If you, faithful FN reader, are as depraved as me, you have also reached the point in the summer where spare time is spent consuming contract details of third- and fourth-string goaltenders and scouring the aged fossils cluttering the UFA bin. Well, let me be your guide as we venture into the even dimmer recesses of Flames prospectdom, *spooky voice* players who played in the ECHL last year. Come debate the merits of the Flames retaining the vowel-devouring Dane, Mikkel Aagaard.
Despite a fantastic last name and generally strong numbers out of the OHL (94 points in 123 games), Aagaard went undrafted and was plucked by the Flames in the summer of 2016 as a tryout. Originally added to the Flames roster for the 2016 Penticton Young Stars tournament, Aagaard impressed enough to warrant an invitation to main camp. From there, the 6’0 centreman snagged the attention of many onlookers in training camp and preseason, including our own Ryan Pike, and earned an AHL deal after being cut in September.
Aagaard split last year between the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder and the Stockton Heat of the AHL. In Adirondack, Aagaard was a monster, producing at better than a point-per-game pace in 38 games. During his time in Stockton, Aagaard was modestly productive, but was it enough to warrant investing further in him this season? Let’s have a look at how Aagaard’s rookie season, albeit in a very limited sample of just 25 games spread over the course of the AHL season, stacks up against other Flames rookie seasons in the AHL.
For this chart, I used the age that the player was for the majority of their rookie season, though in some cases players had in-season birthdays. As you can see, Aagaard doesn’t exactly jump off the screen here but his production is respectable given the pedigree of some of the players on this list.
(Also, it again illustrates what a great rookie season Poirier had. Here’s hoping he can find that kind of production again this season.)
In his 25 games, Aagaard wasn’t a prolific shot generator, but managed almost a .5 ppg pace. In my exceptionally limited viewings of Aagaard last year, I thought he was able to keep up with AHL competition and what stuck out to me was his ability to pass the puck. Certainly not a flashy player by any stretch of the imagination but smart with the puck and pretty smooth hands. Take those comments with a grain of salt, but he was noticeable in each viewing I had.
After his season was done, Aagaard represented Denmark at the World Championships for the second year in a row and, for the second year in a row as well, he was held pointless. During the WCs, he was most notable for this:
— REAL NY RANGERS FANS (@RNYRF) May 14, 2017
When combined with his production at the ECHL level, it seems that Aagaard should be given a shot this year in Stockton, especially considering the present lack of centremen the Flames have at the AHL level. With Linden Vey and Mike Angelidis departing, the Heat currently have Mark Jankowski (a good bet for serious NHL minutes this season), Brett Pollock (spent almost all last year in the ECHL and managed eight less points than Aagaard in 28 more games), and Daniel Pribyl (can play centre or wing and struggled to stay healthy last season) penciled in as centres next year.
Currently, Aagaard is a UFA, his one-year deal with the Heat expiring in July. There is no word on where he is headed next season so it is entirely possible that he could be retained by the Flames. Needless to say, there is plenty of time for more additions to the roster at the NHL or AHL level but it seems as though Aagaard might be deserving of a longer look next year in the AHL. He has outgrown the ECHL and is ready for the next step, wherever that is.
Perhaps the Flames have found something in Aagaard, or, perhaps he returns home and becomes a fine Nordic insurance salesman. Who knows! Late July hockey everyone!