Taking Stockton: Heat Rising

The Flames have won four in a row and the Heat are tops in their division! Yes, several things have come up Milhouse in recent days for Flames fans, though it hasn’t exactly been an easy few hockey months so you can forgive a little lightness in what has been a pretty substantial feces polar vortex this season.

The Stockton Heat have played 18 games so far which is a tad over 25% of their 68-game, left coast-sized AHL season. How has it gone so far? Very well! The Heat sit tops in the Pacific and have had a number of good showings from relatively young players and some solid goaltending from two different netminders. Let’s have a look at how the first quarter of the season has gone after the jump!

THE NUMBERS

Let’s start with the most important numbers: as of today, the Heat sit first in the Pacific Division with 24 points, a record of 11-5-2, and a winning percentage of 0.667. This season has largely been an unqualified success for the Heat, finding ways to score goals by committee, getting solid goaltending, and negotiating some rather spotty defence – especially in transition. 

The Heat are a very young team, both on the backend and up front, lacking some of the veteran presence from years past (Derek Grant, Kenny Agostino, Freddie Hamilton). Nonetheless, the Heat have excelled in the first quarter of the season, thanks in large part to the contributions of AHL rookies like Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski, and David Rittich.

If you have been reading Christian Tiberi’s weekly, amazing prospect updates (and I know you have been) then you know what the numbers are looking like for Flames prospects all over the globe’s professional and junior leagues. Let’s have a look at how some of those numbers look inside of their peer group. As always, the bulk of this info is from Prospect-stats.com, a place you should all go to immediately. 

Forwards:

Here is how some of the most notable Heat players are faring among forwards, in all situations, with at least 15 games played and all under 23 years old. The age restriction excludes Linden Vey, Mike Angelidis, Matt Frattin, Brandon Bollig (scoring at a not-too-shabby 0.5 ppg I might add), and Jamie Devane, while the games played restriction excludes Hunter Smith and Austin Carroll from consideration from this list. 

One of the problems with evaluating AHL players is the goofy scheduling that causes Pacific teams to play fewer games than the rest of the league. Therefore, looking at purely counting numbers isn’t really helpful. Here are the numbers, followed by where each player ranks in this peer group:

EMILE POIRIER (18 GP)

  • Points: 11 (T-31st) 
  • Points per game: 0.61 (27th)
  • Primary points per game: 0.57 (20th)
  • Shots per game: 2.78 (8th) – Poirier leads the Heat in shots with 50
  • SH%: 2.78
MORGAN KLIMCHUK (17 GP)
  • Points: 14 (18th) – Klimchuk is tied with Jankowski and Mangiapane for the Heat lead in points
  • Points per game: 0.82 (14th)
  • Primary points per game: 0.71 (7th)
  • Shots per game: 2.41 (T-19th)
  • SH%: 17.07 (!)

MARK JANKOWSKI (15 GP)

  • Points: 12 (T-29th) 
  • Points per game: 0.8 (15th)
  • Primary points per game: 0.6 (17th)
  • Shots per game: 2.33 (23rd)
  • SH%: 8.57
ANDREW MANGIAPANE (17 GP) 

There is some discrepancy between Prospect-Stats.com and AHL.com, so I assume that this is a dispute regarding secondary points.

  • Points: 14 (T-17th) – 12th among forwards under 21 
  • Points per game: 0.71 (21st) – 11th among forwards under 21
  • Primary points per game: 0.65 (12th) – 7th among forwards under 21
  • Shots per game: 2.41 (T-20) – 8th among forwards under 21
  • SH%: 12.2
RYAN LOMBERG (18 GP)
  • Points: 10 (T-43rd)
  • Points per game: 0.56 (T-37th)
  • Primary points per game: 0.33 (T-55th) 
  • Shots per game: 1.32 (T-59th)
  • SH%: 9.68
DANIEL PRIBYL(18 GP)
  • Points: 12 (T-35th)
  • Points per game: 0.67 (T-33rd)
  • Primary points per game: 0.56 (T-25th) 
  • Shots per game: 1.72 (T-80th)
  • SH%: 16.13 (!)
Defencemen:

Excluded from this list is Keith Aulie, Cayle Doetzel (there’s just no point), Ryan Culkin (hasn’t played enough), and, I have changed the requirements to 25 years for Kenney Morrison and Tyler Wotherspoon, to see how they are doing among an older peer group.

It is interesting to note that there are 21 defencemen in the AHL under the age of 21, and only five who started the season under the age of 20 (the Heat have two of them). Furthermore, Oliver Kylington is the youngest defencemen in the AHL this season; keep that in mind when looking at the numbers.

OLIVER KYLINGTON (18 GP)

  • Points: 10 (12th) – 6th among defenders under 21
  • Points per game: 0.56 (T-12th) – 7th among defenders under 21
  • Primary points per game: 0.39 (9th) – 4th among defenders under 21
  • Shots per game: 1.89 (15th) – 7th among defenders under 21
  • SH%: 5.88
RASMUS ANDERSSON (18 GP)
  • Points: 11 (8th) – 5th among defenders under 21
  • Points per game: 0.61 (8th) – 5th among defenders under 21
  • Primary points per game: 0.33 (11th) – 5th among defenders under 21
  • Shots per game: 1.67 (22nd) – 10th among defenders under 21
  • SH%: 6.67
TYLER WOTHERSPOON – Under 25 (18 GP)
  • Points: 10 (T-43rd)
  • Points per game: 0.56 (T-37th)
  • Primary points per game: 0.33 (T-55th) 
  • Shots per game: 1.32 (T-59th)
  • SH%: 9.68
KENNEY MORRISON – Under 25 (18 GP)
  • Points: 2 (Yikes, don’t even look further re: points)
  • Shots per game: 2.17 (T-18th)
  • SH%: 2.56
  • Worth noting that Morrison leads all Heat defenders in shots with 39
Goalies

One of the most surprising aspects of the Heat’s early season success has been the play of David Rittich, especially during a stretch of games filling in for Jon Gillies while he healed from a finger injury. Among AHL-qualified goalies, Rittich leads the AHL in save percentage (.949) and goals against average (1.43), though Rittich has faced a great deal less rubber than most of the other qualified goalies. 

Jon Gillies sits 35th in the AHL with a .902 SV% and 36th in the AHL in GAA (2.88). However, Gillies has played over 200 more minutes and faced roughly 110 more shots this season. Both goaltenders have been very solid for the Heat this season and a couple rough outings from Gillies are polluting his numbers a little bit. 

Stockton’s youth on defence (sporting 40% of the league’s under-20 defencemen) is possibly a reason why, on some nights, the team gives up some grade A scoring chances, especially off the rush and in transition. 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?

One of the most important things to consider when imagining your team’s prospect group is the fact that other teams have prospects too; every team gets good players every draft. This sobering fact remains true every season and can obscure the true value of a player like Agostino, Poirier, or even Grant. This is one of the reasons I like comparing players in their AHL age cohort. 

The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at Stockton’s forward group is, well, the absence of anyone really jumping out at you. Much like the big club, Stockton has been getting moderate production from a number of forwards rather than any one particular all-star performance up front. Vey has been an exceptionally consistent performer when in Stockton’s lineup, as has Shinkaruk (seven points in seven games) but their time has been interrupted by call-ups.

It’s been a stellar debut season for Mangiapane so far, regularly playing well on Jankowski’s wing and ranking in the AHL’s top 10 in shots per game among forwards under 21. However, in terms of goals, Mangiapane is shooting pretty high, even given his relatively high shot production. I wouldn’t expect him to score say, 35+ goals this season but he’s looked great and generates at least one good look a period in the games I’ve seen. 

Jankowski’s rookie season has also been a positive for Stockton, earning a one-game call-up to the Flames earlier in November and generating a lot of offence during his time in Stockton. I, like many, have been sceptical about Jankowski’s production at the AHL level but what I have been most impressed with is his ability to protect the puck and generate chances from below the circles. Hopefully, Jankowski is not disheartened from his brief one-game Flames audition and can return to regularly producing for Stockton this season. 

On defence, there is genuine cause for optimism regarding the play of Andersson and Kylington. Both are very young defencemen playing top-four minutes for the Heat. I would argue that Andersson is at a bit of an advantage, often being paired with the steady Wotherspoon (who has been his regular, not-flashy self this season). Kylington has been playing with Doetzel, a stout, though relatively slow, 6’3 AHL rookie who just finished playing five full seasons with the Red Deer Rebels.

You can have a look at their offensive production and make of them what you will, but I will say that Kylington is a ton of fun to watch. Sometimes he seems to like trying to make inside moves from the point a little too often, but overall it is a treat to watch him. He is slick with the puck and has fantastic acceleration. However, as everyone has said about him since before the draft, he’ll need some polishing in his own end. Big deal. He’s fun to watch, plain and simple, and he’s just starting his pro career.

Anywho, take a look at the numbers and let me know how they look to you in the comments!

  • Ole YELLEr

    Poirier with a 2.78 shooting % yikes, maybe Ferland should give him a call and tell him it gets better.

    I loved Lomberg the last 2 Youngstars tournaments I hope he can keep it up and earn a nhl contract. He could become our new angrier Byron.

  • MWflames

    Also, great to see the success some of our young prospects are having. AHL success is often in the backs of AHL vets with no NHL future, but we’re doing it with a young team, top to bottom. Great to see

    • Absolutely, though, I will say that having guys like Frattin, Angelidis, and I’d argue Vey as well, has helped out the younger guys as well.

      For instance, Matt Frattin has played quite well with Jankowski and Vey (who might not be an NHL prospect of note anymore) has produced really well throughout this whole season.

  • redwhiteblack

    Flames have not had much success getting regular NHLers out of the AHL. Forwards Jankowski and Mangiapane best bets to follow the likes of Backlund and Ferland who honed skills in the AHL first.

    Defensemen Andersson and Kylington hopefully can follow Brodie’s pattern of success.

    Gilles or Rittich hopefully can become a starter.

    We should get 2 or 3 solid NHLers from this bunch.

  • freethe flames

    The question for me is who will be ready by the Trade Deadline to step in and be an NHL defenceman. I can’t see the Flames even if they are in a playoff hunt holding on to both Wideman and Eng’s. Also will either Rittich or Gilles be ready to be a back up in the NHL as I could see teams inquiring about Elliot near the deadline.

    Moving forward which of the forwards will be able to push the pile and become a top 9 player; preferably top 6.

  • cjc

    Last night, Stockton 3 Charlotte 1.

    Mangiapane with 1G and 1A (primary). Vey with 1G and 2A. Rittich came up huge several times and was the difference. Stockton frequently looked lost in their D-zone, it did not sound like Morrisson had a good game. Poirier duffed a clear breakaway.