The long march to respectability – well, eventually – kicks off tonight as the Young Stars Classic begins in scenic Penticton, BC. The Calgary Flames face-off with the Winnipeg Jets tonight, kicking off at 5pm MT. Our Sportsnet 960 friends have the call, with the debut of of Derek Wills and Peter Loubardias as a radio tandem, with the Flames site streaming the game (with Pat Steinberg calling the action).
Our local team has fielded a roster that both greatly reflects just how far their drafting has come in recent years, and more or less resembles the projected Adirondack Flames roster. Both Ryan Huska and Todd Gill (of the Adirondack staff) are going to be behind the bench.
Calgary’s roster includes two first round picks (Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuk), the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner (Johnny Gaudreau) and 16 draft picks. Patrick Sieloff and Michael Ferland look to get their first in-game action in since 2013. Joni Ortio hopes to complicate decision-making in net for the big club. Several players are hoping to make a good first impression, either on Flames coach Bob Hartley or Adirondack’s Huska.
Not playing (but traveling with the team) are Tyler Wotherspoon (injury), Emile Poirier (injury) and David Wolf (too old to play). Per Pat Steinberg, sounds like the Flames will be deploying folks like Gaudreau, Bennett and Bill Arnold tonight. No word on lines, goalies or scratches as of yet.
The boys from Winnipeg may have the group of prospects I’m personally most excited to see, if only because they’ve mined the Western Hockey League quite a bit. Nine different WHL prospects are appearing with the Jets team in this tournament, including top-flight goaltender Eric Comrie, defender Josh Morrissey and forwards Alex Blomqvist, Chase de Leo and Nic Petan.
Morrissey and Nicolaj Ehlers are the Jets first rounders appearing and like Calgary this is a home-grown group, with 15 picks represented. The Jets have a good mix of skill and size, with tiny fast guys (like J.C. Lipon, de Leo and Petan) mixed in with bigger players like Blomqvist and Adam Lowry.
SUM IT UP
The Flames kids get their feet wet with a test against a very underrated prospect group in the form of the Winnipeg Jets. The locals may get their blood up a bit more for battles with their traditional heated rivals in Vancouver or Edmonton, but tonight’s game should be quite a good measuring stick for the Flames’ kids.