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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Morgan Klimchuk is the under-the-radar first rounder

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.”

  • Styxx

    At this point it would seem Janko is likely locked in now to make the team. Meanwhile Foo/Poirier/Mangipane are competing hard while Lazar is on the decline. Need to see more of Klimchuk to see where he ranks. And if Brouwer doesn’t perform in the first 20 games if the organization truly wants to win then GG will likely have a short leash and send him down for “conditioning”, providing what may be the most likely opportunity for Klimchuk to get called up. However I believe both Poirier and Klimchuk are waiver-eligible …

    • SandyMcCarthey

      The decline for Lazar? How have you come to that assumption? I hope you are not basing that on a rag tag roster that played the Canucks the other night or the split squad games.

      • Styxx

        IMHO Lazar has not stood out at all. Like Raffydog I worry that he will be gifted a spot. Both Lazar and Brouwer have the greatest sense of entitlement on the team …Lazar because of the 2nd and the expansion protection, and Brouwer due to this contract. It will be a real test (and insight) to see how GG (and Tre) deal with this issue, and whether spots are indeed earned.

        • SandyMcCarthey

          I understand that, but should there not be worry for Smith, Lack, Hamonic etc etc. He has a lot of upside (Lazar) he is a proven champion at the jr levels, and in his small sample size as a flame, (last season, preseason doesn’t count for beans) he was quite productive and someone in the Flames organization with a lot more hockey IQ, as they are paid to make such decesions, believe in this kid. Seems as if if the 2017-18 edition of the Calgary Flames is that of redemption.

      • Skylardog

        Lazar has been placed in a role to fill a roster spot in the first 2 games and ensure they have the required “veterans” on the roster. He has been given limited playing time, limited opportunity to showcase his abilities, and has played with Shink, Foo, and Cramarossa, as well as Stajan, who is going to help make him invisible (defensively a good thing), but provide him with no opportunity to showcase his talents.

        It is my belief they have spent the first 2 games trying to get a real good look at the prospects, giving them opportunities to shine on the PP and in situations. Foo has definitely been given opportunities on the PP, while Lazar has at best played about 1 maybe 2 quick shifts on the PP near the end.

        The problem now, is that the first 2 games have “muddied” the waters as far as the prospects are concerned. I do not think the Flames expected Dube and Lomberg to be so strong (take that with a grain of salt given a 4th line matchup), while Foo (who I think is the weakest of the remaining players with a “chance”) has been a big disappointment to date. Foo will, and should be, in the next round of cuts.
        It was my belief that all of the forward “prospects” (Lazar, Janko, Foo, and possibly Magpie not included) that played last game were on their way out when the cuts were to be made. Now what do you do with Dube and Lomberg? My guess is they stay and Foo and Magpie get cut.

        Klim, Shink, and Poirier, will be in tonight and put in a position to succeed and show us what they have. A couple, I suspect will be on a line with Bennett (Klim and Poirier I would guess). I believe they have been slotted in as having a strong chance to make the team, or be an early call up.

        Lazar will get an opportunity, if not tonight, in the next game, to showcase his abilities with good line mates that will show what he is made of, until then, we can’t judge his play.

  • The GREAT WW

    Jankowski is definitely impressing!
    Earlier I thought his ceiling would be that of RNH; it looks like he will be much better.
    Joe Thornton looks like a better comparable…

    WW

    • Sven

      I hated the pick when he was drafted-
      .
      Then i lost track of him for a few years
      .
      His final year of college was encouraging – and then his AHL performance has been stellar
      .
      .
      I’m hoping to eat a lot of crow this season

      • McRib

        I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it was really bad optics when we drafted Jankowski because our prospect cupboards were bare, therefore taking a long-term prospect was frustrating for a lot of fans, but McKeens and Red Line Report both had Jankowski as a legit first round talent (also stating he had homerun upside). Those were the only two scouting services I considered worthwhile at the time, so I was always on board with Jankowski since day one, but I also understood why fans wanted someone closer to the NHL.

        I am glad that he is proving people like Ryan Lambert wrong though, who outside of looking at NHLe doesn’t really have an eye for scouting amateur players. I get that NHLe is a valuable tool, but with late blooming power forwards you have to look past it (see Jamie Benn, Ryan Getzlaf, etc). Not that I think he has proven he’ll be that successful yet, but I wouldn’t write him off.

        Anyway NHLe is a fine predictor, but sometimes you have to think outside the box and Jankowski was that anomaly. The most frustrating thing all along for me as a major supporter of his is Jankowski would have scored more in the NCAA playing for an offensive coach at lBC or BU. Jankowski was he only player to break 40 Points his entire four years at Providence.

          • OYYC

            I’ve posted before that the Flames have to eventually figure out if they want Bennett or Jankowski as their 3C. That “eventually” should come really, really quickly this season.

        • Captain Ron

          I’m in your camp when it comes to Jankowski and I can really relate to his growth chart. He is yet to fully mature and when he does I think it is going to be a pleasant surprise to all of us. All the signs are pointing in the right direction with him. I saw him live for the first time at the last game and was pretty impressed with his play. Hard worker and very competitive that will carry him a long way to success in the NHL. I see at least a 50 point season at some point in the future if he is not buried in a defensive role.

        • McRib

          Craziness of the comparable aside, Jankowski doesn’t play at all like Joe Thornton. Thornton is one of the elitest pure passers to ever play the game, who rarely takes a shot from anywhere, but at the top of the goal crease. Jankowski is a duel threat who can score from further out.

          I have always thought Jankowski was going to be a decent NHLer, but at this point I’ll happily take a more consistent Joe Colbourne (who isn’t soft as butter). Anything else is just a bonus.

    • Styxx

      While I’ve seen a number of Janko clips the last few years, I have to say I have been impressed in the last couple games. His stickhandling is supreme, particularly in tight spaces and along the half wall, for a tall frame he is quick and shifty, he can turn in a phonebooth with full puck control, and his hockey IQ and sight has led to some excellent playmaking. So I agree…he does look similar to Thornton.

    • Skylardog

      Or will GG be sending Janko packing because his Corsi sucked badly in the last game? 34.8% with 60% Offensive zone starts, not what GG is looking for.

      Or is he more than his Corsi? I think we all know the answer to that.

    • TheDallyLama

      First time poster. Been reading faithfully for bout a year now.. 100% agree with WW, the way Janko moves and has the long reach very much reminiscent of Thornton. Mind you Thornton I believe made the nhl at 18 or 19 years old and is a sure fire HOFer, but as far as just the way he carries himself and skates very comparable to Thornton. High hopes for this guy. GFG!

    • Flaming1

      Stajan has been a very reliable player for the Flames. In time Klimchuk might replace him but Stajan is a valuable veteran and role player on this team and I don’t see him losing his spot this year.

      • Stajanforadirtyboot

        Reliable….wake up….$3.125 million cap hit…22.5 points per season average…thats not good…not good at all. 50.1% in the face off circle….not good….not good at all….11.8% Shooting percentage….not to good….+ – is +3…not bad you say….hes playing 4th line minutes against 4th line players…..not good. All Matt Stajan has been is an under the radar reliable waste of cap space. If he contributed in some other way please tell me. Not a media person, does not fight or come to the aid of other players, not a power play or penalty kill specialist….why why why is there love for this guy. He’ll Brower had 2 more points last year in 7 fewer games and people hate on him like there’s no tomorrow….anyways go flames go…

  • Carl the tooth

    Must mean first round Flames Drafts ,Lazar and shinkaruk are first rounders too. I imagine klimchuck plays tonight . I’d like to see a line of klimchuck Dube Hathaway . Be a good 200 ft energy line

  • The GREAT WW

    Is Byng still injured?
    Who thought it was a good idea to send a 19 year old to an over eager personal trainer over the summer?

    Give a 19 year old a hockey stick and an tennis ball and point him and his buddies towards an empty parking lot for the summer….

    Does that not work anymore?!

    WW

  • DMac

    I do hope that Morgan gets a shot playing ‘meaningful’ minutes with compatible linemates. That would be a regular shift with an experienced centre and right winger. Also seem to recall that he got some PK time in Stockton as well, and a shot at some of those minutes could go a long way to getting him his NHL taste.