You may know him as “The one we were supposed to like from the Iginla trade” but there’s a lot more to Kenny Agostino than you may have guessed. Agostino posted a sneaky-good season last year in his first season as a professional and accepted his qualifying offer from the Flames this summer.
Agostino is a prospect who has been hovering around this spot for the past two summers so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of look he will get this season.
WHO IS HE?
I can clearly recall that bizarre evening when our beloved Iggy was dealt to the Penguins rushing to my computer to learn just who in the world the Flames had just acquired. Though it was clear that the main part of the return for the Flames was the 2013 First rounder that turned into Morgan Klimchuk, it seemed as though nobody had heard of either of the two players acquired (Ben Hanowski the other) and some of the initial reaction from trusted prospect sources was a little mixed regarding Agostino.
Agostino is a hard working forward, has good skill, tough, protects puck well but he’s small. Average speed. Projects as a 3L forward.
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) March 28, 2013
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) July 26, 2013
Well, two years later, some of the dust is starting to settle on the Iggy trade with the Flames moving on from Ben Hanowski and Agostino playing his first full professional season. There is a fair amount of debate surrounding Agostino’s size as both the Flames website and HockeyDB has him listed at 6’1 while CollegeHockeyInc has him listed at 5’11. When watching Agostino play it’s pretty clear that size isn’t his strong suit though during his time in college he had no trouble generating offense.
Agostino put up good numbers during his four years at Yale, averaging a sliver under a PPG average with 132 points in 134 games. During his Junior year, he was tied for the team lead in points with a player three years his senior and scored at a 1.11 PPG rate and capped the season off by winning the NCAA Frozen Four tournament. Most importantly, it led to Agostino going full Tusken Raider with the trophy (see below).
What kind of player his he?
Get it? He gets a lot of shots.
Perhaps Agostino’s most marked offensive characteristic leaving college was his ability to get shots on net. In his final year at Yale, Agostino led the NCAA in Shots on goal per game with 4.91, amassing a total of 162 shots in 33 games played. In fact, Agostino had nearly 50 more shots than anyone else on his team in 2013-14. Somehow, Agostino also led his team in penalty minutes that season as well but I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in that as gritulence is a fair way down on Agostino’s list of strengths.
After completing his senior year at Yale, Agostino joined the Flames for eight games in the 2013/14 season, scoring two points in eight games. Despite the enormous jump in competition, there were signs that Agostino was able to have some success getting pucks towards the net at the NHL level. During the exceptionally small sample in 2013-14, Agostino managed multiple shots on net in half of his games with the Flames, including a four-shot performance against the Oilers on March 22/2014. Agostino also scored his first NHL goal against the Panthers that season, displaying his characteristically quick release:
Last season, Agostino spent the entirety of the season in the AHL with Adirondack and had a very solid rookie campaign. Agostino started the season slowly, scoring only nine points in his first 28 (!) games with the heat. Yikes.
However, Agostino began to hit his stride later in the season as NHL callups freed up more ice time. In the final two months of the season, Agostino was one of the Heat’s most reliable scorers and finished the season leading Adirondack in points with 43 (one more than Emile Poirier but with 12 more games played).
It seems logical that when given a greater opportunity (i.e the Flames had called up a bunch of AHL players) Agostino began to produce more offensively. However, other players have been given similar opportunities and produced far less.
To give some context to Agostino’s season, here are his numbers compared with a few other Flames prospects first full seasons in the AHL. Also, for fun, I included some others from his 2010 5th round draft class (excluding Brendan Gallagher who is doing pretty good). Included are Freddie Hamilton (129th), Justin Florek (135th), and Chris Wagner (122nd), compared with Agostino (140th by Pittsburgh).
Perhaps these numbers are deceiving in that we don’t know the strengths of these AHL clubs and ice time stats but I think it is a pretty ringing endorsement of a player that is likely viewed as a lower-tier prospect in the Flames system. As you can see, based purely on his counting numbers, Agostino put up a pretty impressive first season as a pro. (Note: I understand Poirier’s numbers are better and he’s three years younger, that is why you will see him later on in these profiles).
WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING ABOUT HIM?
Here’s a story from the Post Star’s Diana C. Nearhos detailing Agostino’s late-season surge:
He started the season playing mostly in the bottom six, a more defensive role than Agostino was used to. In four years at Yale, he was about a point-per-game player. Agostino’s least productive year was his freshman year, when he averaged 0.8 points per game.
So is Yale coach Keith Allain surprised by this recent streak? Not even a little.
“I know Kenny,” he said. “He has really good offensive ability. I know it wasn’t easy for him early; it’s a tough adjustment coming out of college.”
“I think he’s done a good job,” Flames coach Ryan Huska said. “I really think it came down to him understanding that he needed to compete harder and get his nose dirtier than he was early in the year. I think you see his confidence grow.”
Huska asked Agostino to compete harder and the coach feels he did exactly that, earning the ice time he’s now getting.
Agostino says there’s a mix of contributing factors: maturity, learning the pro game and getting the chance. Injuries, trades and recalls shook up the lineup to create an opening for Agostino…
The game has also slowed down for Agostino as he learned the faster professional game. Now, he can play his game: making plays, controlling the puck. Allain said Agostino was creative with the puck and had a knack for big goals. He’s starting to show the skill that helped lead Yale to the 2013 national championship in the AHL too.
Allain told Agostino he was going to have to take responsibility for his career when he left school. College athletes are very protected and professionals are not. He felt Agostino was ready to make that change and, from afar, thinks he’s made the switch well.
“It’s something I hoped would happen for Kenny,” he said. “He’s in a pool of a much bigger talent than in college. You have to believe that you can play there, that you’re good enough. Then you realize you are.”