Who could make the jump next year?

In recent times, the Flames have become one of the better teams at successfully replacing injured and/or ineffective players with younger prospects. As discussed yesterday, there are a few holes (albeit, early in the summer) left to fill. With salaries coming very close to the cap limit, it will likely be prospects filling those question marks.

The next question is which prospects. We’re not just talking about cementing the opening day roster, but rather looking at which farmhands we could possibly see playing a meaningful role for the Flames this upcoming season.

For the purposes of the article, we’re defining a “jump” as winning an NHL job (say, 20+ games) out of merit. I think we could see many players that may occasionally come up due to injury, but we’re not going to bet on it. These are the guys that can play well enough to replace a healthy player on the NHL roster.

The names link to that players’ FN evaluation if you’d like a more detailed background read.

Freddie Hamilton

The Elder Hamilton has been in the AHL for almost his entire career, only picking up 33 NHL games along the way. A top line player for most of the season, Hamilton brings offensive know-how with 22 even strength primary points this past season. He has 146 points in 259 AHL games. Subtract his first pro season and he has 120 points in 183 games. Hamilton has pretty much done all he can at the AHL level.

The question is about bringing that to the NHL level. We saw a brief glimpse of him this season towards the end, playing 46 minutes at ES and racking up two points (including an assist on his brother’s goal). Hamilton, who was only featured in four games before succumbing to injury, did impress enough to merit discussion for this upcoming season.

Freddie has all but wrapped up one of the Flames’ roster spots this year. With little cap room for another winger, the fact that he’s not waiver exempt, and the Flames’ decision to qualify him ahead of other righties like Jooris and Colborne pretty much tells you the team’s opinion of him. I think there are still some questions about him, but he’s probably the next Stockton graduate.

Garnet Hathaway

RIght behind Hamilton is the fiery Hathaway, who earned his spot on the team the hard way. He received an NHL contract last off-season after an impressive rookie year in Adirondack. He carried that positive momentum into 2015-16, and received an NHL cup of coffee. In 14 games, he put up three assists and was generally impressive.

He isn’t much of a fancy stats darling, putting up meh possession results with sheltered zone starts in the NHL. His production in the AHL kind of stagnated too, going from 0.5 PPG in 2014-15 to slightly under that in 2015-16. For comparison, Hamilton went from 0.36 in his first AHL year to 0.67 in his second, and stayed around the latter for most of the time.

Hathaway really needs to impress to win a spot in the Flames’ lineup. He is a solid, hard worker but that needs to pay off sometime soon for his sake. NHL jobs aren’t just given to people who work hard, they’re given to people who are proven producers. Bob Hartley doesn’t coach this team anymore, so Hathaway’s intangibles may mean less to new management.

Oliver Kylington

Our darling of the 2015 draft, Kylington has rocketed up the Flames’ prospect depth chart since being drafted. Minus a few injuries, Kylington could’ve played the full slate of the AHL schedule for the Heat. He received one NHL game this season, playing in game 82 against the Minnesota Wild. All in all, a pretty good first year for Kylington. I should mention that he just recently turned 19 years old.

However, all we really have on Kylington right now is potential. His NHL game, while too small to be a meaningful sample size, wasn’t really great. In the AHL, he was pretty average. At 18, he was never really going to be trusted with a heavy workload, but that’s part of the problem. He’s still young and growing. His tools, primarily his skating, are all really impressive but Kylington needs to take them to the next level.

It’s probably going to take an off-season miracle to clean up the mess in the Flames’ bottom three, so we have to work within our parameters. The major point is that Smid will likely start on LTIR, so that leaves Wideman, Jokipakka, and Engelland for the final three spots. It is entirely feasible that one of those guys could lose their job. Kylington could provide a substantial challenge for the 6/7 spot, but he has a hill to climb to get there.

Brett Kulak

Kulak is probably the safer choice for that 6/7 spot. He did start last season in the NHL due to T.J. Brodie’s injury and even then looked capable of an NHL job. After Brodie returned, Kulak spent the majority of the season in the AHL until late season injuries led to his return.

He was sheltered yet successful in the NHL. Kulak had the easiest competition by TOI and zone starts north of 50%, but held his own with a 55.62 CF% at EV. In the A, Kulak lead Flames defensive prospects in scoring with 17 points in 58 games. By defensive metrics, he was a +4.272 GFrel% at EV.

Kulak is qualified to start in the NHL next season, but the bigger issue is space. If Nakladal is re-signed (which is likely) and with no other movement (also likely), Kulak is pushed back into an AHL role. He’s the next man up.

Emile Poirier

The 2013 first rounder has previously been talked about as one of the Flames’ prize jewels. After lighting it up the year before (55GP, 19-23-42) as an AHL all star, Poirier received a six game tryout with the Flames before the playoffs, recording one point.

This season, he took a massive, massive step backwards. In five more games, he scored 13 fewer points and fell way behind on Stockton’s depth chart. He is probably still a good player who had a sophomore slump. For example, 24 of his 29 points were EV and 16 of those were primary.

The pressure is on Poirier, and he certainly knows it. He will likely show up to training camp working harder than ever to prove that he still has a future with the team, but I’d say his odds are slim. Even though he can play both wing positions, the RW job is Hamilton’s to lose and the LW slots are pretty much set. He really has to impress to steal a spot, and even if he does, he might start the season as the 13/14 forward. If so, his time is better spent in the AHL.

Daniel Pribyl

Here’s my one bold pick for this article. The newly signed Czech is a big dude with some obvious skill, having placed second in Czech league scoring as a 23-year-old. We haven’t seen him play professionally in North America, but that was also the case for Jakub Nakladal, who came in and pretty much won a spot on the Flames’ blueline without a full season of professional NA hockey.

Not to say that Nakladal is the rule. The takeaway here is that the talented yet untested are still talented, and that Pribyl could jump ahead of the learning curve and steal a spot in the lineup. What’s holding him back for now are injuries. He came to Calgary to have his ACL repaired, and the timeline has him returning just after the season begins. He isn’t starting immediately in the NHL, and he may not see an appearance with the club until February or March. However, I just feel there are great things to come from him.

Hunter Shinkaruk

The homergrown former Vancouver prospect is now Flames property thanks to Jim Benning Benninging (?). We’re not complaining.

He finished his AHL season second in Stockton scoring (39 points with Utica, 12 with Stockton) before coming to the Flames for a seven game stretch. He had the benefit of playing with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and posted decent possession metrics (+2.76 at 5v5) with bad zone starts (-11.83%). Shinkaruk was the story of the late season.

Shinkaruk’s selection with the team depends on whether or not Matthew Tkachuk makes the team. If he does, the LW spot is full. If he doesn’t, the LW spot is also full, if they choose to use Bollig instead of literally anyone else. Shinkaruk is certainly better than Bollig but that doesn’t mean that Bollig loses out on a roster spot (though I’m hopeful under Gulutzan). I don’t think Shinkaruk is ready for a second line spot yet, and may not be entirely ready for a third line spot, but he has some good centres to work with. He’s inoffensive on the third line with Backlund-Frolik or Bennett-Whoever (Hamilton?).

Tyler Wotherspoon

Since 2013-14, Wotherspoon has been just on the cusp of joining the Flames full time. Now it’s do or die.

We all pretty much know what Spooner is by now: a stay at home defenceman with limited offensive upside. He was pretty solid in his NHL games, and looked ready for a full time role. The organization probably feels pretty high on Wotherspoon, having given him a qualifying offer this past week. He is also not waiver exempt anymore, so the onus is on him to make the roster. Like Hamilton, he’s pretty much locked into a bottom role, and it’s his job to lose.

Final Thoughts

It’s a good time to be a Flames fan. The fact that we can name eight players who could feasibly play a quarter of this upcoming NHL season is something that most other fans must remain silent on (to add onto their pain, you could mention that acquiring all eight only took a late first, two seconds, a fourth, and Markus Granlund).

At least one of these guys will get a roster job. Unless he has a piss-poor preseason, Hamilton has the job locked up. Next in line is Shinkaruk for the left wing spot should Tkachuk not make the team. If either should fail (or others go down to injury), there’s a healthy lineup waiting to replace them. 

  • knappsacked

    I know that tkachuk was mentioned in this article…but i wouldve liked a snippet on his liklihood of going pro. I think theres a 55% chance he takes second line lw beside bennett to start the season. But well see

      • knappsacked

        I suppose thats fair enough. It really is an intriguing decision with him. Just watching his highlights. The way he plays is so much like bennett. I know he may get a shot on the top line right side, but i really hope that he gets matched with bennett on the second lines. Giving us three solid pairs. And lots of ways to attack. Johnny-mony, matty-benny, and backs-frolik. Deadly top nine. Fill in the other three spots tith a mix of brouwer, shinkaruk, ferland, or one of the guys u mentioned in this article (which id like to say,ive enjoyed ur work since joing the nation), and ur a threat with whoever is on the ice

    • beloch

      Although there are some concerns that his excellent linemates have helped fluff up his numbers, Tkachuk still has an undeniably stellar NHLE of 51.4. For comparison, Monahan’s draft-year NHLE was 35.3 (he did not have linemates anywhere nearly as good as Tkachuk’s) and Bennett’s was 41.0.

      Tkachuk has played RW as well as LW, so he’s definitely going to be gunning for a top 6 slot. If Frolik stays with Backlund, there is a gaping hole for a good winger in the top 6. Peg meet hole?

      Pribyl seems a likely candidate to take a top 6 role at some point next season, but likely not in October. He needs time to finish healing and time to adapt to the North American game.

      One other dark horse candidate is Rasmus Andersson. Yes, he’s coming from junior, but he honestly looked like a more complete defender than Kylington at last year’s camp. It will be interesting to see how these two compare in this summer’s camp, after Kylington has, by most reports, made great strides to improve the defensive side of his game. Even if Andersson spends most of this season in the AHL, my money is on him getting a big cup of coffee at some point in the season.

      While the pressure to win seems to be mounting, here’s hoping Gulutzan can find ice-time for up and coming prospects. There are some big potential upgrades waiting in the wings.

      • SoCalFlamesFan

        Tkachuk is a gritty and skilled attacking forward but all the scouting, including Tre’s interviews, and even his Dad’s comments hint he may struggle in the neutral zone and in his own zone. No player is complete when they are drafted.

        I think Tkachuk might best round his game in the AHL.

        Though I WANT to be wrong.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I agree, Janko and Rass are my picks to make the Flames out of Camp. Porier is my wild card, a good camp can move him to where the coaching staff feels he should have been. I think Shink, Mangi and TSpoon will get some consideration.

        • supra steve

          Mangiapane’s chances of making the Flame’s roster (coming out of training camp) have got to be just a little north of zero. Would be crazy for the Flames to not send him to Stockton.

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            Mangiapane impressed last camp. He is one of the most impressive (older) guys coming out of junior. He may not make the team out of camp. but his chances are still good.

          • supra steve

            I just don’t see any way that he could make this team coming out of camp. He may earn a chance after a stint in the A, but more likely he spends at least a full season, probably more, in the A before he gets any kind of chance with the Flames.

            Would be awesome if I’m wrong, but history says this is probably how his career progresses…see Theo Fleury, Martin St. Louis, Paul Byron…not expecting another Gaudreau like miracle.

          • cberg

            Gaudreau spent three years in college post-draft, so in Mangiapanne equivalency (noting he was passed over first year) we should expect at least a year in the AHL. I’m hoping he makes it a tough decision and if he earns it, all the better. There are several LW vying for 2-3 LT jobs so its going to be interesting to see what develops.

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            Remember that Mangiapane is slightly taller and heavier than Johnny. 5’10” and 182 pounds. He put up back to back junior years of over 100 points. He has a nose for the net. The only question is whether he can compete at a higher level.

            Guys that are not physically imposing do not dominate in scoring, unless they are able to outwork bigger guys. Compare him to Mitch Marner and Dvorak for production, on a less stacked team.

        • freethe flames

          There are a lot of veteran defenders between Rass and the big show.(I like Rass too and he has the advantage of being a RHD) BT needs to move a veteran defender.

  • Sobueno

    Still surprised Grant wasn’t signed. I would’ve put him on this list as someone with a good chance of making the big club out of camp. At the very least he would’ve been a force in Stockton again. Anyone read anything from Treliving as to why he wasn’t sent an offer?

  • The Sultan

    I’m going to throw my hat in on the Hunter Shinkaruk train.

    I remember vividly watching the 2013 draft and being sorely disappointed that we chose Emile Poirer at 22 over Hunter, who was picked by our rivals the Canucks two spots later. He was from Calgary, a high-scoring winger who had 91 points in 66 games prior to his draft year, and then 86 points in 64 in his actual draft year. By comparison Monahan had 78 points in 58 games played in that same year.

    Monahan was ready to make the jump — he had size, leadership abilities, and busted his chops over the summer to improve his skating enough that he was on the opening night roster. It could be argued that Shinkaruk was not ready to make the jump and needed a little more seasoning, a little more size. Early in the 2013-14 season Hunter tore the labrum in his hip, but played through it in hopes of competing at the World Junior Championships that year. Unfortunately he didn’t make the cut, and finally opted to have surgery at the beginning of 2014 effectively ending his season.

    Here’s the kicker – that summer, it was revealed that Hunter had been playing through this lingering issue for much of his junior career and had simply delayed the healing process until he finally opted for surgery. I’m just wondering how many more points a healthy Shinkaruk would’ve put up in junior, how much higher he would’ve been ranked. Anyways, hindsight is 20/20.

    I’m not done yet. Now this is taken from Wikipedia but I don’t discredit it as an entirely unreasonable statement: “During his rehabilitation period, Shinkaruk made a conscious decision to address his strength concerns, appearing at the Canucks’ 2014 training camp with much greater physical strength after reportedly gaining 15 lbs during that off-season.” So a finally healthy Hunter Shinkaruk, given NHL-level medical conditioning and care, busted his chops like Monahan did and addressed his areas of weakness and was ready to challenge for a roster spot in Vancouver.

    Except the Canucks didn’t feel he was ready and decided he needed a little more professional experience playing in the AHL. Understandable. Playing on the road, against men. He admittedly struggled to get his feet wet after a whirlwind of everything that happened, but went on to finish with 9 goals in the last 16 games of that 2014-15 AHL season. The Utica Comets then went on a long 23 game playoff run where he scored another 4 goals before losing like the Canucks do.

    We all know what happened this last season. Prior to being traded, Hunter Shinkaruk had 10 goals in the first 16 games of the 2015-16 season, including two hat tricks. He was leading the team with 39 points in 45 games before Benning gifted him to us for MARKUS GRANLUND. He was assigned to Stockton and… had 12 points in 17 games before the Flames recalled him. Yeah, maybe he had favourable zone starts and line mates, but he still scored twice and put up an assist in 7 games for the disaster that the last few games of the 2015-16 season.

    Anyways, I was waiting for an appropriate time to shower him with my praise and name him as my candidate to make the Flames opening night roster.

  • Truculence

    Given the way the flames have prioritized having a couple of skilled big wingers crack the top six, the 6″2 200lb tkachuk will be given a very long look on that second line LW next to Bennett. In fact, the way management has been rhapsodizing about him, I think it’s his job to lose unless Mangiapane or Shink blow the doors off. I don’t necessarily believe it to be a bad thing either, cuz if he can transfer his elite vision and playmaking to the nhl, it will be a big boon to Bennet’t’s offensive production.

    I also agree on Pribyl: I’m just very bullish on him for some reason and see him slotting somewhere in the middle of the rotation sooner than later.

  • loudogYYC

    Good article. It’s definitely a sign of better times when there’s this many players knocking on the door. It’ll create more competition than we had ever had and I think it means the end of the Manicured 4th liner Bollig.

    Regarding Tkachuk, I hope for his sake he doesn’t make the team this season and works on upping his dominant game and improving his skating. Although it’s something that can be worked on, there’s no more obvious shortcoming in the NHL as poor skating. Drew Shore is a pretty decent player but can’t skate for sh*t and it really showed every time he was called up. That can’t be good for a kids confidence.

    • Truculence

      Tkachuk’s skating in the O actually progressed considerably from the start of the year, as many scouts have attested in their reports (being a draft junkie, I pretty much own them all). It was in fact a significant reason that he absolutely dominated in the ohl playoffs. However he sprained his ankle in the last playoff series in the O and therefore was limited, but still very effective obviously, in what he could do at the memorial cup.

      Moreover, much like Monahan who just released a video of his training regimen this off-season, Tkachuk is absolutely committed to improving his first step explosiveness. Given that he already possesses a strong Nhl stride and is one committed and stubborn SOB, I’m confident that he will appear at training camp with at least average NHL speed.

  • cunning_linguist

    Honestly, I’ll just be happy if more guys get a legitimate shot than previous years. Flames have done a poor job in the past of bringing up young talent and then giving then some actual rope. I’m really hoping GG gives some more leeway to the youngsters than BH did. I truly do envy the Tampa Bay / Detroit model of continually cycling new blood into the lineup. Maybe it’s a function of prospect quality, but I’m hopeful we can finally get the last segment of the prospect pipeline built…might be the only pipeline we have a chance of completing these days

  • KACaribou

    Saying Freddie Hamilton has all but wrapped up a roster spot with the Flames this year is maybe the most ridiculous thing I have read at FN by a blogger in a while.

    Poirier is still only 21, 3-years-younger than Hamilton, who I have no idea why Tree hung onto considering he gave up on Grant and the like. Must have something to do with Dougie’s contract that we keep his older bro around?

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Could be that Grant played 15 games in Flames silks and managed all of 1 assist. Has never scored an NHL goal. Good AHL player, but can never seem to put it together.

      The other major difference is Hammy is a RHS. Not another LHS center.

    • SoCalFlamesFan

      While I only watched the games where Hamilton played last year, he did not panic when put into pressure situations. He was confident and showed potential chemistry with several Flames setting up his brother for a couple nice plays. He was also sound defensively.

      I thought of the forward call-ups he was the most ready to play in the NHL. Not the highest potential, but could easily steal a spot.

      I think the Hamiltons really want to play together. Extra motivation there.

      • KACaribou

        Not sure how you got those impressions, because I had a mostly “Drew Shore” impression of Hamilton. He can fill in for the Flames, but nothing more. We’re never going to be a great team with fill-ins.

        I am sure Wayne Gretzky would have liked to play with his brothers too, but he didn’t and Dougie Hamilton is no Wayne Gretzky.

        • cberg

          No, I’d have to agree with SoCalFan that FHamilton looked pretty solid in his games last season. I could definitely see him making the team probably in a bottom6 role.

          As far as upgrading, sure, but we can say the same with Bennett, Monahan…. anyone, if a Mcdavid or Puljujarvi falls in our lap, as has happened in Edmonton.

    • freethe flames

      Buffalo has less depth at center than we do? The Flames have Monahan, Bennett and Backs. Buffalo has ORielly, Eichel, Reinhart and Ennis; at least comparable and maybe even better long term.

  • freethe flames

    Based upon their play last year one has to think that Shinkaruk has the edge at forward. On the back end both Spoon and Kulak proved they can play at this level but there is a problem; Wides, Engs and Smid if healthy all have expensive one way deals. Add JJ and there is no room at the inn for these guys unless they blow the doors of in camp.(I wonder how JJ is recovering from his injury; same with Wideman for that matter)

    I would love for the prospects to force the coach and managements hand and with the world cup the forwards might just get a chance.

  • Baceda

    So we have a lot of depth knocking on the door, that’s good to see. It’s easy to forget how much potential some of these guys have, because they’re unproven as of yet. Pribyl could turn into a star, who knows? So could Mangiapane when he’s ripe.

    And if his bro Dougie can excel in the NHL I don’t see why Freddy shouldn’t be able to make it work too

  • freethe flames

    With development camp around the corner I find it interesting that when the Flames sign their RFA’s they will have only 42 players under contract. I wonder if anyone will get a contract out of development camp. There is a kid out of Lethbridge someone was talking up who went undrafted(Brayden Burke another small skilled guy) that might be a good addition.

    I think I would rather talk about development camp than keep rehashing the same issues. I’m hoping that by the end of the week we will be talking about Johnny and Monny being signed and talking about what we saw at camp.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    I remember watching Mangiapane last year in the young stars and he really stood out to me.looks like he had another strong year in junior.
    Probably won’t make the Flames but someone to watch for .

  • everton fc

    The players I think could make the jump:

    Wotherspoon, Kulak, F. Hamilton. Maybe Hathaway. I don’t include Shinkaruk, because he ended the season w/the big club. I think he’ll be on the opening day roster.

  • L13

    It surprises me that anyone would cite Tkachuk’s NHLe as proof of his readiness for the NHL considering that 41 of his 107 points last season were secondary assists. He would have never had that many points on any other team in the OHL.

    What I’m hoping for is that he goes back to London and gets 80-90 primary points next season. That would be a massive improvement for him and a very encouraging sign.

    Just to put things into perspective, our very own Andrew Mangiapane, whose chances of making the team this season are being downplayed left and right, had 68 points at even strength last season in 59 games, 56 of them primary (goals or primary assists). Tkachuk had 63 points at even strength, of which 37 were primary, in 57 games.

    If Tkachuk shows he can play in the NHL in training camp, obviously he should stay up, but let’s not use his inflated point total as an argument.

    Also not sure why Pribyl is being pencilled in for a top-six role when he barely c racked PPG in the Czech league, has been described by the GM as a depth signing and will be recovering from an intrusive operation for months.

    • freethe flames

      I agree with just about everything you said except about Pribyl; few if anyone has penciled him in to make the team out of camp. Simply put I hope the guys that do the best job at camp regardless of their age, draft positioning, nationality and NHL experience make the team. Training camp w/o Johnny and Monny (I believe they will be at the World Cup, JJ as well if he is healthy) should give the young guys plenty of opportunity to show what they have.

      IMO if BT does not make any new additions in the off season then I hope that the kids push some of the vets off the team and I think there is potential for that to happen. Hopefully GG will bring in a system and attitude that allows guys to grow.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Johnny, Mony, The Fro

    Shinky, Sammy, Brouwer

    Hamilton, Mickis, Tkachuk

    Bouma, Ragin’, Chaisson

    Pribyl, Ferklund, Bollig – these 3 along with Tkachuk, Shinky, and Hamilton, probably spend some amount of time in the both NHL and AHL, depending on waivers.

    • Nighteyes

      I don’t think the Flames should be putting “The Fro” on the top line. He is better suited to be put on tough deployments with Backlund, and on our second powerplay unit. I think Ferland is probably one of the more suitable candidates to play with those two guys. Brouwer with Bennett and Shink seems like a good line. They still need to find someone to play with Monny and Johnny.

  • Burnward

    I gots it like this at the moment:

    Johnny-Mony-Chiasson/Ferland

    Tkachuk-Bennett-Brouwer

    Bouma-Backlund-Frolik

    Shinkaruk-Stajan-Ferland/Chiasson

    Bollig, Hamilton

    Brodie-Hamilton

    Gio-Wideman

    Jokipakka-Engellend

    Wotherspoon

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    BT indicated on The Fan 960 that Nakladal may not be in their plans since he was not a LHD. Seems like every team wants a RHD except us. I wonder if his tune will change if the Oilers show some interest. This is the second Czech that has come over and not been re signed. Only Nakladal is on the Czech World Cup team so he must have value.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I really know very little about Nakladal other than the games I watched him play last year. But, I can’t figure out why they would pass on a RHD who is young enough just because Wideman needs a LHD pairing. If the organization showed a bit of confidence in him he could be a nice signing. In looking at the LHD Free Agents available….nothing jumps off the page.

    • piscera.infada

      The only thing I could possibly think of is that he’s asking for too much term on a contract. I definitely don’t think that’s the case–he likely doesn’t have the kind of leverage for too big an ask. That said, term would be a sticking point for Treliving, if he expects trying to graduate some young blueline help this year and next.

      I imagine Treliving would like to sign both him and Jooris, but he needs to resign the big two, and then probably move a couple pieces (ahem, Wideman) around.