Happy Boxing Day! As the best prospects from around the world play for their country in hockey’s most exciting annual international tournament, let’s finish our three-part series (part 1, part 2) revisiting who we thought were the Flames’ best prospects.
Morgan Klimchuk, Andrew Nielsen, D, Stockton Heat, AHL
|Andrew Nielsen- Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
Well we didn’t really expect Klimchuk to get traded midseason, so that kind of throws a wrench into things. Since it was a one-for-one trade, let’s slide Nielsen into his #10 spot and retool the questions a bit.
Why Morgan Klimchuk was #10: The continuation of the Kent Nilsson-Joe Nieuwendyk-Jarome Iginla legacy, Klimchuk looked to be on the cusp of making the NHL for his solid two-way play and consistent AHL performances. Not as flashy or as high-ceiling as other prospects, but certainly a good prospect in his own right. Although far from certain, it was certainly plausible that he could hold down a fourth line spot, either straight out of camp or at some point in the season.
How did he do during his time here? Not great! Injuries certainly held him back a bit, but Klimchuk was struggling before and after said injury. With many other forwards performing at or above his level, it was time to move on.
Would Nielsen be #10? No. Every writer voted to move him lower. Nielsen has had a 39-point season in the AHL, four points short of Klimchuk’s AHL high, but that was two seasons ago and he hasn’t looked quite as good since. There’s still runway for a 22-year-old defensive prospect, but he’s behind a glut of even better defensive prospects (plus the high-end ones the Flames will likely draft in the future).
To be fair to Nielsen, there’s no chance Klimchuk would retain the #10 spot with his 10 points in 26 games.
#9: Jon Gillies, G, Stockton Heat
Why he was #9: Well, he had his warts in his NHL appearances during the 2017-18 season, but Gillies’ AHL season was pretty solid. He was on the outside looking in for the backup goalie job heading into camp, but the Flames figured that he might make a fine backup for the 2019-20 season if he had another solid step forward in the AHL.
How has he done so far? Poorly. Very, very poorly. Gillies’ career in the pros has been extremely rocky, but his performances for the Heat this season have been abysmal with little indication that they’re going to get better. When you’re getting outplayed by pro rookie Nick Schneider in your fourth year of professional hockey, something’s up.
Higher or lower? Much lower.
#8: Tyler Parsons, G, Stockton Heat
Why he was #8: Although below Gillies on the depth chart, Parsons is younger and has a higher ceiling, so it wasn’t egregious to put him a smidge higher than Gillies. Even with various injuries, Parsons was Kansas City’s best goalie in his rookie year as a 20-year-old and figured to seamlessly slide into Stockton’s backup position for 2018-19.
How has he done so far? The injury bug makes this hard to assess, as Parsons has only played four games this season. The first two were very bad but the most recent two were pretty good. We’ll get a better picture of him now that he’s back, but hopefully he can remain healthy.
Higher or lower? Although three voters voted to move Parsons lower, the majority of the FlamesNation writers kept him at #8.
#7: Matthew Phillips, RW, Stockton Heat
Why he was #7: With a lot of quality ahead of him, Phillips was unfortunately the odd man out even after two amazing post-draft seasons in the WHL. While he was a high quality junior player, we thought that he was unlikely to step into the pros for this season while everyone ahead of him would be able to.
How has he done so far? A bit below expectations. Maybe he wasn’t going to set the world on fire in year one, but he’s been struggling to find his place in the lineup. Although a slow start has deflated his numbers, Phillips’ renowned nose for the net has been missing, as he’s been unable to consistently put up points.
Higher or lower? Almost everyone voted to move him lower.
#6: Spencer Foo, RW, Stockton Heat
Why he was #6: He had a slow start to his pro career, but once he got off the ground, he became one of Stockton’s better players during the 2017-18 season. With some uncertainty in the Flames’ bottom six, he had a case for a spot in the lineup, which is more than you could say about some of the other Stockton wingers. Being right-handed didn’t hurt his chances either.
How has he done so far? Not up to snuff. If you can’t play better than NHL replacement-level players like Tyler Graovac or Curtis Lazar, you’re probably not cut out for regular NHL action. His window was closing during training camp and his season thus far has slammed it shut.
Higher or lower? Unanimously lower. He’s 24 and hasn’t been able to carry the momentum from the end of his last campaign over to this one. That’s a pretty bad sign for an older prospect.
#5: Oliver Kylington, D, NHL/AHL
|NHL – Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
|AHL – Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
Why he was #5: Like the two players above him, Kylington was in the “AHL good, but not NHL good yet” tier. Not to deny Kylington’s talent, but the players ahead of him on the top 20 were more enticing NHL options and filled an immediate need. He just wasn’t at the same level as the others yet.
How has he done so far? If NHL readiness was the one thing holding him back, Kylington has begun to prove that perception wrong. He was blasting away at the AHL level, arguably the team’s most valuable player through the early stretch of the season, and he’s jumped to the NHL with ease. Although certainly far from perfect at the NHL level, his performances thus far suggest that he’s a player that could stick around.
Higher or lower? One of the only unanimous risers in the top 10. Kylington’s NHL tenure has been as good as needed. Even when Juuso Valimaki returns from injury, he might have a case to replace the young Finn on the third pairing. Staying power is key to Kylington moving up, which is hard to say for those ahead of him.
#4: Dillon Dube, LW/C, NHL/AHL
|NHL – Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
|AHL – Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
Why he was #4: Well with some ridiculously good years with the Kelowna Rockets in addition to captaining team Canada to a WJC gold, it was easy to be hyped for Dube. The Flames have never had a forward drafted outside the first round jump from the CHL to the NHL in pretty much forever, and Dube seemed that he could be the man to do it.
How has he done so far? It’s been a rollercoaster ride for poor Dube. His preseason was gangbusters, and he did look like a regular NHLer in Calgary’s bottom six, but some vicious treatment from Erik Gudbranson and Duncan Keith in addition to limited ice time indicated that he would best be served playing in the AHL. He’s been doing splendid in the minors so far, however.
Higher or lower? Lower by a very slim margin. Maybe the hype was a bit unsubstantiated.
#3: Andrew Mangiapane, LW, NHL/AHL
|NHL- Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
|AHL- Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points|
Why he was #3: With his supporting cast disappearing early in the 2017-18 AHL season, Mangiapane turned in an AHL all-star performance and had some pretty good NHL appearances, which is something considering the 2017-18 Calgary Flames fourth line.
How has he done so far? It’s hard to say. He’s been injured a bit, so there’s a lot missing. His AHL performances have been nothing but the usual amazing from Mangiapane, and his NHL stint showed some real promise, but also had its weak moments.
Higher or lower? This review has come at a bit of unfortunate timing for Mangiapane. Despite passing the eye test in his debut for the Flames, he fizzled out just as quickly, which may have been injury related. He didn’t do much during his time here, which raises some doubts about whether he will ever translate his AHL prowess to NHL numbers. Unfortunately, he was voted to go lower, although three writers voted to keep him at #3.
#2: Rasmus Andersson, D, NHL
Why he was #2: It was a tough decision for all involved. After all the rankings had been added up, the difference between Juuso Valimaki and Andersson turned out to be one point, the closest race between #1 and #2 in the history of this blog. It’s hard to say exactly what kept Rasmus out of the #1 spot, as both him and Valimaki were likely NHLers this season, but being older than Valimaki while having a slightly lower ceiling probably put Rasmus at #2.
How has he done so far? Well, he didn’t make the team out of camp, but that turned out to be just a formality. A Travis Hamonic injury opened up a spot for Andersson, and he’s kept it ever since. His performances have been better and better, and the team has invested some confidence into him, as seen by his frequent appearances during extra skater situations.
Higher or lower? Well five voters kept him put at #2, but three moved him higher.
#1: Juuso Valimaki, D, NHL
Why he was #1: To build off the previous section, what put Valimaki over the edge was his ceiling and his age. Arguably the WHL’s best defenceman over his entire tenure, Valimaki looked to be an easy choice to jump to – and stick in – the NHL straight out of the CHL, one of the rare Flames prospects to do so. Perhaps a little bit of hype helped his #1 bid.
How has he done so far? Well, he has jumped straight into the NHL, that part is true. Valimaki was on the opening night roster, pushing former Flames #6 defender Brett Kulak out of the picture. That says a lot about a kid who just turned 20 as the season began. The offence hasn’t really translated to the NHL level, which is fine. Often times a criticism of hockey players, but for a 20-year-old defenceman straight out of junior? Not a big deal.
Would we rank him #1 again? Well, the Andersson section spoiled the answer to this question: no, but just barely. Not to repeat myself ad nauseam, but Valimaki still is younger and has a higher ceiling than any of the other defenders on this list. But for right now, Rasmus is just better.
It could even be argued that Kylington is also better than Valimaki right now. The drop off between the two has barely been noticeable, if there is a drop off at all. With him being out of the lineup for a long time and with the team clicking as it has been in recent weeks, that could mean a temporary demotion for Valimaki.