Young Guns – Flames vs Oilers Impressions

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I am fortunate enough to be in Penticton this weekend, so I will be providing some scouting notes for the games I am able to attend. Last night I was in the building for the Flames’ 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers hopefuls.

Overall I thought the Calgary kids carried the balance of play at even strength and probably could have won the game but for a few key mistakes and questionable performances. Here are my thoughts on some of the individual performances from last night.

Mark Jankowski – A decently strong outing for Jankowski. His line with Matthew Tkachuk and Auston Carroll was completely dominant in the first period, generating endless zone time and multiple quality chances – including Tkachuk’s first period goal, which Janko set up with a pretty feed from behind the net.

At 22 years old and with four years of college under his belt, Jankowski is one of the more mature players in this tournament and it showed. His defensive play was good, featuring a particularly strong backcheck on an odd man rush in the second that resulted in him defusing the chance and turning the puck back up the ice.

The lone criticism for Janko (and his line) is that their dominance faded as the game went on. After a first period where it looked like everyone would end up with three or more points, their influence ebbed in the second (the team’s worst period as a whole) and they weren’t nearly as dangerous in the third. Jankowksi himself needs to concentrate on being consistently assertive and active in the play. A persistent problem I’ve seen with him over the years is he can be caught waiting for the play to come to him rather than the other way around.

Matthew Tkachuk – Although he’s still young, aspects of Tkachuk’s game are already very mature. His puck pursuit, board work and puck protection are already pro level and he has a rather bull-in-the-china shop feel to his play down low in the offensive zone. He eagerly leans into the opposition and drives his way into scoring areas and isn’t afraid to mix it up anywhere on the ice (or after the whistle). 

His game wasn’t perfect, however. After the first period, Tkachuk tried to do too much on occasion, skating into coverage or attempting dekes that resulted in turnovers. As a result, it looks like Tkachuk can get into trouble when he tries to get too fancy. 

In addition, his aggression is sometimes too overt and not necessarily designed to benefit the team. He is definitely a character who can draw penalties by getting under the other team’s skin, but he needs to pick his spots better and avoid needless penalties like the four minute spearing infraction he took in this game.

Rasmus Andersson – A complete, steady game from Andersson who was active at both ends of the ice and easily of the Flames’ best defenders on the evening. He isn’t the fastest guy, but he gets around well enough and is capable in board battles and defensive positioning. He is also confident enough to lead the rush or jump into the play in the offensive zone, but was rarely caught taking bad risks. His huge hit in the third period resulted in the Flames turning around the play around and scoring. 

Oliver Kylington – An unfortunately underwhelming performance for the other young Swedish defender. Kylington at times displayed the skills that make him such an intriguing prospect – smooth hands, skating and stickhandling – but his decision making is suspect. Sometimes he takes risks and makes reads that don’t have a good cost/benefit ratio. When he accomplishes them, they don’t necessarily result in a grade-A chance or impactful transition, but when they go wrong, they are completely detrimental.

As the game wore on, Kylington seemed to struggle to keep himself in check, culminating in a disastrous overtime shift. At first, he was sent off on a two-on-one odd man rush where he chose to shoot and fired the puck over the net. The Flames recovered from that and generated another odd-man rush shortly thereafter (three-on-two). This time Kylington was the late man and he received a pass from Andrew Mangiapane, giving him the best look from the top of the circles. 

Instead of shooting, Kylington opted to try to return the puck to Mangiapane. The pass was easily intercepted by a defender, resulting in a breakaway the other way and the game-winning goal against. Three-on-three hockey should benefit a player like Kylington given his skill set, but he ended up being the main reason the Flames lost in OT. 

Kylington has great tools, but he needs a better tool box in order to take another step forward. If he can put everything together, he could be a dominant force.

Andrew Mangiapane – I expected to see more out of Mangiapane in this one. Which isn’t to say he was bad, but his impact was mostly muted on this night. There were a few sequences where his stickhandling and offensive awareness were on display, but it wasn’t consistent enough to make a big impression on me. 

Brayden Burke – A fairly quiet night aside from an impressive snipe on his third period goal. He was consigned to a mostly fourth line role, so he didn’t get as many chances to make an impression. That said, his trio had a decent few shifts in the third and he made the most of his scoring opportunities.

Matthew Phillips – The combination of Phillips, Dillon Dube and Brett Pollock seemed to grow in effectiveness as the evening went on. Phillips’ ability to find pucks in scrums, make moves in tight and find players through traffic helped generate more than a few chances on the evening, with the line managing to spend a lot of time in the offensive zone in the third.

That said, Phillips is tiny and susceptible to getting pushed over in just about any board battle. He’s quick enough to escape with the puck in some circumstances, but in others he’s merely brushed aside.  

Hunter Smith – Still big and awkward. Smith can’t skate or handle the puck well enough to be considered a prospect of note in my eyes.

Stepan Falkovsky – I didn’t know what to expect out of the Flames’ latest seventh rounder, but there were some intriguing flashes from the big man. Although Falkovsky suffers from the same lack of agility and fine motor skills that most big men do (when things go south, they go south quickly and he can’t recover), there seemed to be some offensive ability there. He’s not a bad skater for such a big guy and he was assertive in the offensive zone, jumping into rushes and driving into the zone off the line.

A long shot to be sure, but I’ll be interested to see how he develops this year. 

Mikkel Aagaard – One of the pleasant surprises of the evening. The 20-year-old tryout got better and better as the night went on, scoring one of the Flames’ third period goals and driving more than one quality chance by himself. Aagaard isn’t big, but he seems to have good hands, decent skating and instincts.

Ryan Lomberg – A non-stop motor and an endless appetite for annoying opposing players, Lomberg managed to stand out as one of the more active players all night. He even drew a penalty on the PK by creating an offensive zone drive out of nothing, causing the Edmonton defender to hook, hold and eventually trip him in response. 

I’m not sure Lomberg has enough offense to ever get to the show, but he was a fun, effective checking presence for the club last night.

Roman Dyukov – I didn’t spend much time watching Dyukov, but what I saw of him seemed really solid. No bad giveaways or decisions, good fundamentals and overall skill set. Would like to see more. 

Tyler Parsons – A strong performance aside from his puck-handling miscue that led to the Oilers’ first goal. Parsons seemed calm and capable in the net, making all the routine saves (and a couple of stops on high-quality chances as well).

Mason McDonald – In contrast, McDonald struggled. He allowed a goal on his first shot against after relieving Parsons, a rising wrist shot from the goal line. The Oilers’ third goal was also a completely routine play that he just flubbed. It’s hard to blame him for the OT breakaway goal, but it would have been nice to see him make at least one difficult save, particularly after giving up two stinkers.

Conclusion

As always, take observations from a single game with a grain of salt. The Flames kids had a great first period, good third period and could have won with more discipline or better goaltending from McDonald. I’ll add more thoughts after the Monday contest. 

    • thymebalm

      It was a stinker. McDonald left enough room for a jet to fly through the short side. The shooting angle informed where the shot was going and Mason did not put himself in position to make the save.

      He looked bad all night, and has yet to impress me in any way since being drafted.

      The only consolation here is that Demko, who I would have preferred drafting, hasn’t looked much better this weekend.

    • cberg

      Maybe so, but from where I sat you could see the upper right quarter of open net, which made it seem like he was down too early. I have liked McDonald in the past but certainly last night wasn’t one of his best outings.

  • Oyo

    I couldnt agree more with this Kent, especially in regards to Kylington. The potential to be an offensive dynamo is without question but I thought he was taking far too many unnecessary risks.

    Parsons impressed. I thought the Oilers were going to score for sure on the play where he was basically left all by himself but he fought through it very well.

    I liked what Falkovsky brought as a big guy. Decent enough skater for where he is right now and had some nice flashes of ability. If he can improve his skating and defensive positioning, he could be a good find.

  • cberg

    First off, can’t agree on Smith. He’s actually been much faster and not bad in his two games so far. Is he there yet? No, but outside of probably Jankowski and Tkachuk none of these guys are, yet.

    Then the Swedish D. To put it in perspective, I see Andersson kind of like a younger Wideman, overall a solid D, not particularly fast or physical but good hockey sense and offensive talents. Kylington is more like a faster Dougie Hamilton, with similar D zone issues and physicality. Both could make it to the NHL and both could star. If each continue to grow and develop, though, Kylington’s got the higher potential.

  • smatic10

    I agree with the Kylington assessment for the most part. I do think it needs to be mentioned however that he still looks much better than last year. I like that he has confidence with the puck and is willing to hold on to it. His breakout passes are looking pretty solid too. He mainly needs to improve four things.

    1. Deciding when the appropriate time is to take risks
    2. Improve his defensive positioning
    3. Getting his shot off quicker
    4. He needs to get stronger

    But there’s still a lot to like about Kylington and I’m optimistic about his future.

  • Derzie

    No one on this team looks NHL ready. Too many mistakes. Considering that the Oilers have taken so much heat for their poor drafting, the result tells you all you need to know. Maybe WW is on to something about Huska. I don’t know. Very disappointing showing.

    • thymebalm

      Huska has been a disaster since taking over the farm team. His special teams were pretty ugly and he didn’t inspire me at all with his OT strategy. I hope Treliving corrects this soon, like he has with Hiller and Raymond and some of his other early moves.

      Our prospect group deserves better IMO.

    • Oyo

      I am not sure this statement is entirely fair after just two games. After all, this is the first time they are all playing together and they have for the most part, driven play, out chanced their opponents, and generally carried the mail. I am unsure of what else you were expecting from guys put in such a situation.

      They are all trying to do so much to stand out because they have literally worked most of their lives for this moment. There is bound to be some plays that are individual and some guys that just are not ready.

      As for overtime, I don’t think Huska exactly planned on Kylington to jump into the play and just give the puck away leading to the goal. Plus, think of the guys playing in this game before blaming Huska for not developing them correctly. Any of the guys who we thought MAY push for a spot are of wildy different areas. Anderson, Tkachuk, Mangiapane, Dube, and Parsons are all JUST out of playing Junior. While Janko and Gillies both have only played a handful of games with the AHL team. Culkin and Morrison are the only players who this MIGHT be true for but Morrison was always going to be a borderline prospect and Culkin missed a ton of time last year.

      As far as Kylington goes, the dude was 18 playing in the second best league in the world and did alright. You try being more defensive minded when you know your ticket to the big club is your elite offense. Especially in the games where you know the guys who hold your fate in their hands are watching.

      Patience grasshopper.

    • cberg

      To say no one is ready isn’t correct, but we will see. Also to say this result is indicative of anything about Huska, with a goalie mix-up and a sub-par performance leading directly to three goals against, all with players he hasn’t even coached yet is also ludicrous.

  • Arminius

    Whoever said has MacDonald impressed anyone since he has been drafted even once was right on.
    His league numbers were never anything to write home about, he backed into a World Junior spot due to lack of competition and flunked out there.
    Can’t recall a decent outing at the Young Stars or training camp either… Evan Lindsay, Leland Irving, Mason MacDonald

  • beloch

    Quick, off-topic observation on Gaudreau’s contract status:

    With the news that the Flames have $0.63M less cap space than expected, we know the Flames now have just $7.87M in cap space.

    If Gaudreau’s agent and Treliving have already agreed to a contract with a cap hit bigger than $7.87M/yr, they wouldn’t be able to sign it yet. They’d have to wait until the team is able to put Smid on LTIR to avoid further cap penalties.

    • Arminius

      So IF a agreement has been reached at over that amount we shouldn’t expect Johnny until Opening Night?

      Hope Smid doesn’t pull his usual early October ” I’m healthy and ready to play ” routine. Do the right thing man..your body will thank you

      • supra steve

        You are allowed to go over during off-season, but have to be back in compliance by season start…and you cannot put Smid on LTIR until AFTER that point of compliance. So, must be at or below cap at season start with Smid’s contract being included, then he goes on LTIR and they get the cap relief.

        • Parallex

          Yes… but Belochs theory was that they they couldn’t sign him (Gaudreau) until after Smid goes on LTIR and that’s not true as they could sign him beforehand.

          The only way that Smid’s status actually prevents Gaudreau from signing is if he’s being signed to a deal in the 9.7M+ per year range because the Flames could paper demote Bennett/Shinkaruk and create 1.8ish in additional cap space.

  • KACaribou

    Here are my impressions after watching games 1 and 2 in Penticton, just got back:

    Tkachuk will make the Flames. He’s an unstoppable force.

    Kylington and Culkin are the two closest young D at the young stars to being NHL players. Followed by Morrison then Anderson.

    Austin Carroll has made big strides and was a huge surprise.

    Kanzig has also made strides, though he only played in game 1.

    McDonald ECHL. See you next year. Work, work, work young man.

    Parsons is excellent. A real prospect.

    Janko is getting very close and I think could come up with an injury this season. He’s composed.

    Hunter Smith has made some strides, he was a pleasant surprise.

    Mangiapane was a disappointment. Needs work. Was like a deer in the headlights. But has a gifted, accurate shot.

    Gillies was VG. One year of good goaltending in the A and he will be the 2017/18 backup.

    Phillips is small and young and needs to develop but has some ability and is feisty.

    Lomberg looked pretty good, but I thought so last year too.

    Dube: see above.

    Everyone else needs work, but that’s okay because they are all young guns.

    Penticton: Open some damned concession stands. Get a beer, miss half a period.

    Beautiful little city. Great time!

    • Sobueno

      I was skeptical prior to seeing him play, but watching Tkachuk all weekend I’m feeling your optimism. That kid will not be stopped. Fears that his success was due to his linemates is quickly dissipating.

      When I initially saw Phillips my first thought was “this guy looks like someone brought their little brother to the rink”. Was impressed over the weekend with how many wall battles and corners he somehow managed to squeak out of carrying the puck. Actually wondering whether they had a small enough jersey for him though!

      Thought Dyukov was pretty solid. Didn’t really know anything about him prior to the tourney, but so far he’s looked pretty decent.

      That whole line of Carroll, Jank and Tkachuk was fun to watch and I thought Carroll actually held his own considering who he was skating with.

      Lomberg is the exact type of pest you love on your team and absolutely despise on anyone else’s.

      Also, second you on the concessions. Bruuuutal.

      • freethe flames

        I would like to see the Tkachuk/Janko/Carroll line continue for at least a few exhibition games. Then I’d like to see it morph into a Tkachuk/Bennett/Bouwer NHL line and a Mangiapane/Janko/Carroll AHL line(Poirier could replace Carroll if he has a good camp else where.

  • Petzl

    Was at the game yesterday as well, two guys I really noticed…. Burke is lost when it comes to defense and is pretty terrible at back checking, he even often looks lost in the offensive zone. Second Andersson looks really calm, almost too calm at times. No matter what he’s doing he just looks like it’s easy, no big deal reminds me of bowmeester in that way.

    Edit: also want to add Parsons puck handling scares me as much as Hiller handling the puck, need to build that confidence up.

  • icedawg_42

    Kent I didn’t know you were in the house! Could have bought you a beer. Anyway, I actually agree with all of this article. After watching Smith skate, anyone who has high hopes for him is bound for disappointment. He is a horrible skater. I believe he’s far enough away with his skating that he will never make the NHL. I think I was more impressed with Aagaard than you were. As the game went on he seemed to become more and more visible – for the right reasons. Loved Tkachuk, but he has to reign it in. Obviously he’s going like a madman to make an impression, I believe he’ll dial it in if he gets his look on the big team but he really drags the team into it. I was very pleasantly surprised by Janko, he did go invisible for large chunks of the game, but when you notice him it’s because of some serious skill. Fun game. Don’t know anything really about Oiler’s “Jones” kid, but man that kid can skate too.

  • everton fc

    They gotta move some salary. Wideman for a 6th?!

    I bet Aagaard is signed for Stockton. And should be. Dyukov as well, if there’s room. Not sure of the # of spaces/dollars and cents left to do either deal. Parsons looks very good. Andersson makes some bad passes, at times. Kylington must learn the metal aspects of the game. Smith is a career AHL-ECHLer. To me, Carroll looked like a leader, and played well. If he can start scoring a bit in Stocketon…. Tkachuk has to learn not to make himself a target of the refs – he was dirty in both games, which doesn’t always translate to drawing penalties. Lomberg is much better at playing that role, in this tournament. And I agree w/Kent’s view of Mangiapane and Jankowski, thus far.