240Jakob Pelletier
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports

Who’s who in the Flames prospect system

The annual NHL Draft is behind us and it’s probably a good time to take stock of the Calgary Flames’ prospect system. After the addition of eight players in the draft, the Flames have 27 players who haven’t hit their 23rd birthday (or become NHL regulars yet) waiting in the wings for their chance at hockey stardom.

Here’s a snapshot of these 27 players and where they’re at as the season approaches.

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Goaltenders

Player Age Projected 2021-22 Team
Daniil Chechelev 20 TBD
Arsenii Sergeyev 18 Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Dustin Wolf 20 Stockton Heat (AHL)

Wolf is going pro after a really decorated junior career – two WHL goaltender of the year awards, a World Junior gold medal, and falling just shy of the league’s all-time shutout record.

The other two goalies are more long-term projects, with Sergeyev destined for the junior USHL and Chechelev still looking for a full-time home after bouncing around in the Vityaz Podolsk organization in Russian last season.

Defensemen

Player Age Projected 2021-22 Team
Jake Boltmann 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Big10)
Cole Jordan 18 Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Yan Kuznetsov 19 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Jeremie Poirier 19 Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Ilya Solovyov 21 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Cameron Whynot 18 Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

The offensive standout in this group so far is Poirier, who was superb for Saint John last season. It’s also reasonable to have high hopes for Jordan and Whynot, a pair of smart, puck-moving defenders who could blossom with expanded roles on their clubs this season.

Boltmann projects more as a pure shutdown guy and scored zero points last season, split between the USHL and NCAA. Kuznetsov is also more defensive-minded, though he did chip in points regularly in two seasons in college hockey. Solovyov is effectively a poor man’s version of Kuznetsov, but that’s not meant as an insult: he’s just slightly less refined in his game on either side of the puck, but he did contribute well for Dynamo Minsk in the KHL last season.

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Forwards

Player Age Projected 2021-22 Team
Jack Beck 18 Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Lucas Ciona 18 Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Matthew Coronato 18 Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Lucas Feuk 20 Vasterviks IK (HockeyAllsvenskan)
Ryan Francis 19 Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Emil Heineman 19 Leksands IF (SHL)
Cole Huckins 18 Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
Rory Kerins 19 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Demetrios Koumontzis 21 Arizona State Sun Devils (Independent)
Ilya Nikolayev 20 Metallurg Zhlobin (Belarus Extraliga)
Josh Nodler 20 Michigan State Spartans (Big10)
Jakob Pelletier 20 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Emilio Pettersen 21 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Martin Pospisil 22 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Adam Ruzicka 22 Stockton Heat (AHL)
William Stromgren 18 Rogle BK (SHL)
Connor Zary 19 Stockton Heat (AHL)
Dmitry Zavgorodniy 21 Stockton Heat (AHL)

If you want to conceptualize the forward group in tiers, there are a few obvious groupings to make.

The top group includes Coronto, Pelletier and Zary. All three are smart, versatile forwards, while Coronato is arguably the best pure goal-scorer of the trio and Pelletier is possibly the best pure two-way player of the group.

The next tier includes Francis, Heineman, Kerins, Pospisil, Ruzicka and Stromgren. All of these players show promise and have started to exhibit traits and performances that could see them challenge for top group spots, but they’re not quite there yet. (You can make an argument that few players have done more to up their stock than Ruzicka, who was superb in Stockton last season.)

A few prospects who don’t fall into the top two groups to keep an eye on this season:

  • Beck, who returns to an Ottawa 67’s group that’ll be missing a few key forwards due to graduation and for whom there’s a tremendous opportunity for a key, breakout role.
  • Nikolayev, who starts the season in Belarus after bouncing between Lokomotiv’s junior and minor league teams in a secondary role last season.
  • Nodler, who begins his junior year for Michigan State as a promising defensive forward prospect but who hasn’t had a big offensive breakout season yet in college.
  • Pettersen, who could get a breakout opportunity in Stockton or could be one of many forwards in a shuffle depending on how many young players make a push for NHL jobs in training camp.