The hockey world is beginning to buzz with World Junior anticipation, but another annual tournament will have some Flames flavour to it. According to the American Hockey League’s website, the Stockton Heat have loaned captain Aaron Johnson to Team Canada’s entry at the Spengler Cup tournament.
First held in 1923, the Spengler Cup is hosted by HC Davos and also includes Switzerland’s HC Lugano, Germany’s Alder Mannheim, Finland’s Jokerit, Russia’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg and Team Canada among its six-team battle for club team glory. Outside of Davos and Canada, the other four teams have tended to vary over the years. Canada last won the tournament in 2012 after the NHL’s latest lockout super-charged their roster with NHL talents.
The tournament runs from Boxing Day until New Year’s Eve, and factoring in all the travel it’s likely that Johnson will be unavailable to Stockton for about five games. With his absence the Heat have the following seven defenders on their roster:
- Brett Kulak
- Oliver Kylington
- Tyler Wotherspoon
- Dustin Stevenson
- Kenney Morrison
- Pat Sieloff
- Jakub Nakladal
Since the beginning of December the Heat have rotated healthy scratches on the back-end (except for Nakladal, who hasn’t sat), with Morrison getting a bit more than the even share of press box duty, but Johnson’s absence could merely mean that the Heat roll with the guys they have and see what the kids are made of.
Or, they could maintain their eight-man rotation by recalling Ryan Culkin from the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Culkin’s reportedly played pretty well in Glens Falls since returning from a shoulder injury suffered during the Penticton Young Stars Classic tournament in September, and Johnson’s trip to Switzerland could be a nice opportunity to see how Culkin’s progressing (and potentially to light a fire under Morrison, who can be demoted to the ECHL since he’s on an entry-level contract).
Both the Heat and Thunder play on Boxing Day, so a transaction would likely be made today or that morning.