Who could be Matthew Tkachuk’s Flames linemates?

For the past three seasons in a row, the Flames have debuted star rookie after star rookie. First, it was Sean Monahan posting a then-exciting 34 points in 75 games as the rebuild officially got underway. Then, it was Johnny Gaudreau doing Johnny Gaudreau things, including scoring 64 points through 80 games.

Sam Bennett’s following season may have seemed like something of a letdown in comparison. The Flames were ramping up, but it was going to be difficult for anybody else to match Gaudreau’s level, let alone exceed it. In Bennett started, with 36 points in 77 games: roughly on Monahan’s level.

Up next, it could be Matthew Tkachuk’s turn. Bennett may be a centre, but he spent significant time on the left wing through his rookie season (as Markus Granlund took control of his spot as centre in the lineup, for some reason).

Maybe looking at just who Bennett got to play with as a rookie will help determine what line Tkachuk will be on, should he make the NHL this year.

Sam Bennett’s linemates

Bennett spent over 350 minutes at even strength alongside Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund. They were, by far, his most common linemates, as Bennett played on the left side with them. They were also the best linemates he played with, scoring more goals and putting up better corsi numbers with them than with any other players.

The other players Bennett played with? He spent over 100 even strength minutes alongside Granlund, Micheal Ferland, Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris, David Jones, Johnny Gaudreau, and Jiri Hudler. There are some good names in that bunch – okay, the last two are good names – and otherwise, the group isn’t quite as impressive, and it reflected in Bennett’s numbers.

Had Bennett ended up with Backlund and Frolik throughout the entire season, he probably would have put up better counting stats. But that wasn’t quite the spot for a centre to play his entire rookie season.

Matthew Tkachuk’s potential linemates

Unlike Bennett, Tkachuk actually is a winger. He’s a left winger, specifically, but has made reference in the past to being able to play the right side, and the Flames organization isn’t necessarily committing to playing him on the left just yet.

If he does, though, then Backlund and Frolik could be options for Tkachuk right out of the gate. Why not? They’re two veterans who are incredibly smart on both sides of the puck, and who both tend to score at least half a point per game.

The only way in which that may not be seen as an ideal fit has to do with player responsibilities. But when Bennett played alongside those two, their offensive zone starts went up; they played in a much more defensive role once the rookie was off of their line. That does leave the possibility of having Matt Stajan as pretty much the sole defensive centre on the team – but that wouldn’t have to be the case the entire time, necessarily.

Should the Flames want to avoid that and have Backlund taking defensive draws throughout the year, though, then more options exist for Tkachuk.

Bennett himself, for example. He’s still likely to get more offensive zone starts than defensive ones – and on paper, his game seems like a match made in heaven for Tkachuk’s. That line may need some veteran balancing (Troy Brouwer?), or the Flames could go all in on the kids front if Hunter Shinkaruk is able to make the NHL lineup as well.

And hey, if Tkachuk is comfortable playing the right side? Monahan and Gaudreau could still use a missing piece.

If Tkachuk is to get quality linemates, though, these players may be his only option.

Change

Most of Bennett’s linemates from his rookie season aren’t even on the team anymore. Granlund, Colborne, Jooris, Jones, and Hudler are all gone, leaving just Frolik, Backlund, Ferland, and Gaudreau.

Then again, there may be some new options for Tkachuk to try. Daniel Pribyl, when he’s ready, could get the chance to be the missing piece on the top line – or he could join Tkachuk. Or Shinkaruk could. Or maybe this is even Alex Chiasson’s go at a fresh start; he is big, relatively young, and has at least had a 30 point season in the past.

Other than the loss of Hudler, these new options probably aren’t any worse than what Bennett had to work with. If anything, there’s more potential for improvement with the new wave of youth – although the Flames may want more veteran presence on Tkachuk’s line first.

Outside of Backlund and Frolik, Tkachuk’s potential linemate options are uncertains. Backlund and Frolik have pretty established NHL careers at this point; Bennett does not. If Tkachuk is to play on the top line, he’d be playing on his off wing. Shinkaruk and Pribyl remain big question marks, while Brouwer and Chiasson are brand new to the team, and we’re not entirely certain how they’re going to fit in, themselves.

No matter what, though, just who Tkachuk spends the year alongside will definitely be interesting.

  • freethe flames

    How about Tkachuk/Bennett/Brouwer with mostly Ozone starts. This sounds like a good way to start training camp especially with Johnny and Monny at the world cup.

    • everton fc

      Gaudreau/Monahan/Shinkaruk out of camp makes Tkachuk/Bennett/Brouwer a possibility. Then go with Ferland/Backlund/Frolik, Bouma/Stajan/Chiasson.

      However, I think the lines will look like this:

      Gaudreau/Monahan/Frolik
      Tkachuk or Shinkaruk/Bennett/Brouwer
      Ferland or Bouma/Backlund/Chiasson
      Ferland or Bouma/Stajan/Vey

      Not saying I agree or disagree… Unless we make more moves…

      • Baalzamon

        I still think they should give Ferland another chance on Monahan and Gaudreau’s line. They were territorially dominant last season, but suffered from unfortunate percentages. Monahan and Gaudreau both had on-ice shot% of around 10%, but that dropped to 6% with Ferland. And in spite of that (and a low on ice save%) they were still only out-scored by one goal as a line (5 for, 6 against).

        Frolik has been tried on that line, and it did not work on any level. Somehow, Monahan and Frolik don’t mesh.

        Besides, Treliving is on record, talking about forward pairs, saying that Frolik and Backlund is a pair they intend to exploit. And why not? Don’t fix what ain’t broken.

        • Jake the Snail

          Agreed on sticking with successful pairings…Johnny, Monny and Backlund, Frolik. Future could be Tkachuk, Bennett if Tkachuk doesn’t do enough at camp. Hope he gets at least a 9 game trial to start the season.

          Agreed that the Ferland on the first line deserves more ice time. However, work in the new guys and the unknowns (Vey, Chiasson, Pribyl, etc…) to see how they mesh with with the pairs we have.

          With Johnny and Monny at the Worlds Ferland would be the best choice to start the season together.

        • DoubleDIon

          I like Frolik with Backlund so I definitely don’t want him with Gaudreau and Monahan. I think Ferland, Brouwer or whichever of Shinkaruk or Tkachuk make the team would be fine there. I still think we need to find a way to lose one of Wideman, Smid or Engelland and get Pirri in here with Nakladal.

      • freethe flames

        I really like this top 9: Gaudreau/Monahan/Shinkaruk out of camp makes Tkachuk/Bennett/Brouwer and Ferland/Backlund/Frolik. Shinkaruk being the real wild card. At times when he played with Johnny and Monny he looked good. The problem I have is the the 4th line. BT signed Chiasson and I like the signing but both he and Bouma need to have bounce backs years; if they do then things could be pretty good. I have really soured on Stajan and see him as the 13th forward; playing occassionally. That is a position that needs upgrading; I wonder how quickly Jankowski adapts to pro hockey.

        • Stan

          I agree.

          Gaudreau/Monahan/Shinkaruk
          Tkachuk/Bennett/Brouwer
          Ferland/Backlund/Frolik
          Bouma/Stajan/Chiasson or Vey

          Backlund line gets the toughest assignments, Gaudreaus line gets the middle ground, and the Bennett line is sheltered as much as possible. The only wildcard I see here is Shinkaruk and if he can make the jump. That might not be realistic, but if not then I am hoping that ONE of our prospects comes into camp and lights it UP. Whether that is Shinkaruk, Pribyl, Poirier or whomever.

  • JimmyD

    Thinking about longer term offensive pairs for the flames I like the future look like this:

    Gaudreau / Monohan
    Tkachuk / Bennett
    Backland / Frolik

    So given this is a transition year I think we can build off the following:

    Gaudreau / Monohan / plus Chiasson (and later Pribly)
    Tkachuk / Bennett / plus Brouwer (mostly OZ starts)
    plus Shinkaruk / Backlind / Frolik (mostly DZ starts)

    Bottom line would be a combination of remaining eatablosh NHLers with opportunities for youth to come up from Stockton.

    Hopefully Pribly can establish himself by the end of the year to strengthen our right side…

  • cunning_linguist

    I gotta say, one of the things we’ve been very fortunate with as Flames fans is having the luxury of a new exciting rookie to watch and speculate about every year since Monahan. Living through the Sutter years really makes you appreciate what we are building here.

  • Brodano12

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Brouwer (~18-20 minutes, top 6 competition, more ozone starts)

    Ferland-Backlund-Frolik (~16-17 minutes, top 6 competition and toughest zone starts).

    Tkachuk/Shinkaruk-Bennett-Chiasson/Pribyl (~16-17 minutes, bottom 6 competition and sheltered offensive zone start)

    Bouma-Stajan-Vey/Hathaway/Hamilton/etc (~10 minutes, bottom 6 competition and defensive zone starts)

    Bollig on the bench.

    Top PP: Gaudreau-Monahan-Brouwer-Gio-Hamilton

    2nd PP: Bennett-Backlund/Frolik-Tkachuk-Brodie-Wideman/Nakladal

    Top PK: Backlund-Frolik-Gio-Brodie

    2nd PK: Bouma-Stajan-Engelland-Jokipakka/Wotherspoon/Nakladal (maybe Hamilton if he shows he deserves it).

  • Oyo

    what if we start spreading out the responsabilities a little bit?

    Johnny – Monny – Shink (as offensive as possible)

    Ferland – Backs – Brouwer (Backlund and ferland to carry the load and just basically suck up zone starts)

    Tkachuk – Bennett – Frolik (Frolik to help the kids push back possession wise in a 50/50 zone start role. He plays smart enough to help offensively )

    Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson (fourth line does what fourth lines do)

    • Stan

      Because he was hot garbage last year and is a major reclamation project? Can you give me a reason me why you would pencil him anywhere higher then the fourth line?

        • Schmenkley

          I would tend to agree; Treliving specifically mentioned that what he likes about Chiasson is that he isn’t afraid of going to the net, something the top line of Johnny and Monahan dearly need. I think there is a real good chance he gets some time with those two to see if anything clicks.
          Brouwer I think winds up next to Bennett, likely with Tkachuk on the other side, for 9 games at least.

          • The Fall

            Yeah. FN posts that Ferland will have a bounce back season… Bounce back to what?! He scored a lot of points once, in junior, a long time ago. Ferland should be chained to the fourth line. Chiasson will see action with playmakers – up to him to make something of it.

            Back to the point of this lost. Tkachucks linemates will be a couple teenagers in souther Ontario next year. Let’s re-evaluate next summer.

          • Schmenkley

            Still got lots of time for Ferland, but I agree with the thought that this year is critical for him.

            He has a very appealing set of skills that every team continues to search for; skill, size and a healthy dose of nasty. The kid just needs to find his place and focus on it, he could still be a valuable piece, way more upside than Bouma.

          • The Fall

            Skill…?!

            His biggest asset is chasing Bieksa from the playoffs. …super fun to watch it happen, but… near zero actual success in pro hockey. He’s also not really very big.

          • FireScorpion

            Yeah Ferland has to show A LOT more. He was crap last year. Don’t see him as a top liner by a long shot..if he is our top line winger, things aren’t going well at all.

        • Stan

          Why does him being “cheap” factor into his place in the lineup?

          He scores 35 points THREE seasons ago. Not two. That same year he was also a minus 21 btw. Since then he has scored 26 in 76 GP (shooting 10.5%), and most recently scored 14 in 77 GP (shooting 9.1%).

          As for the idea that he was buried by Cameron? Last season he played him quite frequently… He was only under 10 minutes in 6 games all season. He was over 14 minutes in 32 games.

          Safe to say, he is a reclamation project. I like the acquisition but I’d temper expectations, you are all hoping that he is our first line right winger.. That’s crazy talk.

  • doubledown

    By all indications from the team it seems to me that they intend to have Brower on the top line, at least to start. So I would say the first line goes:
    Gaudreau/Monahan/Brouwer

    Ferland/Backlund/Frolik

    Tkchuk or Shinkaruk/Bennett/Chiasson

    Bouma/Stajan/Vey

    I think there will be a battle between Tkchuk and Shinkaruk for one of the left wing positions. You could also switch Ferland and Tkchuk easily enough depending on how the chemistry works and defensive zone starts.

  • First Name Unidentified

    Or how about just put the kid on the top line and bring the Calder home finally after missing out on it recently. Makes Calgary a likeable destination for prospects and UFAs.

    Sell more tickets and jerseys, maybe they don’t have to rely on Calgary Next and fund it themselves.

    You do things right at the micro level, the macro takes care of itself, just my years of experience of assigning probabilities to random events suggets.

    • Schmenkley

      Meh…..never been a fan of giving the keys for the family sports car to a teenager that so far has only proven capable of driving on the dirt roads around the farm; let him prove capable of driving in rush hour using the back up everyday vehicle first, and then let him cut loose with the high end equipment.

    • FireScorpion

      Funny how before the Jackets shook up the draft ON had Tkachuk pencilled into the opening night line up..but now he’s no where close to being ready? Funny how that works.

      If he goes back to Junior that’s fine, Calgary won’t hand a rosterspot to him on a silver platter like they do in Edmonton. Ready or Not

      • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

        Dubios would have been the right guy to take in the fourth spot anyway I believe. He looks like a full grown pro. The guy is a physical specimen as an 18 year old.
        Tkachuk is going to be fine but the one knock is that he needs to improve his skating and he most likely will but that will involve one more year of junior.

  • freethe flames

    I have been saying for a number of weeks now that both Chiasson and Bouma are reclamation projects and if they rebound then the Flames may be in better shape. Ferland needs to step his game up and earn a top 9 spot but I see his energy as being a good fit with Backs and Frolik. I could also see a number of other players thriving with pairing including: Bouma(he could easily get back to 10 goals with these 2), Shinkaruk could add some O here and learn the 200 ft NHL game or this could be a place for Tkachuk to get his 9 game audition. Bennett had his most productive part of his season playing lW with these two, Colborne had a productive period with them and Bouma had his career year playing in large part with Backs; these two seem to help others find their game w/o the need to be sheltered and I don’t see it changing this year.

    IMO to be a playoff team you need to play 4 lines that meet the following criteria:

    Line A: will produce @80 goals can play in all situations and will be your top PP unit. They could also be on the PK if needed. (I see Johnny and Monny making up 2/3 of that line)

    Line B: will produce @45 goals, matches up against the other teams top players, drive possession, kills penalties. (this seems to me to be Backs/Frolik)

    Line C: will produce @60 goals, sheltered zone starts, 2nd PP unit, can play on the PK if needed. (I see Bennett and Brouwer making up 2/3 of this line)

    Line D: will produce @30 goals, defensively responsible, drive possession, plays the PK. (who makes up this line???)

    Add three defenisve pairing that can produce @40 goals, play solid D and get nHL average goaltending and you can be in the mix.The question is do we have the forwards to fill the 6 missing positions: an entire line D, and 1 each for the other 3 lines. Here is the list to choose from: Chiasson, Bouma, Ferland, Vey, Stajan, Shinkaruk, Tkachuk, Pribyl, Poirier, Janko, Mangiapane, Klimchuk, Hathaway, Hamilton and and the host of other rookies. Does this list fill you with confidence or do you look at it and see as many ? marks as I do.

    • Jake the Snail

      freetheflames: You also need NHL goaltending and ALL forward lines to be defensively responsible, otherwise the defense gets overwhelmed and the goalie is on his own like last season.

      Line A (Monny/Johnny): Add Brouwer as he is a natural RW, not Ferland.

      Line B (Backlund/Frolik): Add Ferland as he is a LW

      Line C: (Bennett/Tkachuk or Bennett/Vey): Add Bouma

      Line D: (Stajan/Bollig) Chiasson?

      Not too many ?marks for me. The top 2 lines have great pairings and the third wheel is filling in a spot, although Brouwer could help the top pairing the most.

      My ?mark is can the new coaching staff get the team to pull together. And can any of the new players make the jump to the NHL (Janko) or get refreshed (Vey, Chiasson).

      • freethe flames

        Like you I don’t see Ferland on line A and while I agree that Brouwer looks like the natural fit with Johnny and Monny I think his veteran presence is better used with Bennett.(especially if Tkachuk makes the team out of camp, also as Johnny and Monny will be at the World cup I could see Bennett and Brouwer being an experiment during camp) I agree that Ferland is the likely candidate for Backs and Frolik although I could see Bouma there as well. Chiasson is the guy that interests me as he could play on almost any of the lines but will need to find a spot. If he rekindles his O from his first couple of years he might be able to play with Johnny and Monny or if he struggles he could be on line D.

        It will be interesting to see what the coaching staff can do and how they build a system.