Craig Button: Jon Gillies the Flames’ top prospect

Craig Button has released his top 50 list of all NHL-drafted prospects, and… there isn’t a single Flame to be found among them.

Granted, you always have to take these lists with a handful of salt. It’s one person’s opinion covering an insane talent pool that spreads across 30 NHL teams, which is incredibly difficult to make an entire list out of – especially when they’re prospects, and offer much fewer viewing opportunities.

That said, the other teams without a single prospect to appear on the list are Buffalo, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, and New Jersey. (Sam Bennett is one of the youngest in the Flames organization, so he’s acknowledged, but he’s actually in the NHL, so not a prospect.)

Not to leave all the Canadians teams out, though, Button has also provided a sub-list of each of their top five prospects, and Jon Gillies tops the Flames’ list.

Could a healthy Gillies have cracked the top 50? There are only four goalies on the list, but there’s no reason to think he couldn’t hang with any of them.

So who else does Button feel is the best in the Flames’ system? After Gillies, his list goes:

  • Mark Jankowski
  • Rasmus Andersson
  • Andrew Mangiapane
  • Brandon Hickey

The NCAA players

Jankowski is very highly rated, but the fact that it’s taken him until his senior year to become a point per game player is concerning – as is the very fact that he’s a former first round pick actually playing his senior year. Gillies is from the same draft, after all, but the third round, and was still ready to move on before playing out all four seasons. It’s incredibly difficult to see, let alone justify, Jankowski as the second best prospect in the Flames’ system.

Hickey, meanwhile, has garnered a lot of praise for his play. Drafted out of the AJHL, he only has eight points through 26 games for Boston University this season, but is 12th amongst all Division I defencemen in regards to shots on goal per game with 2.58, so it’s hardly for lack of trying. 

Everyone who watches him seems to fall in love with him, and we even got a limited sampling of him when he made Team Canada’s World Juniors squad this past year (emphasis on limited, because there appeared to be zero interest in even trying him in anything but a defensive role). The Flames have built up a young group of puck movers for the backend, and Hickey is one of the main guys to be looking at there.

The Barrie Colts

Andersson currently sits at seven goals and 47 points through 48 games, and he’s the highest scoring defenceman in the OHL this season. Really, he should be able to crack a top 50 list – he looked borderline NHL ready in his first training camp, and was the last junior-aged player to be cut.

Mangiapane, meanwhile, was drafted as a 19-year-old. His 104 point season from 2014-15 doesn’t look to be a fluke, though, as he currently sits at 68 points through 42 games: a number that would have him be on pace for 110 points if he were able to play a full 68 games this season.

Mangiapane is currently second in Colts scoring, while Andersson is fifth, so they’re very key parts of the Colts’ success this season. Barrie currently sits just two points back of Bennett’s former team, the Kingston Frontenacs, for first place in the Eastern Conference – although four teams from the OHL’s Western Conference still have more points than them. 

We can probably look to both Andersson and Mangiapane in Stockton next season. Even though Andersson will be 19 years old to start it, his October birthday allows him to play in the AHL next year, and considering his performance since being drafted, it’s difficult to imagine what he may have left to prove at the junior level. Mangiapane will be 20, so he could return to Barrie as an overager, but with potential back-to-back 100-point seasons, what’s left for him there?

The unranked

Gillies is the only player from Stockton to be found, which is concerning for the AHL affiliate, whose most exciting names nowadays are the 25-year-old Derek Grant (out indefinitely with a broken jaw), and maybe Kenny Agostino. Former first round picks Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk, who haven’t had great offensive numbers this season, aren’t to be found; and neither is Oliver Kylington, even though he’s playing in the AHL despite being just 18 years old.

There’s one other problem: former Flames draft pick Laurent Brossoit is listed as the Oilers’ top prospect. Recently recalled to the NHL, Brossoit has posted a .921 save percentage for the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL this season. While there’s no comparing him to Gillies at this point, right now, he’s looking like he may have more potential than Joni Ortio… and he was traded for one of the Flames’ bigger cap burdens in Ladislav Smid. Whoops.

Who would you list as the Flames’ top five prospects?

    • KiLLKiND

      You gonna keep blaming Huska yet never give reasons why you think he’s bad. Have you even seen the Heat play this season? You should at least watch probably 3 games to see why the Heat’s prospects aren’t doing that well. The team is very young and has players taken in the top 15. Lot’s of other teams Our team is actually pretty weak especially when you look at other teams that are actually doing well. Look at this season as year 3 of the rebuild and only half year with the coach in a new city,

  • The hunger and desire of the Stockton players has disappeared. Something is wrong down there. When I look at the Heat roster, I see a bunch of guys that look good down there, but can’t make the jump and perform when they get the call up here. Something is missing in the development phase of these prospects. Grant lights it up in the AHL, but he obviously won’t produce anywhere above Backlund levels up here. He lacks the speed and game insight of a Backlund and thus just don’t fit in the big club. This is a similar state of most of the guys down there this year.

    • Kevin R

      You know, there is a big difference between last year & this & the excitement of many of our young players was contagious in the dressing room. This year the wall was thrown up, almost an attitude by coach & management the rebuild is over. Guess not & we need to fill up some good prospects on the farm. I am concerned Klimchuk & Porrier are running on the same spot this year. Not declaring busts on these two but they have 1 more year to make their breakout. The returns on Iggy & JBO look pretty sad. Thank Christ Feaster is gone, sorry, I know he drafted Johnny, but he couldn’t trade his way out of a paper bag.

    • McRib

      speed and game insight? where do you get this “obvious” information?
      Didn’t he win the fastest skater at the AHL Allstar competition last week?
      Game insight? where does this come from? how many times have you watched him play?

  • BurningSensation

    Let’s keep in mind that this is Craig ‘Iginla for Peca’ Button before we get too concerned.

    I do find it interesting that Jankowski has moved up this far in esteem, and while our author expressed concern that he’s taken his time to get to this level, Jankowski was always ticketed for the slow development track, so the fact he has developed slowly shouldn’t be cause for alarm (that said, he’s done little to show he’s a future top 6 forward).

    Personally, I’d have our top 5 as;

    1. Gillies

    2. Andersson

    3. Mangiapane

    4. Kyllington

    5. Poirier

  • beloch

    … former Flames draft pick Laurent Brossoit is listed as the Oilers’ top prospect. Recently recalled to the NHL, Brossoit has posted a .921 save percentage for the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL this season. While there’s no comparing him to Gillies at this point, right now, he’s looking like he may have more potential than Joni Ortio… and he was traded for one of the Flames’ bigger cap burdens in Ladislav Smid. Whoops.

    There’s a lesson to be learned here. The Flames cut bait on Broissoit when he was 20. When he was flipped for Smid along with Horak, most people paid more attention to Horak. Many are ready to throw Gillies to the fishes after his disappointing season, and Ortio? The way people talk you’d think he’s already been thrown out of pro hockey to tend bar.

    The truth is that goalies are unusually diverse in the paths they take to the NHL, and a lot of them take a very long time to mature. Sure, Gillies is our top goalie prospect, but don’t pencil him in as backup next season. He might not be ready. Don’t count Ortio out yet either. He might take a big step forwards in a year or two.

    Bottom line, goalie development is damned hard to predict, so good organizations acquire goalie prospects regularly and then practice patience.

    That being said, it sure wouldn’t hurt the Flames if one of their young but unready goalies were to go play in the KHL for a few seasons. The Flames have just two starter slots firmly under their own control, but the KHL has dozens of them! Honestly, this is something NHL teams should do intentionally instead of by accident.

  • Christian Roatis

    He has Christian Dvorak as the 3rd best prospect in hockey. That’s where the buck stops with me. That list feels so arbitrary and made to cater to TSN (Toronto Sport Network)’s audience.

    I read 0 into this.

  • brodiegio4life

    Well it’s craig button what do you expect, but I’d still rank rasmus over gillies. The kid is on fire in the O, and almost made the team out of camp in his rookie year.

  • brodiegio4life

    As with every forecast, the truth lies somewhere between the most optimistic and pessimistic opinions. It’s great that Calgary has consistently found useful players after the first round, but the increasingly probable whiffs on Poirier and Klimchuck are concern.

    Let’s also remember that Calgary has graduated 2 first round picks, plus Gaudreau in the last 3 years. It stands to reason that our prospect cupboard will be a bit thinner than other teams.

  • supra steve

    Button was high on Janko in his draft year too. Let’s hope he’s correct on his value, cause it would be awesome if he became a legit middle 6 player for the Flames.

  • supra steve

    Of more concern to me is the coaching in Stockton. Never have Flame top tier prospects digressed as much of this year in the AHL..coincidently at a time when a new coaching staff is on board….

  • FeyWest

    I don’t understand why everyone (yes generalization but I read this everywhere it seems) gets concerned at Klimchuk, this is his first season as a Pro, give the guy a break how can a guy “regress” when he’s never had a baseline….. And Poirier really struggled after his injury, confidence was shot after he didn’t make the squad after he had stated during pre-season how much work and effort he put in in the off-season. He seems to be back on track late in the season.

  • FeyWest

    In Treliving’s initial draft he chose a goalie MacDonald in round 2. The Canuckleheads chose another goalie, Thatcher Demko in round 2. He was not only the best goalie in that draft year but was also a team mate of JG at Boston college. Button has Demko rated #15 in his list. MacDonald is no where to be seen most likely as a result of his disastrous play at the world juniors.

    Treliving had a tough initial draft…he also drafted in round 2 a big winger that does not have NHL speed and is a dud….tough learning curve Mr. B.T.

  • FlamesFan1489

    I wouldn’t take much into any Craig Button writes. There’s a reason after all these years he’s still just an analyst on TV versus a hockey executive.

  • McRib

    Craig Button let Martin St. Louis walk and traded Marc Savard for a bag of pucks and some Gatorade (he also quietly ruined Daniel Tkaczuk’s career, who was a can’t miss in junior)…. They won the Calder Cup in Saint John and he traded away all of the best players… This list is awful!!!

  • BlueMoonNigel

    There is a reason that Buttons and Bows was never again hired as an NHL GM after the Flames mercifully tied the can to him. Don’t think many in the know ever get their knickers in a knot over what Button says.

  • FeyWest

    Can’t forget first rounder Brent Krahn, while Kronwall, Boyes, J.Williams, Ott were still around.

    The Jarret Stoll bumble. Classic Craig Button.

    If Sutter had St. Louis, Savard, and Stoll in the line up in 2004….

    Eat Turds Craig.