Between Garnet Hathaway and Joni Ortio, the Flames have used two of their four available recalls to close out the season. That leaves just two players left the Flames will be able to bring up from the Stockton Heat over the course of their final 16 games.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t count guys like Mark Jankowski or Brandon Hickey. They’re college players not under contract; the Flames hold their rights, but they aren’t actually playing within the Flames organization, so there’s nowhere to recall them from. They aren’t even signed, yet. They can be added to the roster, should they decide they’re done with their college careers (and with Jankowski in his senior year, his transition to professional leagues is a no-brainer), with no limitations.
The Flames don’t even need to use their final two recalls, but it would be prudent for them to do so. The season is lost, and with it, do we really need to watch guys like Brandon Bollig, Matt Stajan, or Deryk Engelland in action? They’re three of the older players on the team with, presumably, less of a future than anyone else in Calgary. Wouldn’t it be better to see those spots go to players who may very well be competing for an NHL job over the next couple of seasons?
Close, but no cigar
Derek Grant probably should have been brought back up far earlier, but alas, a broken jaw suffered in the middle of a practice put a stop to all dreams of seeing him again. It’s a shame, too, because he was in the midst of his best season, absolutely dominating the AHL landscape and providing the bulk of the Heat’s offence. The good news is, at least, we should probably expect to see him back with the Flames organization next season, and he should be able to fight for an NHL job out of camp then.
Drew Shore was in the NHL to finish out last season, but he wasn’t a big presence in the lineup. Though he’s one of Stockton’s top scorers this season, he only has 27 points through 44 games and, at 25 years old, the clock is ticking. He may be able to play at the NHL level – but there are others who deserve a spot in this final stretch of games more than him.
Emile Poirier was regarded as one of the Flames’ best prospects coming into this season, but his offence drying up – not through lack of effort; if he had last season’s shooting percentage this season, he’d have 20 goals, nine more than he has now – has knocked him down a rung or two. Fortunately, there are still two years left on his entry level deal, so the Flames can afford to wait on him. Because ultimately, he only has 24 points through 47 games this season: and as much as he may be a part of the franchise’s plans for the future, we’re not at that stage just yet.
Possibilities, but not certainties
Freddie Hamilton was kind of a gimme. Acquired for a conditional seventh rounder whose conditions will not be met, the Flames got Dougie’s brother for absolutely nothing, but he’s been among the Heat’s top scorers throughout this season. He currently sits at 35 points through 50 games, third on team scoring, and he’s only 23 years old. Freddie’s had his shots at the NHL level in the past, but he’s young enough he could still get one more.
Turner Elson is having one of his best seasons to date. He’s up to 26 points through 48 games this year, a .54 point per game pace – beating out the .51 pace he completed last season. He’s fifth in Stockton scoring, so he’s definitely risen up through the ranks. The only question: what’s his NHL upside? Can he offer something Hathaway, already recalled over him, can’t?
Oliver Kylington would be a particularly intriguing name to see up so early. Of course, everything about him is interesting; he was a projected top pick who fell all the way down to 60th overall, but has gone on to play in the AHL as an 18-year-old. Though he’s injured at the moment, seeing him get a cup of coffee in the NHL would be intriguing, if a touch premature. Brett Kulak, on the other hand, would be a really interesting possibility, as he looked, at worst, serviceable during his initial six-game stint as he started his season in the NHL – but he’s still signed for another season after this one, whereas Tyler Wotherspoon, the apparent de facto recall on defence nowadays, will be an RFA. It feels as though the only cup of coffee to be garnered on the blueline is Wotherspoon’s, as we’ve seen through his emergency recalls. There’ll still be time for Kulak yet.
Kenny Agostino almost has to be one of the guys brought up. With 42 points through 49 games, he’s now Stockton’s leading scorer. His career high came last season, with 43 points in 67 games; he’s already primed to pass it. He’s getting way more shots on net, too, and while others seem to have taken a step back this season, he’s steadily progressed through his sophomore year. He has very real potential at the NHL level, and deserves to be one of the final recalls. He’s also set to become an RFA after this season, and it’s really difficult to imagine the Flames not keeping him on board, so they might as well see what they’ve got at the next level.
Bill Arnold is lauded as a potential defensive centre specialist. He isn’t putting up major points in the AHL, but that’s hardly the role we’re expecting of him. He’ll be an RFA after this season, and will require a new contract; it would be a great time to assess how far he’s come – though he has been injured this season, which may put a bit of a damper on things. Still, it couldn’t hurt to see him in a sheltered role at the highest level as the season closes out.
Hunter Shinkaruk, one of the Flames’ shiny new toys, has just three points through five games with the organization thus far. He was cautioned as not yet ready for the NHL, but with just 16 meaningless games left, who’s counting? He’s only played one NHL game thus far, but he’s under contract for another two seasons after this one, so there’s plenty of time to wait and see with him. Still – it’d be neat to see him in action to close out the year, particularly with the AHL season he’s had (42 points through 50 games, and still, technically, Utica’s leading scorer). He’s new and exciting, after all.