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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Who could make the Flames next season?

It’s been exactly three years since Brad Treliving was hired to be the Flames’ general manager. The first meaningful decision he took part in once he was given the keys to the franchise? The 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Treliving has now been at the head of three NHL drafts, and overall, that’s seen him rebuild the Flames’ farm system. Many of the players currently on the Stockton Heat were acquired by Treliving, as opposed to his predecessors. The prospects Treliving has brought in – Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk aside – are still working to make the NHL full time, and they’ll probably still have a couple of seasons to go yet.

At the same time, though, a number of players seem to be knocking on the door. So who may have a realistic shot at starting in the NHL for 2017-18 – and staying there?

The non-Treliving kids

This should come as no surprise. The older a prospect is, the more developed he probably is. The Flames still have a handful of players from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 drafts – Feaster years – who haven’t made the NHL full time. They include:

  • Tyler Wotherspoon (RFA, and if he hasn’t made it by now, you have to wonder. It’s been almost six years since he was drafted)
  • Mark Jankowski (always touted as a long-term project)
  • Jon Gillies (a goalie and therefore definitely not part of the normal skaters curve)
  • Brett Kulak (played a quarter of the season in the NHL last year)
  • Ryan Culkin (injuries seem to have really gotten in the way of his development)
  • Emile Poirier (future uncertain)
  • Morgan Klimchuk (relatively young, has only played two professional seasons)

When it comes to defencemen, the only one here who seems to have a reasonable shot is Kulak. Wotherspoon has never played more than 14 NHL games in a single season, and that was all the way back in 2014; plus, he may not even be qualified. Kulak, on the other hand, split his season relatively evenly between the AHL and NHL, and it could be argued that he got the short end of the stick when a player like Matt Bartkowski was given more of a chance than he was (Kulak, for the record, is six years younger and scored as much as Bartkowski did in the AHL in eight fewer games this season).

At some point the Flames are actually going to have to trust a prospect to take the next step, and Kulak seems to be the closest to taking it.

Up front, Jankowski seems to be knocking on the door – which is good, since it’s been five years since he was drafted. He’s basically had the same AHL season as Kenny Agostino did last year, except the Flames have invested more resources (biggest of all being a first round pick) into Jankowski, so he’s probably going to get preferential treatment no matter what. (Plus he’s a tall centre.) Besides, if Matt Stajan gets taken in the expansion draft, the Flames will need a new fourth line centre, and they’ll have the option to replace him internally right there.

Forward spots will have to open up, though, and the Flames have less room there than they do on the backend.

As for Gillies – it’s possible, but he would be the Flames’ backup if anything.

Treliving acquisitions

The 2014 NHL draft kind of ended up being a wasteland for the Flames. They picked up Bennett, which was good; after him, though, it looks a bit dire. Brandon Hickey will be playing his senior year at Boston University, while Adam Ollas Mattsson has only just come to North America, and Austin Carroll doesn’t exactly have numbers that look like they’ll translate to NHL success.

2015, however, looks like a completely different story. The Flames didn’t have that many picks, but they sure made them count. Both Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington are contenders for spots alongside Kulak. Kulak may be more ready now, but both Andersson and Kylington probably both have higher potential, and all it could take to start the year in the NHL is a really, really, really impressive training camp: something that can’t be ruled out for either player. It’s highly unlikely all three make it, but possible two do, if someone can force the team’s hand.

Andrew Mangiapane could get consideration, too, seeing as how he had almost the same amount of production as Klimchuk did this season; on the other hand, if the Flames need to call up a winger to play above a fourth line level (i.e. Garnet Hathaway – who was signed by Treliving, and has his own shot of making it in a grinding role), Klimchuk is a bit older and a bit bigger, so he may get the default nod, though Mangiapane could make it close.

And don’t forget about Hunter Shinkaruk. He didn’t get a proper shot with the Flames this past season, but 35 points in 52 AHL games is nothing to sneeze at: that’s a higher points per game production than both Klimchuk and Mangiapane – not to mention he has more professional experience than any potential forward call-up.

It’s too early to judge any 2016 picks, although Eetu Tuulola’s “everything is possible in this life” quote was about making the NHL sooner rather than later, so hey, who knows?

All in all

The older prospects are the ones more likely to make the jump sooner rather than later, and with the entire bottom half of the defence opening up, that goes double for those who play defence. Also, in order for a kid to actually make the NHL the organization will have to show it trusts him which, aside from high first round picks, they seems somewhat reluctant to do.

If everything goes well? You’ll probably see Kulak in the NHL full time, and one of Andersson or Kylington forcing his way into the lineup for at least part of the season. If the Flames lose a centre to the expansion draft Jankowski may finally make it in, with Shinkaruk, Klimchuk, or Mangiapane probably first in line to be called up if the team needs another winger (or, alternatively, if a spot on the wing is left open for them, rather than going to a free agent).

The Flames aren’t going to have a sudden influx of prospects making the 2017-18 team right off the bat, but hopefully one or two can finally make it.

  • TheRealPoc

    If Kulak isn’t plucked by Vegas, I’ll be shocked if he’s not on this club’s bottom pairing to start October. It’s the only reason I can think of why Bartkowski (who was really brought here for nothing more than exposure requirements) played ahead of him; feels like the Flames wanted to limit the opportunities for scouts to see Kulak work against NHL competition. Just unfortunate that it had a negative impact in this year’s first round, but this team hasn’t been shy about discussing the desire to build a core for the long game, so I’ll begrudgingly give that lineup decision a pass in the big picture.

      • Cfan in Van

        He’s definitely, and unfortunately eligible. The speculation is that they were trying not to give vegas a lot of games to solidify an opinion on him. At least that’s my hope, because otherwise he could have helped the team quite a bit last season.

      • PrairieStew

        Kulak is eligible to be picked byVegas, but he hadn’t played enough NHL games to meet the requirements of what the Flames needed to make available to Vegas. So while Kulak might be the guy they pick, the Flames still had to have a guy with NHL experience to expose. Same reasoning for having goalie McCollum under contract and loaned to another organization – they needed to meet a minimum quality standard of players available – not just a bad garage sale of players.

  • Stu Cazz

    Janko is knocking on the door and I believe he will make the roster next season. Unfortunately Flames do not adhere to the buyout philosophy so we need to make room for Stajan and Bouma. That means moving Stajan to LW enables both Lazar and Janko to play centre. Tuulola has proven to be a real gamer and will be a huge surprise for the Flames in the future. Kylington has NHL speed but his puck management is horrible so more seasoning is required. I would like to see Andersson get 20 games next season for final development. If Stone can agree to 3rd pairing contract then Stone/Andersson would be a nice 3rd pairing Kulak included if he is not claimed by Vegas…..Bringing in an established 2nd pairing D to play with Brodie would solidify the D…prospects are strong and future looks bright!

    • JimmyD

      I like a lot of your thinking but assuming we don’t go crazy in free agency again we should have a very healthy cap situation which means buying out anyone (except perhaps Brouwer if Vegas doesn’t save us!!!) is not worth it. Stajan is a solid vet presence and Bouma can be buried without too much pain to play the Bolig role at Stockton.

      I will be very disappointed if Janko and Kulak don’t crack the big team next year.

  • class1div1

    Not sure if it was designed or a necessity that Pittsburgh brought up a line from the AHLand plugged them into the lineget more work-up.I am a impatient fan ,that would find a way to get tickets to witness something like that.I would love to get a peak of these prospects.Throw them into the 3rd line spot and let em go.Keep there shifts short,and see if they can keep up.If not ,your other lines get more work. Prospects love it ,fans love it,and it keeps the vets fresh.
    Hockey is becoming so textbook tight .A rookie makes s mistake and another year in the minors,ENTERTAIN US.There are fans out here that are tired of your bloody boring defensive hockey.

  • redwhiteblack

    I like that Janko has shown consistent growth. Most reliable Heat player. I think he can start here next year and contribute. He could add some size and skill to the 4th line, maybe even 3rd line with Bennett and Versteeg.

    • everton fc

      I like Bennett at centre. Versteeg’s the ideal LW on that line. Can Chiasson continue to produce on that line? Is it enough for a team trying to get better?? Can Shinkaruk move to RW and add something??? Again, Hathaway and Shinkaruk are the ones who will be fighting for a spot, me thinks. And, as much as I like Hathaway, he’s not an improvement over Chiasson. Chiasson will be 27 when the puck drops next season, and is pretty much guaranteed to give you 12-15 goals. Hathaway’s one year and a month younger, and may not give you that type of production, ever. And Hathaway’s no longer a kid. (Shinkaruk will be 23 – he, too, is on the cusp of being a tweener).

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Janko seems to have gotten better at every level…. I can’t wait until he makes the Flames as long as they don’t burry him on the fourth line.

  • everton fc

    I think Hathaway, Kulak, Jankowski and maybe Shinakruk will be with the team next season IF Bouma and Stajan (or BROUWER) are gone. If Brouwer goes, Chiasson can stay on the 3rd line, and Hathaway can slot into the 4th line RW role, or Shinkaruk tries RW on either the 3rd or 4th line, with Chiasson playing the same spot on either line. Hathaway becomes the extra forward? I don’t know. Freddie H was a decent extra forward. A lot of bodies to sort out…

    If Stajan stays, and Bouma’s either moved or brought-out, maybe Stajan plays wing, so Jankowski can centre the line?

    I think Gillies needs another year in the “A”. Rittich should be the backup.

  • OKG

    “[Jankowski]’s basically had the same AHL season as Kenny Agostino did last year”

    …?

    Jankowski was 22, Agostino was 23.
    Jankowski was a rookie, Agostino was in his second year pro who didn’t figure the pro game out until halfway into his rookie season.
    Jankowski led his line in scoring, Agostino trailed AHL Vet Derek Grant.
    Jankowski killed penalties and was Huska’s go-to option in tight defensive situations, Agostino’s defensive play was always a glaring weakness.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    I think one of the best things about bringing up Janko would be for him to push other centres. If Janko is the real deal it makes Bennett up his game at centre or move to the wing to make room. If Staj is on the team I would see him starting as 4th line wing beside Janko to back him up in the dot and provide stability.

  • RKD

    Kulak should be a regular next season, unless he’s claimed by LV. He never looked out of placed and didn’t get burned. Nothing flashy but he’s been pretty steady in the games he’s played in. I think Janko may have a shot but he’s got to have a great training camp and bump some guys out. Another season in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him either. A Shinkaruk Bennett Lazar line would look pretty good!

    • everton fc

      I appreciate the enthusiasm regarding Shinkaruk and Lazar, but neither is a proven commodity. I say keep Versteeg and Bennett together, even if Bennett moves to LW, Versteeg can play both wings. Maybe slot Jankowski or Lazar in the pivot, but again, two guys “unproven”. Versteeg-Bennett-Chiasson isn’t a bad line; Versteeg-Bennett-Ferland would be better IF we can sign or trade for a top-flight RW (or sign a guy like Landeskog, who plays LW w/Bennett and Versteeg – a pipe dream, of course…)

      • Cheeky

        I like Versteeg and he had a good year (same as Chiasson), however he may out price himself considering. I’d like the prospects/younger guys be given a couple spots to battle for. I’d hate to see both Bouma it next year…

  • Parallex

    The forward crew is really jammed up at the moment. Bennett and Ferland will be retained without question JG&SM, 3M, overpaid 4th line, and Freddie all under contract, and then Lazar (who I’m sure they want to play more and not be a spare). That’s 12 guys with more or less guaranteed spots.

    If they bring in a young guy they’ll want him to play not be a spare. The way I see it the only way a forward prospect makes the team is if Vegas claims a F under contract and if neither Versteeg (who I want back) nor Chiasson (Meh) is brought back.

    More open spots on D. I hope we see a 5-6-7 grouping of Kulak, Andersson, Bartowski next year

    • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

      I think there is a decent chance that Bouma gets Bollig’d next year. Move on from Freddie. Sign and trade Chiasson. There could be several spots if management wants to promote from within. Biggest issue to me is whether Ferland gets to stay at 1R. If not we need to acquire.

      • Cfan in Van

        I think Ferly will remain at 1R, unless there’s some kind of amazing deal to be made in the off season. The team has it’s hands full with more pressing housekeeping to address elsewhere.

        • redwhiteblack

          Ferly is not a #1winger. Johnny and Monny need someone closer to their skill level to compliment them. Maybe Ferly can continue to grow and be that guy but he is not there yet. A winger to truly fill that role would help greatly. Maybe Bennett can in time.

          • Cfan in Van

            I don’t disagree. I think between goalie selection, sorting out the 3rd D pairing, and dumping some of the 4th line salary, they will have their hands full this summer. Ferland is presently OK in that role for now, and I’m guessing he stays there for at least the start of the season.

      • everton fc

        Bouma’s not Bollig. He’s a capable 4th line NHL player. His point-production will mimic a guy like Jooris, going forward, and once he’s no longer a Flame, he’ll bounce around the league.

        I actually like Freddie’s game, and found myself wondering how he’d fare in 82 games, as a 4th liner. That said, if we can find another solid RW, Chiasson is perfect as the 4th line RW. But that also leave no room for Hathaway, and I think Chiasson is more valuable than Hathaway, though I love Hathaway’s game. If Hathaway could play LW, a 4th line of Hathaway-Jankowski-Chiasson would be fun to watch! But that leaves no room for Shinkaruk… And so on… And so on…

        This team needs to get so balanced and deep that a guy like Chiasson, would can play 3rd line minutes adequately for many teams, is a 4th liner. A 3rd line of Versteeg-Bennett-Ferland would also be interesting – IF you can find a decent RW w/skill and a bit of an edge, who can both play with and protect Gaudreau and Monahan. Right now, Ferland’s all we got, and I personally think he scores 20 goals next season, on this line – he and Gaudreau have definite “chemistry”, and Ferland’s always been a playmaker and a scorer. Took time, but he’s finding his game.

  • PrairieStew

    The Flames should qualify Wotherspoon, mainly because the risk of losing Kulak in expansion. I think he’s about the same as Bartkowski – and it gives Kylington another year to develop (only 20!). I’d even engage McPhee in a dialogue about it. We’ll trade you Brouwer if you take Spoon instead of Kulak. If that doesn’t work – try moving Stajan as part of that deal. Something to free some salary up for D4 and D5 and G1.

  • smatic10

    Can we just take a second to appreciate Janko. I, for one, have become a major fan. Can you imagine being drafted out of high school to a Canadian market where the fans are instantly skeptical. On top of that, you were given the label of the “best player in the draft ten years down the line” (paraphrased). He goes to a college that plays a defensive system. His point totals in his first couple of seasons were underwhelming but he still improved them every year. He showed up big time with clutch goals when Providence won the championship. In addition, he played a smart defensive game and developed a decent face-off ability. Let’s not forget he put in the work to become bigger and stronger every year. Then as a rookie, he becomes an AHL all star and recently performed really well in the series tying game in the first round of the playoffs. When this kid was drafted he was very raw. Look how far he has come. I am confident that the Calgary Flames will only benefit from him being in the lineup. He is an instant upgrade on Stajan/Bouma when it comes to bringing offense to the line up. If our team wants to take the next step and become a team that consistently makes the playoffs and make some noise, the days of inserting character players (Staj/Bouma/Brouwer) need to go. Bring in the energized youth! In with the Janko’s, Lazar’s and Shinkaruk’s!.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I could not agree more. Janko does not need another year in the AHL. Do people think that Bennett or Tkachuk put up those numbers in the AHL as rookies ( they would be younger)…. Maybe. Does any forward other than Johnny or Monny have a rookie season like that… Offensively probably but defensively probably not. Great AHL seasons as a rookie don’t necessarily translate to a successful NHL career but having a polished complete game puts him in rare company.

  • Newbietwo

    Vegas will take either Stajan of Brouwer.. why? For a number of reasons

    1. They need to reach the cap floor of mid to late $50 million in salary

    2. They need veterans who can set guidance in the room and help mould the direction of the team..

    It’s a matter of which of the two it is? And in cases like that it’s mostly a Centre who can take face offs and penalty kill over a winger so I think that’s our answer

    • supra steve

      McPhee will need to select some high price veterans, that much is true. However, he will be paid to do so by the clubs that are able to convince him to pick up their bad contracts. The worse the contract, the more it will cost. What would the Flames need to get in return to eat some other clubs 3 x $4.5 million dollar blunder? So if they take Brouwer, it’s gonna cost WAY more than the third round pick that some have suggested paying.

      • Pyroflatulence

        McPhee is in the drivers seat if teams want to unload contracts. Assuming Tre is back, I just can’t see him playing that game. My guess is that they’ll do nothing and Vegas will take the player that fits their needs. Hoping thay’re lookng for a pricy player with bad corsi who doesn’t do anything

    • I really don’t understand this argument. Is it really that hard to get to the floor? Taking on crap contracts is something EVERY team wants to avoid. Why would someone trying to start fresh and efficient want to take on garbage contracts?

  • Newbietwo

    There’s a good chance that Anaheim gonwith keeping all their d and expose Jakob silverburg.. at 3.75 million for two years and 26 there’s a good chance the flames give Vegas our first round pic for him..

    Thomas Hickey again 26 might end up sane way.. just two possible targets the flames might be into

    • supra steve

      “there’s a good chance the flames give Vegas our first round pick for him”…I’m gonna call BS on that. There’s a good chance it will rain today. There’s a good chance I will eat lunch today. There’s a good chance the Sens beat NYR today. But the chance that “the flames give our first round pick” for a player that is currently with the Ducks…well that’s a long shot if I ever heard one.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Johnny – Monny – Ferk
    Janko – Mickis – The Fro
    Tkachuky – Benney – Steeger
    Shinky – Stajan – Lazar
    Freddie is extra.
    Bouma to Stockton, please.
    Brouwer to Vegas, please.

    Gio – Dougie
    Kulak – TJ
    Bart – Fat Ras – Oli

    Goalie 1 and Goalie 2