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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects: #10 Morgan Klimchuk

Being part of a legacy can be a tough thing for a young player. Calgary Flames prospect Morgan Klimchuk is the latest link in a chain of assets and trades that connect him to Jarome Iginla, Joe Nieuwendyk and Kent Nilsson. It’s a tough act to follow.

But in an organization that has seen three first round picks head straight to the National Hockey League in recent years – in the forms of Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk – and has Mark Jankowski pushing for an NHL gig, Klimchuk has been able to ply his trade outside the spotlight and figure out his game in the AHL. After a rough first pro season, he may have turned a corner towards an NHL future.

Ranked 18th on this list last year, Klimchuk jumps to 10th on this year’s prospect rankings.

A brief history

Klimchuk is a Calgary kid who plied his trade with the Bisons and Buffaloes before heading to the Western Hockey League. He was drafted after his second season in the WHL with the Regina Pats, selected 28th overall by the Flames after posting 76 points in 72 games. The draft pick was originally Pittsburgh’s, sent to the Flames in the Jarome Iginla trade earlier that spring.

The four seasons since Klimchuk’s selection can be neatly split into two junior seasons and two pro seasons:

In 2013-14 and 2014-15, Klimchuk played in the WHL. He had 74 points in 2013-14 and 80 points in 2014-15, moving late in the latter season to the Brandon Wheat Kings to bolster them for a playoff run. He established himself as a strong 200-foot WHL forward, able to play in every situation and consistently generate offense.

Klimchuk headed to the professional ranks in 2015-16 and didn’t have nearly the same success early on that he had in junior. Simply put, what ended up happening is Klimchuk had to undergo the same sort of learning curve in the AHL that he had to endure as a WHL rookie – wrapping his head around the nuances of the pro game and adjusting his instincts so he wouldn’t be exposed at the pro level. He played primarily bottom six minutes in a checking role and had just three goals and nine points in 55 games – he missed 13 games due to a couple injuries.

This past season was much better for Klimchuk, perhaps because of all the time he spent playing the defensive situations in the prior season. He got out of the gates quickly offensively, equaling his rookie goal total after three games and his rookie point total after six games. He ended up with 19 goals and 43 points as a sophomore, finishing third on the Heat in scoring – behind just Mark Jankowski and Linden Vey. Much as he was for the Regina Pats, Klimchuk ended up as one of the more consistent 200-foot presences for the Heat last season.

Quotable

Calgary Flames development coach Ray Edwards credited a lot of Klimchuk’s success in 2016-17 to his summer preparation before the season.

To his credit, he took the last offseason and he got his mind right and he prepared himself. Man, I’ll tell ya… He scored early in the season, got his confidence. He’s all over the puck, he’s a relentless forechecker, he’s unbelievable at taking pucks away, he started finishing this year. The sky’s the limit for Morgan.

Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska pointed to a lot of the details of Klimchuk’s game as why he was able to have such a big year for his club.

Morgan doesn’t cheat the game at all. And I think that’s the reason why you saw him get rewarded this year. Even when he was trying to get his head above water his first year pro, adjusting to a different style of game, not having the offensive success that he wanted, he never cheated us, he never cheated himself, and he kept coming to the rink every day to make himself a better player. He put the time in. So when he came back this year, I think he came back very committed, very prepared and he got himself off to a great start. Over the course of the year, he became not just a valuable checker on our team (which he was the year before), he’s now an offensive threat as well, and a lot of that is because he put the work in.

What comes next?

Will Klimchuk ever be the equal of Iginla, Nieuwendyk or Nilsson? Well, probably not – though he’s probably better defensively than Nilsson ever was. That said, he’s become a damn good AHL player and it’s still not clear if his development has topped out yet.

He’s entering the final year of his entry-level contract. He’s the only 2013 first round selection that hasn’t played an NHL game yet. Depending on his play and how healthy the Flames are in 2017-18, he might sneak his way into a game or two – though probably only as a mid-season recall. He’s improved since his iffy first AHL year, but he’s still got to establish what type of player he could be at the NHL level.

Previously

#20 – Ryan Lomberg #19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson
#18 – Daniel Pribyl #17 – Eetu Tuulola
#16 – Adam Ruzicka #15 – Emile Poirier
#14 – David Rittich #13 – Hunter Shinkaruk
#12 – Matthew Phillips #11 – Jon Gillies

      • Eggs Bennett

        Glad they gave Monahan some recognition, but the list is flawed. Barkov ahead of Monahan? Their only reasoning was based on point totals… and if that’s he case, Monahan is far ahead of Barkov in total goals and points since entering the league.

        Also… McDavid ahead of Crosby? After one good offensive regular season? What about the whole 2-way thing? How about the 3 cup rings and the 2 consecutive playoff MVPs?

        Matthews at #4?? Maybe in a couple years, but again he had 69pts, which wasn’t even as much as half a dozen other players on the list.

  • Azim

    Have always liked something about Klimchuk. He’s got that something, those intangibles needed in quality role players. I would be happy with more progression this season as a leader for Stockton, top-two in scoring, playing in tough situations, and getting a few games in with the Flames as a call-up. Then for 2018-19, make a push for a full-time gig with the Flames (there will be a lot of competition against other prospects alone – so the cream will rise to the top), and possibly be the ideal soulmate for Backlund and Frolik on that shutdown line.

  • Just.Visiting

    The Stemps reference seems like a good one. At this point, he seems to project out as a complementary player. Whether that is a Stemps/Frolik light or a more talented Bouma remains to be seen. What we do know is that competition for the bottom six roles in the future will be tough.

    • Just.Visiting

      True, but I don’t think he’ll get the minutes he did in junior, since the offence doesn’t project out that way. It’s a two way game that will position him to play and stay in what seems most likely to be a complementary role. Hence my comment about a more talented Bouma. If we can evolve our fourth line to have an a much more well rounded set of skills, we will be a top contender.

  • Fan the Flames

    Klimchuk should get an opportunity to play some games this year as an injury call up that will be his opportunity to show he can play the game at the highest level . He looked much better last year as Flames fans we can only hope the progression continues.

  • everton fc

    Based on his two-way game, his work ethic, his ability to dig deep and “just giver”… I think Klimchuk has a slight chance to sneak into that 4th line LW slot at some point, depending how his camp goes. His competition isn’t much above him, in terms of ability.

    Poirier, everyone’s sentimental favourite, will have to prove he has truly come back, and this will occur in the AHL. Klimchuk has a lot more to offer, in terms of his total skill-set, than some of the other guys he’l compete with. And he’s smart. Disciplined. A hard worker. A coaches dream. The fact he’s a “relentless forechecker”, great defencively, superb at creating turnovers and “stealign the puck”… And can skate… He has a lot to offer, and I have this feeling he is going to have a very good camp.

    Great that we have all these young guys chomping at the bit to play with the big club. Guys like Klimchuk, Poirier, and Lomberg will be interesting to watch, in the pre-season.

    (I like the idea of Klimchuk as the “ideal soulmate” with Backlund and Frolik. Brilliant analogy!)

  • OKG

    Still needs to work on his cycle game and playmaking. His ability to score off the rush and two-way play reminds me of Lee Stempniak though. For 29th overall, not the worst pick in the world. Though it looks like Ryan Hartman has passed him for the time being.

  • Styxx

    Assuming Lazar, Stajan and Brouwer make the team there are 2 forward spots available and ~4-5 contenders.

    Jankowski is by far the leading contender for one of those positions, likely learning the ropes with with Backlund or Stajan. The final position will be contested by Pourier, Klimchuk, Shinkaruk and Hamilton.

    Kudos to Treliving and Gulutzan for keeping one spot open to have an open competition for it. Looking forward within 2 years sizeable contracts are due Backlund and Tkachuk. The Flames need to prove they can develop younger less expensive players and the greatest discipline required is on the part of management to ignore the calls to bring in appealing but aging slow stars-of-yesterday (eg Jagr et al).

    Adding speed and skill on the 3rd and 4th lines and increasing the mobility of players up and down the line-up will do enable the Flames to play their preferred fast-breakout up-tempo hard-forechecking game as one of the fastest and most skilled teams in the league.

          • Bean-counting cowboy

            Just need to dump Brouwer next off-season. It would be tremendous if some prospects ended up as effective as a Frolik or Versteeg in their respective roles over the next couple years, making them and their cap hits trade-able assets to recoup picks. Same can be said for Stone.

          • Styxx

            re “Tradeable Assets” …totally agree!

            With the development pipeline getting full on D and G, plus having 9 good Forward prospects over the next 2 years, all with 2-3 post-draft years of experience (many 1st & 2nd rounders included), the Flames are now entering in to an era of abundance rather than scarcity. Expect the Flames to become net sellers, trading surplus high-value players each year as the internal competition (from younger faster cheaper skilled players) applies pressure to move out roster players.

            Treliving has shown himself to be a master at making acquisition trades …can’t wait to see what he can bring back when he’s selling. And huge Kudos to the scouting staff of the Flames who have now acquired a “top 8” elite drafting status amongst their peers…other teams can only salivate at what the Flames have been able to do in 3-4 short years, moving from a bare cupboard to an overflowing one : )

          • TheoForever

            This was a quick and painless rebuild and Flames are on the rise, the prospects are maturing and getting ready to step-up and there is more in the pipe. I’m interested if Andersson can take the 6th d-spot, with Kulak as #7. The competition upfront should be fierce. Jankowski is the one I’m betting on making the club. The other spot will be intensely contested too: Foo, Klimchuk, Poirier, Mangiapane; should be exiting. Also it will be interesting to see Lazar healthy, as he too is new and shinny.

          • HOCKEY83

            just going by what the flames organization has to say about it. It’s Foo’s spot to lose in the preseason. I watched him at Winsport and he seemed fantastic. That may not translate alongside the roster spot players but we’ll just have to wait and see.

          • The Fall

            Just don’t see a college player who is used to 38 games a season jumping into the pros opening night. Foo had had one breakout season playing as the older guy on the ice.

            I see him as top line Heat. Poirier too. They’ll get their shots in January.

            Klim, Jank, Shank are short listed for opening night.

            YeastMode will be in the conversation this time next year.

    • Stockton's Finest

      I am hoping that whomever doesn’t make the squad out of camp comes down to Stockton with a chip on their shoulder and helps plow though the likes of Bakersfield, San Jose, Ontario, and San Diego. While the big club takes aim towards a playoff run, it would be nice to go deeper this year in the Calder Cup. Here’s hoping to make a Flames game this year when juggling Stockton Season tickets.

  • Al Rain

    So, late night top 9… Here’s my ranking of who’s left (based mostly on their ceiling and my gut):

    1. Valimaki
    2. Fox
    3. Parsons
    4. Jankowski
    5. Andersson
    6. Dube
    7. Foo
    8. Mangiapane
    9. Kylington

    3 potential all-stars, 5 pretty certain NHL’ers and 1 long-term, high risk/reward project. Which is not bad.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Johnny gaudrea played college and jumped in for a full season. It is possible but must be hard for some. If his conditioning is up to par foo can doo

  • Carl the tooth

    I like Klimchuck I think he out scores poirier again and could become even more leaned on if jankowski graduates . Smart .skilled .decent speed ,good on forechecking, pk . He’s more versatile than poirier.i think klimchuck is the better prospect.