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How is the Calgary Flames roster shaping up five games into the pre-season?

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Photo credit:James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
The Calgary Flames played their fifth pre-season game of the year on Friday night, in the form of a 2-1 overtime loss to Edmonton. Through five games, the Flames have two shootout wins, a regulation win, a regulation loss and an overtime loss – they have captured zero of a possible zero standings points.
But more importantly, they’ve seen several players in game situations. With five of the eight scheduled exhibition games in the books, how’s the roster shaping up?

Goaltenders

Locks: Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar
Dustin Wolf has played well. But Jacob Markstrom is the incumbent and has a long track record in the NHL, while Dan Vladar has looked really good. The Flames have the ability to stash Wolf in the minors until a team makes general manager Craig Conroy the proverbial offer he can’t refuse. So, for now, it definitely feels like a status quo crease.

Defencemen

Locks: Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Nikita Zadorov, MacKenzie Weegar, Chris Tanev and Jordan Oesterle
The expected starting six have looked quite good. If we’re being honest, Oesterle may be the impressive story of training camp, in that he’s found immediate chemistry with Tanev, and that allows the Flames to roll three impressive pairings (Hanifin/Andersson, Zadorov/Weegar and Oesterle/Tanev).
We’re not sure precisely when Oliver Kylington will be available, and with three pre-season games left we’re all probably holding out hope that he works his way back before too long. (We’re going to decline to speculate about timelines and hope everybody continues to respect his privacy.) Dennis Gilbert hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury against Vancouver last Sunday, and the hope there, too, is probably that he’s back and doesn’t miss much time. (It’s pre-season, so exercising an abundance of caution with player health makes a lot of sense.)
If Gilbert’s available, he’s probably the seventh defender to open the season. (He’s versatile and inexpensive.) Ilya Solovyov is making a push for consideration, but his age, upside and waiver status mean that he’s probably better off playing a regular shift with the Wranglers than sitting as the seventh defender in the NHL.

Forwards

Locks: Jonathan Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Yegor Sharangovich, Dillon Dube, Nazem Kadri, Matt Coronato, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman and Walker Duehr
The big questions, from our perspective, revolve around who plays with Duehr on the fourth line. The top three forward lines seem all-but-locked-in:
Huberdeau – Lindholm – Sharangovich
Dube – Kadri – Coronato
Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman
That leaves Duehr for the right side of the fourth line, alongside two linemates to be determined. There’s a few players that could slot in: Dryden Hunt (on the wing), Adam Ruzicka (in either spot), Adam Klapka (on the wing), Connor Zary (at centre) or Ben Jones (at centre). We’re currently leaning slightly towards Hunt and Jones, but they’re only slightly ahead of the pack right now in our eyes.
The questions, for us, revolve around Zary and Ruzicka. Is it better for Zary to play a lot of minutes with the Wranglers for the next few months (and Jones, who’s two years older, to get the open spot) and then see if Zary can work his way to the NHL mid-season? Can Ruzicka find his consistency and dynamism more readily at centre or the wing? Or has the clock run out on his window to carve out an NHL niche?
Moreover, how could cap complexities shape the Flames’ opening roster? We’re assuming that Jakob Pelletier begins the season on the long-term injury reserve. If that’s the case, the Flames would benefit from filing an official roster that minimizes their cap space before they place Pelletier on LTIR, because that would afford them with the most cap flexibility. But will the Flames need to get weird with the waiver wire in order to move players up and down from the AHL to make that happen?
With three games left in camp and 10 days before opening rosters are filed with the league, goaltending and defence seem set, but the forwards remain in flux. We’ll see what shakes out before Oct. 9, when rosters are sent into the central registry.

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