FlamesNation Prospect Profile: #18 Morgan Klimchuk

FN18

Compared to other recent first round picks, Morgan Klimchuk had a rather low-key, quiet pro debut.

Fellow 2013 picks Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier spent time in the National Hockey League in their first pro seasons. So did Sam Bennett. But Klimchuk played four American Hockey League games and got injured early in the season, missed about a month, and spent the bulk of the year in a complementary role in the minors.

Is there a risk that Klimchuk – the last organizational piece left from the decades-long Kent Nilsson-Joe Nieuwendyk-Jarome Iginla transaction chain and the 18th-ranked prospect in this year’s FlamesNation Prospect Rankings – could fall by the wayside? He was our fifth-ranked player last season.

A brief history

Klimchuk was a pretty well-regarded junior player, playing a strong 200-foot game in the Western Hockey League with the Regina Pats and (briefly) the Brandon Wheat Kings. He was drafted by the Flames in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, 28th overall, with the pick they acquired from Pittsburgh in the Jarome Iginla trade.

Post-draft, Klimchuk had a couple strong seasons – 74 points with Regina in his draft+1 year and 80 points split between Regina and Brandon in his draft+2, which included a trip to the WHL Championship series. If you wanted to sum up Klimchuk’s junior career in a single phrase, he’d probably be “a better version of Max Reinhart.” He’s hardly big, but his hockey intelligence and mobility was good enough in junior that he made everyone better around him.

Read more: Managing Expectations for Morgan Klimchuk

He went pro in the 2015-16 season, and things were a bit uneven. He was injured during the team’s first long road trip through Texas when he caught a rut in the ice – and anybody will tell you that lower-body injuries like that tend to linger. When he returned to the roster, he put up nine points in 55 games. He didn’t play a ton, as the only regular Stockton forwards with less estimated time-on-ice per game were Blair Riley, Mitchell Heard and Hunter Smith.

Read more: FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Morgan Klimchuk

Quotable

Future Considerations scout Scott Wheeler noted he was a bit surprised by Klimchuk’s secondary role for much of this season with the Heat given his success in junior.

“Given how the
Heat struggled to score, I was surprised Klimchuck wasn’t given more of
an opportunity to play that role. But it doesn’t change that Klimchuck
is and will be one of the Heat’s more talented players moving into the
2016-17 campaign. He skates so well, and handles the puck in tight so
effortlessly that he shouldn’t have any trouble performing and growing
into a strong pro playmaker if given the proper linemates and minutes. I
like his game, and he has finally grown into a frame that saw him
generously listed at 5’10 in his early WHL days.”

While Klimchuk didn’t put up big numbers last season, Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska shared that he thought his first pro season was successful.

“I think Morgan’s year went
well and I think the real challenges that he faces, or faced,
everyone expects numbers from him. The jump from junior to the
American Hockey League is a big jump, and I think probably if you
were to ask him it’s a lot harder league than he was expecting.”

Despite the challenges in putting points on the board, Huska praised Klimchuk’s ability to adapt and learn the AHL game.

“But I
think the one great thing about Morgan is he’s a real student of the
game. He’s a very detailed guy, and I think for a coach, you know
what you’re getting out of him all the time. He’s very responsible,
he’s very disciplined with how he plays the game, and as the year
progressed for us I really did trust him in a lot of different
situations. I know the numbers
will start to increase as we move forward, but he’s also made himself
a very reliable guy away from the puck and a guy that I trust against
top lines.”

What comes next?

The bad news is that Klimchuk didn’t set the scoresheet on fire in 2015-16. The good news is that he’s earned the trust of his coaching staff by being a responsible 200-foot player, he’s hopefully figured out the nuances of the AHL style of play, and (most importantly) the Flames jettisoned a lot of forwards from the minor-pro system over the summer.

For a 21-year-old left-shooting forward, seeing the Heat lose Kenny Agostino, Drew Shore, Turner Elson, Derek Grant, Bill Arnold, Mason Raymond and Bryce van Brabant will open up a big door for Klimchuk to get increased playing time and to see the ice in offensive scenarios. With the Heat without the vast majority of their established offensive weapons, the hope is that Klimchuk can step up and become a reliable offensive player for the team in 2016-17.

Previously

#20Ryan Culkin #19Linus Lindstrom
  • Greg

    Yeesh, the Feaster era is really looking bleak now. Outside of the no-brainer pick of Monahan (who we might have also lost if Colorado’s management wasn’t even worse), and a lucky strike on Gaudreau, there isn’t much (anything?) good you can point to from his time. Kind of a wonder the rebuild seems to be going well at all.

    • calgaryfan

      Feaster started the rebuild by trading Iginla something no one else wanted to do. Without that trade who knows how long the fans would have had to wait for the rebuild. See the Canucks, right where the Flames were.

    • supra steve

      Pretty easy to say Feaster (or anyone) didn’t do a wonderful job, if you discount the really good things that he did do (“the no-brainer pick of Monahan”, “a lucky strike on Gaudreau”). The Gaudreau pick was not blind “luck”, they did their homework, and concealed their true interest, and landed a franchise type player in the fourth round.

      Jury is still out on Janko and Gillies.

      Personally, I think that the drafting under Feaster was a huge leap forward from previous regimes.

  • Primo

    Klimchuk and Poirier…not looking good…with the impressive recent drafts by the BT team I would suggest these kids have 1-2 years to prove themselves as goal scorers in Stockton in alignment with their expiring EL’s.

  • jupiter

    From fifth to eighteenth. That seems a bit too harsh.Tennth to fifteenth on my list.I’am hoping last year’s play was just a small stumble and he will pick it up this year. Sometimes we forget that these guy’s are teenager’s who are trying to figure out what being mature means.

  • Azim

    I still have optimistic hopes for Klimchuk. This year will be a big indicator of what his hockey future will be. I could see him leveraging his smart, two-way play and becoming a middle-six fixture in the NHL. The type of under-the-radar, underpaid (hopefully) skilled complimentary player that helps win championships.

    • piscera.infada

      I agree. Watching the number of Stockton games I did last year, there is something there. I wouldn’t be surprised that with additional icetime, responsibility, and some better linemates, Klimchuk is poised for a big increase in production this year. The guy is a good all-around player, and I see him with a similar ceiling as to what I saw out of Agostino–very good middle-six complimentary player who can drive possession.

      It was mentioned a number of times in the article, but it bears repeating here. I think we often forget how much of an adjustment it is from Junior to the AHL. It’s a dramatic change for a 20 year-old (which he was for the majority of the season) not just professionally, but personally as well.

      • Stan

        In my opinion, if Klimchuk reaches his potential his NHL comparable would be someone like Lee Stempniak. Good middle six winger that contributes offensively and is solid defensively.

  • Speaking as someone that had input on the rankings, and not wanting to spoil much of the other 17 prospects ranked, Klimchuk’s placement at 18th is due to the Flames bringing in a LOT of good players over the past two years and a few players progressing faster than Klimchuk has.

  • FireScorpion

    Good riddance to Iginla, he wasn’t performing anyways by the end of it. He was tired and finished here, than he goes and limits us to 1 trading partner. What a swell guy

    • Tomas Oppolzer

      Iggy’s last 3 full seasons(09-10, 10-11, 11-12) in Calgary saw him put up 32-37-69, 42-42-84, and 32-35-67 seasons. He lead the team in scoring all three years and was on pace for about 23 goals and 58 points over 82 games in his last 31 games with Calgary. I will never understand people like you who think Iggy owed this city more than the 1100+ points and games he gave them. It’s not his fault Sutter and Feaster were unable to build winning teams and Feaster couldn’t negotiate a better deal with Pittsburgh.

  • freethe flames

    As I look at the likely Heat roster I wonder who he will play with. At the moment I count 2 legitimate centers Janko and Hamilton and two guys listed as centers who will likely play LW; Mangiapane and Pollock. How about this as a line Klimchuk/Janko/Poirier and a line of Mangiapane/Hamilton/Pribyl.

  • RKD

    I hate seeing our young prospects get injured and lose a majority of their season or in some cases the whole season. Klimchuk got hurt, Gilles got hurt, and once you come back you aren’t the same so you have to wait until the next season to get back to where you were before. He’s 21 now a solid season in the AHL would really help his cause, I could see him getting a call-up if there is an injury. Still, he would have to outshine 3-4 other guys in front of him.

  • The Fall

    The Flames have 13% of the first round picks from 2013 on their roster; its looking like two of them will stick — not bad.

    After Klimchuck (28th) there really aren’t many names that stick out. He was a ‘whatever’ pick who will not have any real impact on the team.

  • jakethesnail

    If Huska was teaching Morgan to play a complete game then all is not lost. If he progresses this year then he is more valuable to the Flames than the players they didn’t re-sign.

  • The Fall

    This ‘complete game’ excuse is thin. The team just can’t win.

    Huska is training B level prospects to be 4th line call-ups. I agree with WW.

    I genuinely worry about YeastMode turning pro this year under him in the A.