FlamesNation Mailbag: Talking Wranglers and possible depth signing options

Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames’ season is complete, folks. But the Calgary Wranglers have managed to extend their season a couple times. First, they qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs. Then, they swept the Tucson Roadrunners to move onto the next round.
It’s probably no shock that the Wranglers (and prospects in general) dominate the questions in this week’s mailbag.
I’ve really been impressed with William Strömgren this season. He came over from Sweden on a try-out late last season and played two games late in the regular season with the Wranglers. He became a full-time AHLer this season and spent the first couple months figuring out the AHL; moving to a new country and learning a new style of hockey as a 20-year-old has its challenges.
But by the time the calendar flipped over to 2024, Strömgren seemed to have made the adjustments to be a reliable, useful AHLer. He posted seven goals and 20 assists over 68 games, but the bulk of that production was in the back half of the season. I would liken his trajectory to what we saw from Adam Klapka during his first North American season (last season); he really figured things out, to the point where he didn’t look a bit out of place in the NHL this season.
I suspect we’ll see Strömgren push for NHL games in 2024-25.
I don’t know what’s up Craig Conroy’s sleeves, but I suspect that the proverbial white whale for them is a centre that’s either under-23 or under-25. If you look at the age group assets that the Flames have, their best all-around centres are offensive dynamo Nazem Kadri (he’s 33) and shutdown ace Mikael Backlund (he’s 35). Connor Zary played a handful of games at centre and was pretty good, but he’s still a work in progress at the NHL level in that role and he’s 22. If they can find somebody who fits in-between those age groups – 30s and early 20s – then that gives Zary a bit of time to breathe and round out his game, and provides the Flames with some flexibility in how they use Kadri and Backlund as they get older.
Brand-new faces in the Flames pro system for sure include Parker Bell (who spent this season in the WHL as an overager), Waltteri Ignatjew, Joni Jurmo and Sam Morton.
Under NHL deals for next season but eligible to return to junior as overagers are Sam Honzek and Hunter Brzustewicz. (We suspect they’ll both be given every chance to be Wranglers, though.) Right now, Jaden Lipinski is not under an NHL deal – the Flames have until June 1, 2025 to sign him – and I suspect he’ll be given every chance to play in the AHL (and potentially earn an NHL deal), but the numbers game may push him back to the WHL (just like what happened to Bell this season).
If the Flames don’t win the draft lottery, they’ll likely draft ninth. Odds are, whoever they draft at that slot won’t be physically developed enough yet to push for NHL duty right away. And if they’re drafted out of Canadian major junior, they would need to be in the NHL or junior for next season.
In short: whether the Flames draft Tij Iginla or whoever else at ninth overall, we wouldn’t expect them to be playing pro hockey in 2024-25.
From John, via e-mail: Who on the Wranglers has most surprised you with their play this year? Outside the obvious (Pelts/Coronato) who do you think makes noise at training camp?
I always said William Strömgren, so I’ll throw out a different name and say Ilya Solovyov. He’s been really noticeable in his own end this season at the AHL level, consistently playing a smart shutdown game, blocking shots and generally just making opponents dislike seeing him on the ice. (He projects as a poor man’s Chris Tanev, which is meant as a compliment.) Especially late in the season, he really seemed to fit in with the Flames’ third pairing (and penalty kill). I’m fascinated to see how he looks at camp.
Got a question for a future mailbag? Contact Ryan on Twitter/X at @RyanNPike or e-mail him at Ryan [at] TheNationNetwork.com! (Make sure you put Mailbag in the subject line!)

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