When the Calgary Flames dropped the puck on their preseason schedule, they dressed seven first round selections in their two games with Edmonton. Three of them are NHL regulars – Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. Two of them are older picks who have dipped their toes into NHL waters – Mark Jankowski and Emile Poirier. One of them is the organization’s most recent first rounder, Juuso Valimaki.
And then there’s Morgan Klimchuk, who might be the most under-the-radar prospect in the entire Flames organization.
Klimchuk was the 28th player selected in the 2013 NHL Draft, selected with the pick the Flames received from Pittsburgh in the trade that ended Jarome Iginla’s time in Calgary. He was the third Flames selection in the first round of that draft. Four years later, he’s the only first round selection from 2013 yet to hit NHL ice.
An impressive 200-foot player through four years in the Western Hockey League, Klimchuk also managed to score at just over a point-per-game pace. His offensive production didn’t really translate in his first year in the American Hockey League, as he posted just three goals and nine points playing primarily a bottom six, defense-first role. His second year was much, much different than the first.
“My first year in the American League, we had a lot of guys that were playing really well and that wasn’t my role that year,” said Klimchuk on his lack of use in offensive situations. “My second year I found that offensive success early and I was fortunate enough to be in those positions and the coaching staff stuck with me and gave me a chance to play there… I think I made the most of it.”
Klimchuk jumped to 19 goals and 43 points in his sophomore season, matching his rookie goal production in his third game of the season and his rookie point production in his sixth. He ended up finishing third in Stockton in scoring and second on the team in even strength offensive production.
With the departure of Lance Bouma, Alex Chiasson, Brandon Bollig and Linden Vey over the offseason not only are a couple NHL jobs open, but the list of left-shooting call-ups from Stockton is essentially Andrew Mangiapane and Klimchuk and not much else. The job openings haven’t really changed Klimchuk’s focus in camp.
“Coming into camp, my thing is just trying to win the day,” said Klimchuk, speaking on the first day of main camp. “You can’t look too far ahead, you got to survive day by day and you’ve got to produce every day. To make the team that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, just win the day. Start with fitness testing, practice 1, 2 and 3 and then go into the exhibition games and do the same thing there.”
In any other season, Klimchuk probably would’ve gotten into a few NHL games in 2016-17. Unfortunately for him, the Flames were remarkably healthy during the season and so he spent the full year in the AHL. He admitted a call-up was on his mind, but remains focused on making a good impression in camp.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint in this business,” said Klimchuk. “It was frustrating, obviously I would’ve like to have played a couple games. In my exit meeting they said just that, not a lot of injuries. Same type of thing, ‘if there were more guys that went down we would’ve liked to get you up.’ But that’s out of my control. If I’m taking care of what I can take care of, eventually that day’s going to come.”