The Calgary Flames were a young group this season, full of pep and vinegar. Despite being so young, or maybe because of it, the team relied on inexperienced players quite a bit in 2014-15.
The club used a dozen rookies this regular season.
Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of how those freshmen did.
Who: Calgary’s fourth round selection in 2011; first-year pro
Stats Line: 24 goals, 40 assists for 64 points in 80 games, +11
Assessment: Like that Emma Stone movie from a few years back, Gaudreau is an easy A. He struggled to figure out how to play his game within Bob Hartley’s system early on, but after being healthy scratched against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Calgary’s season-opening road trip, he seemed to relax and began to do his thing. Few players in the Flames organization are as skilled with the puck, and between his speed, elusiveness and creativity, his rookie season will probably be remembered as one for the ages.
Who: A college free agent that Jay Feaster signed a couple years back; second-year pro
Stats Line: 12 goals, 12 assists for 24 points in 60 games, +1
Assessment: Relied upon as an energy player and a right-handed guy who could win face-offs – that job was solely his until Drew Shore was acquired mid-way through the season – Jooris was probably the biggest surprise of the season. A depth player in Abbotsford who was best known for being a line-mate to Corey Locke and Sven Baertschi, he showed in training camp that perhaps in was him who was responsible for being that line’s catalyst. He was excellent in camp and one of the last cuts, but came up at the first sign of injuries and eventually won Devin Setoguchi’s spot on the roster. He became one of Bob Hartley’s favourite weapons: effectively a right-handed Lance Bouma with the similar “hit everything, block everything, drive the net” game plan. Like Bouma, though, Jooris’ playing style took its toll on him. Regardless, he’s one of the guys that got them to the playoffs. A-
Who: Calgary’s second round selection in 2011; second-year pro
Stats Line: 8 goals, 10 assists for 18 points in 48 games, -4
Assessment: Granlund yo-yoed between Calgary and Adirondack quite a bit after his successful NHL debut was derailed by a season-ending shoulder injury last season. (He did recover in time for the AHL playoffs.) This season, he played really well for stretches, with the only significant negative being his inability to consistently win face-offs. But he’s offensively creative, defensively responsible and figured out ways to put the puck in the net when it mattered. Solid B; would’ve been better with better face-off results or a bigger sample size.
Who: Calgary’s fifth round selection in 2010; third-year pro (though in his fist full season pro)
Stats Line: 2 goals, 3 assists for 5 points in 26 games, +1
Assessment: It’s easy to like a guy like Ferland, who delivers punishing hits, can score goals and get position on defenders due to his size, and is also willing to stand up for his teammates. (Intangibles!) There’s some gaps in his game, such as his defensive positioning occasionally needs work, but he’s laid a pretty solid foundation. B.
Who: Calgary’s sixth round selection in 2009; fourth-year-pro
Stats Line: 4-2-0 with a 2.52 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 6 games
Assessment: Started six times and basically stole four wins on the road when the Flames desperately, desperately needed points to stay in the race with Jonas Hiller starting to fatigue and Karri Ramo injured. I’m ignoring that game against Winnipeg, because many people looked bad there. B+.
Who: Calgary’s first round selection in 2013; first-year pro
Stats Line: 0 goals, 1 assist for 1 point in 6 games, +1
Assessment: Poirier was used sparingly down the stretch, but when he got in his was pretty good. He played primarily a third line role and generally moved the puck in the right direction. I think this season was more about getting his feet wet and opening his eyes about what he needs to do to be successful at the NHL level, since he’s already been darn good as an AHLer (at 20). B-.
Who: Free agent signing over the summer; first-year North American pro, but played a ton in Germany
Stats Line: 0 points in 3 games, even
Assessment: Wolf has great size and plays the game with a physical edge. However, his skating isn’t quite up to NHL snuff and his defensive play, as a result, isn’t that great yet. Compare him to Ferland, since they play similar styles and roles: Ferland can commit 100% to the forecheck and aggressive pressuring of the puck carrier because he can also haul ass back to the defensive end if things go that way. Wolf doesn’t quite have that in his repertoire. But he did only play three games, so grade is incomplete.
Who: Free agent signing from a couple years back; since traded back to Florida for Drew Shore
Stats Line: 0 points in 2 games, even
Assessment: Knight was decent. I don’t think he was much of a fit, and my conversations with folks who follow the Baby Flames closely indicated that Bill Arnold’s progression as a right-handed centerman really made Knight expendable. He got a couple games, didn’t play very much but didn’t embarrass himself, and then was sent down and traded a few weeks later. Incomplete.
Who: Calgary’s first round selection in 2014; technically zero-th year pro; the by-product of Calgary’s Sham for Sam 2013-14 season
Stats Line: 0 goals, 1 assist for 1 point in 1 game, -1
Assessment: Played one game after finishing OHL career with Kingston and got an assist. Was buzzing around the net quite a bit, too. Granted, one game, but it’s a good sign. He may’ve played well enough to warrant consideration for playoff action. Incomplete grade.
TYLER WOTHERSPOON, BRETT KULAK AND JOHN RAMAGE
Who: Calgary’s second round pick in 2011, second-year pro (Wotherspoon); Calgary’s fourth round pick in 2012, first-year pro (Kulak); Calgary’s fourth round selection in 2010, second-year pro (Ramage)
Stats Line: None of them had points in the one game they played
Assessment: I didn’t think these guys merited a lot of chatter. They played once. They played okay, though defensive coverage was generally a step down from the regular NHL roster. I don’t think you can say any of these guys were amazing or terrible based on a Game 82 that was, in essence, played entirely in “garbage time,” but none of them blew the doors off or anything. But it’s also pretty hard to grade defenders, particularly off a barely-existing sample size. Incomplete x 3.