The ninth-best prospect in the Calgary Flames system, per our annual FlamesNation rundown, is center Bill Arnold.
A graduate of the powerhouse Boston College Eagles, where he rose to prominence first as a promising defensive forward and later as Johnny Gaudreau’s center, Arnold may be Calgary’s most underrated prospect.
Bill Arnold joined the Flames organization way back in the 2010 NHL Drat. He was a fourth round pick, selected after the Flames had already taken Max Reinhart, Joey Leach and John Ramage. Arnold and Micheal Ferland are the only 2010 picks left in the organization. Arnold had a solid run with the U.S. National Development Team, finishing fifth in team scoring during USHL play behind Matt Nieto, Austin Czarnick, Brandon Saad and Bryan Rust – hardly bad company.
Arnold went to college at Boston College and amassed a pretty great collegiate resume in four years under head coach Jerry York:
- He was on the conference’s all-rookie team as a freshman
- He was on the conference’s all-academic team as a freshman
- He represented his country at the World Juniors as a sophomore
- He won an NCAA championship as a sophomore
- He was named the conference’s best defensive forward as a senior
Most notably, Arnold rose through the ranks of Boston College’s pivots during his tenure, ending his NCAA career centering an insanely productive and dangerous line, working between Kevin Hayes and fellow Flames fourth round pick (2011) Johnny Gaudreau. Hayes had size and was built like a power forward. Gaudreau was deceptively fast, agile and smart with (and often without) the puck. And Arnold?
Here’s a highlight reel from Gaudreau’s Hobey Baker season. Count the number of nice plays by #24 in those clips that lead to scoring chances going the other way.
During the past few seasons, I became a fan of Bill Arnold by watching Johnny Gaudreau. At the college level, Arnold had a knack for being in the right place defensively to create a turnover. Or in the right place offensively to create a scoring chance for his teammates. He’s not a huge guy, nor is he an amazingly skilled guy, but he’s a smart player. He’s got the ability to play with skilled players and elevate aspects of his game to accommodate the skills of his teammates.
He went pro last season with the Adirondack Flames. He started slow with just two points in October, but he was one of the team’s most consistent players when he went down with an injury in mid-January. He came back in early March and eventually got going again, but by that point the Baby Flames were already besieged with injuries and call-ups to Calgary and it was too late for them to really make anything of the season.
Right now, I project Bill Arnold as another Drew Shore. He’s right-handed. He’s American. He’s good at face-offs. He’s pretty good at most things, though Arnold could be earlier in his development curve than Shore is given their disparities in pro experience. Given the Flames’ lack of good, right-handed players, Arnold could sneak into the NHL this coming season at some point.
The big issue with Arnold is that I’m not sure if he has top six upside at the NHL level, at least not yet. He played with Sven Baertschi and Emile Poirier down the stretch in Adirondack and was pretty good, so we know he can hang with the big dogs in college and the AHL. Doing so in the NHL is a much different animal. He’s not huge, but he was able to withstand the rigors of the AHL game. But again, does he have what it takes to do it at the NHL level?
Maybe, maybe not. Right now, he’s an interesting depth option for the Flames after just a single season of professional hockey. He could end up growing into something more.
As a coach you’re comfortable to an extent with your offensive players, but you always want to have someone around them that you know you can trust on the defensive side of the game. And that’s why Billy’s able to play with a lot of different people. [In] a checking role, he can fit in because he does have offensive ability of the top six guys, and he always kind of knows that at the end of the day, he’s on those lines for a reason: That he has to make clean pucks, he’s got to help them generate offense, but he’s there because he’s a reliable guy defensively and I think over the course of our year, he was starting to understand how to become better defensively at the next level.
-Stockton Heat (and former Adirondack Flames) head coach Ryan Huska on Bill Arnold’s ability to play with skilled players and his adjustment to the AHL level.