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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: Morgan Klimchuk

As the only remaining 2013 first round pick to have not played an NHL game before this season, Morgan Klimchuk has been waiting in the wings for a long time. He only got a minor taste in the NHL this season, but will he be back for more?

Background

Klimchuk developed a reputation in the WHL as one of the more reliable and steady players. Two strong seasons in Regina saw him enter the 2013 draft as a projected first round pick. With three first round picks that year, the Flames used their 28th overall selection on the Pats winger. That pick was traded to Calgary by the Penguins, forever linking Klimchuk to Jarome Iginla.

His final two junior years saw him emerge as one of the WHL’s hot commodities. An injury shortened 2013-14 saw him finish third in Regina scoring despite missing 15 games. The next season, Klimchuk was sent to the Brandon Wheat Kings for a potential Memorial Cup run. He picked up 50 points in 33 games, but his playoff aspirations were cut short due to injury.

Despite a strong junior career, his pro debut did not go as well. Klimchuk found himself buried in the rotation during his first year in Stockton, playing 55 games but only picking up nine measly points. It wasn’t a great sign for the young winger, but there was still plenty of runway to develop.

His next season was much better, fast-tracking the long term assessment people made after his rookie year. Klimchuk exploded out of the gates, nearly doubling his previous year’s production in the first two months of the year and working his way back into the prospect conversation.

2017-18 story

Klimchuk started the season on Stockton’s second line, but eventually worked his way to the top as Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane (in bursts), Garnet Hathaway, and Marek Hrivik found their way to the NHL (or got injured). He was a jack of all trades, master of none type player. He wasn’t really exciting or dazzling, but didn’t really make many mistakes either. His highlight of the year was certainly getting an NHL game in, where he played fourth line minutes against the Boston Bruins and was sent down afterwards.

The numbers

GP G A P Primary points 5v5 Points 5v5 Primary points NHLe
AHL 62 19 21 40 33 23 19 24.86

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Klimchuk was a primary point monster, a role that was kind of dropped on his shoulders when everyone else left to the NHL. He was one of the better 5v5 players on the club, finishing second behind Andrew Mangiapane in 5v5 points and 5v5 primary points for forwards.

There are concerns, however. Klimchuk didn’t really have much of an improvement from last season (66-19-24-43, 31 primary points, 29 5v5 points, 22 5v5 primary points in 2016-17), as you can see in the first chart. He was rarely better from a points production standpoint than last year, and never really cracked 30 NHLe, a pretty troubling sign. Given the leap from his first AHL season to the next, I think it would be reasonable to expect a slight bump in production, but nothing really came of it. Klimchuk actually shot less than he did last season, which is also pretty concerning.

Some of that makes sense though. Klimchuk is more of a 200-foot player than a scoring threat. As stated earlier, he’s not a guy who will blow the doors down. His task this year was to become a bit more polished and refined defensively. If his offence had to suffer a bit, so be it. The Heat were more reliant on Mangiapane and the defence as offensive outlets, so Klimchuk got to focus on the defensive side of things.

His one game played in Calgary saw him finish with a 58.33 CF%, technically making him the corsi leader for the Flames. Not entirely significant, but that’s pretty neat.

The future

Klimchuk is one of the Stockton Heat veterans most likely to receive a second contract. He’s rounded out his game to become a reliable 200-foot option, something that could prove handy in the bottom six. Never getting a shot at proving himself in the NHL also factors in, as the Flames probably feel that they owe him a chance in the big league.

I think of him as a poor man’s Michael Frolik: not going to get a lot of offence going, but certainly a very reliable two-way player that can be trusted to be safe and responsible. If he can do that on the fourth line next year with Drew Shore, perhaps the Flames have two shutdown lines. That’s a good setup to have.

But that’s all contingent on him making it. Klimchuk has a lot of competition ahead of him for a roster spot, and he’s not necessarily the most impressive player auditioning. His skill set at the NHL level is likely limited to bottom six defensive winger, whereas players like Mangiapane and Spencer Foo might have more upside. Klimchuk’s not going to light the lamp very often at the NHL level, which is probably not what the team that needs scorers is looking for. He could be handy, but with limited spots and a lower ceiling, he’s got some work ahead of him.

Previously

Hunter Shinkaruk | Spencer Foo | Rasmus Andersson | Tyler Wotherspoon | Oliver Kylington | Josh Healey & Adam Ollas Mattsson | Mitchell Mattson | Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov

    • MDG1600

      What is the “correct role” you speak of? He played 1st and 2nd line in Stockton. It is up to the player to make things happen in the AHL and at training camp and earn his chance. Jankowski did it. Hathaway did it. Kulak did it. Players need to earn their roles, they aren’t just gifted to them.

      • freethe flames

        When a player is brought up to the show they should be looked at in a role the team see’s them at. If Klimchuk is seen as 200 ft player rather than a 4th line energy guy then he should have been played in that role. A better example for me is Mangiapane; I don’t see him as a 4th line energy guy/checker yet when he was called up that is the role he was given. Many fans here were disappointed in his performance as he is supposed to be an O guy. Foo on the other hand in his call up was allowed to an O guy and not forced to play with Stajan and Brouwer; that is what I mean by being in the right role. So in Klimchuk’s case I would like to see him play with Backs in the preseason. Give Tkachuk a chance to play in his next role which is more offensive in nature. No one says gift them anything. I have no idea if Klimchuk or anyone else has what it takes to make the next step but it much harder to show your skills if you only get a dew shifts and they are with guys like Brouwer or Stajan.

        • Korcan

          I dont think Klimchuk has the offensive upside to be more than a 4th (maybe 3rd) liner. The prospect I hope they play alongside Backlund is Dube. He may prove to Backs replacement in a couple of years. If Klimchuk ever makes the team, I see him predominantly used on the 4th line with potential to be bumped up to 3rd in the event of an injury.

      • freethe flames

        Further to this your discussion on Janko and Kulak prove my point, Janko was brought up to be secondary scoring and he was given opportunity to do so; he was not asked to be a shut down center or the top center. Kulak was brought up be the 5th/6th D he was not asked to be Bobby Orr or Mark Gio. Hathaway was asked to be something he was not and while he had some early success in the end he struggled to live up to the position of a secondary scorer. So thanks for supporting my point.

  • Off the wall

    I’m curious to see how Cail Maclean handles our prospects this coming season.

    I really like him as a coach and feel more confident with our younger players under his tutelage.

    Some may want the biggest, flashier players, but it’s guys who play a smart 200 foot game that help you win games.

    I’m not hung up on his NHLe, benchmarks a required to assess, however it’s not a perfect prediction of success or failure.

  • cjc

    I think it’s certain that he’s offered another contract, unless they package him for someone else. It makes a lot of sense to have him on the fourth line – he is not a guy expected to put up big points, he could spell off Brouwer if Brouwer isn’t bought out and he persevered after his rough AHL rookie season. I hope he has a strong camp and earns a spot.

    • freethe flames

      Foo is even older. I have said many times I see them as late bloomers and are quickly becoming tweeners and I would sign all three of them to deals this year. They can help build a winning program in Stockton and help the 3 newbies transition to the pros. But you are probably right that there chances of making it are slim. Goes to show the value of late round first round draft picks; it’s very easy to over value them.

  • Stockton's Finest

    Klimchuk is the type of player who you don’t realize is on the ice, but at the end of the game he has 2 points. Not flashy but steady. Is he ready for Calgary? Not yet. He needs to come into Stockton with a huge chip on his shoulder and prove he belongs. Maybe a contract like Lomberg got; 2-year two-way for $800K. Lomberg’s is something like $710K and Klimchuk deserves more than him.

  • Garry T

    Morgan, the Flames know you are good defensively. Tell them up front you would like to go out in camp and show them what you can do offensively.
    Focus and make the most of every opportunity.

  • Squishin

    For the record, I like this player, and I definitely don’t think we’ve seen his ceiling yet.

    However, he didn’t look good in the one Flames game he played. Corsi be damned; he looked slow, out of place, and too weak on his skates. I think that if he works his tail off in the next season or two, he may be a reliable 4th-liner. Those of you slotting him in with Backlund and Frolik for next season have some re-thinking to do.

  • Stockton's Finest

    BTW, it is very interesting that Klimchuk was a scratch the last 3 games of the season while the Heat were chasing the playoffs. And no he was not hurt.

  • freethe flames

    I just read an article saying that the Penguins are looking to move Rust; should the Flames be interested?( I had actually said I thought b/c of cap issues they may need to move on from him)