18 former Calgary Flames are heading to the Beijing Olympics
Photo credit:Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports
By Ryan Pike1 year ago
Friends, current National Hockey League players won’t be going to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics next month. But amidst all the non-NHL players named to various international teams are 18 former Calgary Flames players (and three past draft choices that never played for the club).
The 18 former Flames include a goalie, five blueliners and a dozen forwards!
Corban Knight (31; Avangard Omsk, KHL) played 52 games in the NHL, including 9 games with the Flames in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Knight’s been a reliable AHLer and has played in Europe over the past three seasons.
Ben Street (34; EHC München, DEL) played 59 games in the NHL, including 19 games for the Flames split between 2012-13 and 2013-14. A reliable two-way forward, Street has won a Calder Cup and an NCAA Championship in his hockey career, and him chasing Olympic hardware is a pretty fun development.
Tyler Wotherspoon (28; Utica Comets, AHL) was a second-round selection of the Flames back in 2011. Like the other four players selected by the Flames that year, Wotherspoon played NHL games. He suited up for 30 NHL games (all with the Flames) between 2013-14 and 2016-17. He’s spent the last five seasons in the AHL, but since he’s not under an NHL contract he’s able to head over to the tournament.
(2004 ninth-round pick Adam Cracknell, who never played for the NHL club but spent parts of four seasons in the Flames system, is also headed to play for Canada.)
Spencer Foo (27; Kunlun Red Star, KHL) was signed as a highly-touted college free agent but didn’t quite pan out. He played four games for the Flames in 2017-18 and spent two years in their system, then headed over to the KHL to play for Red Star. He has never played for Canada internationally and managed to satisfy IIHF residency requirements enough to play for the Chinese national team despite being born in Canada.
Roman Cervenka (36; SC Rapperswill-Jona Lakers, NL) joined the Flames in 2012-13 as a highly-touted European signing. But the “best centre outside of the NHL” suffered a blood clot before training camp and treatment of the clot involved blood thinners and minimal physical activity, which more or less sapped his cardio and made him a pretty ordinary NHLer during his brief Flames stint. He returned to Europe, where he’s been pretty productive ever since.
Michael Frolik (33; Lausanne HC, NL) was arguably Brad Treliving’s best free agent signing, joining the club in the summer of 2015 and fitting like a glove with Mikael Backlund and young Matthew Tkachuk in the 3M Line starting with his second season. He slid down the rotation by the end of his deal and was traded to Buffalo for a draft pick, and he’s now playing in Switzerland.
The Flames have never had a Danish player.
Markus Granlund (28; Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) was a second-round pick of the Flames in 2011. He was a tweener forward who couldn’t find a niche, and was eventually traded to Vancouver for Hunter Shinkaruk. Granlund had a few good years with Vancouver (and one year in Edmonton’s system) before heading to the KHL.
Tobias Rieder (29; Vaxjo Lakers HC, SHL) was signed as a depth forward and played with the Flames in 2019-20. He was decent if unspectacular and left as a free agent. After a year with Buffalo, he’s landed in Sweden.
David Wolf (32; Adler Mannheim, DEL) was the first player signed by Treliving after he became general manager in 2014. He played three NHL games but largely spent the year in the AHL. He returned to Germany the following season and has been a fixture in Germany’s top league since.
The Flames have only had one Latvian player, Raitis Ivanans. He’s retired.
Russian Olympic Committee
(Because of a doping scandal and IOC sanctions, we can’t refer to them as Team Russia. But we all know that they’re basically Team Russia.)
Alexander Yelesin (25; Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL) was signed out of the KHL as a free agent. He played four games for the Flames and spent two years in their system before returning to Russia. Because he was a restricted free agent when he left, the Flames technically still retain his rights.
Nikita Nesterov (28; CSKA Moscow, KHL) was with the Flames last season, lured over from the KHL. He was a third pairing fixture, was perfectly fine, but returned to his old team following the season. He captained “Not Russia” to a gold medal in the 2018 Olympics.
(2015 Flames draft choice Pavel Karnaukhov is also with Not Russia. He played two seasons with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, but returned home to pursue a career in the KHL rather than stay in North America.)
Marek Hrivik (30; Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, KHL) played one season in the Flames system, with three NHL games for the club in 2017-18. He then headed back to Europe, where he’s bounced between Sweden and the KHL.
(2018 Flames pick Milos Roman is also on Team Slovakia. He was not signed by the Flames and his draft rights lapsed. He graduated from the WHL and has played in Europe since then.)
Oscar Fantenberg (30; SKA St. Petersburgh, KHL) was a trade deadline acquisition in 2019. He was perfectly adequate. He joined the Canucks organization the following season, then headed to the KHL.
Joakim Nordstrom (29; CSKA Moscow, KHL) played with the Flames last season. He was a solid if unspectacular depth forward, and then left for the KHL following the season.
Reto Berra (35; HC Fribourg-Gotteron, NL) joined the Flames in the Jay Bouwmeester trade and was briefly touted as “the best goalie outside of the NHL.” He was an adequate NHL goaltender and was traded to Colorado at the 2014 trade deadline after playing 29 games for Calgary. He bounced up and down from the AHL with Colorado, Florida and Anaheim before heading back to Switzerland a few years ago. He’s perhaps best known for being referred to as “Retro Beero” by the Sportsnet 960 morning show.
Raphael Diaz (36; HC Fribourg-Gotteron, NL) was signed in training camp by the Flames in 2014 and was a solid depth defender in 2014-15. He spent the following season with the New York Rangers’ AHL team, then headed back to Switzerland.
Kenny Agostino (29; Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, KHL) joined the Fames in the Jarome Iginla trade. He played three seasons in the Flames system, amassing 10 NHL contests, before walking as a free agent after not being qualified. He established himself as a very good AHLer, but couldn’t find an NHL foothold despite stops with St. Louis, Boston, New Jersey, Montreal and Toronto. He headed to the KHL this past summer.
Nick Shore (29; Sibir Novosibirsk, KHL) was brief a Flame after being acquired from Ottawa in a trade deadline swap in 2018. He did not pass his fourth line centre audition and has bounced between NHL fourth lines and Europe ever since. (He’s not to be confused with Drew, his brother who was briefly a Flame, and Devin, who wasn’t a Flame and who he’s not even related to.)
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