What’s The Deal With Keegan Kanzig?

Last night, the Calgary Flames played their fifth pre-season game. For the fifth time in the pre-season, Keegan Kanzig did not play.

So what’s the deal?

Here’s what we know about Kanzig’s situation right now.

HE’S 20

Keegan Kanzig is a 20-year-old defenseman. He’s quite big. He’s quite strong. He’s built like a wall.

(He’s one of three 20-year-olds in Flames camp; Hunter Smith has already been assigned to Stockton and will likely turn pro, while Morgan Klimchuk is still in main camp.)

HIS CONTRACT IS RUNNING

Because of his age when Kanzig signed his entry-level deal, he’s already used up the two “slide years” that the CBA allocates to players that sign when they’re 18. He’s 20, both in age and in the CBA, meaning his contract will be rolling no matter where he plays.

(Micheal Ferland was in the same situation a few years ago, when his entry-level deal was running when he played with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. He was there because the Flames had way too many forwards in the AHL during the lockout.)

THE HITMEN HAVE 3 20-YEAR-OLDS

The Canadian Hockey League allocates three “overage” spots (for 20-year-old players) to each club. The Calgary Hitmen currently have three overagers on their roster in the form of goalie Brendan Burke, defenseman Colby Harmsworth and forward Elliot Pederson. And each team can only dress three per game, regardless of how many they’re carrying.

WHL teams have until October 15 to lock in their three 20-year-olds (and get rid of their extra 20-year-olds, if they have any). If Kanzig returns after that point, the Hitmen would have a short period (I think it’s 10 days) to get back down to three overagers. Conventional wisdom is that the Hitmen would probably keep Kanzig if he was returned rather than exploring a trade involving him.

WHL, AHL OR ECHL

Because he’s 20 and an entry-level player, the Flames and Hitmen have the option to place Kanzig in the WHL with the Hitmen, or with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, or with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.

CONSIDER ALEX ROACH

Two years ago, the Calgary Hitmen had another defender in a similar position – Alex Roach, a Kings signee with size and strength who seemed to be an in-betweener as a 20-year-old. He played with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign – the Kings didn’t have a ton of AHL spots available in Manchester – and he ended up playing 5 games in the ECHL before returning to the Hitmen. His contract rolled anyway because of his age.

If the Flames want to try out Kanzig at the pro level, they could always send him back to the Hitmen later. (For what it’s worth, Roach was an ECHLer last season, too.)

IS HE PRO READY?

He’s got pro size. His foot-speed isn’t an issue at the WHL level because he’s good positionally to deal with the size, speed and skill of forwards in that league. In scrimmages with the Flames, he looked a bit aghast at the speed of guys like Andrew Mangiapane – which may be unfair, because Mangiapane can motor. But as a litmus test of what he can expect, it may have left the Flames wanting a bit more from him.

For the AHL, Kanzig may be out of the mix. The Flames project to have a young group in Stockton and a lot of bodies on hand. If he goes pro and needs games to develop, which is probably the notion, his new home might be in the ECHL.

WHY HASN’T HE PLAYED?

I have no scoops, only theories. As far as I know, he’s not injured and has been practicing.

My theory is that the injuries to Brodie, Culkin and Smid and the presence of try-out players has really changed the dynamic of the defensive races from what the Flames originally projected. If you’re trying to just get games in for guys, Keegan Kanzig definitely plays. But since Kanzig isn’t contending for a job in Calgary this year, the small window that the Flames do have to give their prospective players looks against actual NHLers suddenly becomes much more valuable with actual NHL jobs at stake.

In short? I think he’s just lost in the shuffle. He’s not contending for an NHL job, and they’re not evaluating him to the degree they are Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson, so playing him seemingly hasn’t been a priority.