The Calgary Flames entered training camp last week with a few openings and a few question marks. One place that the Flames have some potential for new faces on their full-time roster is on the wing, with the club’s fourth line and extra forward spots likely being up for grabs.
Let’s take a look at the contenders.
With the injury to Connor Zary, there are likely four contenders for the opening(s): Brett Ritchie, Trevor Lewis, Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier.
Ritchie, 28, is a right shot winger who joined the Flames last season on a pro try-out. He’s big and plays physical, which made him a favourite of Darryl Sutter last season. But he played too high in the rotation and it undoubtedly impacted his performance. But as a pro veteran, Ritchie could be useful as an occasional forward – in the same manner that Zac Rinaldo was used during his time with the Flames. Ritchie won’t move the needle a ton and probably shouldn’t be in the regular forward mix, but as a fill-in body he can still be useful.
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Lewis, 34, is a right shot winger with two Stanley Cups from his time with the Los Angeles Kings. Lewis has history with Sutter and has played over 700 NHL games. He’s not a huge offensive presence and he has a lot of physical wear and tear on him that might impact his effectiveness, but if the idea is Sutter will use him, Milan Lucic and Brad Richardson as a fourth line with tons of defensive zone starts there might be some value there.
Phillips, 23, is a right shot winger and a tiny man who’s been in the Flames system for several years. But for folks who have followed him in the WHL and with the Stockton Heat, he’s usually one of their favourite players. He’s smart. He’s fast. He’s versatile. He’s been a steady AHL contributor, and he got into an NHL game at the end of last season and didn’t look out of place. His size is a knock, for sure, but Phillips has heard that for years and managed to get to this point.
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Pelletier, 20, is a left shot winger and the Flames’ first round pick in 2019. A product of the Quebec hockey system, Pelletier is basically a hockey Swiss Army knife. He’s slightly bigger than Phillips, but he plays like he’s much bigger, and Pelletier has managed to become one of the best 200-foot players in major junior hockey over the past few seasons. The big challenge for Pelletier is that he’s never played pro hockey before, and the adjustment to the nuances and stylistic differences may take him a few weeks to adjust to. (And if Pelletier’s going to make the team, he needs to be a regular player and not be a healthy scratch because he’s still developing.)
If I were a betting man, and knowing this coach, I’d wager that Lewis and Ritchie have the best chances at breaking camp with the Flames. But someone may surprise and steal a job.
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Who do you think should be the Flames’ depth wingers at the end of camp? Sound off in the comments!