It’s August, so that means two things: World Junior and World Under-18 camps are underway, and major-junior teams will soon be able to hold camps and make roster moves.
The first “thing” is cool because Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuk are vying for spots on Team Canada’s entry at the World Juniors this Christmas in Toronto and Montreal. (Yay home-ice advantage!) The second is important because the Flames may have to make some quick decisions on some 20-year-olds depending on what happens with their junior teams.
Every junior team in the Canadian Hockey League is allowed to carry three 20-year-olds, defined this season as players with a 1994 birthday. They have to finalize their rosters with their 20-year-olds by October 16.
Now, the Flames have a lot of players in the system with 1994 birthdays. Thankfully, a bunch of them are in college – Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski and Tim Harrison – so their turning pro or not isn’t an issue of weird CHL rules. But that does apply for Brett Kulak, Emile Poirier, Patrick Sieloff, Eric Roy and Austin Carroll. (“Scoring” Sean Monahan’s also a 1994 birthday, but no way in hell does he go back to Ottawa.)
Roy and Carroll are in a weird spot, as Kulak, Poirier and Sieloff already have pro deals on the books and are widely expected to spend their years in the American Hockey League, but the other two gentlemen do not.
As of right now, Roy would be one of four potential over-agers for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Presuming that the Wheaties lose 2013 first rounder Ryan Pulock to the pros, Roy would be the elder statesman on a pretty young blueline group that would include 1995ers Colton Waltz and Taylor Green, 1996ers Ryan Pilon and Kord Pankewicz and 1998-born Cale Klague, who’s a subject of a lot of hype. Roy’s a strong offensive defender, but his defensive game needs work, and as the veteran of the group he’ll need to eat up minutes and anchor things for the Wheat Kings. Will that be better than being potentially lost in the shuffle in Adirondack or Alaska, and potentially being in way over his head? Given the circumstances (tons of youth in Adirondack and the chance at lots of ice-time in Brandon), I’d bet he sticks in the WHL for his over-age year.
Now, Carroll is a bit of a different story.
It appears that Victoria has more or less settled on their three over-agers (Carroll, Florida pick Steven Hodges and Travis Brown), but that does ignore the fact that other teams will soon have to make tough decisions on their own players. [Depending on whether Adam Tambellini turns pro or not, the Hitmen may have as many as five to start camp, for instance.] And Carroll is a big guy who uses his size to make room for his teammates. That size is almost definitely why the Flames rolled the dice on him in the 7th round. Now, the question on Eric Roy was primarily whether he’d be better-served by a year in Brandon. The same question should be posed for Carroll’s development, such as it is. He was Victoria’s second leading scorer and most likely would be one of the team’s leading offensive contributors if he came back for another year.
But does it make much sense for a physically-developed 20-year-old to be playing against younger, smaller players? From a confidence standpoint, yes, as he’ll have another strong offensive year and go into the pros with some momentum. But will he get that much better when he’s playing against players that are objectively not as good as he is? I’d lean towards Carroll going pro just to challenge him, but once again, with so many forward prospects in Adirondack this season, there probably isn’t a place for him outside of Alaska. (I’d probably still turn him pro and place him in Alaska, because it would be a step up in competition but he would probably still have a chance to do pretty well.) And I don’t think the Flames will stick him in Alaska right out of the gates, so I also expect him to go back to Victoria for the season.
SUM IT UP
The Flames most likely only have 42 contracts that will run this season, presuming none of the four players on sliding deals play 10 NHL games, so they have a lot of flexibility in terms of taking on contracts via trade or perhaps wooing college players to sign at the end of the season.
But the fact that they have so many interesting players fighting for AHL ice-time probably means that both Eric Roy and Austin Carroll stick in the WHL for this season, barring changing circumstances with their junior teams. It’s probably the right move for Roy’s development, but Carroll’s probably physically developed enough that a year playing pro hockey may be the best move for his short-term development.