As we continue rolling through the lengthy list of pending Calgary Flames restricted free agents we come to three players in very similar situations. The trio of Drew Shore, Freddie Hamilton, and Tyler Wotherspoon all have at least three full years of professional experience under their belts and all have decent NHL experience (at least 25 games). So is the clock ticking for any or all of these guys?
This is the second of our RFA profile articles with another coming later this week. Here’s the rundown:
- May 20 – Bill Arnold, Kenny Agostino, Turner Elson, Bryce Van Brabant
- Today – Drew Shore, Freddie Hamilton, Tyler Wotherspoon
- May 27 – Joni Ortio, Kevin Poulin
- May 31 – Josh Jooris
- June 3 – Joe Colborne
Let’s get started with our next three.
Shore just completed his first full season in the Flames organization and finished fourth on the Stockton Heat in scoring (59 GP, 10 G, 28 A, 38 PTS). It was another decently productive year in the American League for Shore but he’s definitely entered the limbo realm as a full-time pro. Those sentiments were shared by Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska when I spoke to him earlier this week.
“I think Drew’s biggest challenge now is
really finding out who he is as a player,” Huska told me. “If you were to ask Drew, he would
probably tell you that he had a tougher year this year, not the year that he
was hoping for. He’s kind of a little bit caught in between; am I an offensive
guy? Am I a guy that has to play hard every night and be in a third line role?
Where do I fit in? I think that’s his biggest challenge moving forward.”
Shore has proven to a very capable AHLer with 140 points in 205 career games at that level. While his NHL totals (80 GP, 9 G, 15 A, 24 PTS) aren’t bad at all, he hasn’t been able to stick in the show, especially in his time with Calgary. Taking a look at some of his underlying numbers, nothing really jumps off the page either.
Specifically in his 14 games with the Flames, Shore has been neither good nor bad. He hasn’t hurt the team, but at the age of 24 and 25, the hope would be for Shore’s impact to be a little greater. If he does end up getting another contract with Calgary, it’s going to put the pressure on for a really emphatic campaign. Again, those were sentiments shared by Huska.
“There is a lot there with Drew,” Huska said. “I think
it’s just a matter of him really dialling in into how he has to play to be an
NHL player full time. I think that’s his real challenge over the course of the
summer. He has to really come to camp with a good idea and understanding of how
he has to play every time he steps on the ice.”
Verdict: I lean towards qualifying Shore and giving him another year with the organization. After all, he’s been with Calgary for fewer than two seasons and has some things going for him. At 6’3 and 205 pounds, Shore has the size element the Flames have talked a lot about; he’s also shown versatility playing down the middle and on the wing. More than anything else, though, re-signing Shore will put him in a “show me” situation. Pressure like that can motivate and elevate which is great. If it doesn’t, well, we know how this profile will go next summer.
It’s only been one year in the Flames organization for the older of the two Hamilton boys after acquiring Freddie from Colorado in the offseason. In the end, the team essentially got Hamilton for free; the Flames retained their seventh round pick after the conditions on them dealing it weren’t met. So how do we evaluate year one in a new organization for Hamilton?
With 43 points in 62 games, Hamilton finished third in scoring with the Heat and added a goal and two points in four NHL games near the end of the season. The 2015-16 season was Hamilton’s fourth in professional hockey and his most productive by a slim margin. Much like Shore, Hamilton has proven to be a strong AHLer as his counting numbers show.
At the NHL level, though, points have been a little harder to come by. His two points at the end of the season were just his second and third in the show; he now has three points in 33 career NHL games. While Shore still seems to have a number of questions to answer, I don’t get the feeling there are a lot of people waiting for things to come together for Hamilton. He’s very likely entered “is what he is” territory, or is very close if he hasn’t.
Hamilton doesn’t do anything remarkably well, nor does he do anything glaringly awful. He’s got decent touch around the net, is an average skater, and, according to a lot of scouts, thinks the game at an above average level. Can Hamilton be a productive player on the farm with the ability to step in at the NHL level in a pinch? Yes, and I think he’s shown that in four pro seasons. Does he look like a full-time NHLer in the making? With him turning 25 on New Year’s Day, I would lean towards no.
Verdict: I’m fairly ambivalent on this one, but I think Calgary will end up qualifying and re-signing Hamilton. With his brother Dougie already in the organization, what’s the harm in not doing so? That said, Hamilton also needs to show the Flames he’s more than just a “tweener” to avoid finding himself lost in the shuffle with a bunch of new contracts filtering in over the next 12 months.
I’ll spoil the verdict of Wotherspoon’s profile, because I think the team has to qualify him. However, I do think this coming year is an important one for the 2011 second round pick of the Flames. We’ve seen some really impressive flashes from Wotherspoon in his 26 career NHL games, but this really is his year to make his mark.
Calgary has a whole lot more organizational depth on the back end even compared to one year ago, so all of a sudden, getting surpassed on the chart isn’t totally out of the question. Players like Jakub Nakladal, Oliver Kylington, and Rasmus Andersson have all entered the organization in the last year. Those three, and perhaps others, could very well give Wotherspoon some competition for a third pairing spot many of us thought was his only a short time ago.
While the two play different positions, comparing Wotherspoon’s situation to where Markus Granlund was 12 or 18 months ago isn’t unfair. Both players were 2011 second round picks and were promising prospects for quite some time. Granlund was surpassed on the organizational depth chart, though, and ended up getting dealt to Vancouver prior to the 2015 trade deadline. That’s the fate Wotherspoon needs to avoid, and this season could go a long way in doing just that.
Wotherspoon has come a long way since his draft year and I still think he’s got the ability to be an NHL defenceman. With contracts like Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid, and Dennis Wideman coming off the books in the next year, the door will be open for a few younger blueliners to crack Calgary’s roster. I think Wotherspoon can be one of those guys, especially if he makes this crucial coming year a good one.
Verdict: This one is much more cut and dried than the last two. Qualify Wotherspoon and sign him to another one year deal and see if this is the year he breaks the door down. If not, next year’s conversation will be slightly more interesting.