FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Keegan Kanzig

For the second time in recent memory, a Calgary Flames-drafted prospect with a valid National Hockey League contract was thrown back into the junior ranks for some additional seasoning in 2015-16. Much like with Micheal Ferland in 2012-13, Keegan Kanzig was the victim of the numbers game and was sent back to the Western Hockey League to be a veteran leader for his team.

Kanzig may not have put up gaudy offensive numbers relative to the rest of the league, but he ended up having a pretty good season in the ‘Dub all things considered.

SEASON SUMMARY

Kanzig bounced around a bit this past season. He began the year in Stockton, poised to spend the season as a full-time pro. Instead, he got into the line-up just once through Stockton’s first six games. After weighing the situation, the Flames re-assigned him back to the Calgary Hitmen on Nov. 5 – 18 games into the WHL season.

He ended up playing 53 of the remaining 54 games for the Hitmen. He wore an alternate captain’s A on his jersey for the entirety of his stay, and he primarily played on the top two pairings for the Hitmen, often playing on the right side of 18-year-old Jake Bean. After scoring just six goals through the previous four seasons in the Dub, Kanzig scored 13 for the Hitmen as an overager – including two multi-goal games.

I personally witnessed a game this season where Kanzig had multiple chances to complete a hat trick, something I never expected to ever see in my life (and something that definitely wouldn’t be possible had he stayed in Stockton or been sent down to the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder).

All in all, Kanzig had some offensive success and visually seemed to gain a lot of confidence with the puck. (He had already a good deal of confidence away from the puck by virtue of being a very large human being.)

IMPACT ON TEAM

The challenge laid out for Kanzig this season was to increase his offensive production – few players can survive playing pro if they can’t put points on the board – and to reel in his physicality a bit. Kanzig’s a big, boisterous player, and he’s been used in the past as a nuclear deterrent by coaches. But quite often, the biggest, meanest-looking player in a scrum is the guy that gets the extra penalty.

This season? Kanzig scored 13 goals, more than twice his previous WHL career total. He also dramatically reeled in his minor penalties, both overall and on a per-game basis. As a result? Hitmen coach Mark French used him a ton in every situation, and he helped solidify a young blueline group that was often without Flyers pick Travis Sanheim (due to injury or the World Juniors).

Kanzig’s penalties over his three post-draft seasons:

Season PIM Fights Minors Minors
per Game
2013-14 99 9 27 0.43
2014-15 166 14 48 0.69
2015-16 75 7 20 0.38

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Now that he’s entirely out of kicks at the can in major junior, Kanzig will become a full-time professional hockey player in 2016-17. He’ll transition with a lot more confidence in his game than he had a season ago. Whether or not that can translate into success at the next level is anybody’s guess.

The Heat look to have a ton of newcomers next season and several returnees. You can expect to see such names as Tyler Wotherspoon, Kenney Morrison, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Patrick Sieloff, Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak. Kanzig is going to be in a dogfight to get a decent share of ice-time, and will possibly have to head down to the ECHL in order to get enough games in to develop as a pro.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I think there is essentially zero chance Seiloff ever becomes better than the plethora of free agent NHL veterans available every July 1st who are willing to play for league-minimum. Heck, he has a way to go to match the AHL veteran free agents available every summer. I don’t see a point in keeping him in the system.

    I think Kanzig is worth keeping around, because there is some small remote chance he will eventually become an impact player in the mold of Hal Gill or Brooks Orpik. It’s highly unlikely he ever becomes an NHL regular, but if he can be taught to think the game at the NHL level, then he’s got the tools to be an absolute force of nature.

  • jakethesnail

    Too bad Keith Aulie didn’t amount to anything and it looks like Keegan Kanzig could meet the same fate. They would have made a formidable Duo on the D.

    • freethe flames

      While this sounds like a good idea on the surface I doubt it happens. The Penguins are in cap hell for next year and may indeed want to move MAF but they don’t want Wideman’s contract back. More likely is they trade him to Dallas for Niemi and then Dallas buys out Letinen. If the Flames do the deal it’s more likely to be Smid who they can put on LTIR or buy out and save some cap space.

      Personally I hope the Flames don’t get involved with MAF.

      • RealMcHockeyReturns

        Penguins would prefer one year of Wideman at 5.25 vs 3 years at 5.75 for Fleury and Flames CAN afford it for 3 years as no other Flames goalie will make over $2M for 3 years unless they get a second veteran. And I think that is not happening so it would be MAF with one of Ortio, Gilles or possibly Macdonald as the pairings over next 3 seasons (likely Ortio this year).

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      Agree Walter. Apparently the recency effect at play…blaming Fleury for a poor Pitt Defense this playoffs is fun and sooo obvious to most people…he is SOLID…his stats show year-after-year improvement as he also matures…perfect case of change of scenery benefits player and new team. Also if we rid ourselves of other salaries and net out paying only $1-2M to have him more than otherwise to get him…it’s a good deal! And we all know at worst he may only be a good stop gap until Ortio, Gillies, or someone else takes the reins as Flames really challenge in a couple years…so what’s the harm as long as a D-man salary like Wideman, Smid, or possibly Engelland goes their way…maybe a Colborne or Bouma or even Bollig can go too! Note Wideman or guys going their way have shorter contracts left so I totally see this working.

  • The Last Big Bear

    On my list of “The Worst Playoff Performaces I’ve Ever Seen”, Marc Andre Fleury comes in at #1 and #3.

    Could not be any less interested.

    Remember when him and Bryzgalov were battling for most humiliatingly bad performance ever seen in the modern NHL? Good times.

    Or when he lost his starter job to a geriatric Tomas Vokoun in the playoffs against the Islanders, because he crapped the bed so hard?

    He’s a pretty significant reason Sid and Gino only have one cup.