The state of the race: the bitter end

The preseason is over. The Calgary Flames have many, many jobs that are still in question. How did the various contenders fare during their exhibition games? Who, if anybody, stood out? Who is destined for NHL employment?

The short answer? Matthew Tkachuk, and nobody.

FORWARDS

Four forwards get NHL jobs.

Matthew Tkachuk

Played almost exclusively at home with Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer. For the game Brouwer didn’t play, he played with Bennett and Alex Chiasson. His game scores were 0.75, 1.73, 1.23 and 1.65. He was placed in situations seemingly designed for him to succeed… but he did.

And he’s on the team, at least for now.

Linden Vey

Vey has played with a mixture of linemates: Higgins/Poirier, Adam/Poirier, Shinkaruk/Ferland and Shinkaruk/Monahan. He’s been decent – game scores ranging from -0.04 to 0.48 – and somewhat consistent, but his game scores suggest he’s fairly low-event, despite playing with a good mix of players with NHL experience and prospects expected to push for big-league jobs.

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson has been all over the place. His game scores have been between 0.06 and 1.22, which is a range between “literally did nothing” and “had many, many shots and chances.” He’s played with Shinkaruk/Stajan, Higgins/Hamilton, Bollig/Hamilton, Bouma/Stajan and Bennett/Tkachuk. He hasn’t dragged his teammates down at all, a trait that will probably get him an NHL job, but he also hasn’t elevated any of them either.

Brandon Bollig

Bollig has been fairly lousy. His game scores have all been negative – -0.48 to -0.04 – and he’s played in situations where you’d hope he’d elevate his teammates (Dube/Klimchuk) or you’d hope he’d fit in nicely (combination of Hathaway/Hamilton/Chiasson). It hasn’t happened. The only thing keeping him on the NHL roster might be the Flames’ wariness of burying $1.25 million in the AHL.

Freddie Hamilton

Best known as Dougie’s brother, Freddie has had one really good game (1.88 game score!) and several games that were mediocre to poor (-0.34 to 0.15). He’s played with a rotation of Calgary’s bottom six considerations: Bollig, Chiasson, Higgins, Bouma, Ferland and Hathaway, in various combinations. Aside from the game in Winnipeg, he’s been merely “fine.”

Garnet Hathaway

Like Hamilton, Hathaway has been mediocre to poor (-0.60 to 0.07) aside from one game (0.64). He’s played with AHLers (Klimchuk/Jankowski/Pollock/Bailey) and bottom rung NHLers (Bollig/Hamilton/Bouma).

Hunter Shinkaruk

Shinkaruk had two fairly high-event games (0.73 and 1.07) and two low-event games (-0.09 and 0.15). Aside from the game in Vancouver with Vey and Monahan, he’s been entirely rotating through Calgary’s bottom sixers (Stajana/Chiasson/Ferland/Vey). Some consistency would be nice, but at least he had those good games.

Chris Higgins

Higgins has been consistently mediocre to poor. His game scores have ranged between -0.24 to 0.45. He’s played with a bunch of different combinations of players, but his results have scattered randomly like sticks into the wind. He’s been fairly blah on the penalty kill, too. It’s unclear what the benefit would be of giving him a contract.

Lauri Korpikoski

Korpikoski has ranged from bad (-0.79 and -0.36) to merely mediocre (0.15 and 0.40). Considering his last couple of games have been with Backlund, Frolik and Higgins, you can’t help but expect more from him. That said, he’s living down to his reputation from last year as Edmonton’s worst possession player.

DEFENDERS

One of these guys gets an NHL job.

Tyler Wotherspoon

Wotherspoon played with Engelland, Hamilton and Wideman, always on the left side. His game scores were consistently iffy (-0.50 to -0.10). That said, consistency is important in a depth defender, but Wotherspoon has been not too great.

Brett Kulak

Kulak has played both sides of the ice, with righty Andersson, lefty Jokipakka (twice) and Kanzig, who can play either side. He had one great game with a 2.73 game score against Winnipeg, and his other games have ranged between -0.55 and 0.33. Kulak’s ability to play either side helps with his versatility, and could end up scoring him the job.

Nicklas Grossmann

Grossmann has been all over the place with game scores between -0.53 and 0.63. He’s played with everybody: Hamilton (twice), Robak, Morrison and Grigoriev. He’s been physical, but also quite slow in his own end and seems to have trouble transitioning the puck sometimes. If he’s on the team, it’s because he’s low event and can play physical.

SO WHO MAKES IT?

Tkachuk has made the team. That leaves three forward spots. Chiasson, Vey and Shinkaruk have had the best game scores of the remaining forwards. Kulak is the defenseman that provides the most versatility (given he can play either side of the ice).

Those five players should make the team if it’s based on in-game performance.

WHO SHOULDN’T?

The PTOs. None of them have been appreciably better than the players the Flames have drafted and developed.


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