Calgary’s lineup will likely feature multiple rookies in 2021–22

Photo credit:Courtesy the Stockton Heat
Mike Gould
2 years ago
Two-time Stanley Cup champions Blake Coleman and Trevor Lewis are now Calgary Flames.
So, too, are Tyler Pitlick and Nikita Zadorov, although the latter remains a restricted free agent with a salary arbitration hearing set for Aug. 26.
Even with their additions, the Flames still have plenty of holes to fill in their lineup. Mark Giordano, Derek Ryan, David Rittich, Sam Bennett, Josh Leivo, Nikita Nesterov, and Joakim Nordstrom have all left the team in recent months.
While Flames general manager Brad Treliving brought in Coleman, Lewis, Pitlick, and Zadorov to occupy some of the team’s vacated spots, he’ll also undoubtedly be counting on internal options to pick up some slack.
Here’s a look at some of the organization’s younger players who could become regular NHL fixtures for the first time in 2021–22.


Barring any additional changes, Calgary will likely enter into the 2021–22 season with a roster featuring the following 11 forward “locks”:
  • Johnny Gaudreau
  • Matthew Tkachuk
  • Elias Lindholm
  • Sean Monahan
  • Blake Coleman
  • Andrew Mangiapane
  • Mikael Backlund
  • Dillon Dube
  • Milan Lucic
  • Tyler Pitlick
  • Trevor Lewis
Assuming the team opts for a full 23-man roster with 14 forwards, three spots remain open after accounting for the above players.
Of course, Brett Ritchie is still around. The big 28-year-old winger was very ineffective at driving play in his 32 games with the Flames last season; he scored four goals and eight points in Calgary before being re-signed on Jul. 15 to a one-year, one-way deal worth $900,000.
It’s not a given he’ll make the team out of camp — Lucic, Zadorov, and Pitlick are plenty physical and, at $150,000 more than the league minimum, Ritchie’s contract isn’t ideally economical for a depth forward — but it’s well-known how much Flames coach Darryl Sutter values Ritchie’s presence. As a 13th forward, he’d likely be just fine to have around.
Even with Ritchie in the fold, Calgary would still need two more forwards to complete its roster. Byron Froese likely won’t be one of them: Stockton will want to have its captain around and Froese has only appeared in six NHL games over the last three seasons.
If Froese remains with the Heat, the Flames will likely opt to promote two deserving young forwards to the main roster out of training camp.
Glenn Gawdin is probably the odds-on favourite to snag one of those spots. The 6’1″ forward is a year removed from leading the Heat in scoring — he had 47 points in 53 AHL games during the 2019–20 season — and he appeared in his first seven NHL contests in 2020–21.
Gawdin is a right-handed centre who turned 24 in March. His grip loosened last season on the No. 1 centre job in Stockton (he was in Calgary while the AHL season started) but he remained generally effective in a slightly reduced role. Gawdin would require waivers to be assigned to Stockton at the start of the 2021–22 season.
Luke Philp also requires waivers to go down to the AHL. He skated with the Flames near the end of the 2020–21 season and looked to be on the verge of entering the lineup before suffering a season-ending upper-body injury in a practice.
Philp, 25, is another right-shooting forward capable of playing centre or wing. He stands 5’10” and weighs 181 pounds. Over the last two seasons, he leads all Heat skaters with 27 goals in 82 games.
Matthew Phillips and Philp signed matching one-year extensions with the Flames on Aug. 6. Stockton’s most dynamic player, Phillips is only 5’7″ and 155 pounds but he tied for the team lead with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 2020–21. He’s a hard-working right wing with excellent agility and a knack for making impressive passes.
Phillips turned 23 in April. The 2016 sixth-round draft pick earned his way into his first NHL game in last season’s finale; now off his entry-level contract, he’ll need to pass through waivers to go back to Stockton. While Gawdin remains an RFA, Phillips and Philp boast identical $750,000 cap hits and would be easy to fit into the Flames’ salary structure.
Then, there’s Adam Ruzicka. The 6’4″ Slovak pivot also scored 21 points with the Heat last year and led the team with 11 goals in 28 games. He’s an excellent left-shot triggerman who needs to work on his game-to-game consistency.
Ruzicka is a little bit more expensive than Phillips and Philp. His contract carries an $801,666 salary cap hit and also incorporates $15,000 in potential performance bonuses. With his waiver-exempt status, he’s also pretty easy to send down.
Expect Gawdin’s name to be on the roster sheet when the Flames clash with the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 16 for the 2021–22 opener. He could start the season as the team’s No. 4 centre.
Between Philp, Phillips, and Ruzicka, the Flames will probably opt to keep the hard-working Phillips away from the waiver wire and in the NHL. The other two would presumably occupy Stockton’s top-six centre spots.
Projected NHL forward lineup:
Johnny Gaudreau – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane – Sean Monahan – Blake Coleman
Dillon Dube – Mikael Backlund – Tyler Pitlick
Milan Lucic – Glenn Gawdin – Trevor Lewis
Brett Ritchie – Matthew Phillips


While Calgary’s defence corps looks a little suspect after Mark Giordano’s departure, it still features a crop of respected NHL veterans and young returnees who will almost assuredly make the team out of training camp:
  • Chris Tanev
  • Noah Hanifin
  • Rasmus Andersson
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Juuso Valimaki
Beyond those five, things get a little tricky to project on Calgary’s back-end. Michael Stone has yet to be signed after looking surprisingly capable in his 21 games with the Flames last season; if he re-ups in Calgary, he’ll probably slide into the team’s No. 7 defenceman slot for $750,000.
The Flames signed veteran NHL/AHL rearguards Kevin Gravel and Andy Welinski to one-year contracts in July. Gravel, 29, has 109 NHL games to his name — mostly with Darryl Sutter’s Los Angeles Kings — while Welinski, 28, has suited up for 49 NHL contests. Both players appear destined to start the year in Stockton but could figure into Calgary’s plans as short-term injury replacements during the season.
Oliver Kylington is also still a Flame despite appearing in just eight NHL games last season. The smooth-skating Swede has proven himself to be a reasonably solid defender in limited duty over parts of four campaigns with Calgary and only just turned 24. He signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 with Calgary on Aug. 9.
Let’s assume Calgary’s final roster features one of Stone or Kylington. With one spot still available — and the likes of Nick DeSimone and Johannes Kinnvall unlikely to make the jump out of camp — there’s really just one obvious candidate for an internal promotion.
Connor Mackey turns 25 next month and is coming off an impressive first year of professional hockey where he earned a spot on the AHL’s Canadian Division all-star team. He scored three goals and 16 points in 27 AHL games and also made his first six appearances with the Flames, recording a goal and two helpers.
If Mackey is ever going to become a full-time NHL player, this is likely his year to take that step. There’s a good chance he gets the opportunity immediately out of training camp, especially if Kylington is moved in a trade prior to that point. (Of note: Mackey is exempt from waivers for 2021–22.)
Projected NHL defence lineup:
Noah Hanifin – Chris Tanev
Juuso Valimaki – Rasmus Andersson
Oliver Kylington – Nikita Zadorov
Connor Mackey


This one is pretty cut-and-dried.
Jacob Markstrom will return as the Flames’ starting goalie in 2021–22. The 31-year-old Swede appeared in 43 of the team’s 56 games last season and is entering the second season of the massive six-year deal he signed with Calgary in 2020.
David Rittich served as Markstrom’s backup to begin 2020–21; the Flames traded him to Toronto during the season and he subsequently signed with the Nashville Predators in July.
As the 2021 UFA frenzy continued into the afternoon of Jul. 28, teams snapped up every free agent goaltender of note while the Flames stood pat. With only the likes of Curtis McElhinney and Devan Dubnyk remaining available to sign, it became clear Flames GM Brad Treliving was looking in a different direction to fill the void behind Markstrom.
Enter Dan Vladar.
Vladar, 23, appears to be the clear-cut option to serve as Markstrom’s backup in 2021–22. He’s as cheap as they come — his contract carries a $750,000 cap hit for the next two seasons — and, unlike fellow prospects Dustin Wolf and Adam Werner, he requires waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
In 2019–20, Vladar led the entire American Hockey League with a .936 save percentage and a 1.79 goals-against average in 25 games with the Providence Bruins. He sported a .923 SV% in 10 games with Providence last season and appeared in his first five NHL contests with Boston.
Vladar won his first two NHL starts, making a total of 62 saves on 65 shots in victories over Pittsburgh and Buffalo in late March. He remained solid in his next two appearances before faltering in his final game of the year, an 8-1 loss to Washington on Apr. 11.
Despite his inconsistent NHL showing, Vladar has impressed at every other level and appears primed to take the next step. Werner, Wolf, and Tyler Parsons should all earn looks with Stockton in 2021–22; depending on how they play, any of the three could join the Flames if the injury bug bites this coming season.
Projected goaltending tandem:
Jacob Markstrom
Dan Vladar

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