Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
Hockey is almost back! And not just weird pseudo-international gimmicky hockey: Calgary Flames hockey. Almost.
With the Young Stars Classic set to kick off this Friday, the Flames have released their roster list. Six of the Flames’ nine picks from this past June will be there, as will be four of five from the 2015 class, as will some stragglers from a couple of years earlier, plus a handful of invites.
Naturally, some of these players are more exciting than others. They’re all going to have to come together, though, so let’s muse on just who might play with whom while the clock counts down to their first game.
The Flames have really gone heavy on the left side as of late, and the Penticton tournament looks to be no exception. Of the 16 forwards they’re bringing in, half of them are listed as left wingers, while the other half are made up of centres and right wingers. So it seems probable some guys will play out of position over the three games, if only so everyone is able to get a chance.
By my own personal count, you can divide the forwards into three classes: the guys who are really exciting, the guys who are pretty intriguing within their own rights, and the “oh okay you’re here too” guys.
Really exciting: Mark Jankowski (C), Andrew Mangiapane (LW), Matthew Tkachuk (LW)
Intriguing: Brayden Burke (LW), Dillon Dube (LW), Morgan Klimchuk (LW), Dennis Kravchenko (C), Matthew Phillips (RW), Brett Pollock (LW), Eetu Tuulola (RW)
Okay: Mikkel Aagaard (C), Austin Carroll (RW), Justin Doucet (LW), Ryan Lomberg (C), Mathieu Sevigny (LW), Hunter Smith (RW)
Here’s a thought: at the draft, Tkachuk said he could play all three forward positions. With that kept in mind, the Flames could easily load up on all of their exciting forwards and put them together on a Mangiapane – Jankowski – Tkachuk line.
After Jankowski, Kravchenko is probably the next intriguing listed centre; he didn’t quite reach a point per game during his two NCAA seasons, but he came close. He’s also listed as 5’9 – how about a skilled short line by putting him in between Burke and Phillips? Dube could easily fit in well here, too.
Aagaard scored 53 points in 60 games as a 20-year-old in the OHL last season, which isn’t awful, but not particularly impressive, either. Klimchuk and Pollock could probably fit alongside him, though, and I’m getting the gut feeling so could Tuulola. Maybe because he and Aagaard are the only European forwards invited?
Lomberg seems slated for the fourth line. So do Carroll and Smith, but both are right wingers, so they can probably swap out. (Though due to Smith’s second round status, the Flames may want him to play on one of the other lines.) Doucet would probably be their matching left wing counterpart; he’s huge with little offence to show. Sevigny doesn’t have quite the size of these guys, but his offence isn’t great, either.
The Flames are bringing in nine defencemen. Five are lefties, while four are righties, which leaves for a pretty even split between the groups.
Really exciting: Rasmus Andersson (RD), Oliver Kylington (LD)
Intriguing: Ryan Culkin (LD), Stepan Falkovsky (LD), Aaron Hyman (RD), Kenney Morrison (RD)
Okay: Riley Bruce (RD), Roman Dyukov (LD), Keegan Kanzig (LD)
The top pairing is pretty obvious to me. I really, really, really want to see the two Swedes together – maybe not even just in this tournament, but through the season in the AHL, too. They both project to be offensive defencemen, but with what Kylington has learned over his first year of professional North American hockey – not to mention his skating ability – they could be really fun to watch.
After that, it looks a little less clear-cut. Falkovsky, Hyman, Bruce, and Kanzig are all huge; Falkovsky, however, appears to have more offensive ability than the rest. In fairness to Hyman, though, he’s only just really started to make a mark on the WHL – not to mention his explosion for six points through three preseason games, which currently sees him as one of the most offensive defencemen in the Dub so far (caveat: preseason). So how about putting Falkovsky and Hyman together?
After that, putting Culkin and Morrison on a pairing together seems like the next route to take, particularly as both their entry deals expire after this season, so the clock may be ticking on them more than anybody else.
I’m not quite sure how to sort out Bruce, Dyukov, or Kanzig, but they’ll no doubt get their playing time, too. If one of Dyukov or Falkovsky can play their off-side, then they could be interesting to watch – they’re both from Minsk.
Obviously there aren’t going to be any lineups to decide here. But on that end, who has you excited for goaltending?
I’d rank Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons as the really exciting guys, while Mason McDonald and Matthew Schneider are more in the intriguing or okay categories.
Gillies we’ve been waiting for for some time now, and hopefully, this is his coming out season; Parsons, on the other hand, will likely end up back in the OHL, but considering the hype surrounding him and his Memorial Cup champion team, he could be the next one to look out for in the Flames’ system.
Anyway. What combinations would you like to see among the Flames’ prospects this weekend? Sound off in the comments!