Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Flames have mixed results with college free agents

We had actual hockey news last week as the Calgary Flames landed a pair of coveted college free agents. Connor Mackey and Colton Poolman are the two newest Flames. Since Brad Treliving has been Flames general manager, though, the Flames haven’t had amazing results with college signings.

Kenney Morrison

The Flames signed Morrison after his junior year with Western Michigan University. The fit was pretty obvious: he was a right shot defender coming off three seasons in the NCAA, and surely he would be able to work his way up a farm system utterly lacking in right shots (aside from Rasmus Andersson). He was a strong NCAA rookie and then a productive veteran, so surely that would translate, right?

Well, it didn’t quite work out. Morrison’s best results were on his initial amateur try-out deal, putting up six points in 10 games. He followed that with a pair of disappointing full seasons; he combined for just 25 points in 95 AHL games on his two year entry-level deal. He was fourth in defensive scoring in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Morrison wasn’t qualified as a restricted free agent and was cut loose. He signed with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves but couldn’t stick. He ended up going to Norway, and has spent each of the past two seasons in Slovakia.

Garnet Hathaway

Hathaway has an asterisk, as he was already in the Flames organization after signing an AHL deal in 2014 after four seasons with Brown University. His first AHL season was good, so he was offered an NHL deal in 2015.

Hathaway managed to get NHL games in during his first ELC season (2015-16), suiting up 14 times. The following season he made 26 big league appearances. He was re-signed on a pair of cheap one-year contracts as he transitioned into full-time NHL duty before moving on to Washington as a free agent.

Josh Healey

The Flames landed Healey in 2017 after finished off four seasons with Ohio State. He was a two-time conference all-star and the thought was that maybe he could translate his strong two-way play to the next level.

He, uh, didn’t.

He had 15 points over 107 AHL games with Stockton. He wasn’t qualified as an RFA and walked as a free agent, landing with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He’s emerged as useful farm team depth, but hasn’t lived up to the promise many thought he had.

Spencer Foo

I’ll admit, we initially forgot about Foo. A standout for Union College for three seasons, he signed with the Flames in 2017 and the hope was that he would finally give them an offensive weapon on the right side.

Foo played just four NHL games in his entry level deal, scoring twice, but was otherwise a strong secondary weapon for Stockton. He just couldn’t find the offensive consistency that he needed to boot the door down for a full-time NHL gig. He was qualified as an RFA, but left the Flames organization to play in the KHL.

Luke Philp

Oddly enough, Philp might be the best “pure” collegiate signing success story, and he went to Canadian university rather than the NCAA. Signed after three seasons with USports’ University of Alberta, he came to the AHL with somewhat muted expectations given the lack of players from Canadian collegiate sports that have made the jump to pro hockey successfully.

It’s safe to say that Philp easily surpassed those expectations. After a slow start, he ended up with 19 goals in 52 games – among the top rookie goal-scores in the AHL. He has one year remaining on his ELC.

Sum it up

Under Treliving, the Flames have signed four college UFAs. The two that have had success are the two forwards – one from Canadian university and the other a college graduate who played on an AHL deal for a season. Part of the key here may be low expectations, as the two players who had the lowest bar to clear managed to do so rather easily.