How many Calgary Flames roster spots are realistically open to young players?

Photo credit:Angela Burger/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
When the Calgary Flames unveiled Craig Conroy as their new general manager on May 22, one particular aspect of his opening press conference seemed to really resonate with fans. During his remarks, Conroy emphasized the importance of giving young players a legitimate chance to win roster spots.
As the dust settles from the draft and free agency, and the team prepares for the possibility of further moves, how many roster spots are realistically up for grabs for the organization’s youngsters?
Looking at the locks
Barring further trades – which seem probable but not inevitable – here’s roughly how the Flames’ roster shakes out. There appear to be 19 players that are locked into opening day roster spots:
  • G Jacob Markstrom
  • G Dan Vladar
  • D MacKenzie Weegar
  • D Rasmus Andersson
  • D Chris Tanev
  • D Noah Hanifin
  • D Nikita Zadorov
  • D Oliver Kylington
  • D Jordan Oesterle
  • F Jonathan Huberdeau
  • F Nazem Kadri
  • F Andrew Mangiapane
  • F Mikael Backlund
  • F Blake Coleman
  • F Elias Lindholm
  • F Yegor Sharangovich
  • F Dillon Dube
  • F Walker Duehr
  • F Adam Ruzicka*
A case can be made that Ruzicka’s roster spot isn’t concrete given that he was a healthy scratch for a big chunk of the 2022-23 season, but the facts are that he’s a centre, he would require waivers to be sent to the AHL, and he’s on an incredibly cap-friendly $762,500 deal for the coming season. He would need to be both (a) pretty bad in pre-season and (b) wildly out-played by one of the team’s up-and-comers to lose his spot… and if we’re being honest, aside from Ben Jones there aren’t a ton of centres at the AHL level knocking on the door to take his spot as the fourth centre.
Given the above list of roster locks, that accounts for two of two goaltending jobs, seven of seven defensive spots, and 10 of 12 (or 13) forward gigs. It effectively leaves just two or three open roster spots, all of them among the forwards.
More than two months ahead of training camp opening, which youngsters have the inside track on NHL gigs? In our eyes, there are five players, split into two tiers.
Tier one, a slight notch ahead of the others because of recent NHL experience with the Flames, are Jakob Pelletier and Matt Coronato. Pelletier is 22 and has progressed really nice through two seasons in the AHL, spending about half of the 2022-23 season in the NHL. He seems primed for a lengthy NHL stint. Meanwhile, Coronato is 20 and had a really strong 2022-23, culminating in his NHL debut and an appearance at the World Championships. Both guys are wingers and have impressed at prior levels.
Tier two, who are probably in the mix but may find themselves in the AHL for more seasoning, are Connor Zary, Ben Jones and Dryden Hunt. Zary and Jones were two of the most consistent AHLers the Flames had last season, spending the entire season with the Wranglers and playing key roles and performing quite consistently. Zary and Jones can both play centre, though Jones spent his entire 2022-23 campaign up the middle and Zary was moved to the wing from time to time depending on the Wranglers’ lineup needs. Hunt could be the 13th forward the Flames’ roster needs, though, as he’s 27 and is probably topped-out developmentally, but he can play both wings and can give the club a bit of flexibility at a low, low cap hit.
Do you think there are enough roster spots open for younger players? Do you think the Flames have enough positional depth that they should make moves to open up more spots? Let us know in the comments!

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