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Photo Credit: Mike Gould

2021 FlamesNation Prospect Rankings: Rankings roundtable

With our 2021 prospect ranking series complete, it’s time for a few of our panellists to share how exactly they tabulated their individual lists.

Eight of our FlamesNation contributors (Ryan, Pat, Paige, Craig, PJ, Shane, and the two Mikes) submitted top-20 lists last month. Here’s how a selection of those writers answered the following question: How did you come up with your rankings?

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As a reminder, here are the eight individual lists submitted by our writers for the 2021 rankings:

RANK RYAN MIKE G
MIKE W
PRAJEYA CRAIG PAIGE PAT SHANE
1 CORONATO ZARY CORONATO WOLF WOLF ZARY CORONATO CORONATO
2 PELLETIER CORONATO ZARY CORONATO ZARY CORONATO ZARY ZARY
3 ZARY WOLF PELLETIER PELLETIER CORONATO PELLETIER PELLETIER PELLETIER
4 WOLF PELLETIER WOLF ZARY PELLETIER WOLF VLADAR POIRIER
5 MACKEY PHILLIPS PHILLIPS PHILLIPS RUZICKA MACKEY WOLF WOLF
6 RUZICKA VLADAR MACKEY MACKEY MACKEY PHILLIPS GAWDIN HUCKINS
7 GAWDIN KUZNETSOV RUZICKA RUZICKA PHILLIPS RUZICKA MACKEY FRANCIS
8 HEINEMAN STROMGREN GAWDIN HEINEMAN FRANCIS FRANCIS PHILLIPS RUZICKA
9 PETTERSEN MACKEY VLADAR PETTERSEN GAWDIN GAWDIN RUZICKA STROMGREN
10 PHILLIPS KINNVALL FRANCIS POIRIER KUZNETSOV PETTERSEN FRANCIS PHILLIPS
11 STROMGREN PETTERSEN PETTERSEN GAWDIN HEINEMAN POIRIER POIRIER SOLOVYOV
12 POIRIER FRANCIS POIRIER POSPISIL POIRIER STROMGREN JORDAN VLADAR
13 FRANCIS POSPISIL HEINEMAN VLADAR PETTERSEN POSPISIL PETTERSEN KERINS
14 VLADAR RUZICKA KUZNETSOV FRANCIS POSPISIL PHILP STROMGREN POSPISIL
15 KUZNETSOV HEINEMAN STROMGREN KINNVALL STROMGREN KERINS KUZNETSOV HEINEMAN
16 POSPISIL ZAVGORODNIY POSPISIL KUZNETSOV KINNVALL HUCKINS HEINEMAN PETTERSEN
17 KERINS POIRIER SOLOVYOV STROMGREN VLADAR KINNVALL KINNVALL WHYNOT
18 JORDAN KERINS KERINS ZAVGORODNIY KERINS SOLOVYOV CHECHELEV GAWDIN
19 WHYNOT NODLER HUCKINS JORDAN WHYNOT VLADAR NODLER KUZNETSOV
20 BECK HUCKINS WHYNOT PARSONS ZAVGORODNIY WERNER PHILP JORDAN

We’ll start with FlamesNation’s head honcho: Mr Pike.

Ryan: My ranking rationale is basically a balancing act between developmental ceiling and the chances a player can reach that ceiling.

Specifically, I try to get a handle on what that player is good at – the thing that’s led them to success in the prior levels of hockey – and make estimations about the likelihood that they will continue to have success. Once I have a handle on those things, I placed everybody roughly in order.

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Shane: I combined my perception of NHL potential with NHL readiness with more of an emphasis on potential. As such, players like Jeremie Poirier rank higher and skilled goalies like Wolf and Vladar drop lower.

While some players match up similarly it’s very clear – to me anyways – that Coronato was a step above the rest of the pool right now based on potential.

PJ: The three factors that I base my yearly prospect rankings on are: ceiling, how proven they are, and their age. As a result, my list is led by prospects whom I believe will have the largest positive impact at an NHL level, whenever it is that they make that jump.

I know some commenters were wondering why some prospects who are closer to a full-time NHL role (e.g Dan Vladar) were much behind prospects who are further out (e.g Dustin Wolf). While Vladar certainly is a more proven commodity due to his greater experience in various pro leagues, Wolf is significantly younger and also has a lot more potential as well. Thus, in my ranking, the latter was placed much higher than the former.

Craig (via 2020 post): Production, competition, age. The NHL is a temple on the mountaintop, and only the most promising sliver of disciples advances from each step to the next. So, in judging prospects, one valid way to weigh one against another entails identifying where they fit—dominant, middling, subpar, etc—on their respective stairstep, the proximity of their stairstep to NHL standards, and how many years they have left to prove themselves capable of the climb.

So, my rankings foremost favoured those players who shred the competition in reputable leagues at an age brimming with upward potential. Domination over stagnation over regression. The top third encompasses a pigpen of junior and college runts before opening the gates for seasoned AHL mainstays, albeit closer to NHL call-ups; those runts are stars in their leagues though, and some of the older professionals there barely scrape together half a point a game. Yes, there is less certainty surrounding whether someone like Dustin Wolf will successfully translate his elite play to the NHL than whether Glenn Gawdin will translate his decent play to the NHL. But the titillating possibility of elite play trumps the tested reality of decent play in my tarot cards while evaluating prospects.

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In short, my list tilts towards high ceilings. It notes the size of the fish, then the location of the pond, then how soon it seems the fish might die.

Mike W (via 2020 post)Ranking prospects is always an inherently subjective task. Think about how hard it is to make the NHL…. it’s almost as equally hard to forecast this. There’s nothing groundbreaking or unique about my personal rubric for ranking this year’s group of Flames youngsters. Simply, my list was produced by examining where each player is on their unique developmental trajectory and combining probabilities of them becoming an everyday NHLer and becoming an impact NHLer.

Each player was moved in a direction based on how their skillsets project to transfer to the NHL level. Qualify this with some ‘eye test’ bias (i.e. I have been able to more closely watch players like Phillips, Zary, Wolf, Poirier, et al. in live action over the years more so than someone like Kinnvall) and personal views on players and you have a list that reads as a qualitative ranking of current NHL potential.

Paige: I put together my prospect ranking list based mostly on what I saw from the prospects playing in Stockton this past season. I also tried to resist the urge to rank someone high just because they scored a lot of goals. Other thoughts went into it, including the role that player would play on their team, and the level of play they were competing at in their respective league. NHL experience and the likelihood of future NHL time was also something I kept in the back of my mind.

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A lot of thought went into these lists and I think it’s a good thing our writers had different opinions about the rankings and the potential of the prospects.

Mike G: I typically rate prospects using three main factors (weighted highest to lowest): ceiling, floor, and NHL readiness. My methodology is a little harsher on guys like Connor Mackey, Adam Ruzicka, and especially Glenn Gawdin and more favourable to the likes of Matthew Phillips, Johannes Kinnvall, and Dmitry Zavgorodniy.

In Gawdin’s case, I don’t think it’s very likely he ever becomes anything more than a 12th or 13th forward in the NHL. I think there’s a pretty good chance he plays at least a few dozen NHL games but I’m not convinced he’ll ever nail down a significant role with a big-league club. Conversely, a player like Zavgorodniy might be a long shot to make the NHL… but, if he does, I think he could be a star.

Obviously, there’s a balance. Guys like Zavgorodniy and Jeremie Poirier have massive potential but extremely low floors and aren’t even close to the NHL. Phillips, on the other hand, is already an AHL star with the same—or even better—potential. He’s more than capable of driving a scoring line, whereas players like Ruzicka and Gawdin either thrive more as complementary pieces or have a playing style more suited to lower-skill units.

I will say this: I think Dustin Wolf has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the organization. That said, Zary and Coronato aren’t far behind and they make up for the difference in their higher floors. Wolf could be a legitimate top-tier NHL starter; he could also become a career .880 AHL goaltender.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this: in the case of a tie, I always defer to the player with the higher ceiling.