43Oliver Kylington
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation top 20 prospect revisit: 10-1

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.

#10: Morgan Klimchuk, Andrew Nielsen, D, Stockton Heat, AHL

Andrew Nielsen- Games Played Goals Assists Points
14 0 5 5

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

Games played SV%
20 0.863

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

Games played SV%
4 0.874

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

Games Played Goals Assists Points
26 6 6 12

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

Games Played Goals Assists Points
29 9 7 16

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
13 1 1 2
AHL – Games Played Goals Assists Points
18 7 7 14

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
20 1 4 5
AHL – Games Played Goals Assists Points
8 1 7 8

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
7 0 0 0
AHL- Games Played Goals Assists Points
13 7 7 14

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

Games Played Goals Assists Points
32 1 2 3

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

Games Played Goals Assists Points
22 1 1 2

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.

  • MontanaMan

    Good list but there is no way Mangiapane should be listed higher than Dube. To my eye, Dube is on the cusp of staying with the big club and brings a lot more to his game than Mangiapane who has shown nothing in his time in the bigs.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Disagree. Gully did not put Mangipane in a place to succeed during his short time in Cal last season. Mangipane looked pretty okay during his brief stint here this season. I want to see more of him as a Flame. He looks like a grinder with skill.

      Dube, on the other hand, looked amazing in pre-season but much less so during the regular season. That said, can’t remember a rookie who was bashed and battered by his opponents as much as he was during his cup of coffee stay with the Flames. (That got me thinking what if the Flames had signed Ryan Reaves and had plunked him on a line with Dube Safe to say that Dube would not have had such a going over from the enemy.)

      I might not be as high on Dube as you are, but I agree with you that he is destined to become a full-time NHLer. Where we differ is that I am a lot more excited about Mangipane than you are as I see him becoming a full-time NHLer in the not-too distant future.

  • Flint

    1. Valimaki
    2. Andersson
    3. Kylington
    4. Dube

    The rest probably aren’t NHL’rs. Kylington has impressed me and thankfully I’m likely wrong about him, but the fact that we even compare Valimaki with the others when he has so little pro experience is enough said. That kid has a long way to go but he’s likely the only one we have who can maybe get there. Thankfully Rasmus and Kyl also look to be talented, important pieces at the NHL level going forward as well. Those three are mighty impressive.

    • supra steve

      John Gillies is a big guy, perhaps he could play that wing position you speak of.
      It’s only a slightly dumber idea than moving your stud D prospect to the wing.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        Happy Holidays FN

        Right now my biggest concern would be Gillies. He has played pro for 4 years and has never really earned the number 1 spot for the entire season. Gillies was gifted the starting spot despite Rittich showing more. This year he is being out played by a rookie with less than 10 AHL games on his resume. I think he needs to go to the ECHL while Schneider is brought up. Having Gillies and McDonald playing in the ECHL is an indictment to our goaltending future. Nobody is saying if Parsons injury is related to his struggles with mental illness but concussion issues while suffering from depression is just unfair.

  • Skylardog

    Outside of the 3 defensemen, and Dube, the prospects look weak. I would say that the cupboards are bare when it comes to forwards. However, free agent signings has given us some depth. Quine and Graovac should be capable of providing fourth line depth if needed (Quine has impressed), and Lazar is still available but will not be given a shot in Calgary until the end of the season due to waivers. Lomberg still provides a tangible value here and has filled in nicely given his role. Size is a detriment that my hold some of the prospects back.

    I am still intrigued by Gawdin. I believe he has the skills to be a top 6 forward at some point in the future if put in a position to succeed. Mangi, if he is to be a Flame would have to find a way into a top 6 role, not sure he will ever get that shot, or if he deserves that shot. He falls shot as a bottom 6 forward.

    Looks like Schneider should be the call up now if Rittich or Smith go down, even though they brought up Gillies in a back up role a few weeks ago. Gillies appears done, and his one way contract for next year is going to be a cash burden for the team when he can’t even make the top 2 spots in Stockton when the puck drops next season.

    The number one need for the team over the summer will be a backup for Big Save Dave. Nothing the goalies have shown in Stockton says any are ready.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Until the preseason I always felt that Dube would have to struggle to score at pro level. After a small sample size in the NHL and AHL I still feel this is the case. There are so many similarities to Lazar with the way they play and with both leading team Canada at the WJHC. I hope he has more to offer but I am not convinced. On a separate note, I believed that Mangi could generate offense at this level but he has only shown flashes.

      I do disagree with the assessment of Phillips, he seems to be relegated to the 4th line and not seeing much PP time yet still putting up points.

  • The GREAT WW

    Re Dube: ” Maybe the hype was a bit unsubstantiated.”

    Maybe that’s why WW said from the beginning: “I like this player but I’m not sure why we drafted him so high…?”

    WW

  • The GREAT WW

    “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”

    We’re comparing point production of a D man with that of a forward now?!
    Wow…..

    WW

    • BlueMoonNigel

      I have been having that same thought. If the decision is made to keep Valimaki in Cal, then it would be a mistake to demote Kylington or have him sit as the 7th defender. I’d keep Kylington here and play him as a bottom 6 forward for the rest of the season, as long as he can make the adjustment. One or more defencemen are likely to be moved in the offseason, which would open a spot for Kylington. Playing forward for a spell never hurt HOF defencemen Mark Howe or Brett Burns. Kylington has just too many skills valued by the Flames to be put on ice in Stockton.

  • buts

    Schneider is the best goalie in the minors at the moment, which is sad for the organization. Dude is the top forward prospect. The top D prospects are up with the big club which shows that overall the cupboards are very empty on the farm. I hope that Phillips, Mangiapane, Gawdin and Foo can one day make it but they are long shots. Let’s hope BT can get some more picks as it’s a deep draft class this June.

  • The GREAT WW

    Other than our top 3 D prospects (who are not really “prospects” anymore…) you can throw the top 20 into one big pile. The forwards in the 11-20 are probably just as good or better than the 1-10 forwards.
    Graovic too old to be a prospect? He could be a late bloomer growing into his huge frame…..

    WW

  • freethe flames

    My pet peeve when I read these articles is the lack of information on the player ie size and handedness.
    When do stop referring to a guy as a prospect and talk about him as an NHLer? Our top 3 prospects other than going down for conditioning stints which is what I think Valimaki should do when he is ready are NHL players.
    IMO Dube and Mangiapane are very similar players with Dube being ahead b/c he is younger but to truly access them they need to play in the proper role. Phillips still intrigues me. I struggle with the Euros because we don’t see them play and we don’t know how there game translates to the smaller ice service.

  • Em Durp Em Hrudey

    Remember how excited most people on here were when the Flames signed Foo? Now he barely puts up numbers in the AHL. I was hoping he would be a breakout player. Remember in the 80s whenever Loob scored a goal they would add
    Another “O” to his name around the perimeter of the Dome and everyone would cheer Looooooooooooooob, I was hoping for a retro flashback, Foooooooooooooo. Unfortunately Foo has not delivered many “O’s”.

  • freethe flames

    I suspect the Flames will have practiced today; any reports from the practice? An article I would like to see written is what can the Flames do internally to have a better second half of the season. I suspect there would be lots of opinions stated. A writers round table with each giving the top 3 hings they would do to improve this team based upon the assets they currently have and 1 move they would make to have this team get to the next level.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    When I look at the top prospects, I can’t help but think about Hathaway. Last season Hathaway seemed to have an offensive side to his game in his early days here, but as the season wore on, he lost it, and when the season went out the window, many here were pretty down on Hathaway and saw him as part of the problem with the team. This season, Hathaway has seemingly reinvented himself as a penalty killer par excellence and a pretty reliable shutdown forward. No one here quite rightly has been talking about his low point production, only his value at keeping the enemy from scoring.

    Who’s to say Foo or Double G or Lazar, for that matter, might become full-time NHLers who are known and loved for their defensive ability. I am not prepared to say the pipeline from Stockton is bone dry after Dube and Mangipane get a regular NHL gig.

    • freethe flames

      I am not sure many ofus thought Hathaway had top 6 forward skill set last year.When he, Janko and Bennett played together and had some success I doubt anyone eexpected him to be atop 6 forward. Skyler has mentioned a few times that he thinks that Hathaway should be looked at on the top line and could possible be a Ferland type on that line.

      Lazar is capable of being a bottom 6 guy because of his speed but from what we saw of Foo last year I am not sure he has that kind of game. I have not seen Gawdin enough to know if he has that edge to his game.

    • Skylardog

      Hath was one of the best PK guys last season too, but GG only really started using him near the end of the season, as was the case with Lazar, who was the best PK guy on the Flames and 10th in the NHL for those that killed penalties more than 25 minutes.

      Foo will never make it on the Flames roster, and Mangi is only capable of top 2 line roles, but is about 10th on the depth chart to get one of those spots.