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FlamesNation Mailbag: Prospects, the World Juniors, Etienne Morin’s progression and more!

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
2 months ago
December is a fun month. Not only does everybody get to wear wacky holiday sweaters without fear of reprisal – the uglier the better! – but the annual World Junior Championship tournament is almost upon us! As we await the start of a week-long road trip for the Calgary Flames, let’s dive into our weekly mailbag!
Maybe it’s because of the sheer proximity, but it’d be interesting to see if the Flames take looks at a few impressive overage Western Hockey League performers. A few that are having strong seasons include former Calgary Hitmen forward Zac Funk (now with Prince George), Portland Winterhawks captain Gabe Klassen, Prince George blueliner Hudson Thornton and Regina’s Parker Berge. We’ll get into this topic in more depth later in the season, but the Flames could definitely use some depth help on their blueline throughout the organization – especially if you expect guys like Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev to be playing elsewhere after the trade deadline – and there are good defenders available all over the place if you look hard enough.
(We’ll do a deeper dive on potential collegiate, European and major junior free agents in the New Year.)
Unfortunately, Etienne Morin wasn’t invited to Hockey Canada’s selection camp.
Last season, Etienne Morin had a superb year for Moncton. In 67 games, he had 21 goals and 72 points. He finished third among defencemen in the entire year in points. This season, he has five goals and 20 points in 24 games so far, good for eighth in the QMJHL in points by defenders. On a per-game basis, his points have dipped – from 1.07 to 0.83 – even though the Wildcats are scoring about a half a goal more per game than they were last season.
But I’d point the finger more at puck luck than the player regressing. Morin averaged 3.18 shots per game last season, with 9.9% of his shots going in. This season he’s averaging 3.29 shots per game – an improvement – but his shooting percentage is down to 6.3%. If his shooting percentage is the same as last season’s, we’re talking about a player with almost three more goals and somebody scoring at just about the same pace as before.
If Morin wasn’t getting shot volume, I’d be more concerned about regression.
A few things on this…
First, sometimes players find their levels. For some guys, their skill ceiling is “very good junior player,” some guys peak in the AHL, and some guys hit the NHL and top out as depth guys. And that’s okay! Depth NHL players are still among the most talented hockey players on the dang planet.
Second, the departure of folks like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk have made the Flames more reliant on folks like Andrew Mangiapane and Elias Lindholm for scoring, and that’s made them more of a target for opponents’ shutdown lines. So the easiest way to facilitate a turnaround would be, well, getting them some help. (If you’re an opposition coach and you’re suddenly worried about Connor Zary getting Nazem Kadri going, for instance, you’re a bit less focused on the other lines.)
Third, the Flames are presently a team without game-breaking stars. But if they can find and integrate enough good players on all four lines that can make tangible offensive impacts from time to time, they can just roll lines and see who’s got the hot hand on any given evening. I would argue that they’re entering an asset accumulation phase: unless there’s a specific pressing reason to punt on a player, and those will usually be because of pending free agency, it serves their interests to grab and hold onto as many talented pieces as they can get their hands on and keep the best 20-or-so for their NHL lineup.
You definitely keep an eye on the trade market to see what your older players are worth, but I don’t think you go out of your way to move somebody unless there’s a pressing reason – or unless somebody makes you a strong enough offer.

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