The Calgary Flames have a trio of fairly young, fairly new faces currently on their roster. These guys aren’t on multi-year, multi-million dollar deals. They’re trying to impress Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter and cement themselves in the club’s plans.
Let’s check in on how these auditions are going.
Originally a centre, Ruzicka seemed like the odd-man out during training camp due to the signings of Kevin Rooney and Nazem Kadri given the incumbency of Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. Simply put: the four centre spots were full.
Ruzicka played one game in Rooney’s place as fourth line centre and was okay, but he’s really found his form as a top nine winger. He’s played on a line with Backlund (and Blake Coleman) and another with Lindholm (and Tyler Toffoli), and he’s been pretty noticeable and consistent with both lines.
He needs to work on his consistency away from the puck, but offensively it’s hard to argue with his results. In 18 games, he has six goals and 16 points, including three game-winners. He seems very close to cementing himself in the club’s plans, but my only question is whether they see him more as a centre or a winger going forward. (If he’s a centre, it’ll likely a fourth-line gig, so perhaps the wing is better for his offensive production?)
A 26-year-old Czech production, Zohorna joined the Flames in training camp as a waiver claim. He slotted into the past two games, ostensibly as a replacement for the waived Rooney on the fourth line. He earned praise from Sutter: “The big guy, the big centreman, played really good both games.”
Zohorna was minus-2 against Toronto, but the two goals he was on the ice for were the third Toronto goal (a product of a Chris Tanev turnover) and the fourth Toronto goals (a product of a Rasmus Andersson turnover). He used his size well and won more face-offs than he lost, which bodes well for future appearances.
Fans have been banging the drum for the AHL’s leading scorer to get a look. He played his first game of the season against Toronto on Saturday, slotting in alongside Backlund and Ruzicka.
And… he was fine. He looked more and more comfortable and noticeable as the game wore on. He didn’t make any glaring errors. He generated a couple scoring chances. He didn’t jump off the page, but he also didn’t fade into the background. For an undersized forward, all you can ask is that he contributes and doesn’t get squished. He ticked both those boxes against the Leafs, and probably deserves consideration for another appearance on the current road trip.