Before we proceed, it should be noted that the pre-season is a fairly poor indicator for how things will turn out during the regular season. As evidenced by Tj Brodie a few years ago, a youngster can blow the doors off in the exhibition games only to find himself over his head when the real stuff begins and demoted a week or two later. A kid can have a bad camp as well, but take over during the season in the minors and push his way up the depth chart. So even if player X or Y is or isn’t on the roster to start the year, that hardly determines their entire season.
– Sven Baertschi will make the team for sure if Hudler and Cammalleri can’t go to start they year, but he’s in some trouble of being shuttled to the Abbotsford if they’re healthy. Sven had a so-so camp, with swings between skillful flourishes and facepalm worthy gaffes. He’s a very real offensive talent, but his game is still rough around the edges.
A lot of Flames fans expect Baertschi to take the big step this year, but more than a few current NHL stars weren’t NHL regulars at 21 years old, so it won’t be the end of the world if he gets more polish at the AHL level at some point.
– Reto Berra fought the puck at times last night and probably needs more seasoning on North American ice. I fully expect him to be sent to the AHL so he can play a lot and get his bearings. As a result, Joey MacDonald will no doubt back-up Karri ramo to being.
– Sean Monahan has had a strong camp given his age and is a lock to get a 9-game try-out with the big club. What happens from there will depend entirely on how he performs during that period. Personally I wouldn’t keep Monahan around short of him leading the team in either scoring or possession due to long-term cap implications, but I suspect the bar might be lower for the Flames management, who will need to something to sell to the fanbase this year.
– Pat Sieloff is injured after fighting in the pre-season, so I haven’t seen him play against NHL bodies. At just 19, he’s probably not a true candidate for the big club and I assume the Flames are keeping him around the heal up and get a taste of everyday NHL pro life before sending him to Abby, where he’ll have to battle to establish himself.
– Roman Horak has been a ‘tweener for two seasons now and is one of the senior bubble kids. He’s the type of guy who can play both center and wing, so I assume for those reasons he may have the inside track to start the year. That said, he’s also a guy who has a lot to prove after two seasons in the organization and will need to do more than simply run in place to stick around long term.
– Lance Bouma was set to become a regular of the 4th line last season before a knee injury wiped it out for him. He’s not going to dangle or score, but his potential ceiling is that of Brandon Prust – a high-energy agitator who can check good players, PK and drop the gloves on occasion.
Depending on what the team does with Horak and Baertschi this weekend, Bouma may spend the whole season with the big club. If not, he’ll be one of the first call-ups.
– Ben Street was one of the Heat’s leading scorers last year and has put up good offensive numbers in the AHL the last two seasons. He’s a utility forward at the NHL level and probably has a lower ceiling than many of the other guys vying for spots in various places, but he’s more useful and polished currently. Street can play wing or center and has enough skill and grit to advance the play relatively well in the bottom-6 rotation.
Street will be in tough to make the team right now since I expect the club to prioritize younger, organizational guys, but he might stick for a longer period if injuries become an issue.
– Derek Smith is a career journeyman at the end of the blueline rotation who could eventually be bumped if his play falls off or if one of the hopefuls impresses. For now, I expect him to make the cut as a 6th/7th guy.
Who cast your votes…who makes the cut?