It wouldn’t be the last morning of the Calgary Flames’ regular season if not for a few curiosities. The club announced this morning that goaltender David Rittich has been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, with Jon Gillies being re-assigned to Stockton. It’s effectively a swap of AHL goalies.
Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson had the most logical explanation for the move.
#Flames have assigned G Jon Gillies to Stockton, recalled G David Rittich. Gillies likely starts tonight in AHL, Rittich backs up in SJ.
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) April 8, 2017
Rittich, 24, is in the midst of a really strong first season in North America after spending a few seasons playing in his native Czech Republic. He’s quietly one of the strongest goalies in the entire AHL: his 2.30 goals against average is 10th, he’s tied for second in shutouts and is ninth in save percentage.
Gillies 23, just won his first NHL start. Despite not being as great as Rittich this season, he’s younger than his teammate and is a player the Flames expended resources (a third round pick) to get, so there’s a bit more of a need to develop him than exists with Rittich. It probably shouldn’t be shocking to learn that he’s started more often in Stockton than Rittich despite having worse numbers.
It’s unlikely that anybody but Brian Elliott will start a game for the Flames from here on out. But Gillies is young and needs to play, so the emphasis seems to be on rotating goalies from the AHL so that Gillies gets playing time in. If Rittich isn’t playing in either league, arguably there’s less at stake because he’s much further along in his development and arguably much more of a finished product.
Depending on whether Nashville has won in Winnipeg or not in the early game, there’s a chance we could see Rittich make his NHL debut at some point tonight.