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Big Calgary Flames prospect Parker Bell had a breakout 2022-23 season

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
8 months ago
There’s a running joke in hockey circles that you can’t teach size. All things being equal, teams often skew towards larger players in part due to the physical rigours of the game of hockey. As a result, big-bodied players available late in the draft can often lack skill.
Taken late in the 2022 NHL Draft, winger Parker Bell is a big kid who the Calgary Flames selected based on his potential. While Bell didn’t crack FlamesNation’s top 20 prospect rankings this year, a breakout 2022-23 strongly suggested that the Flames may have been onto something when they selected him.
A product of Estevan, Saskatchewan, Bell’s a big kid. He’s listed at 6’4″ and 190 pounds, and he’s a left shot winger.
Bell’s major junior career has been a bit wonky, primarily due to the pandemic. A fifth-round selection by the Tri-City Americans in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Bell made his WHL debut as a 16-year-old in the 2019-20 season. He had a modest five points in 48 games, but by all accounts he didn’t look out of place.
Then the pandemic derailed the WHL’s 2020-21 season, Bell’s 17-year-old season, causing him to start the season with the junior-B Campbell River Storm of the VIJHL and then play just 13 games in the Dub (and register two points). Heading into his draft year, there were question marks about Bell’s progression and potential due to his lack of games in major junior. (How can you tell how good he could be based on 61 WHL games over two seasons?)
In 2021-22, his draft year, Bell had 18 goals and 49 points in 64 games with Tri-City. In his second full season in the WHL, with a role that grew throughout the season, Bell was second on the Americans in scoring. His overall game was still a bit raw, but he could use his size around the net to create havoc (and offence). His work ethic really helped elevate his overall performance, even if his game lacked a bit of polish.
Bell’s emergence in 2021-22 led to him being selected by the Flames in the fifth round of the 2022 NHL Draft. Here’s what Flames director of amateur scouting Tod Button said on draft day in 2022 regarding Bell:
“Personally I didn’t see Parker play, but our western guys, they really like him. He’s a big kid, really works hard. They think he’s got a huge ceiling, in regards to that he hasn’t really trained a lot as a young kid. And they think when he gets exposed to that at a higher level and he commits to it, they think he has a lot of room to grow.”
Bell took another step in 2022-23. On one hand, he missed 13 games due to a couple injuries. On the other hand, in the 55 games he did appear in the Americans’ lineup, he had 25 goals and 64 points and was again second in scoring among all Tri-City players. He was their top per-game offensive producer, both at even strength and overall. He finished just outside of the top 50 in scoring in the entire Western League. After the Americans were eliminated from the playoffs, Bell joined the American Hockey League’s Calgary Wranglers for a couple games as they finished off their regular season. (He was kept around as a black ace for the first round of the playoffs.)
Heading into this fall’s training camp, Bell is in a fascinating position. As a 2003-born player, he’s either headed back to the WHL as an overager… or he’s going pro, and potentially pursuing a spot with the Wranglers. He’s good. He’s got NHL size, but his game is a bit unpolished.
The big question for the Flames is figuring out whether he’ll develop more in the WHL or in the AHL (or ECHL) – with the organizational forward depth the Flames have, Bell would be battling guys like William Stromgren and Lucas Ciona for depth spots with the Wranglers. If he’s not going to be in the AHL, returning to junior may be better for him than a trip to Rapid City.
Is Bell a sure-fire future NHLer? Nope. And if you want to be a pessimist, a case can be made that a lot of his success offensively in the Dub could be a product of him being so much bigger than the other kids. But if he can keep building his game and figure out how to use his size well at the pro level, there’s a lot to like about him and his potential.

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