year the Adirondack Flames’ season was nothing to write home about, but it did
reveal the sheer amount of depth the Calgary Flames organization truly has.
rookies made up approximately
45% of the team’s goals by the end of the season. Those are staggering
numbers and by no means a regular occurrence in the American league.
those rookies are a handful of players who fans should start directing their attention,
because as soon as next season, these prospects could be looking at breakout
who expected it? Agostino is what we might consider a second or even third tier
prospect. He wasn’t up there with Gaudreau and Bennett, and he wasn’t up there
Poirier or Granlund. Now, I think we can start talking about him as one of the
organization’s most well-rounded prospects.
run to the end the season was nothing short of remarkable. Something just clicked.
just 17 points in his first 44 games, he went on a ridiculous tear scoring 26
points in his last 23 games. This is around the same time he earned top line
minutes, ample power play time and even penalty killing time due to increased
trust in his defensive and offensive capabilities.
that, Agostino possesses the type of play that will earn huge points in a Bob
Hartley system. He’s got a non-stop motor, he’s physical without crossing the
line and can play in a multitude of scenarios. He’s the AHL version of an NHL Josh
Jooris or Paul Byron… with more offense.
former Yale star’s growth as the season wore on showed a trend that instils
confidence in future growth, which is why Agostino is the most likely to break
out this season. If he continues what he did last year, he won’t just be a name
the hardcore fans know.
any rookie, Poirier went through a number of dry spells throughout the season,
but also showed something that most rookies don’t – resilience. His ability to
work himself out of dry spells is
impressive on two fronts.
he didn’t have help. He didn’t have veteran forwards to lean on to help rack up
secondary assists or gift wrap open net goals. He worked his own way out of the
dark mines of his rookie slumps. Secondly, he didn’t just end slumps, he ‘tombstoned’
them. He’d go through three, four, sometimes five game slumps, but when he left
those slumps, he’d go for four or five point stretches.
yes, but when April rolled around, Poirier was a poster boy for consistency in
Adirondack. That’s what you want to see from a prospect as he leaves his rookie
season (much like Agostino did). It remains to be seen if Poirier will work his
way onto the Flames this season (probably not), but if he continues to trend in
the right direction and develop consistent scoring, he’ll have a right wing
spot locked down as soon as the 2016-17 season.
is only this far down the list because Agostino and Poirier were that good last
season. If he hadn’t sat out nearly two months due to a shoulder injury, we
might be talking about him as the team’s scoring leader. Heck, as it is he was
either the leading scorer or second leading scoring up until his injury.
scoring ability combined with his masterful defensive game is where Arnold
caught lightning in a bottle last year and is what will get him into the NHL at
are a number of reasons Arnold is on this list. First, as previously mentioned,
his skill and defensive game are a perfect combination for today’s NHL.
Secondly, physically he’s had the frame of an NHL third- or fourth-liner since
joining Boston College. Thirdly, there are more aspects of his game that will
get him into the NHL than not. He has few weak spots in his game. Perhaps the
only one (and his may even be a stretch) is that his speed is first step and
acceleration needs marginal improvement. Even then, it takes an electron microscope
to find an obvious flaw in his game. Did I mention he might be the organization’s
best faceoff man?
why isn’t he in the NHL then, Mike? On most other teams, he might have half a
season of NHL hockey under his belt by this point. Unfortunately, he’s stuck
behind Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund. So the way I see it, one
man is standing in his way to break onto the Flames: Matt Stajan. When and if
Matty Franchise is no longer in the fold, it’s Arnold’s spot for the taking.
a pleasantly surprising season for Culkin.
Montreal native went into the season with absolutely no expectations placed on
him from fans or management and he used that to his advantage. He earned a spot
in Adirondack right out of camp while his comparable, Brett Kulak, was sent to
the ECHL. As a fan, you’ve always had the sense that Culkin and Kulak, while
playing in different junior leagues, would eventually (and perhaps inevitably) go
head-to-head for organizational spots since they’re nearly identical
after a full season, it appears Culkin has taken an edge organizationally over
Kulak. It could also be argued that he’s only a step behind Tyler Wotherspoon for
an NHL spot.
unfortunate (and gruesome) injury where he suffered sliced tendons in his wrist
ended his season short, but prior to that he was on pace for a 37 point season
as a rookie. His minutes were managed to approximately a third- or
second-pairing level, but within a month he was receiving a great deal of
praise from head coach Ryan Huska.
regularly commented on his abnormal maturity and steadiness that’s not typically
seen in a 20-year-old defender fresh out of the QMJHL. That trust earned him
more minutes and more responsibility as he embraced his increased roles.
John Ramage now out of the picture, don’t be surprised to see Culkin alongside
Wotherspoon to start the season in Stockton. Culkin already has his coach’s
trust – it’s simply a matter of picking up where he left off.
progression is about as textbook as you can get for a young defensive junior
out of Vancouver, Kulak was the guy
on the Giants. When it came to the team’s offense, power play, and tempo, most
of it went through him. As you could imagine, when a player is relied upon
almost exclusively for such integral parts of the game there’s a tendency for
that player to be allowed to get away with certain things.
not saying Kulak developed bad habits, because he didn’t. I’m saying he had freedom
and a lot of lack on his leash in Vancouver. Former Abbotsford Heat head coach
Troy Ward commented on numerous occasions that Kulak would be a good player one
day if he can learn to reel in his self-confidence and selfishness just a tad.
that confidence and cockiness (in a good way) that Kulak brought down Highway 1
to Abbotsford. In 10 games to finish the 2013-14 season with the Heat, it was a
common occurrence to see his smooth skating on display, taking the puck out of
his zone by himself and attempting to lead the rush into the other end. This
time, however, he wasn’t playing against kids, so he often turned the puck over
or got caught too deep.
is completely normal for a player like Kulak.
More recently, however, Kulak’s taken that
slight selfishness down a notch and has become quite a TJ Brodie-lite. He’s
learned when and when not to do it all himself and has become steadier in his
own zone. That’s the type of progression you want to see and the type of
progression that could see Kulak have his best season yet as a staple on
Stockton’s blue line.