Welcome to FlamesNation’s 2021 prospect rankings!
Earlier this month, eight members of our content team crafted lists ranking the Calgary Flames’ top 20 prospects. Our final list aggregates the votes submitted by the following writers:
- Ryan Pike
- Pat Steinberg
- Mike Gould
- PJ Parmar
- Craig Petter
- Paige Siewert
- Shane “Flash” Stevenson
- Mike Wilson
Over the next three weeks, we’ll count down from No. 20 until we reveal the name atop our collective list. In the end, each of our writers will describe their respective ranking methodologies; in the same concluding piece, all of our individual lists will be published.
(Spoiler alert: Three different Flames prospects received multiple No. 1 votes. Take a guess in the comments section as to which ones they could be.)
Every Calder Trophy-eligible player on the Flames’ depth chart, RFA list, or reserve list was eligible to be ranked. 42 players fit that description.
Before we get to the top 20, we have to mention the 22 prospects looking in from the outside. Nine players received votes but ultimately ranked outside the top 20; 13 prospects went without mention on any of our ballots.
Let’s talk about those unlucky 13 players: why they didn’t appear on any of our top 20 lists, how they got to this point, and what they can do to improve their standing in the future.
The Flames drafted Boltmann with the 2020 third-round pick (80th overall) they acquired from Washington in exchange for trading down from pick 22 to select Connor Zary at No. 24.
Boltmann was a bit of an off-the-board pick at the time of his selection and he hasn’t done much since to boost his stock. He made a mid-season jump in 2020–21 from the USHL’s Lincoln Stars to the University of Notre Dame; in 25 games combined between his two teams, he scored exactly zero points.
19-year-old defencemen seldom set NCAA scoring records but it would’ve been nice to see Boltmann at least get on the board in his first 19 games at Notre Dame. He’s a 6’1″ right-handed rearguard who still has plenty of college hockey ahead of him but he needs to show a lot more to merit consideration for an NHL contract, let alone a spot on a top prospects list.
Ciona, a hulking left wing, is one of Calgary’s newest prospects. The Flames selected the 18-year-old with their second of two sixth-round picks in the 2021 draft.
The 6’3″, 210-pound forward scored two goals and 13 points in 23 WHL games with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2020–21. He certainly has the physical tools to be an effective NHL bruiser but the Flames are undoubtedly hoping he can start filling the net with more consistency as the WHL returns to its full schedule in 2021–22.
The Flames signed Duehr, 23, to a two-year entry-level deal on Apr. 11. While his contract only takes effect in the 2021–22 season, Duehr joined the Stockton Heat on a tryout to conclude the 2020–21 campaign.
Duehr attended Minnesota State University – Mankato between 2017 and 2021, spending his first three seasons as a Maverick skating alongside fellow Flames prospect Connor Mackey. A 6’3″ right wing, Duehr scored 10 goals and 17 points in 28 games with the Mavericks in 2020–21.
In his first five professional games with the Heat, Duehr registered zero points and averaged 12:19 of ice-time (according to Pick224).
The Flames selected Feuk in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. While he continued to dominate Sweden’s U-20 junior league immediately after being drafted, Feuk failed to make an impact in the second-tier Allsvenskan league in 2019–20 and his struggles continued into 2020–21.
Feuk scored only a single point — one goal — in 14 games with AIK last season. He spent the majority of the campaign in Sweden’s third-tier league, HockeyEttan, recording 12 goals and 18 points in 18 games.
Still, 20-year-old prospects with NHL aspirations typically find far more success in the Allsvenskan league. Feuk will start 2021–22 with a new team, Västerviks IK, and he’ll need to start producing in his new environment if he wants to have any chance of signing an ELC with Calgary before his draft rights expire on Jun. 1, 2023.
Kirkland is technically still a prospect. He turned 25 this month and received a qualifying offer from the Flames in July, meaning he’ll return for at least one more AHL season with the Stockton Heat.
Make no mistake: Kirkland isn’t cracking Calgary’s NHL roster anytime soon, not unless the team is decimated by a rash of injuries or Kirkland takes a miraculous step forward in his development. This is a player who scored two goals and seven points in 16 AHL games last season. The year before, he had six goals and 28 points in 53 AHL games.
Kirkland typically kills penalties for the Heat. He has a decent shot and can generally keep up with the pace of the AHL game. That said, he’s basically a pure farmhand. Kirkland remains an unsigned RFA but he should receive a two-way deal — likely with an AHL salary north of $100,000 — before training camp.
Koumontzis is a tenacious little winger who has struggled to take steps forward during his tenure at Arizona State University. As a 20/21-year-old junior in 2020–21, the 5’10” Koumontzis tied for seventh on the Sun Devils with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 22 games.
Two years ago, Koumontzis looked like a potential hidden gem in the Flames’ prospect pool. He had a relatively impressive freshman year in 2018–19, tying for sixth on a solid ASU team with four goals and 20 points in 35 games. In the years since, his production has regressed and, subsequently, stagnated.
Koumontzis’ draft rights with Calgary expire on Aug. 15, 2023. Barring a massive resurgence with the Sun Devils, he probably won’t receive an ELC from the Flames.
Officially listed as “Carl-Johan Lerby” on the AHL website, the 24-year-old Swede instead prefers to be called “C.J.” In 2021–22, however, his name won’t be called at all by the AHL’s various broadcasters; Lerby has returned to his home country on a two-year contract with the Malmö Redhawks of the Swedish Hockey League.
Lerby remains a Flames prospect by virtue of the qualifying offer the team tendered him in July. As such, Calgary will retain Lerby’s exclusive NHL negotiating rights until Jul. 7, 2024 (his 27th birthday). While Lerby flitted in and out of Stockton’s lineup during his single year in North America, he could still take steps forward towards becoming a viable NHL option; if so, the Flames would have the option to negotiate a new deal with him or to trade his rights to another interested club.
The Flames drafted Mattson way back in 2016, just 120 spots after Matthew Tkachuk went to them in the first round. Mattson spent two more seasons in the USHL after being drafted and failed to produce much at all before joining the NCAA’s Michigan State Spartans in 2018–19.
Mattson is a 6’4″ centre who shoots left. He appeared in just 14 of MSU’s 36 games as a 20-year-old freshman in 2018–19, scoring zero points. He played 22 of 36 games the following year as a 21-year-old sophomore, scoring one point (an assist).
Finally, Mattson scored his first collegiate goal in 2020–21. He even scored another, and added two assists, over the course of his 21 games. Still—he turned 23 in January and has a total of two goals and five points in 57 NCAA games. It would take a completely unprecedented turn of events for Mattson to be signed by the Flames before his draft rights expire on Aug. 15, 2023.
Nikolayev, Calgary’s third-round pick in 2019, might just be the most intriguing prospect on this list. He’s a 5’11” left-handed centre who split the 2020–21 season between two Russian leagues.
In 21 games with Loko Yaroslavl of the MHL, Russia’s top-tier junior league, Nikolayev scored an impressive eight goals and 18 points. He also spent 37 games with Buran Vorozenh of the VHL, the country’s second-tier professional league, and finished sixth on the team with seven goals and 13 points.
Among U-21 VHL players in 2020–21, Nikolayev tied for 16th in goals. He achieved this feat while playing on a very poor Buran club which scored 99 goals in 50 games and finished 24th out of the league’s 26 teams. It’s unclear when — or if — Nikolayev might sign a contract with the Flames but he’s currently plying his trade with Metallurg Zhlobin in Belarus.
(The transfer agreement between the NHL and Belarus was extended last year, so the deadline is probably June 1, 2023, but Nikolayev’s status as a Russian national might muddy things a bit.)
The Flames signed left-handed defenceman Colton Poolman, the younger brother of Vancouver’s Tucker, to a one-year entry-level deal in March 2020. He played four seasons at the University of North Dakota and recorded four goals and 17 points as a 23-year-old senior in 2019–20.
Poolman appeared in 21 AHL games with the Stockton Heat in 2020–21, scoring one goal and adding five helpers while averaging 15:10 per game (according to Pick224). The Heat were outscored 13-9 at 5-on-5 with Poolman on the ice; without him, they bested their opponents by a 39-35 margin.
Calgary re-signed Poolman to a one-year, two-way deal on Jul. 30. It’s possible he plays a slightly larger role on the 2021–22 edition of the Heat but it’s unlikely he ever appears in an NHL game for Calgary.
Sergeyev is a 6’3″ Russian goalie who spent the last two seasons playing in North America, most recently in the North American Hockey League with the Shreveport Mudbugs (what a name).
The 18-year-old Yaroslavl product will join the UConn Huskies in the 2022–23 season; in the interim, he’ll play with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. Tri-City selected Sergeyev with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 USHL Entry Draft.
Sergeyev could quickly climb up this list but he needs to play more games in a better league than the NAHL.
Tuulola is a big-bodied right wing who can hold his own at the AHL level. The 2016 sixth-round pick scored 10 goals and 23 points in 50 games with the Heat in 2019–20; last year, he managed only three goals and seven points in 29 games.
The 23-year-old Finn has one year left on his entry-level contract. At 6’2″ and 216 pounds, he has impressive size compared to that of many others in Calgary’s system. He also lacks speed and likely isn’t good enough with the puck on his stick to successfully make the jump to the NHL.
Given his physicality and decent offensive instincts, there’s an outside chance Tuulola sees a few NHL games during his career. It’s very unlikely he ever makes it higher than a fourth line at the top level.
Yelesin spent two years in North America as part of the Flames organization, appearing in four NHL games in the 2019–20 season. Upon the conclusion of his entry-level deal in Calgary, Yelesin returned home to Russia and signed a one-year KHL deal with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Much like Lerby, Yelesin received a qualifying offer from the Flames in July. The Flames will retain Yelesin’s exclusive NHL negotiating rights until Feb. 7, 2023 (his 27th birthday). He’s a decent right-handed shutdown defender who basically treaded water during his two AHL seasons. If any other NHL team expresses interest in signing Yelesin before he turns 27, the Flames would be able to trade his rights and potentially receive an asset in return.
As he relates to the Flames, Yelesin is hardly still a prospect. As he relates to our criteria, Yelesin still (barely) counts — and he received no votes.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the nine players who received votes but missed out on being included in our top 20.
2021 FlamesNation Prospect Rankings