FlamesNation prospect wrap-up: AHL defencemen, part one

The Flames have been building their future blueline in the AHL. Over the past few seasons, Oliver Kylington and Rasmus Andersson have plied their trade in Stockton, and they figured that Juuso Valimaki would join them this season. For those who follow the Stockton Heat closely, this was an exciting proposition. You could see at least two, maybe three, of the Flames’ future NHL blueliners every night.

They played a combined 38 games in the AHL this season.

A bit of talent and a bit of injury kept them out of the AHL. Andersson was sent down on the eve of the NHL regular season, only to come back up a few days later and never return. Kylington began his season in the AHL and went up after another injury, also never to return. Valimaki came a bit later, but it was a brief conditioning stint. He’s not likely to ever go back down.

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So that left the Heat with a dearth of high quality defenceman. Let’s find out what they’re all about.

#3- Josh Healey

When we last checked in

Healey was signed out of the Ohio State University because of his ferocious hitting.

But he also came with a side of offence, which he honed during his final few years in the NCAA. It was a distinguishing mark from most violent defenceman, and offered some hope that he could have an NHL future.

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In his first year in Stockton, the hitting was there, but the offence lacking. He struggled to get games in on a pretty deep Stockton roster, and his rookie year was a bit miserable as a result.

2018-19 story

With the top defenceman cleared out, Healey got to see a bit more action than usual. He was usually slotted in the bottom two pairings, often being trusted with more defensive than offensive roles.

Healey also developed an app this season. Pretty neat.

Numbers and growth

GP G A P Primary points 5v5 points 5v5 primary points NHLe
2018-19 55 1 10 11 4 9 4 7.97
2017-18 44 0 4 4 3 3 2 3.08

Healey improved in every category, which is good, but not nearly enough to suggest he’s destined for an NHL future. He scored less than Valimaki and Kylington, who both combined to play fewer games than Healey.

Defensively, he’s okay. Prospect-stats clocks him at a 49.25GF% and at 0.86GFrel% at 5v5. That’s up from last year, but anything less than dominant in those categories doesn’t bode well for his future.

What’s next?

Healey is unlikely to be qualified. The Flames don’t have much in the ways of defenceman for the Stockton Heat (Alexander Yelesin, Andrew Nielsen, Rob Hamilton, and Corey Scheuneman are the only ones signed thus far), but Healey hasn’t done much to earn a second contract. He can bring the thunder, but he’s lacking in the departments that are more predictive of an NHL future.

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#28- Andrew Nielsen

When we last checked in

Nielsen wasn’t Flames property until late November, when the Leafs traded him in a pretty random swap for Morgan Klimchuk. That gives him the distinction of carrying on the Kent Nilsson-Joe Nieuwendyk-Jarome Iginla trade line.

There was some reason to like Nielsen. He’s a 6’4″ defenceman who can be rough but also pick up the points. Building off a strong WHL career, he was one shy of 40 points in his rookie AHL season, and followed it up with 26 in an injury plagued second season. With the Leafs wanting to develop their higher end defensive prospects, that left no room for Nielsen.

2018-19 story

He crashed and burned in Stockton.

Upon arrival, Nielsen looked promising, but quickly fell back on his bad, undisciplined habits. He didn’t make a major impact on the team, and was the one to sit out when Valimaki came down for a conditioning stint.

Numbers and growth

GP G A P Primary points 5v5 points 5v5 primary points NHLe
2018-19 37 0 7 7 3 5 2 7.54
2017-18 65 6 20 26 15 18 9 15.74

Not much to see here. Everything is down across the board, and by dramatic numbers. Even if he was never going to blossom into the dominant offensive prospect, you’d like to see something more than just seven measly assists on the season. Interestingly enough, he didn’t see that much powerplay time, where you’d figure he would be able to show off some of his offensive skills, but he wasn’t necessarily reliant on it last season either.

Prospect-stats has him at 44GF%, -5.24GFrel%, suggesting that his defence also needs a bit of work.

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What’s next?

Nielsen has another year left on his contract, so the Flames have some time to figure out what he is. The Heat are going to remain light on high-end defensive talent, so he’ll have an opportunity to be in the spotlight.

I wouldn’t expect too much. Nielsen’s star is fading fast, and he’s unlikely to reclaim his potential next season. If he couldn’t stand out on a thin blueline this season, he probably won’t be able to next season.


ECHLersMartin PospisilEmilio PettersenDemetrios KoumontzisDmitry ZavgorodniyAdam RuzickaMilos RomanD’Artagnan Joly | Eetu TuulolaLinus Lindstrom | Filip Sveningsson | Pavel Karnukhov, Rushan Rafikov, Mitchell Mattson

    • The Iggy complex

      They won’t need help on d for a while though. That’s what happens when you have your top 3 dman graduate to the NHL. Can’t replace them over night

  • freethe flames

    Part 2 should really be an exciting read. According to SF the best defender on the Heat outside of the NHL guys was AOM and he is staying in Sweden. The younger guy we got when we gave away Kulak was probably the 2nd best non nhl defender.

  • deantheraven

    I wonder if the decisions made about icing a team in Stockton are ever only about icing a team in Stockton. This guy looks like a fan fave. I’m curious to hear from Stockton’s Finest.

      • The Red Knight

        Going into the season I thought Stockton looked like they had a contending roster, was the new coach the problem ? Since Huska is on Flames bench now.

        • freethe flames

          The Heat added depth upfront but when they traded Kulak and Andersson, Kylington, and Valimaki graduated to the NHL they had virtually nobody left on D. In the preseaon I believe they had 8 NHL tweeners in camp and decided to sign no one; that hurt big time.

          • Baalzamon

            Kulak was replaced by two defenders (Taormina and Valiev) and the Flames also brought in Hogstrom and Prout for AHL depth. It’s not the organization’s fault that Taormina, Hogstrom, Valimaki, and Stone all spent most of the season injured.

          • The Red Knight

            Hopefully your right , Goaltending was not very good either , but if so maybe ,Gawdin and Phillips could have had much better rookie seasons as well , maybe the glass is half full instead of empty

  • Beer League Coach

    No where to go but up for the D in Stockton. Flames need to add some quality prospects to their AHL team this year just to give the Heat a chance to make playoffs in the AHL. The left overs from last year’s D are not the answer. FA signings coming for the Heat. Even if Flames draft all D this summer that is not likely to help Stockton for at least another year.

    • freethe flames

      Almost anyone we draft will not be in the AHL for 2/3 years. The AHL roster will need to be stocked from the bottom 3rd of the UFA list and other undrafted players.

      • freethe flames

        I believe that we were told that Lerby had to play one more year overseas. I may be mistaken on this but I recall this being said about on of the Euro defenders.

  • Stockton's Finest

    Defense, or lack there of, was the Achilles Heel of last season’s team. The 2 standouts for me were AOM and Valiev. Everyone else is just low grade filler. Pretty spot on with the analysis Christian. Healey cares more about the hit than playing defense or blocking a shot. Nielsen just looks lost and uninterested.
    Valiev should be re-signed. And depending on what happens up North, I would if one of Valimaki or Kylington start the season down here (unless Kylington is traded with Gillies to Pittsburgh for Tristan Jarry).