Who could makes the Flames’ opening night roster?

Aside from re-signing a couple of key guys, the Calgary Flames’ off-season does, for all intents and purposes, appear to be over. New pieces have been brought in, and the hope is that they’ll improve the team from a rather disappointing 2015-16 season.

New pieces – and some young pieces, too. In an interview on SiriusXM, Brad Treliving namedropped 10 players who he expects to, in some capacity, push for a job in the NHL this season (roughly the 14:45 mark).

Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier, Daniel Pribyl, Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway, Freddie Hamilton, Brett Kulak, Tyler Wotherspoon, Oliver Kylington, and Rasmus Andersson should be names to watch this upcoming season.

Where does everyone fit in?

Most of Treliving’s list involves guys anticipated to be more of the impact player variety, as opposed to depth. Hathaway, Hamilton, Wotherspoon, and maybe Kulak probably fall more into the depth category, while the other six could one day be top six or top four players in the lineup.

That doesn’t mean they’ll all fall in such a realm. Kulak could surprise. Pribyl and Poirier could be middle six tweeners. But for the most part, that’s a pretty decent group of prospects on the verge of stepping in the NHL, with potential ranging throughout an entire lineup.

Looking at the Flames’ current lineup, each player has a role they appear to cleanly fit in.

Top nine forwards: Backlund, Bennett, Brouwer, Frolik, Gaudreau, Monahan.

I’m going with “top nine” instead of “top six” here because the Flames’ current centre depth, featuring Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Mikael Backlund, should allow them to have a more evenly spread out forward lineup. Backlund is capable of performing at a top six level – so if he’s your third line centre, you’re in excellent position, and your wingers are going to get a quality centre to play with pretty much no matter what.

This still leaves three unclaimed spots open, however. Shinkaruk is a prime candidate to fill one, and the hope is Poirier can regain that level of potential he exhibited a year ago, too. It would be great to see Pribyl join this group as well.

Jankowski is the major question mark here, in part because he’s the newest of the group to professional hockey, but especially because he’s a centre. If he makes it, someone’s going to have to move to the wing (perhaps Bennett, who’s a C/LW).

(Matthew Tkachuk should fit into this group, too; he was discussed earlier in the interview, but wasn’t named amidst the group of prospects who have been in the organization for at least a year.)

Depth forwards: Bollig, Bouma, Chiasson, Ferland, Stajan, Vey.

Some of these guys should be used in order to fill out the top nine (and among these players, Chiasson, Ferland, and Vey have the most potential), but otherwise, the Flames have a healthy contingent to play on the fourth line and/or be healthy scratches.

If Jankowski does make it to the NHL and the Flames aren’t willing to switch any of their other centres to the wing, then it’s possible he could bump Stajan out of the middle. The fourth line is also likely the spots Hathaway and Hamilton are competing for – which speaks to just how important it is to not overpay fourth liners, because these guys are everywhere and always available for cheap.

Top four defencemen: Brodie, Giordano, Hamilton.

A spot for the top four is still ready for the taking. It likely won’t be filled by a kid this year – not with the number of contracts the Flames currently have – but this is where Kylington and Andersson should be aiming for.

Bottom pairing defencemen: Engelland, Jokipakka, (Smid?), Wideman.

Of this group, Jokpakka is probably the most exciting bet to fill in the top four nowadays, and it’s entirely possible it’s a role he takes over totally on merit (at least until Las Vegas’ expansion draft, probably).

It’s also a good spot for Kulak and Wotherspoon to break into. They’re both cheap, effective depth, and we can still hope for some bigger things to come wth Kulak. Wotherspoon feels like a perfect fit for this role, but that’s fine – he’s more effective than most of the current NHL options, anyway.

When will they be ready?

Just because they were named doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be ready to go immediately. The hope is Pribyl will be ready in time for the start of training camp, but as someone new to the North American game, a recovery stint in the Stockton could be where he gets his feet wet. Andersson is brand new to the professional game, so while he’s an interesting defenceman to watch, he’ll probably spend more time in the AHL than anywhere else.

A number of these players have a fair amount of time, though. Shinkaruk and Poirier, for example, still have two years left on their deals, as do Pribyl and Jankowski. Kylington and Andersson have three apiece, and depending on how many NHL games he plays, Kylington could remain on his first contract for another four years (including this upcoming one).

The clock is ticking a little louder for some other guys. Hathaway and Kulak will both become restricted free agents after this season. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Wotherspoon still actually need to be re-signed – but I wouldn’t expect them to get more than a year, two at most, on their next deals.

But there’s always time. Treliving listed a group of prospects who range from 19-24 years old, with the oldest guys being closer to depth options. 

Training camp is going to be awesome, though. The past couple of years, a new face has made the opening night roster; considering the options, that should continue going into 2016-17.

  • The Fall

    Andersson was close last year. Pairing him with Gio gives them L/R balance on the top four and likely give the Flames one of the highest scoring top four in the league. …it would make me happy, but it’s hard to see it happen this year.

    • freethe flames

      I actually care a great deal as to who might make up the so called 4th line. If Jankowski or Vey is capable of pushing Stajan to be the 13th forward and Bollig is banished to the AHL because of merit then there is the possibility to play 4 solid lines. 6 forwards who can make up two power play units with some other guys who can play there as well. Also 6 guys who can PK with a little help from some of the top 6. If the 4th line can help drive possession and be defensively responsible then we are in a much better place and the playoffs become more likely.

      The same can be said about the third pairing on D. If we have a competent 3rd pairing that can play the PK and not get buried when they are in the defensive zone then we are more competitive. I just shudder when I think of the number of times when Engs was caught on the ice with the 4th line and icing after icing occurred and this resulting in either a goal against, or a quality scoring chance or a penalty.

      Don’t fool yourself into believing that the 4th and 3rd pairing don’t matter as indeed they can be the difference makers. If these guys can play on the PK, play regular shifts then you can get better zone starts and more quality minutes from the stars.

      Personally I am hoping there is one more trade (Wideman) and either another upgrade at forward in the trade or a trade for draft picks and one more forward signed.

        • freethe flames

          That indeed might be one of the things holding a trade although he did serve most of it anyways before being reinstated. The thing that might be a greater fear for a team is the referees perspective. Another issue of course could also be how he has recovered from his injury. And finally he not have waived his protection clause of his contract. Regardless IMO it is not in the Flames best interest to play him and Eng’s on a nightly basis. Either of them playing in the top 4 is a not acceptable if they want to be in a playoff hunt.

          With only 40 NHL contracts signed the Flames have room to look at more players. (It will be 44 once the RFA’s are signed) But at the moment they do not have any money to add bodies. Looking at their 44 contracts they only have 6 centers- Back’s, Stajan, Monny, Bennett, Janko and Hamilton although Bouma, Shinkaruk, Pollock and Mangiapane all have played some center but all more likely to be played at LW.

          The need for the Flames to free up some cap space is obvious; I just hope it gets done.

          • jupiter

            I agree. I don’t want to see Wideman in the top 4 either. He’s also had terrible start’s in the last 2 season’s. Can’t see that changing, especially with the league trying to get back another 10 games of his salary.

            They should have bought him out and ended all the drama.IMO ,BT would have to throw in a prospect for another team to even be interested in taking him on, as well as salary retained.

      • The Beej

        Would probably be better for Janko’ decelopment to play 20 min on the top line in Stockton next year than 10 min on the fourth line in Calgary… could be an injury call up though

        • Joe Flames

          While I would love to see him tear up camp and win a spot on merit, I will be very surprised if Jankowski doesn’t end up in the AHL. He didn’t exactly dominate in the NCAA and has less than two weeks pro experience. He is likely not ready for the NHL.
          I agree that some time playing big minutes in the AHL would be best for him.
          After all the negative attention he has received due to his draft position, I really hope he makes it in the NHL.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Janko is going to have to pull a Monny to make the big club. Monny was so strong at training camp that he took the decision away from the coaching staff. On the other hand, Tkachuk will be given every opportunity to make the team. Neithe player is going to have the luxury of getting playing time with Johnny or Monny at training camp .

    I would be interested to hear how Poirier’s summer training has been going, hopefully he has sourced out a trainer like Roberts to get him over the top . Another 10 lbs of muscle and work on his first step could get him back in the conversation.

  • KiLLKiND

    My hope for opening night roster looks like this

    Gaudreau – Monahan – Frolik

    Tkachuk – Backlund – Pribyl

    Ferland – Bennett – Brouwer

    Bouma – Stajan – Chiasson

    Brodie – Hamilton

    Giordano – Wideman

    Jokipakka – Engelland

    Splitting up Brodano let’s the d pairings be lefty with righties and Gio playing with Wideman should bump Wideman up a bit and make him easier to trade. This also spreads out our 2 top d men across the top 4 so our lineup is a little more balanced and we aren’t getting killed when they aren’t on the ice.

    • FoE

      If the idea is to push up Wides trade value, I’d rather just see him used on the power play 2nd line than as a regular line. Being Gio’s partener means he’s on the ice way too much.

      Very hesitant to break up the Mikes but I do like the forwards on this, better if Janko/Vey can jump Stajan in the depth chart.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      Considering that Gio faces the top talent in the NHL, sticking him with Wideman is a major downgrade. I would rather sit him in the pressbox or play 3rd pairing with Wotherspoon any day.

      As far as PP time goes, he lived up to his name of Wide-man last year. He couldn’t hit the net 9/10.

    • deantheraven

      Can’t think of any reason to trash this post. It’s a good best-case scenario.
      I’d make a few changes, if it were me though.
      Swap the top 2 RW’s and hopefully move Bouma and/or Stajan for more cheap youth 4th liners from our prospects base. Backlund & Frolik were made for each other, and whoever they work with will no doubt improve their possession numbers by osmosis.

      I’m not sure I’d want Tkachuk to start more than 9 games before returning him to the OHL. One more year on his ELC is going to be very useful, especially if we can’t unload some of the bigger, dead weight contracts.
      Two of those (Bollig and Smid) are not in your line up. Where would you place them?

      I also like your logic re: splitting up Brodano for more balance and the Wideman/Giordano pairing, but would be happy if Wideman was moved anytime between now and the TD- sooner would be better- for any combination of picks Treliving could swing.
      It would be sad to let Nakladal walk. Hopefully Smid goes LTIR for the year, then retires. Then he gets his salary, Flames get cap relief and Nakladal fills in nicely as a 3rd pair/special teams asset.

      That 3rd line is a wrecking ball!

    • freethe flames

      If this the line up you are hoping for you must really want us to win the lottery next year. Playing either Wides or Eng’s in the top four is courting trouble and playing both on most nights will not be very effective; better IMO to give one of Kulak or Spoon a chance.

      While I hold out hope for Pribyl we don’t even know if he will be ready for training camp; add that he will some time to adjust to NA I think you are being overly optimistic.

      Finally I look at the 4th line and I realize just how much we need some of the young guys to win a job out of camp. It has two guys who need bounce back years (both could happen) and a center whose best days appear behind him.

      • KiLLKiND

        I’m only making a lineup based on players who will most likely be on the team on opening night. While I do agree Shinkaruk would most liekly be an upgrade over Bouma, Shinkaruk getting top line minutes in the AHL vs 4th line minutes in the NHL is something I took into consideration. Frolik is our best RW, not Brouwer and if we want our top line to score a lot, which considering it will consist of Gaudreau and Monahan we need a player who is better at moving the puck points and isn’t on the downslope of his career.

        I would still have Jooris and he would slot in either on the 2nd or 3rd line over Pribyl and Chiasson would be in the AHL. Nakladal would be 2nd pairing with Gio and Jokkipakka would be playing with Wideman or Engelland on the 3rd pairing.

        While I am not a fan of the Brouwer signing you have to admit a Ferland – Bennett – Brouwer line would be an extrelmely hard line to play against. I have Pibyl with Backlund as I want him and Tkachuk to learn how to play a great 2 way game and be eased into the NHL. You can consider them the 3rd line if you want and the Bennett line our 2nd, but saying that this lineup which is actually pretty realistic is trying to win the lottery is Treliving;s fault for not upgrading at RW instead of downgrading.

        We went from Hudler, Frolik, Jooris, Jones, Colborne, Hathaway to Frolik, Brouwer, Pribyl, Chiasson, Vey, Hathaway. We could have signed Hudler to the same contract Brouwer got and be in a lot better of a situation. Our top points from RW is Brouwer 43, Frolik 42, Chiasson 35, Vey 24, Hathawy 3, and Pribyl 0.

        • Baalzamon

          Frolik is our best RW, not Brouwer and if we want our top line to score a lot, which considering it will consist of Gaudreau and Monahan we need a player who is better at moving the puck points and isn’t on the downslope of his career.

          Here’s the problem: None of that applies to Frolik when he plays with Monahan and Gaudreau. That line was tried last season, and it wasn’t effective in any way. It didn’t score. It didn’t generate scoring chances. It didn’t drive play. It didn’t defend. The trio literally didn’t do a single thing well.

          Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland on the other hand? 53% Corsi with 50% zone starts. That’s something worth attempting again.

  • Styxx

    Ari I don’t think there’s much disagreement in your Top 6 forwards ie. Gaudreau & Monahan, Backlund & Frolik, Bennett & Brouwer

    Top 9 candidates include 3 of: Tkachuk(9 games?)/Shinkaruk, Poirier, Ferland/Bouma, Chiasson

    My 4th line would see Stajan play LW while tutoring Jankowski at Centre, and add one of Hathaway/Ferland/Bouma/Chiasson depending on the top 9 line-up being played that night, with another of them sitting as the 13th forward.

    I would prefer to see Hathaway as much as possible as he brings tenacity and emotion to keep the team engaged like a Gallagher or Marchand albeit without the scoring upside. I also see no reason to retain Bollig as he’s a dead possession drain and the other 4 4th liners listed provide size and toughness too but with much better upside.

  • amaninvan

    Somewhat concerning that BT didn’t name Klimchuk in his top 10. From all accounts he had a decent season where he became rounded out his two way play, but most nights was minus the finish. I still have hope that he can remember how to find the back of the net a bit more this year and put himself back into the conversation.

  • everton fc

    Here’s my starting lineup, with the current roster/no more moves (hoping there are moves, though)

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Brouwer; Tkachuk/Ferland/Shinkaruk-Bennett-Shinkaruk/Chiasson; Ferland/Bouma-Backlund-Frolik; Bouma/Ferland-Stajan-Chiasson/Vey.

    If Tkachuk goes back to the “A”, Shinkaruk plays with Bennett and Chiasson on the 2nd line. Not saying it’s the best scenario. If Shinkaruk and Tkachuk make the team, they play w/Bennett. Vey was a good pickup.

    Defence;

    Brodie/Hamilton; Gio/Jokipaaka; Wideman/Wotherspoon (Engelland)

    • Baalzamon

      If Tkachuk goes back to the “A”

      For the 10,000th time: Tkachuk is not eligible to play in the AHL. He’s too young, having been drafted out of the CHL. It’s the NHL or the OHL for him.

  • Hockeyfan

    My hope for younguns in the forward core are Janko, Poirier, Hathaway & Shink. Janko will make the team and Hath is on the cusp as is Shink. poirier will make a strong case in camp & stick, hopefully he is consistent enough to stay.