Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports

The slow-cooker: The Flames embrace the long development path

Since Brad Treliving became general manager of the Calgary Flames in April 2014, the hockey club has graduated several young players into the National Hockey League level. Some of the young graduates were slam dunks: Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk jumped into the NHL their first seasons after being drafted, and Johnny Gaudreau went straight onto the Flames roster the October after originally signing.

But plenty of teams are able to put freshly minted top prospects into the NHL with regularity. The thing that’s become a focus under Treliving – and as seen through internal investments in things like skating coaches, conditioning coaches at the NHL and AHL levels, and multiple development coaches – is the development of players with longer runways into useful depth pieces.

Rather than pushing these types of players immediately into the NHL – as was frequently done under the Feaster regime, probably best typified by Roman Horak – Treliving’s hockey operations group has seemingly embraced what’s become known as the “Detroit model.” Instead of a quick deep-fry and a shove into the big leagues, the Flames have embraced the “slow-cooker.”

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Development at a glance

If you take a look at the current Flames roster, it’s an interesting mix:

  • 10 players drafted and developed by the organization (Brodie, Backlund, Gaudreau, Tkachuk, Monahan, Kulak, Jankowski, Ferland, Mangiapane and Bennett)
  • 3 players signed as undrafted free agents and developed by the organization (Giordano, Hathaway and Rittich)
  • 6 players acquired via trade (Stajan, Lazar, Hamonic, Stone, Hamilton and Smith)
  • 6 players acquired via free agency (Brouwer, Bartkowski, Jagr, Versteeg, Hrivik and Frolik)

From an asset management perspective, it’s definitely preferable to develop your own depth players than to acquire them from outside. If you’re relying on free agency for depth, you’re likely going to have to overpay for useful depth players and hurt your team’s salary cap situation. If you’re relying on trades to back-fill the roster, you’re likely again to overpay. All due respect to the Michael Stones, Curtis Lazars and Troy Brouwers of the world, but having a bevy of internal options would have been cheaper (acquisition-wise) than those gentlemen.

That said, if the prior organizational motto was “always earned, never given,” the current motto seems to be “we’re not going to give it to you, you’re going to have to take it.” This winter may be the best example of a handful of young players grabbing the reins of an opportunity when another player faltered.

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Four graduates from different paths

It’s definitely too early to say whether Andrew Mangiapane or Marek Hrivik are full-time NHLers. But four useful depth pieces have been graduated from the farm system and taken roles that would otherwise have been filled by players with a higher acquisition cost.

  • Third line center Mark Jankowski: drafted on June 22, 2012, signed on March 30, 2016.
  • Third pairing defenseman Brett Kulak: drafted on June 23, 2012, signed on March 18, 2014.
  • Third line winger Garnet Hathaway: signed to an AHL deal on March 14, 2014 and to an NHL deal on April 13, 2015.
  • Backup goaltender David Rittich: signed on June 10, 2016.

Jankowski was a, uh, “controversial” first round selection who spent four years in college gradually improving before turning pro and establishing himself in his first AHL campaign as perhaps the organization’s best pro prospect. He dipped his toe into the NHL pool with a one-week recall last November, then effectively booted the door in this fall with a superb training camp and an excellent start to his second pro season in the AHL.

A lot of people forget that Kulak was actually behind Ryan Culkin on the depth chart, to the point where Kulak had to go to the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles to get ice time. Since that rather inauspicious start, Kulak has pushed all the way through the AHL ranks and up into the NHL level. He has gotten every type of NHL recall: the “Game 82, gotta keep the veterans healthy” recall in 2014-15, the “T.J. Brodie is injured so let’s try you out for two weeks” recall to begin 2015-16, and the “we’re carrying eight defensemen because Nick Grossmann is here for cap reasons” recall to begin 2016-17. Finally this season his waiver exemption expired and, after seeing his progression over three pro seasons in the NHL and AHL, the Flames felt confident giving him a full-time try.

Never drafted by an NHL team, Hathaway was signed as an AHL depth option following his senior season with Brown University. He’s been in the pro system long enough that he played for the Abbotsford Heat when he joined the organization. He established himself as a half-a-point-per-game AHLer and the Flames rewarded him with an entry-level contract. He continued his AHL scoring pace and got a cup of coffee in the NHL, establishing himself as a tweener with a physical edge over a couple seasons of call-ups. This season he cleared waivers and was sent to the farm, only to discover a scoring touch that he didn’t even really have in college.

Rittich was signed as a European free agent after several seasons playing in Czech pro hockey. Initially brought in to be a veteran tandem partner for Jon Gillies in Stockton, he ended up posting better numbers than his teammate in each of his two seasons in the AHL.

Youngsters building confidence (and taking jobs)

The encouraging thing about the four players who graduated this year is that they effectively forced their ways onto the NHL roster. Jankowski performed well enough that the club waived Tanner Glass to make room for him. Kulak supplanted Matt Bartkowski as the sixth defenseman. Hathaway’s scoring touch got him the recall over players like Hunter Shinkaruk, Morgan Klimchuk and Emile Poirier when Versteeg was injured. Rittich’s strong play in Stockton earned him Eddie Lack’s job, and his performance in Calgary likely contributed to the team’s decision to trade Lack to New Jersey.

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The slow burn development process seems to have engendered confidence in the players as they get exposed to the NHL level and have the opportunity to absorb experience and adjust their games to the next level. Last month, Kulak shared a few of his thoughts on his road to the NHL.

“Just the more games you play here the more experience you get,” said Kulak. “The more you learn from being around the guys on this team and playing against the guys on the other team. So I think that’s helped me a lot along the way here, now to finally be getting my feet under me a little bit, it’s good to have a foundation here now and now I can just continue to keep building on little things to improve me as a player and I think for me it’s just the maturity in my game that’s come a lot. It’s kind of the less is more type thing in this league for me right now.”

The thing that’s consistently mentioned by the Flames coaching staff about the young recalls: they’re playing the game the right way – hard on pucks and playing a smart two-way style – and they’re building confidence. More importantly, they’re providing an upgrade over the players they’re replacing and they’re just beginning to contribute to the team’s success.

    • freethe flames

      At some point he will but he does not need to for tomorrow. Even better would be that we could add to that 4th line. Think about our current crop of LW; who does he replace? Johnny; no. Tkachuk; no. Bennett; no. Can one of these guys play RW; Tkachuk probably but Brouwer has been okay on that line(boy it pains me to say that). Can Mangiapane play RW? I don’t know. A line of Mangiapane/Hrivik/Hathaway might be interesting at this level. I still think we are a forward or two away from being more effective. Brouwer has been better of late the last 6 weeks he has not been the Burden he once was. Stajan has looked better since being put out there with kids with some speed. Lazar has been at least effective since this line was created; he seems to have NHL speed but I wonder about his hockey IQ and skill set.

      • Stockton's Finest

        When Hrivik centered Hathaway and Mangiapane in Stockton earlier this year, the chemistry was off. I would rather Mangiapane play with his original linemates; Jankowski and Hathaway.

        • BendingCorners

          If Brouwer’s knee bothers him enough he may have to sit against Carolina, in which case would could see Bennett move up and Mango join the third line. That would give Hrivik a game too.

    • Atomic Clown

      The main issue is honestly Lazar. He deserves even less of a roster spot than Brouwer and Stajan at this point. Once Frolik comes back, he’s obviously going back on the 3M line. Once Versteeg comes back, I’m not too sure what the flames will do, as outside of the 4th line, all other lines are clicking and entrenched.

      Do you move Hathaway off Jankowski’s line to make room for Mangiapane? Or do you take Bennett off of that line to reunite Stockton’s first line. Come February, the flames will need to make some tough decisions. Hathaway and Hrivik will probably be sent down first

      • freethe flames

        I’m not sure Hathaway would go unclaimed at this point. He would be a good 4th line RW option. I am not expecting Versteeg back and even if he does make it back this year his role might be very limited. So lets say FRolik is back in 3 weeks; what would the line up look like? Johnny/Monny/Ferland, Tkachuk/Backs/do you move Brouwer or do you start Frolik back with a slightly lesser role? So lets say you immediately reunite the 3m line. Now do you keep Hathaway on a line with Janko and Bennett or does Brouwer take that spot or do you move Mangiapane up? It’s a good problem to have. Would a line of Mangiapne/Stajan/Brouwer be better than with Lazar ahead of Brouwer. I’m not saying Lazar has been great but his speed has helped the 4th line be better and he also has been getting some PK time.

        • BendingCorners

          I doubt Versteeg returns this year also but if he does, and if BT acquires a RHS RW at the TDL, do we see a 4th line of Frolik-Stajan/Hrivik-Versteeg? That could be useful and certainly would let them spend most of their ice time on special teams, easing their way back.

        • everton fc

          Thought I admit, at this late hour, I skimmed the comments… More than a few are amazing to me.

          Why would anyone move Hathaway off Jankowski’s line, to “make room” for Mangiapane? Hathaway’s done nothing but help that line, and Mangiapane, while he’s looked okay up here, has done nothing to usurp any Flame from their current spot. Mangiapane will get his chance. Either through injuries this year, or making the team out of camp, next year. Anyone that think Hathaway will be sent down is blind. Hathaway, like Jankowski, will never see minor league hockey again. He is so much more than guys like Colborne, Jooris, and/or Bouma. So, to clarify here; the reason Mangiapane will be sent down before Hathaway, is Hathaway has proven he is an everyday, regular NHL player, who gives 100% every shift, every game. Mangiapane is still learning the ropes… But he’s close…

          I was against the Jankowski pick. But I continue to compare him to Girgensons, and think how bad we could have missed the mark .

          As for Kylington. I’ve never been over-the-top on Kylington. But imagine if he pans out as even a 5/6 defender? I still think Wotherspoon’s both closer, and presently more mature and therefore, way more reliable. At present. We shall see how things pan out.

          The only area we need to tweak is the 4th line. This fan would go with Mangiapane-Lazar-Brouwer, when Frolik returns. Seems Mangiapane and Lazar are developing some chemistry. Sadly – “truth-be-told” – Stajan is still better than Lazar. Neither scores, though – neither can. So, if Hrivik takes full charge of his opportunity – if he, Mangiapane and Lazar can score… What to do when Frolik comes back??

          Good challenges to have, at the moment, I’d not touch any of the top 3 lines, nor the defence. Rittich could be our next #1. He and Smith could go 1/1A for another 2-3 years, if Gillies and Parsons crap-out (Smith could be a 1A, at 38).

      • BendingCorners

        Mangiapane will be sent down before Hathaway I think. He has some nice moves and great instincts but this is his first callup so he will be sent down to continue improving with more minutes.
        If Jagr retires then Mangi might stick around until the Flames make a TDL pickup or till Versteeg returns but I’m guessing the trigger will be Frolik’s return.

      • Orrwasbest

        Line 1 JG/Mony/Chucky 2 Back/Frolik/Ferland 3/4Mang/Jan/Hath 3/4Bennet/Verst/(one of Brower/Staj/Lazar). Brodie/Hamilton Gio/Travis Kuk/Stone (although personally I think Anderson is better then both). This stop the powerplay shuffles that are going on now and gives us really a 3a and b line instead of 3/4

      • Stu Cazz

        Mangiapane played a full season in the AHL last year. I like how the Flames are developing him and playing him on the 4th line to progress that development. He does not need to move up on another line at this point…he is bringing speed and skill to that 4th line. Ditto Lazar…he is getting scoring chances with his speed and is working his tail off…not ready to give up on him yet.

      • Justthateasy

        Pardon me. I forgot this was Manj’s second year in the AHL. His numbers have improved every year for the past 5 years. That shows that he applies himself and gets better with time. If the other three lines are starting to gel and he has to stay on the 4th line, he may have to become The leader on that line.

    • Honkydonk

      There is a fine balance in creating a performing NHL player.. the trajectory requires attention paid to not only on skill and speed but also physically.

      The benefit of a season in the AHL or more is that you virtually have the whole week to focus on training, skill and speed.

      When in the NHL you don’t have the time to do that and recover and be game ready so again it is a balance and if you truly want a player to succeed that need some to be given consideration otherwise the player comes in with top 6 potential and never reaches that by playing bottom minutes and no special teams in addition to growth development.

      A lot of mentions about Kylington.. He is 20! And it is his first year of his entry level contract and he is in his 3rd year in the AHL.

      If you ask him he would say thank you flames as in set up to succeed

    • BalzacFlames

      He hasnt earned it yet and no one has lost their spot yet. Why make a change when they are rolling right now? Who do you move? Troy has been a beadt the last few games, and Hathaway brings an edge that Andrew does not posess. Infact Andrew looked like the worst flame forward against the Panthers i thought. Knocked off the puck easily..give him time to gain confidence on the 4th line and to play in his own zone..the rest will come.

  • OKG

    It’s all a reach. How was Bennett supposed to “take it away” from anyone centering Lazar, Injured Versteeg, Brouwer, Chiasson? How is Mangiapane supposed to “take it away” from someone feedig Stajan and Lazar? How is Hamilton ever going to “Take away” the top PP spot? Flames didn’t use their Farm under Feaster? What are Brodie, Ferland, Byron, Granlund, Baertschi?

    Sorry, I disagree with the premise of the article that Trelivig’s slow cpok methodology is “effeftive”. Kulak should have been our #4D three seasons ago. All “slow cooking” does is delay the inevitible.

    • OKG

      If you want to win… truly win… you need a leap of faith in talented players. Slow cooking is not what helps you win, it’s opportunity. Ferland on the top line. Kulak given consistent string of games. Jankowski finally put into the lineup. These things didn’t happen because we delayed them, they happened because talent. Look elsewhere… Brayden Schenn as #1C in STL, Braden Point as #2C in Tampa, Charlie McAvoy as #1D in Boston, etc, etc.

    • OKG

      Not to say development is not important. 100% development is important. But there is no reason Kylington, Andersson, Klimchuk, Mangiapane should not have more opportunity to date.

      • BendingCorners

        You might be a bit optimistic in your evaluations.
        Kylington still needs to work on positioning, puck-recovery and awareness.
        Andersson is probably ready for an extended look but there are no openings at present.
        Klimchuk is behind Mangiapane on the depth chart and I think will only ever be a 4th line winger, if he makes it at all.
        Mangiapane is here already and looks good but might need more seasoning in the A before he makes a permanent jump.
        All in all they mostly seem to be where they belong based on their current level of play, except for Andersson.

        • OKG

          Kylington needs to work on stuff? Plenty of quality nhlers need to work on stuff. Kylington is not only an NHL talent but he is losing skill slowing the pace of his game down for AHLers.

          Andersson is probably ready but there are no openings? And so you’re agreeing that “slow cooking” him is just delaying the inevitible? He will develop better in the NHL yet we’re burying him in the minors so we can play the unimpressive Hamonic and Stone, even though he could be better than both those guys as soon as the playoffs this year. Instead we won’t get Andersson as an NHL regular for years.
          Mangiapane is here already? He’s playing 4th line grinder minutes with Stajan and Lazar. This is not only wasting his ability to help the Flames win the cup(because he’s more offensively capable than Brouwer, for example) but actually just making his timeline to actually be achieving his potential be longer. He could be a 2nd liner right now, but now he will probably get sent back down the minute Frolik is healthy, with some lip service paid to how he “showed well”. It was the same **** with Jankowski last year.
          Klimchuk is behind Mangiapane… so? He’s the only player in the entire 2013 draft first round to not have an NHL game played. He has played well in the minors, and if he tops out as a 4th line winger remains to be seen. But we won’t know until we see it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t give a player an opportunity.

  • Lucky 13

    Some of my best meals have been in a slow cooker. My wife was so pleased with the last stew I made in it. It blended and balanced the right foods perfectly.

    However if you over-cook your meal, it becomes unpalatable. The secret is time and the right blend of spice and food.

    Given our recent call ups it’s evident that we are giving the proper time to our prospects.

    You can’t rush a slow cooker, it doesn’t matter what you do.
    I think we have created a great blend of prospects, players and veterans. Just enough spice to give it kick, but not overdoing it for the sake of the integrity of our team.

    However, when does it become over-cooking?

    To validly answer this question, you should always ask the appropriate questions first and foremost.
    Is this prospect better than what we currently have playing right now? Are they making the right adjustments in their game to be competitive day in and out for the grind of daily competitive NHL games? Is this what’s best for the player or for the team, or both?

    I’m no expert at judging what constitutes being ready. We make the knee- jerk reaction when things aren’t going well. I know I do.

    That’s not what a GM does though. They must evaluate each player based on current NHL injuries, the individuals progress and whether or not it’s in the best interest of the club or the long term.

    When you see 4 players on the roster that have made an impact with our big club, you can confirm that things are going really well.

    Next season will be even more interesting. We will all have our favourite prospects that we want to make the show. Players will have moved on, (Jagr, Stajan, possibly Versteeg and Brouwer)

    Will we see a group next season comprised of more prospects?
    Hard to say at this point, but I’m sure whatever happens, the slow cooker has been giving us a taste of good things to come!

  • class1div1

    Janko’s success was more a result of his coach in University ,than development in the AHL. He was playing the right way in college.All Huska had to do was give him some 1st line playtime.
    What is even more exciting is the fact that he may fill out a little more and be even stronger on puck.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Mango must be stocky because he rarely gets knocked down. He seems to have a Crosby-esque build which will serve him well. He makes things happen on every shift and with more offensively gifted line mates he will show his offense.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I’ve been in the wild for most of the games Mangiapane has played as a Flame so I have caught the games on the radio. In every game he has played, Wills has credited him with at least a shot on goal or a decent scoring chance. Not bad at all for his first stint in the NHL and having linemates who aren’t exactly deft scorers. He is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing prospects.

      • Carl the tooth

        I don’t agree blue moon . I’d actually like to see Klimchuck get a game .Mangiapane has been ok .decent position.but no intensity or energy. KlImchuck is full throttle and could play some ok as well as Score .

    • Mickey O

      Not sure I agree with you on that one JJF. I thought Mangiapani spent a lot of time on his butt last game. The kid has talent, there is no doubt. But he needs to get stronger on his feet.

  • Puckhead

    If Mangiapane can start getting points he is in a position where he could force the teams hand into keeping him up. Granted, the odds are against him being on the 4th line with limited limits but I’m rooting for him to step up and take a spot.

    • Alberta Ice

      Mangiapane has greatly improved the 4th line. I was hoping for more from Lazar. Why not give Mangiapane a chance with the power play unit? I would really like to see him with play with some of our better forward line players to see what he can add to the offense.

      • flames2015

        Why not give him a chance? Because for 1, we finally have the right personel on our powerplays. Our top players. 2nd, who would you displace in order to have Mangipane in there? What does that say to our guys? Our powerplay is finally clicking right now, and speciality teams are making a difference in the outcome of games. The kid has shown some flashes, but he only has 6 nhl games under his belt and zero points to his name at ths point. PP time should be earned. GG’s Brouwer infactuation aside.

  • Alberta Ice

    Jankowski should have been on this team from game one this year. He proved it at training camp. Will a Dube or a Phillips or some other prospect be given that chance if they impress next year at camp? I sure hope so.

    • MontanaMan

      Neither Phillips or Dube have a chance next year and it has nothing to do with the big club but has everything to do with neither are close to being ready. Dube needs at least a year in the AHL and Phillips is at least two years away. Opportunity is important but its equally important to be realistic.

      • Stu Cazz

        Under normal circumstances I would agree with your development strategy. But after watching Dube closely in Penticton and throughout trying camp he is a special player who see’s the ice so well beyond his years. Really smart and skilled enough to make the team next year….provided he has another great camp.

      • Carl the tooth

        But Dube would have madethe team this year, at least a 9 game trial if it wasn’t for Contracts and numbers. Another year .another wjc and the Captain of a gold winning team . To say he has no chance …. he already made a case to make the team .

        • MontanaMan

          I like Dube and think he as a future in the NHL but you are comparing him to juniors not NHL players, and there’s a massive difference. Making an immediate jump from the CHL to the NHL is for a very low percentage of players as they need to develop their skills as a pro in the AHL.

        • WillyWonka

          pure speculation, i don’t think there was any way Dube made the team this year – needs to ripen on the vine in Stockton and learn to play against grown men

  • Boring Flames Fan

    Sometimes I want to slow cook, but most of the time I eat toast.
    How come they don’t make a clear toaster, to tell you how toasted your toast is when it’s toasting?

    • Stockton's Finest

      Gillies looks good. The defense is playing much better than last night. Lines are so different tonight. Must be a Huska shake up.
      A different vibe than the last two games.

      • freethe flames

        How did the chaulk talk with Huska go? I know you plan on writing it tomorrow but I just wanted to know. Glad to hear Gillies is playing well so far.

        • Stockton's Finest

          Huska sent an assistant coach out. Only got one question in. But lots of audience participation. Total of about 8 questions. They totally snubbed Mrs. Finest. But we got a chance after to talk with someone who answered our questions. Some good insight. Answer tomorrow.

  • Arminius

    You say the Feaster regime was rushing players in but they did show a tremendous amount of sack to go against the hockey world and take Janko knowing he would be 5 years away. Respect

    • Stockton's Finest

      Free, I like Brandon. You can definitely tell he got his style while interning for Dave Mishkin from Tampa. There have been a couple of games this season that he didn’t call and the Heat faithful went bat $hit because we are used to Brandon. When they are on the road, I can imagine exactly what is taking place on the ice based on his call. The other guy (Chris Picher) fails to identify who has the puck, where the play is, and misses players’ names when they have the puck. He is an emotion-less bot while on the Mic. The questions he ask during post game, well, I would just say both Mrs. Finest and I could ask better questions. Here is an example that I heard last night when he was questioning Jon Gillies:
      “Where does this shutout rank amongst the 3 you have had this year and the ones you had last year?” Um….how about asking “What did the defense do differently tonight to help you see the puck better?”
      When Brandon has done post-game interviews (heard live on the Heat Facebook page after each game and archived there), he ask intelligent questions.
      I know Brandon gets excited. I know he screams a little. But the kid knows hockey (he is in mid-30’s) and when you talk with him, you can tell he loves this team. And when you know his background and where he learned his chops, you get to appreciate him when he is not there.

  • Chucky

    The problem is that some good prospects will not wait and the existing prospects have not proven themselves. The Fox situation is a classic example. If the Flames don’t move two of Hamilton, Hamonic , Stone or Anderson then there is no room for Fox until 2020/21. Fox is not going to sign and the Flames will have just lost a 3rd round draft pick for nothing. Tyler Wotherspoon is not even in the conversation and the Flames have not given him enough NHL time to get any value from a trade and yet he has not looked bad in the 30 games he has played. He is a RFA at the end of the season and considering he is having a good season in the AHL and fits in about 7th on the left defense depth chart there will be offers, kiss a 2nd rounder goodbye.
    Sometimes it makes sense to give players time above their head to test and or showcase them.

    • everton fc

      I think Wotherspoon’s very much in the conversation, in terms of what the organization talks about. He simply not in the Flamesnation conversation, as much. Big difference.

      Wotherspoon may be rewarded for his patience, like Hathaway was. That’s how I see it. Loyalty to the organization may prove to go a long way for these guys. See Jankowski. Hathaway. Kulak. Even Rittich.

    • BendingCorners

      Most draft picks turn out not to be good enough for the NHL. Drafting a guy that doesn’t work out isn’t a waste, it’s just part of the business. That includes guys that don’t sign after playing college in the US. Just a normal risk.
      Mitigating risk is something the Flames have done well, by scouting and developing players carefully.
      Fox is a guy who might not sign but also might not make it anyway; there is no such thing as a sure bet.
      Wotherspoon probably could play somewhere but the Flames don’t believe he has what they need. Maybe he steps in next year, maybe they keep him in Stockton, maybe they don’t qualify him and he goes somewhere else. But he is an RFA not a UFA so the Flames hild the hammer. Regardless, not a wasted pick, just part of the 70% that don’t work out.

    • freethe flames

      I am sure not any of us “know” if Fox has said he does not want to be part of this organization; it’s just speculation. I have no idea what his plans are; if like most Ivy league kids he finishes his education we have another year and half to worry about that. If he decides to leave early then he will become a Flame. If he has told Flames management he wants to play elsewhere then I am sure that BT is shrewd enough to get something back for him. If nothing else he is a valuable trade chip. We have heard for so long draft the best player available and trade or sign for need; I am still waiting for this team to address it’s need at RW. It does not need to be a known quantity but at least a higher end RW prospect.

      • Mickey O

        Burke was pretty clear in a recent interview how the Flames approach draft day. They have a master list and pick the highest player on the list no matter what. There’s also a few Do Not Draft guys in the mix. Burke also said if you want to argue about picks on draft day, you’re fired.

  • Mickey O

    A very good article, Pike. It is a great place to be in where the Flames have a lot of players that can play, but only so many spots. That is especially true on the back end, and shows Treliving’s reliance on the Detroit model.

    Some GM’s would have gone with the bottom pairing of Kulak – Andersson and not re-signed Stone. Kulak and Toned Ras “looked” ready, but what if they are not? Then you’re left scrambling with Bartkowski or Wotherspoon or Kylington on the bottom pairing.

    That’s not even factoring in the inevitable injuries that occur, especially on defence. I’m really high on Valimaki, I dare say he could play in the NHL next year. But the Flames want their prospects to hone their craft in the AHL. The team will make room for Fox, but he won’t make an immediate jump either.

    Stone probably won’t play the last year of his contract here, but Treliving went all in building an experienced defensive core this year. Slow and steady is Treliving’s motto, and it is the correct model to use in my opinion.