Brad Treliving did a lot to plug roster holes this season, but the Flames still have at least one, big question mark remaining: who plays LW in the top 6? After Johnny Gaudreau there’s a lot of kids, hopefuls, checkers and unknowns. Of the preseason training camp battles (7th defender, starting/backup goalie), the top-6 LWer might be the toughest to handicap.
Here are the current candidates to fill the gap.
1.) Lance Bouma
Fresh of a big raise and career season, Bouma is a candidate if only because he played so well with Mikael Backlund and David Jones last year in a tough minutes role. Bouma is not an ideal top-6 winger and is not likely to score 18 again, but right now he’s a front runner to at least start the year as Calgary’s #2 guy on the left side. At least at even strength (I doubt he gets a lot of PP time).
2.) Michael Ferland
From AHLer to healthy scratch to top 6 forward in a single year? Ferland made a significant mark against the Canucks in the playoffs last year and his junior career numbers suggest he might have better hands than Bouma.
That said, we still don’t really know what Ferland is at the NHL level. He’s very young and raw to be elevated into the top-6 rotation, though he has looked very comfortable at the start if the preseason. That said, I doubt he starts the year up top, though he’s the kind of guy who could work his way up the depth chart if he continues to develop and improve.
3.) Michael Frolik
He was signed to firm up the right side, but Frolik is actually a left hand shot and is the kind of guy who could switch sides without much issue. The club is a little deeper on the right side with Hudler, Jones, Byron, Jooris and Colborne all able to play that position. If Hartley can’t find a better solution, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Frolik shift left to balance things out a bit.
4.) Sven Baertschi
5.) Mason Raymond
Technically this is where Raymond should naturally slot into the Flames roster. Unfortunately, after a mid-season injury last year, Raymond seemed to lose Bob Hartley’s confidence and he hasn’t been able to do anything to get it back.
The ex-Canuck is fast and has hands enough to score 20 in the NHL, but he also seems to have Blake Comeau syndrome – a seeming lack of hockey sense which leads to rushes that go nowhere, long shots from 60 feet out and a kind of tunnel vision which limits his ability to find team mates.
At $3.15M per year for two more seasons, Im sure the Flames would like to re-habilitate Raymond as an asset. That said, it will be up to him to convince the decision makers that he’s worthy of a top-6 position again. It’s going to be a long climb back up.
5.) Sam Bennett
The club has come out and stated that they want Bennett to play centre this year, but that may change if the kid struggles at the defensive side of things.
Already through a few preseason games Bennett is cruising along with a face-off win % somewhere in the 30’s and there’s no question teens tend to have issues with the 200 foot game when they break into the league. In addition, Calgary has good depth at centre, so Bennett might be moved to the wing for similar reasons as Frolik above.
There’s also guys like Brandon Bollig, Josh Jooris, Paul Byron and Joe Colborne, but none of them are natural LWers or legitimate top-6 talents. It’s much more likely Hartley goes with one of the options above rather than drilling that far down the depth chart to fill the role.
My guess is Lance Bouma is the default option to start and then the Flames coaching staff will assess from there.