The Calgary Flames organization is enjoying some of its best depth ever. A young core, offseason lineup upgrades, and highly touted prospects are all reasons to be excited. These players come together wearing the Flaming C, but just where exactly do they come from?
To get a sense of the composition of the organization, I explored a few different geographical representations of the Calgary Flames: birthplace, current league, and current team. These metrics were chosen to see if they reveal anything about the Flames that might not be immediately obvious.
Where were they born?
Birthplace, a whimsical driving force of locker room rivalries, should actually give a good idea about where the Flames find their players. North American players make up over two thirds of the organization, with 41 of 60 players in total. The remaining 19 are all European-born from eight different countries.
The Flames are loaded with Canadians through and through. On the NHL roster, 13 players were born in Canada, and in Stockton there’s 14. There is no doubt that Canada is well-represented in the organization.
Sean Monahan and James Neal take the spotlight as Canadian forwards, with Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski not too far behind. Curtis Lazar completes the Canadian forward set for the Flames.
They had a big turnover in Canadian roles this offseason. Most notably, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, and Matt Stajan have all moved on from the Flames and found new teams in the Florida Panthers, Avangard Omsk of the KHL, and the Red Bull Munchen of the DEL, respectively.
Interestingly enough, prior to the Dougie Hamilton trade, the Flames often iced an all-Canadian defense corps in 2017-18 with Mark Giordano, Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Michael Stone, and Brett Kulak. Four of six Flames defensemen will still be Canadian in 2018-19 — five of seven, if Dalton Prout joins them — Noah Hanifin being the lone American, and hopefully a certain Swedish defenseman will join them. More on that later.
Mike Smith will be the Flames’ #1 goaltender for the second straight season. That’s Canadian 2014 Olympic gold medallist Mike Smith, in case anyone forgot.
In Stockton, Spencer Foo, Andrew Mangiapane, Anthony Peluso, Dillon Dube, Morgan Klimchuk, Matthew Phillips, Glenn Gawdin, Kerby Rychel (though born in California), and Alan Quine are all possible candidates to play in the Flames’ bottom six. Other players — most of whom are likely to spend the majority of their seasons in Stockton — include Tyler Graovac, Ryan Lomberg, Brett Pollock, Zach Fischer, and Josh Healey. The two Canadian goaltending prospects, Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider, fall behind their American counterparts in the depth charts.
Beyond the NHL and AHL level, only one Flames prospect is Canadian: D’Artagnan Joly. The last Canadian in the Flames’ system is Linden Vey, whose rights remain with them for one more season since they qualified him in 2017.
The American chapter of the Calgary Flames is a fairly limited one. Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Garnet Hathaway will be joined this season by Hanifin, Derek Ryan, and Austin Czarnik. Hanifin, brought in from the Hamilton trade, just signed a six-year, $29.7 million deal. Ryan and Czarnik present intriguing bottom six options for the Flames that will surely be revamped for 2018-19.
A similar tale is told in Stockton, with Buddy Robinson being the new American joining the goaltending duo of Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons. Elsewhere, the Flames have only have two remaining American prospects, both playing in the NCAA: Demetrios Koumontzis and Mitchell Mattson.
Sweden easily has the highest count at seven players, with Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm taking the reins in the Flames’ top six, Rasmus Andersson knocking at the door for a spot in the third pairing, and Oliver Kylington poised to be one of the best defensemen in the AHL this coming season. Prospects Linus Lindstrom and Filip Sveningsson are playing hockey in Sweden and former SHL defenseman Marcus Hogstrom will be playing in Stockton after signing a one-year, two-way contract earlier this summer.
The two Czech with the Flames are Michael Frolik and David Rittich, who both look to bounce back this coming season. Frolik did not seem like himself after returning from a broken jaw midway through the year, and Rittich had a rollercoaster of a season after taking big steps towards being the Flames’ relied-upon backup goaltender.
Three players in the Flames system come from Slovakia, all of whom share a common bond beyond their heritage. Adam Ruzicka was drafted in the fourth round in 2017, and Martin Pospisil and Milos Roman followed suit, both also selected in the fourth round in 2018.
Finland takes the prize this year for being the home of FlamesNation top ranked prospect Juuso Valimaki. Fellow countryman Eetu Tuulola — self proclaimed goal-scoring lover — completes the duo of Finnish-born prospects for the Flames.
From Russia, Dmitri Zavgorodniy and Rushan Rafikov make up the entire Russian presence in the system. Both were seventh round selections, Zavgorodniy in 2018 and Rafikov in 2013.
To round out the Europeans, Germany, Norway, and Belarus each have one player in the organization: Yasin Ehliz, Mathias Emilio Pettersen, and Pavel Karnaukhov, respectively (though Karnaukhov represents Russia in national play).
Born into a league
A high-level way to evaluate how players are developing for the Flames is to look at which league they play in. With player origins fresh, plotting birthplaces colour-coded by their respective league presents a fun perspective on the distribution of talent in the system.
The leagues are sorted in order of highest to lowest NHLe, courtesy of Emmanuel Perry, as a means of differentiating the leagues in a logical manner. Most of the Flames’ NHL players come from Canada and USA, with only four roster spots going to Europeans. A majority of prospects are also North American, scattered across many different leagues. Similarly, a handful of European prospects are also playing in various leagues as a part of their potential journeys to the NHL.
It does seem interesting that a lot of higher end talent in the Flames system comes from North America, but it also says something about a shift in drafting philosophy, as some of their best prospects come from overseas. Whether that trend continues or not is left to be seen, but kudos to the Flames’ scouting staff in knowing where to look and making the right moves.
Lastly, the leagues can be further broken down into current teams. Aside from Calgary and Stockton, where else are the Flames represented? In every other city or town besides Moscow (thank you Linden Vey!), each player is the sole representative of the Flames on their teams.
|Team||League||Number of players|
|Vancouver Giants||CHL (WHL)||1|
|Sarnia Sting||CHL (OHL)||1|
|Rimouski Oceanic||CHL (QMJHL)||1|
|Baie-Comeau Drakkar||CHL (QMJHL)||1|
|Arizona State University||NCAA||1|
|University of Denver||NCAA||1|
|Michigan State University||NCAA||1|
|Sioux City Musketeers||USHL||1|
In North America, the players are fairly dispersed between Canada and USA. From east to west and north to south, there are plenty of places that have a Flames presence.
The Flames have prospects developing across Canada on four CHL teams. Roman will continue with his second year with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Out east, Ruzicka will be a third-year veteran on the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.
Joly and Zavgorodniy played against each other last season in the QMJHL, Joly with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and Zavgorodniy with the Rimouski Oceanic. Joly is about to start his fourth year in Baie-Comeau, while Zavgorodniy will enter his second in Rimouski.
Down in the states, of course there’s the multitude of players in Stockton, but there’s also a few NCAA prospects as well as a lone USHLer. In the NCAA, the Flames have three first-time NCAA players, all of whom played in the USHL last year.
Mattson at Michigan State University, Pettersen at the University of Denver, and Koumontzis at Arizona State University make up the Flames’ representation in the NCAA. Pospisil will play his second and final year in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers before also heading to the NCAA, and will play out of the St. Lawrence University in 2019-20.
Across the ocean, the KHL has Karnaukhov playing with CSKA Moskva alongside Vey, and Rafikov is with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Outside of Russia, Lindstrom plays with Skelleftea AIK of the SHL, Tuulola plays with HPK in Liiga (Finnish Elite League), and Sveningsson plays with IK Oskarshamn in HockeyAllsvenskan.
There’s a time and place for everything
The roster Brad Treliving put together to play in front of the C of Red this coming season is as exciting as ever, not to mention the cavalry of players in Stockton hoping to make the jump to Calgary sooner rather than later. The rest of the prospects are all developing across the world, hoping to impress when they get their opportunities.
The players in the organization are all in very different stages of their careers, from pros to prospects. With many unique stories being told, where will their careers pan out? Well that’s impossible to foresee, but at least now we know where they came from.