Calgary Flames first quarter player evaluations: forwards

Photo credit:Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Stevenson
2 years ago
While the actual one-quarter mark of the season lies at some point mid-way through game 21 – we’re calling that a technicality here at FlamesNation and are diving into where the players are at and how they are doing so far in 2021-22. First on deck: the forwards!
Some notes to start:
1) Mangiapane and Dubé have been given the role of second penalty killing pair with Coleman and Lewis as the third – clearly just for definition purposes.
2) Grades are based on my expectations for the player, fourth line players have different expectations to meet than top line guys and as such are graded differently.
3) Grade scale: A – exceptional, B – good, C – satisfactory (meets base level NHL expectations), D – underperforming, F – why are you even on this roster?
Player: Andrew Mangiapane
Lines used on: second, third lines – second PP unit – second PK unit
Go to tweet: #Mangialympics
Current evaluation: A+
Andrew Mangiapane has been an absolute beast this season scoring in spurts that sees him currently sitting 2nd in the entire league in goals at American Thanksgiving. He’s played very well defensively and is the primary force on the team for driving the puck to the crease to create chances. While I don’t think he goes off for 60+ like he’s currently projected I do feel comfortable predicting he will score over 30 – which is a very exclusive club in itself. Mangiapane is certainly a bubble Olympic player whose play has been noticeable and sustained over a long stretch – and when you break down his underlying metrics he only appears to be an even better player. This team utilizing Mangiapane as a top-6 winger is a major difference in their ability to find early success this season.
Player: Blake Coleman
Lines used on: second, third lines – third PK unit
Go to tweet: My fav Blake is Blake Coleman
Current evaluation: B
The new addition has fit in well and has done exactly what they need him to do in constantly driving play. He’s developed good chemistry with Mikael Backlund and the two have been able to match up against top talent and come away better than most of the league usually fair. The offensive contributions haven’t really been there yet – which keeps him out of the A grades – but I wouldn’t change one thing about how he’s played. His stretch of play from games 8 through 17 was top notch stuff. Fatigue over the early season marathon was likely to affect Blake Coleman the most due to his two cup runs the last two years, but defensively he’s been exceptional so far in his Flames tenure.
Player: Brad Richardson
Lines used on: fourth line
Go to tweet: Richy Rich! (I’ve never actually tweeted this)
Current evaluation: C-
The oldest player on the Flames active roster was the unfortunate beneficiary of an injury that kept him out of the first 9 games of the season. It very clearly effected his ability to keep up to pace when he first was inserted into the lineup – to the point where I questioned whether the age curve was hitting him after game 15. He’s responded with some decent fourth line play since then, not exactly winning their matchups but not getting scored on. Richardson was brought in for defensive presence and face-off ability, his defensive presence in limiting high danger opportunities needs to improve and some consistency in that regard would be welcomed.
Player: Brett Ritchie
Lines used on: third line (first edition)
Go to tweet: The man gets the simple details.
Current evaluation: B-
Ritchie might be the first instance of a guy that gets a higher grade than his production would indicate. He’s not flashy and isn’t going to score you nay highlight reel goals, but he is extremely consistent at always doing the simple thing. He gets pucks out at the blue line, pucks in deep, and pursues on the forecheck with heavy intention to get the puck back. His lateral passing/movement just isn’t an aspect of his game where he excels – and as long as he keeps things simple he can aid a line in moving a puck up ice. I’m not evaluating him hoping someone else can eventually fill his role, I’m just looking at what he has done in his role – and it’s been what they need from him so far.
Player: Dillon Dubé
Lines used on: third line (both editions) – second PP unit – second PK unit
Go to tweet: Is that Roy Kent out there?
Current evaluation: B
The chart below will show you rolling averages of Dubé’s performances (5 games per point) and you can see it has appeared predominantly good. The two things we don’t see 1) just how much Dubé has been contributing to creating offensive chances & 2) just how much he gives up defensively. If Dubé creates 5 high danger chances in a night he usually surrenders 4 or 5 too. Many of the mistakes have been covered by goaltending or defence to date, but make no mistake Dillon Dubé needs to take strides in defending – particularly his positioning and anticipation of puck movement. He’s got top 4 speed on this team and amazing potential to turn into a high-end NHL scorer, but if he wants success in Calgary he’s got to shore up his 5v5 defensive game significantly.
Player: Elias Lindholm
Lines used on: first line – first PP unit – first PK unit
Go to tweet: Elias Lindholm, Mr. Versatility
Current evaluation: A
After coming out of the gates like a human torch Lindholm himself has scored 1 goal in the last 14 games. Albeit he also has 13 assists over that same span, while facing the oppositions best shutdown lines nightly. Lindholm still scores out very high as the literal centrepiece of a top-5 line league wide. He’s charged with starting every penalty kill with Mikael Backlund which shows just how much this coaching staff trusts him defensively. Lindholm has turned into a bonafide number 1 center with great playmaking sense and the best wrist shot on the team.
Player: Johnny Gaudreau
Lines used on: first line – first PP unit
Go to tweet: Johnny is good at hockey
Current evaluation: A+
The only thing he’s done so far is completely burst through his ceiling of expectations. Plenty of comments about Sutter and Johnny were made by many before the season started and all of the suspect ones have been put to rest. He’s the most dynamic and creative player on this roster and for the love of all things good lock him up – yesterday.
Player: Matthew Tkachuk
Lines used on: first line – first PP unit – Bench Minor Penalty Boy
Go to tweet: Stay off the tracks!
Current evaluation: A+
He’s been nothing short of tremendously consistent. His ability to rapidly transition the puck through the neutral zone, or keep play alive low in the zone is at one of the highest levels league wide. He may not have flashy speed but his hockey IQ is uncanny. The Flames top line isn’t anywhere near as dominant without his presence.
Player: Mikael Backlund
Lines used on: second, third lines – second PP unit – 1st PK unit
Go to tweet: Tillie and Oliver’s dad strikes again.
Current evaluation: B+
Nobody has a harder job on the Calgary Flames than Mikael Backlund. For 20 straight games – no matter who has been on his line – he’s been matched up against the opposition’s top talent. Say what you will about bad teams but even their top lines have tremendous skill and it’s Mickis’ job to take them on. The fact the team is first in the West after 20 games is a testament to how successful he’s been – his goalies must love him.
Player: Milan Lucic
Lines used on: fourth line
Go to tweet: Rocket Loochard!
Current evaluation: C+
Looch has provided something unique to this lineup – consistent physicality on a strong forecheck. Darryl likes to use the language of knowing how to win, and Lucic knows how to win by sticking to his strengths. He doesn’t try and play outside his limits – no dekes, jukes, flukes, or dukes. He’s been rewarded for his efforts with 5 goals in 20 games. His grade is still lower because for the majority of the season his rolling high danger chance number has lived below 50% – but make no mistake he provides his own value to this roster.
Player: Sean Monahan
Lines used on: second, third, fourth lines – first PP unit
Go to tweet: Back in the saddle…dome (I’m running out of ideas here)
Current evaluation: C+
He has yet to look like the Sean Monahan of yonder, and I’m coming to terms with that. He was able to find good numbers and provide a decent impact with Coleman and Mange, but it threw the rest of the lines off. I believe the third line is a place Monahan can find even more success in the next 20 games. I’m not lost on him completely like some – but I really would like to see more from him offensively (at 5v5) in the second quarter.
Player: Trevor Lewis
Lines used on: third, fourth lines – third PK unit
Go to tweet: I don’t think I really tweet about Lewis – compliment really.
Current evaluation: C
Lewis has done well, but nothing spectacular. He helps bring that same identity to the Flames fourth line as Lucic except not as physical. He’s got a bit more offensive punch than the 2 ENGs he’s scored too – he’s hit a few crossbars to date. He’s also been really slacking on his high danger defence lately too – if the fourth line can pick that up they can just keep doing what they do all year long and I have no reservations about it. No event hockey – a fourth line dream.
Player: Tyler Pitlick
Lines used on: third, fourth lines
Go to tweet: Welcome to the pit (yeah this section is flickering)
Current evaluation: C
He got off to a slow start due to a pre-season injury, but then found some real good success with Backlund and Coleman in a shutdown role. The lines got shuffled and now he’s really the primary defensive guy on the third line with Monahan and Dubé to which he’s been very average. Pitlick profiled as having a limited offensive ceiling so I’m not really judging him on his offence – primarily defence. He’s recently trending upwards – I’ll be watching intently.
The rest of the crew: Glenn Gawdin has two games and Walker Duehr has just one, so they don’t have anywhere near enough data points to be included in a 5-game rolling average chart. Both were adequate in their appearances and if Calgary strikes an injury bug both would be viable pieces to plug into the roster.


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