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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Are any roster spots left for Flames youngsters?

On Wednesday, the Calgary Flames seemingly finished up their off-season business with a few signings. The most notable of which was veteran centre Brad Richardson, who seems likely to be penciled in as the fourth line centre.

Richardson’s pact leaves the Flames with 20 players on one-way NHL contracts. With so many established NHL bodies under contract, are there any spots remaining for prospects and youngsters?

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Let’s run down how the roster seems to look roughly a week prior to rookie camp’s opening.

Goaltenders

  • NHLers: Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar
  • Minors: Dustin Wolf, Tyler Parsons and Adam Werner

Goaltending is set. Markstrom has a no-move clause. Vladar requires waivers this season and the reason the Flames were able to snatch him away from the Bruins is because the Bs were worried about losing him on the waiver wire for nothing. The Flames likely share similar worries, so they won’t waive Vladar.

The only goaltending question left is “Hey, where are all the minor league goalies going to play?”

Defensemen

  • NHLers: Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Juuso Valimaki, Connor Mackey and one of Andy Welinski or Oliver Kylington
  • Minors: Johannes Kinnvall, Yan Kuznetsov, Ilya Solovyov, Kevin Gravel, Nick DeSimone, Colton Poolman and one of Andy Welinski or Oliver Kylington

The Flames have six players on one-way deals, with the odd man out being in the Welinski/Kylington spot. Barring the Flames signing another veteran for the big league – looking at you, Michael Stone, since that signing would make all kinds of sense and is a rumour that won’t go away – the NHL group is basically set, with just the Welinski or Kylington decision seemingly left.

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Mackey is waiver exempt this season, so if there’s another signing he seems like the logical player to flex down to the AHL (and Welinski/Kylington would be the designated extra body). The AHL group is a bit cramped, and Kuznetsov could go to the QMJHL if there’s no logical regular role for him in Stockton.

Forwards

  • NHLers: Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Sean Monahan, Blake Coleman, Dillon Dube, Mikael Backlund, Tyler Pitlick, Milan Lucic, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Brett Ritchie
  • Minors: Glenn Gawdin, Byron Froese, Emilio Pettersen, Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier, Walker Duehr, Eetu Tuulola, Adam Ruzicka, Martin Pospisil, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Justin Kirkland, Matthew Phillips and Luke Philp

Presuming the Flames only carry one extra forward, there are 13 forwards on one-way deals for 13 forward spots. On one hand, that means Stockton will be a pretty fun team to watch, boasting at least a handful of forwards that are prospects of note. On the other hand, it appears the strategy is to go all Detroit on the farm team and keep these young’uns on the Heat roster until they basically force their way onto the NHL squad, like Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane did.

Yes, that approach worked for Dube and Mangiapane. But it also worked because those two guys are really driven players who made it obvious from their first AHL stints that they were probably already good enough to press for NHL duty.

The Flames will have a roster with lots of grit, defensive ability and structure. But they’ll need to win a lot of games by 2-1 and 3-2 scores, and it’ll put a lot of pressure on the top handful of players to score with regularity.

Let’s make lines!

Based on the projected NHL groupings, here’s roughly what we expect the lines to look like:

Johnny Gaudreau – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane – Sean Monahan – Blake Coleman
Dillon Dube – Mikael Backlund – Tyler Pitlick
Milan Lucic – Brad Richardson – Trevor Lewis
(Extra: Brett Ritchie)

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Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Andersson
Juuso Valimaki – Connor Mackey
(Extra: Andy Welinski/Oliver Kylington)

Jacob Markstrom
Daniel Vladar

What do you think of the projected Flames roster and line-up? Is it better than the group that missed the playoffs in the spring? Sound off in the comments!