One of the standout elements to the Calgary Flames’ season has been the element of the youth movement. More so in this season than the last two seasons of the rebuild has it been more evident that the future lies in the pursuit of young talent.
And here’s the best part: Calgary’s youth, between 18 to 22 years old, was among the league’s best in point totals. Who could have predicted that? Probably a lot of people who looked closely enough at the talent on this roster this past season.
Last Season: Real Good
In what was regarded as an impressive season by media and by fans, the combined play of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau with the support of former Flame Jiri Hudler became one of the league’s best lines. Their individual point totals, both at even strength and on the power play, were a huge portion of the point totals for 18-22 year-old players on the team in 2014-15.
At 5v5, the Flames’ youth combined for 88 points (37 goals, 51 assists) with Gaudreau and Monahan making up 72.73% (64/88) of those totals. On the power play it was no different: 37 points total with Gaudreau and Monahan contributing 91.89% of those (34/37).
The biggest reason for these skewed contributions was the limited use of capable talent last season. Former Flame Markus Granlund’s AHL level production was impressive but he failed to be a factor at the NHL level. Former Flame Sven Baertschi never stuck around and inevitably was dealt. Beyond that no one else was a real contributor in this age range.
This Season: A Big Improvement
With more veterans on the way out before and during the season, the Flames between 18-22 contributed even more this season. Factor in growth, the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton, and a full-time Sam Bennett and you’ve got a recipe for increased results.
A total of 139 points (62 goals, 77 assists) from the youth movement helped drive Calgary’s offence at 5v5. That’s 58% better than last season’s effort, so if anything, fans who are upset with the season’s outcome: here’s something positive for you.
This team as a whole took a very measurable step forward in this area of the roster. And next season more than ever it’s likely the Flames will rely heavily on many of these names to push onwards and upwards to being a threatening team. Again, the overarching theme revolves around wingers as shown with the data above.
On the PP, it’s no different: the Flames’ youth were among the best in the league. A combined 64 points put them first among all NHL teams’ 18-22 year-old players this season:
The obvious perplexities tend to revolve around two players: Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett. Both players struggled to get regular power play time early on for many inane and confusing reasons. Regardless, Hamilton finally became a fixture and the points soon followed, even if the power play, from a systemic perspective, was absolutely flawed and atrocious.
Where does this season rank among the league?
Good question, astute and attentive reader. I’ve compiled the data, including to split players who were traded and their totals with each team they played with. 5v5 data is located here while PP data is located here. Disclaimer: Anyone who turned 23 during the season was not subject to the range of 18-22 to keep it as clear as possible.
The top five for each category is as follows:
|Team||5v5 Pts||Team||PP Pts|
What This Means Moving Forward
This should be self-explanatory: things are legitimately trending upward. A sophomore season for Bennett should hopefully build upon this year’s individual accomplishments as he pursues a long-term role as a Flames top-six centre. The limited support on the wings should theoretically be rectified at the draft and there is positive optimism that Hunter Shinkaruk can become a potential top-six winger, too.
Beyond that, it’s extremely limited in high-ceiling support on the wings moving forward outside of hoping Andrew Mangiapane can make the leap in a similar fashion to Gaudreau.
It was admirable for fans to believe that this season Micheal Ferland would potentially fill that void but at this point it seems extremely unlikely given his stone hands and limited production thus far. Simply trading for this type of talent is a nearly impossible task at times, so drafting and developing it is the ideal route.
Regardless, we saw career highs in points from three cornerstone players: Gaudreau, Monahan, and Hamilton. If the Flames can add another winger producing at an acceptable rate for next season then this team will be even more potent moving forward.
All of which is so incredibly important as this team will continue to rely on the youth movement more and more.