FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2018: #10 Morgan Klimchuk

Way, way back in 1976 the Atlanta Flames drafted Kent Nilsson, who became a very good National Hockey League player. At the 1985 NHL Draft, Nilsson was flipped to the Minnesota North Stars in exchanged for a pair of second round picks – one was used to select Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk became a very good NHLer and was traded to Dallas in 1995 for Jarome Iginla (and Corey Millen). Iginla also became a very good NHLer before being traded to Pittsburgh in 2013 for a package that included a first round pick that was used to select Morgan Klimchuk.

A former Western Hockey League two-way standout, Klimchuk played his first NHL game in 2017-18 after quietly simmering in the minors for a couple seasons. It’s probably safe to say he won’t have the NHL impact of Nilsson, Nieuwendyk or Iginla, but he still has the potential to nudge his way onto the Flames roster.

How did we get here?

A product of Calgary’s minor hockey system – he played for Shaw Meadows – Klimchuk was a standout for the Bisons and Buffaloes and was selected fifth overall by the Regina Pats in the 2010 Western Hockey League’s Bantam Draft.

In two years in the WHL prior to the NHL Draft, Klimchuk had 36 points in 67 games (as a rookie in 2011-12) and 76 points in 72 games (in 2012-13). He was used in a two-way role primarily, but was smart enough away from the puck to create opportunities for his team offensively. Ranked 25th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, he was selected 28th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

In his two junior seasons after the draft, Klimchuk continued to ratchet up his offensive output. Playing much the same role as he did prior to his drafting, he had 74 points in 57 games and 80 points in 60 games. His final year of junior saw him traded to the Brandon Wheat Kings at the trade deadline.

Klimchuk’s first two pro seasons went very differently. His first season saw him hit hard by the American Hockey League’s learning curve and essentially have to learn things from the ground up, putting up 10 points in 55 games while playing primarily in the bottom six. But he turned a corner late in the season and seemed to find his confidence with the puck. That continued into his second season (2016-17), when he had 43 points in 66 games and was one of Stockton’s most consistent 200-foot players.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

The 2017-18 season was the third of Klimchuk’s entry-level deal.

Games played Goals Assists Points
62 19 21 40

After his breakout in 2016-17, Klimchuk basically had the exact same season in 2017-18. He was used in all situations. He played a strong, consistent game. He even earned a quick NHL call-up, playing 7:25 on the fourth line against Boston in February. Having been in attendance, I can say that he wasn’t terribly noticeable – which is a good thing for a fourth liner to be.

The only Heat player with more points was Andrew Mangiapane, though he missed time due to call-ups and a shoulder injury. But Klimchuk compares favourably to Spencer Foo production-wise and is a year younger.

For a deeper look into Klimchuk’s numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup here.

Those in the know

Stockton Heat head coach Cail MacLean broke down Klimchuk’s on-ice performance and what he needs to do to chart a path to full-time NHL duty.

I think he’s a really mature player. He has a good sense of the overall game as a pro. One thing he brings to the table that makes him stand out is speed. He has a lot of speed and so he’s starting to put all that together and making him into a pro that’s going to be able to play at that NHL pace, and now it’s a matter of finding a way to differentiate himself to crack that lineup in Calgary… I think he does a lot of things well, and now his job is going to be to relax into it and show those intangibles that make him a really good AHL player and getting good production at this level.

Our Heat correspondent, Stockton’s Finest, also provided his assessment of Klimchuk’s game.

This is a player who is not flashy, but always tends to have a point at the end of the game that no one remembers. He was second on the team with 40 points (19-21) but ask me to tell you his season highlight and I could not remember a single “wow” moment that stood out.

On the horizon

Klimchuk signed a one-year deal with the Flames, so he’ll be back for 2018-19 and hoping to build upon his one-game NHL career. He’s a dark horse for an NHL job on the fourth line. He’s a good two-way player with speed and good hockey IQ, but he’s probably competing with Dillon Dube for bottom six work and Dube might have a bit more jam and grit to his game. Worst case, Klimchuk will be a rock solid AHL winger who can play in every situation. His lack of flash likely works against him getting a lot of NHL attention, but he’s the type of player coaches love because he’s so smart and responsible.

#20 – Martin Pospisil #19 – Demetrios Koumontzis
#18 – Emilio Pettersen #17 – Filip Sveningsson
#16 – Milos Roman #15 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy
#14 – D’Artagnan Joly #13 – Adam Ruzicka
#12 – Linus Lindstrom #11 – Glenn Gawdin


  • BlueMoonNigel

    From Pike’s profile, Klimchuk sounds like an almost perfect fit to be a useful 4th liner, so why am I not more excited about this? Maybe it is because he has marinated in the AHL for three full seasons and still he isn’t banging on the door in Calgary threatening to separate it from its hinges. Has he become the new Wortherspoon?

    The other side of the coin is that younger players have bypassed Klimchuck, so Morgan only being a 10th ranked prospect after 3 AHL seasons is a testament to the teams stockpile of very talented and exciting youth.

    I have to think that this is a make it or break it year for Klimchuk in the Flames org. If he fails to make the big team out of training camp and fails to earn a promotion to Calgary during the season–even as an injury replacement– it might be best for both the player and org to part ways.

    • The Doctor

      I think he’s a bit like Wotherspoon 2.0. Just a victim of timing and circumstances. Some guys get lucky that way, some guys get the short end of the stick.

  • Skylardog

    He would make a perfect LWer for Backs and Fro in a role as the best shutdown line in the NHL. That would leave our best offensive guys on the other 3 lines to go out and pot a pile of goals.

  • TurkeyLips

    If Mangiapane recovers adequately from his shoulder injury, the chance of Klimchuk overcoming him and Dube or even Hathaway and Foo are relatively slim.

    The 2013 NHL draft had a decent top 10 with Lindholm (#5) and Monahan (#6), but that falloff was quite steep – Lazar (#17), Poirer (#22), Shinkaruk (#24), Klimchuk (#28) – cannot say there was no effort to land something sweet.

  • brodiegio4life

    Could definitely see him playing on the 4th line, if you need a younger guy to fill a spot on the 4th line i’d say he’s more of a fit than the more offensive Mangiapane and Foo. However with Lazar and Hathaway presumably ahead of him on the organizations depth chart, and Dube turning pro too it’ll be hard for him to crack the lineup unless there’s some injuries.

    In saying that, I would love to see him get a chance for full time duty on the 4th line.

    PS: The Iginla trade was just so so bad, so was the JBo trade. Mark Cundari? Seriously? SMH

    • Baalzamon

      Could definitely see him playing on the 4th line, if you need a younger guy to fill a spot on the 4th line i’d say he’s more of a fit than the more offensive Mangiapane and Foo.

      That depends on who the other two forwards are. Would you still say that if he was in line to play with Jankowski and Czarnik?

      • brodiegio4life

        that is a fair point, I realized that after I posted (no edit button). I’m so used to the flames having useless anchors on the 4th line, but now that there’s actual talent there it wouldn’t be so bad to have younger offensive players there.

        • HAL MacInnis

          About the “no edit button”… sometimes, just being able to preview a comment, before submitting it, can catch a few mistakes. Maybe we could get a “preview button” if the edit button feature is proving too difficult?

          • canadian1967

            Right? The problem is that most of us do our posting while “hiding” at work on our phones and who has the patience to try to look at it on that platform? No worries on the PC though.

    • Avalain

      Re: the Iginla trade. Do you remember when we were all upset because Iggy went to Pittsburgh because if he had chosen Boston we would have gotten a better return in Bartkowski? Yeah, that Iginla trade was basically doomed either way.

      • Cfan in Van

        That was going to be Bart and Bostons 1st round pick though. At least we’d be able to pick our own lotto number, instead of being handed Agostino.

        But yeah, we found out Bart was a rotten apple in the long run. The first round pick could have been something… Or not.

        • piscera.infada

          Boston’s pick was one pick later than Pittsburgh’s pick I’m actuality. Further, out of the four prospects involved (Bartkowski and Khocklachev, versus Agostino and Hanowski), Agostino and Bartkowski were the best of the bunch.

          The trade was poor, but not because of the Boston/Pittsburgh thing per se.

    • FL?MES

      He signed a one year contract which surprised me. I though he would opt out and test the waters with another organization. Unless there wasn’t interest, in which case things don’t look great for him and it will be his last kick at the can. I always quietly rooted for him as a dark horse. Best of luck to him this year.

      • radiomonkey

        He was an RFA with no arbitration rights. He can’t opt out unless he doesn’t want to play in North America anymore. Had to take what the team offered, which wasn’t much.

  • MDG1600

    so I see lots of chatter on FN about Foo cracking the line up and crickets on Klimchuk. Turns out Klimchuk is a year younger with the same stat line. So is Foo over rated or Klimchuk underrated?

    • Kevin R

      Neither, Foo was more touted being a free agent that many teams were trying to sign him. Was never too excited with Klimchuk from the get go, neither Porrier. Personally I think Feaster should have combined those two picks & tried to get into the top 10-12, as that draft was being hyped as being such a deep draft. But we hear that every draft.

      • The Doctor

        To be fair, Klimchuk has shown much better progression and gotten much better reviews than Poirier. The only real knock on Klimchuk was his first year struggles in the AHL. But he overcame that. And nobody ever raved about Poirier’s two-way play.

  • TradeBrodie

    I hope Klimchuck gets a legitimate shot to prove he can play here. I coached against this kid in bantam and in his sub draft year. Kid is unreal. Even better human. I think his long tenure in the A should benefit him. I agree with another earlier post that he would be great with Backlund.

  • Garry T

    Klimchuk ….Speed, desire, high hockey IQ. 200 foot player. Needs to be on our main roster. Hathaway one dimensional, should not have been signed again. Dube needs a year in the AHL to learn the ropes. Shinkaruk has been more or less forgotten. Klimchuck in the lineup, 4th. Line, Foo and Robinson
    Spares up top. Get ready Kimmer, this is your year.

    • FL?MES

      I’d be ok if they used him as an extra forward, just as long as they made sure to slot him into the lineup somewhat regularly. It would probably be easier for him to adjust to the NHL and less tiring as opposed to being bounced up and down from Stockton. Then if he proves he is capable it may give Tre more player options closer to the trade deadline. Never a bad thing to know exactly what you have in a player.

      On that note, I would prefer to have capable extras in the lineup who can sub guys out when they’re playing well, injured, or could use a rest. A healthy and rested lineup would be a good thing down the stretch.

  • BendingCorners

    Interesting article on The Athletic today about forechecking and the impact on opposition controlled exits and additional “goals for” for the forechecking team. Forechecking reduces opposition controlled exits from 57% to 17%; every 2% of that produces additional 8 goals over the course of a season. Last year TBL ranked first – their opposition executed controlled exits only 35% of the time. LAK were 10th at 40% and the Flames were dead last at 46%. Imagine what an extra 24 goals (at 10th) or 40 goals (at 1st) would have meant for the Flames’ season. Hopefully Peters pushes them to do this. In the words of the immortal Gilbert Perrault: “Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck”.

  • Heeeeeere's Johnny!

    Off topic: just finished reading an article on the Athletic that was a statistical analysis of how well teams forecheck. Teams were ranked based on % of times their opponents exited their zone with possession. The Flames were the worst team in the league … allowing 46% exit with possession. Tampa was best at 35%. Looks like something that needs to be corrected in the systems … new coach … new hope.

  • SgtRoadBlock

    it’s hard to say what any rookies is going to do when we never give them a try.. Cause we keep signing 30 year old ufa…
    Play the Kids like most of the other NHL teams do.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      The Brouwer buyout has certainly created a spot for a youngster, but Stone, Kulak and Andersson are three men vying for seats on a bicycle built for two. Can’t see Kulak benefiting by being in the popcorn gallery every game night, and Andersson has apparently outgrown Stockton. $3.5M for a 7th defenceman simply won’t happen. Trade Stone or bust!

      • FL?MES

        The NHL has changed. Stone has little value and probably cannot be traded with salary retained. Stone could be our next Brouwer.

        Seriously, if you were a GM why would you want Stone? He doesn’t fit on our roster and I doubt he fits on anyone else’s roster.

        • piscera.infada

          Seriously, if you were a GM why would you want Stone?

          Because GMs routinely trade for worse defensemen. Stone’s not great, but he’s a year removed from routinely playing a top-4 role. Now, that doesn’t make him a top-4 defenseman in itself, but I highly doubt 30 other GMs universally believe that.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          I do think Stone has value to many other clubs who seek a capable veteran to fill out their backend and to bring a measure of leadership to their dressing room. To move Stone would require the Flames to eat salary and the return would be at best a 3rd or 4th rounder. Moreover, you know if the club is in the thick of it as the TDL approaches, they will likely try and acquire a veteran defenceman–a Stone clone–for the playoff run.

          That being the case, Stone is not a good fit for Cal as there are younger alternatives and his contract, bad at the time it was signed, looks much worse today. Nothing against Stone because he does add some much-needed grit to the club, but he is not the right fit for this edition of the Flames.

        • RedMile

          Stone is able to be traded. Obviously his value is not that high but there are plenty of teams that would want an older defensively responsible dman with a decent shot. He had 36 pts 3 years ago in Arizona… not even that bad for what he his.