Early (early, early) Flames roster projections hint at possible prospect spots

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Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

Going into free agency, the Flames were missing two obvious elements: right wingers and a backup goalie. Signing Troy Brouwer and Chad Johnson addressed both issues.

The problem? There are still holes in the lineup that need filling in. So while it’s far too early to do serious lineup projections for this team – some key members have only been around for a day – we can take a look at how things might fill out, and see where there’s still opportunity.

This is still a very young team – and it could stay that way.

Between Brian Elliott and Johnson, the goaltending position is set. If one of them gets hurt, then it could be time to welcome Jon Gillies or David Rittich to the NHL; otherwise, there isn’t really any room there. Which is good – we don’t have to sit through any three goalie messes to start this season.

With all of the contracts on the backend, the defence appears set, too. Jakub Nakladal is still a possibility to (re)join the group, but he’s a known commodity for the Flames. All nine guys who are probable options (in additional to Nakladal: Giordano, Brodie, Hamilton, Wideman, Engelland, Smid, Jokipakka, and Wotherspoon) have already spent extensive time with the Flames. There’s nobody new, and there wouldn’t be any particular surprises from this group.

Forwards

Here’s where there are holes. Let’s go with a really base lineup based on who’s with the Flames right now:

Gaudreau Monahan Brouwer
Bennett
Ferland Backlund Frolik
Bouma Stajan Chiasson
Bollig

Shuffle guys around as you will.

Three spots are left open, assuming the Flames go with 14 forwards and seven defencemen. If the Flames do bring back Josh Jooris, that still leaves two spots. They aren’t likely to do another Brouwer-level signing – they’re running out of cap – but more Chiasson-level signings could help fill them in.

Or, there will be a spot or three available in the forward lineup to be filled from within.

Matthew Tkachuk expressed determination to play in the NHL this season. Does he scoop up one of those spots? Hunter Shinkaruk had a good showing at the end of 2015-16. Does one of those spots become his? Daniel Pribyl has the size and at least had the scoring talent in the Czech league. Will one of those spots be his? Freddie Hamilton was one of the few qualified RFAs. Will he take a shot at staying at the next level?

Jooris should have made the 2014-15 opening night roster, but between guys like Devin Setoguchi and Brian McGrattan, there was no room for him. The 2015-16 opening night roster featured Jiri Hudler, David Jones, and Mason Raymond as part of it; Brouwer may replace Hudler and Chiasson Jones, but that’s only two for three. (Two for four, if we include Joe Colborne starting his season injured, but returning soon after to take a spot in the lineup.)

Barring any surprise late off-season signings – you know, like another Setoguchi – it sure looks like there will be spots in the forward lineup open for a prospect to make his way on to. Even if Jooris is brought back and a better Setoguchi experiment is conducted, that’s still a roster spot basically guaranteed for the top prospect out of camp.

This hasn’t been seen during Treliving’s tenure as general manager so far. His first two opening rosters have been completely filled up. Contrast that to Sean Monahan forcing himself on in 2013-14, as did Sven Baertschi and Colborne to start that season.

Maybe that’ll be the case this year: a sixth overall pick and a less-heralded prospect who has distinguished himself nevertheless.

This early into the off-season, at least, it looks like there’s going to be room for opportunity. That could change at a moment’s notice, but so far so good for the hopefuls up front.

  • wildcat14

    Lets assume Tkachuk makes the opening roster

    Tkachuk-Monahan-Frolik
    Johnny-Bennett-Brouwer
    Ferland-Backlund-Chiasson
    Hunter S-Stajan-Poirier/Bouma

    I don’t think Tkachuk and Bennett will play together. Similar style of play so put them on different lines. I like Johnny with Bennett as I think Bennett is a bit more skilled then Mony. Sam and Johnny could be very good together creating a lot offensively with Brouwer being defensively aware and the vet to help Sam in his first season at C.

  • Parallex

    Alrighty, let’s work this out…

    I think Ari basically has the right of it…

    Gaudreau Monahan Brouwer
    ???? Bennett ????
    Ferland Backlund Frolik
    Bouma Stajan Chiasson

    Guadreau and Monahan are basically joined at the hip now and I think there is a zero percent chance that they’re going to stick a rookie on the a line with them and in pretty much every description of Brouwer the word “complementary” appears… so meet Troy Brouwer AKA Hudler 2.0.

    Likewise the 4th line ought to be set with Stajan at C, Chiasson plays like a 4th liner is paid like a 4th liner… will be a fourth liner. The only question is who will be LW. It’ll either be Ferland or Bouma I’d go with Bouma.

    So what of the middle lines? I’d like to think that the Flames are capable of not automatically putting the shinny new toy straight into the line-up… I’d like to think that but they’ve not shown that kind of restraint thus far so we should probably assume that Tkachuk will at least start the season in the NHL. I would think that they’d want to shelter him at least initially so probably not best to put him with Backlund-Frolik (who I consider a pair) so we’d put him with Bennett. That leaves Ferland and ???? again probably don’t want to have a rookie with Backlund and Frolik so I figure we’ll be rolling with a kid line and the only guy from the Farm that I could foresee getting put on a sheltered scoring line would be Shinkaruk.

    • wildcat14

      If Tkachuk makes the team they won’t put him with Bennett in Sams first full year at centre…that is not “sheltering” either of them. They said they hope to put Bennett with a more experienced guy. i.e.. Brouwer, Frolik
      Johnny and Mony are not joined at hip, nor do they need to be…..same goes for Frolik and Backlund. They played together last year and how did that work out for us?? 5th last in league.
      IMO Bennett is more skilled then Mony and would fit well with Johnny….mix it up. It is ok to change.

        • wildcat14

          So, you want your 2nd line to play 4th line minutes?? You don’t put them all on one line. You put them with a defensively aware vet like Frolik and Brouwer to ease the transition on different lines and not throw them to the wolfs.

          • Parallex

            Declaring something “X Line” is basically just arbitrarily ordering them on a page. It’s also not what I’m talking about…

            If we put them together then the coaches can choose when, where, and against whom they play. If you spread them out you lose that ability and inevitably end up exposing someone to less then optimal scenario’s. Maybe you’d be happy seeing Bennett or Tkachuk matched-up against Sid and Co. but I sure as heck wouldn’t. Frankly, I think you’re the one talking about throwing them to the wolves. I’d basically throw them over the boards against the traditional “third-line” competition PvP and then try to get them some extra minutes taking offensive zone draws against the others.

          • wildcat14

            You say throw them out against the others teams 3rd line…i thought the “lines are arbitrary”. Team have a 4th line and Bennets line will not be the 4th line so you have 2 lines that are playing limited minutes…that makes a lot of sense to run with 2 lines and spot play the “kid line” and 4th line in a 82 game season.What?? If you aren’t going to play them in most situations then u send Tkachuk back to juniors. You are wrong to put a rookie line together….this is the NHL. If they can’t play then send them down. You have to trust them or they don’t make the team.. You want your top line out for as many offensive face-offs not throw out “kid” line just so they get ice time..
            Managament/Coaches of the Flames said they were going to try put a vet/vets with Sam to help him with first year at centre not a couple rookies.

          • Parallex

            They’re arbitrary titles. Hence why I said “traditional”… by which I basically mean the third best forward group as determined by your pro scouts.

            I basically consider your “1st line” to be your line that plays the most minutes so it’s impossible for “your 2nd line to play 4th line minutes” as you put it because if they’re playing 4th line minutes then they’re your 4th line.

            It’d basically be like this…

            Line “A” plays the most minutes. Then you have line “B1” and “B2” they play about the same number of minutes except B1 players get more D-zone draws and play against tougher comp then B2. Then you finally have line “C” who play the least amount of minutes.

            ” If you aren’t going to play them in most situations then u send Tkachuk back to juniors.”

            They didn’t do that with Monahan or Guadreau so I doubt they’d do it with Tkachuk. I’d love to have the ability to just play PvP but Treliving blew his wad on Troy Brouwer so we’re gonna have to have an extra guy of limited experience this year. That being the case I’d rather have them have to micro-manage the ice time of one forward group instead of two.

          • wildcat14

            For real??? “Determined by your pro scouts” ?????? NO!!! The coaches determine this. My point is Bennett is not going to be the 4th line yet you have him playing like that. Bennet will not be playing with 2 young guys as the Flames brass have stated this…but I guess you know better. …I am done this convo.

          • Parallex

            The coaches watch every game of every team in the NHL? Uh huh… I’m done too sport. I prefer convo’s with folk how can comprehend, well, anything really (not happening with you).

          • wildcat14

            Just read again how they plan to put a vet with Bennett. No chance they put 3 sub 20 yr olds out together on one unit….no team does that. Your wrong….This is the NHL