5 Flames AHL prospects That Could Jump To The NHL Next Season

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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames began a youth movement this past year, with the team’s offense in the post-season being driven largely by 18-year-old Sam Bennett, 20-year-old Sean Monahan and 21-year-old Johnny Gaudreau. In addition to those talented youngsters, the Flames also saw a bunch of youngsters from their American Hockey League club in Adirondack. Some of them turned out really well. Some seemed to need more seasoning.

Here’s five youngsters from the AHL ranks that are closest to making the jump to full-time NHL employment.

1) JONI ORTIO

A late-round pick of the Flames way back in 2009, Ortio spent time in Finland before making the jump to North America. His stock has really risen internally over the past couple of seasons, with Ortio himself bouncing from the ECHL’s Alaska to the AHL’s Abbotsford to the NHL’s Flames two seasons ago. This past season, he turned a lot of heads with his mid-season call-up, winning four of six starts during a crucial West Coast road trip.

More importantly, Ortio has used up his waiver exemption seasons and is on a one-way contract for 2015-16, meaning that the Flames are all-but-forced to use him in the NHL. After how he’s performed in spot call-ups over the past few seasons, management is likely quite curious and excited to see him over a longer-term stint.

2) BILL ARNOLD

A mid-round pick in 2010, Bill Arnold rose to prominence as a smart defensive center on a very good Boston College team. As he matured and rose up the ranks, Arnold ended up as one-third of the best college line in the United States alongside Kevin Hayes and fellow Flames pick Johnny Gaudreau. He may have became nationally-known for being the defensively-responsible center on a strong line, but his first AHL season showed that he could elevate most players he worked with.

Arnold was one of the best players for Adirondack last season. Not only was he a center that could win face-offs consistently and create offense, but he’s a right-handed center. In Calgary, that’s akin to a unicorn. Between his performance and his well-established chemistry with Gaudreau, a call-up for Arnold seems inevitable.

3) EMILE POIRIER

Emile Poirier was one of three Calgary first round picks in 2013, used with the pick Calgary got from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester trade. He made his NHL debut two-thirds of the way through the 2014-15 campaign, recalled at a time where Mark Giordano had just gotten hurt and the Flames were juggling playoff hopes, injuries and trying to survive a long road trip. He got a few games in, got a taste of the big time, and generate some scoring chances.

With a summer to stew over his experiences and alter his preparation a bit, Poirier should return to training camp even more determined to crack the NHL roster. A left-shot that plays the right side, Poirier has an offensive mind paired with a frame that can survive the physicality of the pro game – something made evident in his first season in the AHL. He’ll have an inside track at a call-up for any openings Calgary has on the wings.

4) TYLER WOTHERSPOON

One of two Flames 2011 second round picks – the other is Markus Granlund – Wotherspoon made his NHL debut in his first pro season, playing well on the third pairing before bowing out early due to shoulder surgery. Recovery from that surgery delayed the start of his 2014-15 season, and he spent a big chunk of the year trying to round into his previous form. The Flames brought him up late in the season, used him mostly in practice, then threw him into the line-up for the playoffs.

The Flames obviously have confidence in Wotherspoon. He’s entering the final season of his entry-level deal and has spent time in the NHL in each of his first two pro seasons. He’s easily the most NHL-ready of Calgary’s defensive prospects. The big question is which established Flames defender Wotherspoon can displace to cement himself at the NHL level.

5) KENNEY MORRISON

Signed as college free agent from Western Michigan this past spring, Morrison joined the AHL’s Adirondack Flames and was immediately one of their better defenders. A right-handed shot with NHL size and good instincts, his production and confidence level in the AHL have likely already earned him a long look at main camp. If he has a good camp and gets off to a good start to the season in Stockton, he could easily jump to the front of the line for mid-season call-ups.

Four of the five major candidates for promotion to the NHL ranks became Calgary Flames by virtue of the NHL Draft. If you want a chance to witness this year’s draft in person, the Virtual League of Hockey will be flying two lucky virtual GMs down to Sunrise Florida to watch it all unfold from June 25th to June 28th. By registering for a free account you will automatically be entered for your chance to win. The VLH lets you create your own team, develop players and challenge a community of hockey fans from around the world. Now you also have the chance to learn from the world’s best GMs at the entry draft! Join today for your shot at the grand prize.

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  • OKG

    The only thing the flames should do is send Taraseko. Saad and Hamilton offer sheets lines like this Johny h tarasenko. Huds … Bennett monny saad … Ferland backland bomua. Arnold shore porier with spares Colborne Byron or others don’t matter defence like this gio Russell Brodie slemko Hamilton t spoon extras Morrison wideman get rid off bollig engaland Macgratton Dias setagochi ect ppl we never want to see again then we got size top six and defence playoffs for yrs to come and some cups …!!!!!!from a flame fan since I was a kid trades and picks to get this done

  • wot96

    Arnold and Poirier are going to have to blow the doors off some vets at camp to earn a spot, which I hope they do, actually. I think there are a number of vets that are going to get their ass kicked if they are even a little bit complacent.

    Ortio is probably a done deal and one of Wotherspoon or Morrison are likely to get a look.

  • wot96

    Take your picks wideman and huds salaries pay for tarasenko wide man 5 million huds 4 million Taraseko 9 million. Smid 3.5 million Englland 3 million pays for Hamilton 6 million. Bollig 1 million And Dias 700000 pays for Saad still leaves us 24 million in original cap space for gio and others to sign

  • wot96

    Get rid of otter bring up t spoon or morrisonfor example bring up arnold and portier. Yes it can be done there’s where u get the cap space lol you were saying ???

  • Trevy

    Wideman, our 15th pick and a 2nd to Arizona for their 3rd overall. They’re looking for another right handed offensive defenseman and have the cap space. We grab Hanifin with that pick and sign free agent Barret Jackman to fill the gap and provide additional leadership and mentoring. Hey, just a dream, but could conceivably happen!!

    • everton fc

      If we took Smith, moved Ramo and Hiller, then Arizona may be interested in talking to us. I, for one, have no fear of a young, confident tandem of Ortio and Gillies next season.

      But the rebuild calls for one of Ramo and Hiller to remain, as the mentor to the “apprentice”….

      I’d stay away from Barrett Jackman. We are old enough on the backend, and I like the orgs commitment to young guys, and guys like Diaz and Schlemko, who worked hard to get minutes.

      Schlemko, in particular, has more upside than we’ve seen, albeit in a 5/6 role.

      • Trevy

        Taking Smith would be quite a goalie shuffle. I don’t know if Gillies is ready to be thrust into a NHL backup role already. I’m sure it will still come down to Ortio and one of Ramo or Hiller in the end, despite rumours of possibly both not being back. As for Jackman, he would strictly be a stop gap for only a couple of years and would be a far better 4th dman (if my original plan of Wideman being dealt) than Schlemko or Diaz. I do agree to maybe resign Schlemko for a possible 5/6 dman though.

        Sidenote- noticed you’re also an Everton fan. Family is from Liverpool with half supporting blue and half red! Makes for dangerous times at family gatherings!

        • everton fc

          Huge Everton fan. I’m Irish, so I pull for the Catholic team in Pool! Same with Celtic. Not sectarian at all – just fun.

          My kids all have the Everton gear, but my son also pulls for Leicester and West Ham a bit. At least he supports Celtic!

          I actually think Schlemko has more upside than many of us think. We shall see.

      • everton fc

        If you’re talking about Mike Smith, I don’t think the Coyotes are interested in moving him. Last season they tossed out Devan Dubnyk in favor of him, because they had already anointed him their starter–ignoring the fact that Smith was having an awful season and being outplayed at every turn by Dubnyk. It seems to me if they were interested in moving on from Smith they’d have traded him and kept Dubnyk.

  • everton fc

    I think Hathaway is #6. Over Wolf, in fact.

    The question is, “Where does he fit?”

    Another question: Could Arnold perhaps replace Backlund, if the latter plays hard-ball during RFA negotiations?? And/or, does Arnold make Backlund trade-bait for that coveted 3/4 defender we need?? (Or maybe a high priced 1/2, if Backlund’s part of a package?)

    A line of Bennett/Arnold/Poirier interests me. Ditto Ferland/Arnold/Poirier.

    Or if we keep Backlund, Bennett/Backlund/Poirier, if the org likes Bennett on the wing. Gaudreau/Bennett/Ferland/Bouma – that isn’t bad down the left side, “on paper”, particularly if Ferland makes the complete jump to the next level, which he should.

    I’d also like to see if Gaudreau could “click” with Arnold, with Hudler on the right side. Then a line of Bennett/Monahan/Poirier looks possible. At least in camp!

  • Franko J

    Prior to the 2012 season the Flames had very little to discuss when it came draft picks and developing prospects. It is refreshing to see the team has finally been able to find players who can actually push for a roster spot. I can see all 5 either being real close or being sent back to the AHL for further “seasoning”.

    Depending on the draft and free agency who makes the team and who doesn’t next season out of these 5 prospects will be most compelling. I can only hope if all 5 are here can and will push for a spot in the starting lineup. If they do I feel confident that this team has begun to turn the corner.

    Personally I think if there is a #6 or #7 on this list I like both Hathaway and Ramage to push for a spot as well. The more competition the better the team will be.

  • Franko J

    This article outlines quite well the situation the Flames are currently in: a number of quality prospects who may be forced to play in the AHL(not that this is all bad) because of place holder NHL vets. Porier and Arnold may indeed be ready to play in the NHL but there are I think 15 NHL players ahead of them on the teams depth chart.(half of whom are replaceable from within) Poirier should be given every opportunity to make this team because of the lack of depth at RW and I think they should also look at Arnold on the RW for this season.

    Spoon and Morrison are also stuck because of players like Schmid and Eng’s. Until Schmids’ injury status is made clearer he is a place holder as is Eng at @$3million a year. This organization is very unlikely to move Eng’s to the AHL at this kind of money although it would be the best thing long term. I suspect he will ultimately get the McG treatment as the prospects readily show they are better hockey players than he.

    I like most fans want and hope that this team will make the playoffs again but make no mistake we are a bubble team(trending in the right direction) and there are a number of teams chomping at our heals(LA they are not done yet, SJ trending I think in the wrong direction, Dallas, Colorado, and Jets). To move forward this team needs to allow the prospects to grow and develop(AHL time) but that includes NHL time.

  • McRib

    I believe Kenny Agostino is closer than most think as well, he had a fantastic second half of the season with 1.07 PPG in his last 29 Games of the Season down in Adirondack, ending up leading the team in scoring by years end (Poirier still had a better point per game).