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Dryden Hunt was an effective fourth-line fill-in for the Calgary Flames in 2023-24

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Photo credit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
1 month ago
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Dryden Hunt is the quintessential NHL journeyman.
No, he wasn’t drafted into the league. Hunt parlayed an outstanding final WHL season into his first NHL contract, and then had to stand out in the AHL (and, briefly, the ECHL) to earn his first big-league look with the Florida Panthers.
Six years and four NHL teams later, Hunt wound up making the Calgary Flames out of their 2023 training camp and skated in 28 games for them during the 2023-24 season. Although he didn’t play much, Hunt was a capable fill-in when needed.
Here’s a look back at how Hunt got to this point in his career — and where he might go from here.

The past

Hunt began his junior career in the 2011-12 season as a member of the WHL’s Regina Pats. The Cranbrook, BC product skated in parts of five seasons in the Dub, finally breaking out as a 20-year-old with the Moose Jaw Warriors while skating on a line with someone named Brayden Point.
After leading the Warriors with 116 points in 72 games that year, Hunt agreed to terms on an entry-level deal with the Panthers. He skated in his first 63 games with the Panthers between the 2017-18 and 2019-20 seasons and even suited up for two playoff games with the team in 2020.
The Panthers elected not to tender Hunt a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent after that season, opening the door for him to sign with any team as an unrestricted free agent. He opted to join the Arizona Coyotes, with whom he managed eight points in 26 games while intermittently residing on the team’s taxi squad.
After one season in the desert, Hunt signed a two-year contract with the New York Rangers, with whom he played his first full NHL season in 2021-22. The 6′ winger collected six goals and 17 points in 76 games with the Rangers that year while primarily playing on the team’s fourth line.
The 2022-23 season was one of tumult for Hunt, as he was waived twice and traded twice. After starting out with the Rangers, he was waived after just three games and was claimed by the Colorado Avalanche, with whom he appeared in 25 contests. Then, in late December, the Avs traded Hunt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Denis Malgin.
Hunt lasted nine games with the Leafs before being waived again in January. This time, he made it through and was assigned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Finally, in the lead-up to the 2023 trade deadline, the Leafs traded Hunt to the Flames in exchange for Radim Zohorna.
In total, Hunt managed three points (all goals) in 37 games with the Rangers, Avalanche, and Leafs during the 2022-23 season. He also appeared in 32 AHL games with the Marlies and Calgary Wranglers, collecting nine goals and 24 points; in nine playoff games with the Wranglers, he racked up three goals and six points.

The present

After being traded to the Flames, Hunt first needed to sort out his living situation. He already owned a home in Calgary, but he had rented it out to another recent Flames acquisition in MacKenzie Weegar.
Hunt and his wife, who is from Calgary, were married shortly after he joined the Flames organization. That same summer, he signed a two-year deal to remain with the Flames through the end of the 2024-25 season, giving some much-needed stability to a player who has seldom enjoyed it during his career.
After a successful training camp with the Flames, Hunt started the 2023-24 regular season in the NHL. He skated in the 2023 Heritage Classic against the Edmonton Oilers on October 29, logging a season-high 16:58 of ice time. But after just four games with the Flames to begin the year, Hunt was re-assigned to the Wranglers in November.
Hunt picked up where he left off in his 23 AHL games during the 2023-24 season, amassing seven goals and 22 points to help the Wranglers stay in the running for a playoff spot. But before he could see that quest through, Hunt was promoted back into the NHL in February and remained with the Flames for the rest of the season.
In total, Hunt appeared in 28 games with the Flames in 2023-24, picking up three goals and eight points. He scored all of his goals in a stretch of just seven games in late February and early March, and the Flames generally treaded water in most analytical categories with him on the ice. Hunt didn’t propel them forward much at all, but he also wasn’t much of a drag. He just did his job.

The future

In much the same way that Kevin Rooney does, Hunt will serve as a benchmark player for the Flames’ prospects in 2024-25.
It’s certainly possible (if not probable) that Hunt starts the year on the roster, and for players like Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, and William Stromgren, all they’ll really need to do to secure a spot will be to play better than guys like him. After all, the Flames have shown a preparedness to send Hunt to the AHL in the past. For them, he’s essentially a $775,000 insurance policy.
Hunt is the exact type of player an organization loves to have to mentor its prospects in the minor leagues while also being capable of slotting into the NHL lineup in a pinch. For a Flames team about to go through some lean years, having a guy like Hunt around who is reasonably skilled and also of high character is a luxury. The fact he already lives in Calgary is just a bonus.
Don’t be surprised if Hunt slots in on the Flames’ fourth line for their 2024-25 season opener. Whether he remains in that spot for the rest of the year is to be determined. Hunt will turn 29 in November. He’s more than capable of holding his own in the NHL, but the Flames want to get younger. At a certain point, he’ll age out of this group.

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