Weeks ago, it was easy to feel bad for Abbotsford Heat coach Troy (G.) Ward.
All of his best players were in Calgary. Or injured. Or slumping. Now? The team has a playoff spot locked down. They’ve gotten most of their bodies back from the IR and/or Calgary. And they’ve gotten some reinforcements from college and major-junior.
With Abbotsford closing out their AHL regular season this weekend, why not get familiar with the Heat roster as they get primed for the post-season?
Joni Ortio: Ortio’s the undisputed starter. He had strong numbers all year in the AHL and looked pretty darn good for a 22-year-old in the NHL, too.
Doug Carr: Just finished his senior season with U-Mass Lowell, Carr’s 25 and has played but one pro game. Evidently he did enough good things to get the back-up gig, as Olivier Roy was sent to ECHL Alaska for their playoffs.
Chris Breen: Breen is Breen. He’s got size and is a good positional D-man at the AHL level. Not much offense, but he uses his size.
Chad Billins: Billins is the opposite of Breen. He’s smaller, but has significantly more offensive upside.
Derek Smith: Calgary’s de facto #7 blueliner all year was a huge offensive contributor for the Heat, particularly on the power-play.
Shane O’Brien: O’Brien plays a physical role on the Heat, but also provides mentorship for the team’s many, many young defenders.
Dean Arsene: The team captain, Arsene is a blood-and-guts, heart-and-soul type of defender. He’s not great at anything, but works his tail off. May be scratched from time-to-time.
Brett Kulak: Flames 2012 pick. Just signed a deal and came in when Vancouver’s season ended. Has looked good, scoring a goal. Good chance he’ll get some playoff time.
Kane LaFranchise: Reliable depth defender. Ward seems to like him, giving him a good amount of ice-time even as NHLers have returned.
Zach Davies: Call-up from Alaska. Has some offensive upside, but probably won’t play much.
Brady Lamb: Decent third-pairing option, but hasn’t played since Kulak arrived.
Black Aces: Keegan Kanzig, Eric Roy, Ryan Culkin, Zach Tolkinen; I’d wager there’s a chance that Culkin gets a sniff, but with so many bodies, it’ll be tough.
Injured: Patrick Sieloff
Ben Street: An All-Star, Street’s been a strong offensive contributor for the Heat most of the year.
Corban Knight: Right now has better defensive/possession numbers than Reinhart, but worse offensive numbers.
Blair Jones: Great on PP, decent five-on-five. Missed some time due to injury, but is gradually rounding into his old form.
Max Reinhart: The team’s two-way ace has dramatically improved both his plus/minus and his points production.
Markus Granlund: He’s back and he’s healthy. And he’s one of the team’s top offensive threats.
Ben Hanowski: At AHL level, physical and a good forechecker. Unsure of his offensive upside.
Sven Baertschi: Gifted offensively, figuring things out otherwise.
Brett Olson: Quietly having a strong year. Works hard in all three zones, but may not be the most talented player out there.
Josh Jooris: Fine two-way player. Solid if unspectacular.
Carter Bancks: Heart-and-soul, energy player. Not huge offensive upside.
Emile Poirier: Fresh from the Quebec playoffs, Poirier’s getting used to the pros (as he’ll probably heading to the AHL next year). He’ll definitely play before the year’s up, but playoffs are a question mark.
Morgan Klimchuk: Looked decent in first weekend of AHL games. Probably rotates in and out depending on the situation.
Corey Locke: Brought in from Chicago Wolves. Has developed good chemistry with Olson and Baertschi. Point-per-game production, so I highly doubt he’s ever scratched.
Trevor Gillies: Big hitter and fighter. May be recovering from injuries. May be a healthy scratch if his particular set of skills are deemed not necessary.
Tim Miller: With fourth AHL club of year. If Poirier or Klimchuk rotate in, he’ll be a candidate to rotate out. With bodies returning, he probably slides down the depth chart either way.
Jordan Kremyr: Call-up. An extra body.
Garnet Hathaway: Call-up. An extra body.
David Eddy: They gave his jersey number to Poirier, so I doubt he plays much.
Black Aces: Collin Valcourt, Coda Gordon; I doubt either of them play.
Injured: Michael Ferland
IF I WERE COACH
Lines pulled out of thin air.
Reinhart – Granlund – Jones
Street – Knight – Poirier/Klimchuk
Baertschi – Olson – Locke
Hanowski – Jooris – Bancks
Breen – Billins
O’Brien – Smith
LaFranchise – Arsene/Kulak
A LOOK AHEAD
The Heat play the San Antonio Rampage tonight at 6pm MT, Friday night at 6:30pm MT and then visit the Texas Stars (in the greater Austin area) on Saturday at 6pm MT.
They’re going to finish 5th or 6th, depending on how the Milwaukee Admirals do. If they finish 5th, they play the Chicago Wolves. If they finish 6th, they play the Toronto Marlies. AHL playoffs begin next weekend.