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?
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?