Lucas Ciona was the last Calgary Flames junior prospect standing
Photo credit:Brian Liesse/WHL
By Ryan Pike11 months ago
On Monday night, the last Calgary Flames junior prospect still alive in their league’s playoffs was eliminated. The Seattle Thunderbirds saw their improbable run halted in the Western Hockey League final series at the hands of the powerhouse Edmonton Oil Kings.
The season has now ended for Thunderbirds forward Lucas Ciona.
The Saint John Sea Dogs (and Flames prospects Jeremie Poirier and Yan Kuznetsov) are hosting the Memorial Cup despite being eliminated in the QMJHL playoffs, but Ciona was the last Flames prospect still active in any junior-level playoffs.
Ciona was a sixth round selection by the Flames in the 2021 NHL Draft. Typically, the Flames have taken swings on smaller offensive-minded forwards in the sixth round. But they already got one of those in the form of Jack Beck, who the Flames grabbed five spots earlier than Ciona, so they went in another direction.
Ciona is a different type of player. Listed by the WHL at 6’2″, 206 pounds, this left shot winger came into this season with just 79 WHL games under his belt – a product of the pandemic shortening his first two WHL seasons. He played 77 games this season between the regular season and playoffs, functionally doubling his prior game total.
Ciona earned strong reviews from Seattle locals: he plays a rough-and-tumble style of game, constantly battling and using his frame to create space for his teammates. In 24 playoff games, he had nine goals and 14 points. Two of his goals were game-winners: a series-winner against Portland in the second round, and a goal against Edmonton in Game 5 that extended the series. (He had just a single game-winner in the regular season.) 11 of his playoff points were scored at even strength.
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All-in-all, Ciona’s playoffs were roughly what his season was. His regular season NHL equivalent scoring output (16.35 points) was basically the same as his playoff NHLe (14.45), and he was used on the second and third lines throughout both spans.
He showed some improvements in the higher-stakes part of the season, though. His shots per game improved from 2.66 to 2.96, and his penalty minutes per game dropped from 1.45 to 1.17. Reviews from the rink indicate that Ciona was more consistently engaged than in the regular season – the physicality of the playoffs seemed to keep him involved – and he was able to avoid taking as many silly penalties. (He was suspended in October for charging, but he never got quite that rambunctious during four playoff rounds.)
There’s some good and bad in Ciona’s past 77 games, and what you take away from his 2021-22 season probably depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. Ciona’s points-per-game didn’t really move much from the prior season, jumping from 0.57 to 0.66. Offensively, this might be what he is. But his style of play could be better suited for the pro ranks because of his size and his pugnacity. (His skating might hold him back a little bit, but his overall demeanour likely won’t need to change a ton to be a decent pro.)
The Thunderbirds are a young team and Ciona’s role is likely to grow next season with 20-year-old teammates Henrik Rybinski and Lukas Svejkovsky aging out of junior, and New York Rangers prospect Matthew Rempe seems likely to go pro, too.
Ciona may not be a flashy prospect, but he was a key player on a team that surprised a lot of junior hockey pundits with a lengthy playoff run. We’ll see what he can do as an encore in his 19-year-old season.
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