Grading the Flames 2014-15 Rookies

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.

JOHNNY GAUDREAU

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.

JOSH JOORIS

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-

MARKUS GRANLUND

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.

MICHAEL FERLAND

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.

JONI ORTIO

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+.

EMILE POIRIER

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-.

DAVID WOLF

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.

CORBAN KNIGHT

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.

SAM BENNETT

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.

THE DEFENDERS

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.

  • RedMan

    I am interested to hear people’s impression/evaluation of the three defenders as well as Bennett in this game. I have to confess, as a guy that grew up in the middle of the Mojave desert about an hour away from Death Valley, I never played hockey and therefore really appreciate the opinions and impressions of those who are more experienced.

    for myself, i heard Wotherspoon’s name a couple times, but didn’t notice him at all. It seemed like Hartley played the other two as the main pairing, and with a score like it is, well… that has to say something.

    I did think Wolf looked a step behind, unable to use his size effectively as a result, sorta like Engellend who is slow also, and if he is out of position or goes one on one, watch out, he gets owned.

    Bennett did seem to buzz on occasion, but also had lots of time without anything happening. just curious what you all saw with your experienced eye.

    • T&A4Flames

      I was only able to watch he the game in spurts, but Wotherspoon seemed solid enough. Ramage I was impressed with only because I had low expectations and he didn’t stand out. In his case, I think that’s a good thing. Kulak, I’ve been waiting to see. He impressed me. A few gaffs but I expect that out of D men that think O first. He may still become a player. I thought he would be good, especially after his camp.

      Too bad Culkin was injured. Would really have like to see him.

    • prendrefeu

      Grew up in the middle of the Mojave desert about an hour away from Death Valley

      Ummm… Ridgecrest?
      Don’t say Trona though. I mean… you can’t be serious about Trona.
      Can you?

    • prendrefeu

      My friends been hired as a power skating coach for the flames In the past but only for short stints, and only for specific players. I’m not sure if they have a full time dude on staff though. If they don’t, they should.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Troy Crowder was hired by the Flames last summer as a skating coach. I heard an interview with Wolf who said he’d been working with him. Interesting that he’d credited Crowder with a Skate boot insert that helped players with wide feet. He said it’s helped, so hopefully progress will continue.

  • I have seen too much of Wolf in Adirondack to not give him a mulligan on his few NHL games.

    I’m not saying the guy’s the real deal, but he IS what today’s NHL fourth liner is becoming. Sign him to another two-way, one year deal and let him try again. He is way too dominant in the AHL for it not to work in the NHL.

    • RedMan

      sounds like a good idea to me. I would assume that the team employs a skating coach… hopefully he can up his speed, at least his first couple strides, enough. He definitely has the heart.

  • JumpJet

    I’m a bit surprised by the A- grade for Jooris. What more could he have done to earn an A or an A+? I agree with your assessment.

    I think the hand-full of NHL games for all these guys (especially Ferland and Poirier) showed them what it takes to be an NHL player. Hopefully that drives them to work that much harder in the offseason and they’ll blow the doors of the ‘Dome at next years’ training camp.

  • JumpJet

    The only problem with Wolf is his heavy feet. Bill Arnold had a similar issue when he was drafted, and he is now considered one of the better skaters in the organization. Granted, Wolf is getting to the skating corrections a bit late (he’s almost 26) but that doesn’t mean it’s too late.

  • JumpJet

    Nie assessment Ryan!

    I don’t think we will see Bennett in the playoffs…according to Craig Conroy he is still not fully conversant with the Flames system of playing hockey.