The 2017-18 hockey season is winding down in a lot of leagues and it’s a bit natural to let our collective mind drift to 2018-19. Next season carries with it a bit of excitement, as there are several prominent Calgary Flames prospects potentially turning pro in the fall.
Here’s a quick snapshot at the nine Flames prospects that could be going pro.
Definitely going pro
G Nick Schneider
Schneider is currently playing his overage year with the Calgary Hitmen, burning the first year of his entry-level deal. He’ll be 21 next season and aging out of junior, and presumably he ends up in Kansas City of the ECHL due to the goaltender logjam the Flames are working themselves through.
C Glenn Gawdin
Gawdin was signed in the fall, but since he’s an overager in junior (with Swift Current) he’s burning the first year of his deal this season. Like Schneider, he’ll be 21 next season and a pro by default. The current WHL leading scorer will get a good shot in Stockton, which is lean on both right-shooting forwards and strong two-way centers.
RW Zach Fischer
Fischer was drafted by the Flames last June and so they hold onto his NHL rights for two years. He’ll be 21 next season and so he’ll have to go pro, but the Flames don’t necessarily need to sign him to a deal yet. He could go the Adam Ollas Mattsson route and sign an American Hockey League deal to suss out if he’s good enough for the real thing.
Almost definitely going pro
D Juuso Valimaki
By virtue of his October 1998 birthday, Valimaki will be 19 next season based on his “CBA age” (age on Sept. 15) but 20 according to the Canadian Hockey League’s agreements with the AHL and NHL. As such, he’ll be able to play in the WHL or the AHL. Based on his strong performances with Tri-City this season, he seems a safe bet to head to Stockton.
C/RW Matthew Phillips
Phillips will burn the first year of his entry-level contract regardless of where he plays next season. He’ll be 20, so he’ll either be an overager in the Dub or a rookie in the AHL. Considering he’s scored over 100 points this season – and could hit 50 goals for the second year in a row – it seems an inevitability that he’ll go pro.
C/LW Dillon Dube
Dube’s in the same situation as Phillips. He’ll be in the first year of his entry-level deal either way. He’ll be 20 and seems a safe bet to be in Stockton next season given his status as a two-time World Junior medalist and WHL star.
Potentially going pro
D Adam Fox
Fox is in an interesting situation. He’s finishing up his sophomore NCAA season this month and unless he leaves school early the Flames retain his rights through Aug. 15 of his senior year. But Harvard’s not a stellar team this season and looks to lose some key players after this year – among them starting goaltender Merrick Madsen and star player Ryan Donato – and it’ll be a challenge for their incoming freshmen to fill the void.
There’s very little Fox has left to achieve at the college level, and it’ll be difficult for the Crimson to challenge for an NCAA crown before his collegiate career ends. He could sign as early as next week depending how Harvard does in their conference tournament and given there’s always a little bit of anxiety about high-end college players signing, the Flames might be happy to get him under contract promptly.
RW Eetu Tuulola
After one season in the WHL Tuulola was brought back to Finland by his parent club, HPK. He’s performed well there, hinting he might be able to be a steady pro contributor. He has a contract with HPK through 2019-20, but because there’s a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association the possibility exists that the Flames could sign him and effectively buy out the remainder of his contract. The Flames retain his rights through Jun. 1, 2020, so there’s no huge rush to sign him if he’s getting regular reps with HPK.
C Linus Lindstrom
Lindstrom’s finishing off his second full pro season with Skelleftea AIK and his contractual status is a bit unclear right now. He hasn’t scored a ton, but has played in a secondary role because he’s a teenager learning the pro game. Like with Tuulola, the Flames retain Lindstrom’s rights through Jun. 1, 2020 and there’s a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Swedish Ice Hockey Association. The Flames don’t have a ton of natural centers in their system and, given Lindstrom’s experience and success relative to his age in Sweden, he could be a fit in Stockton.