Photo credit:Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports
Looking at three Calgary Flames prospects developing in the college ranks
By Ryan Pike6 months ago
In the realm of National Hockey League drafting and development, not every player is destined for the same role and not every player develops at the same pace. A decent chunk of NHL-drafted players tend to be longer-term projects that require a bit of time at the collegiate level to percolate.
Some turn out. Some don’t. As we continue our glance at Calgary Flames prospects that didn’t crack our annual top 20 ranking (as compiled by our writing staff), we take a look at three college prospects: two that haven’t really panned out and one that still may.
A fourth-round pick back in 2018 – one of three fourth-rounders the Flames had in that draft – Koumontzis was a pretty toolsy high school player that was hoped to project as a two-way winger based on his size and hockey sense. He headed to Arizona State University and had a superb freshman season, posting 20 points in 35 games and helping the Sun Devils reach the NCAA national tournament for the first time in program history in 2019.
But Koumontzis hit some bad luck after that. He missed nearly 30 games due to injury from then on out – essentially an entire college season – and between injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, his development was pretty disrupted. Koumontzis was even converted to a blueliner in his redshirt senior year (2022-23), in part due to injuries on the team hampering their roster depth. He topped out as an effective two-way depth player, both as a forward and as a blueliner.
Koumontzis played with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads at the end of 2022-23, which indicates (a) that his college career is complete and (b) that it seems unlikely that he’s in the Flames’ plans, given that he didn’t land with their ECHL team, the Rapid City Rush. The Flames hold his NHL rights through Aug. 15. While he may still have a fruitful pro career ahead of him, it seems unlikely that he’ll be continuing on in the Flames system.
A fifth-round pick in 2019, Nodler was fairly well-regarded in scouting circles at the time. A right-shot centre, he put up good offensive numbers in the United States Hockey League and was on USA Hockey’s radar for awhile – he played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the World Junior-A Challenge.
Nodler headed to Michigan State and spent three seasons there. He posted respectable offensive numbers (ranging from 8 points as a freshman to 15 as a junior), but the team as a whole didn’t really progress – they were sub-.500 all three seasons and failed to quality for the NCAA national tournament. He transferred to the University of Massachusetts for the 2022-23 season, his senior year, but failed to really click with his new team and ended up dressing for 27 of their 35 games and registering just five points. Nodler’s face-off percentages remained strong, but he just wasn’t able to carve out a defined role for himself with the Minutemen.
Nodler is returning to college for his redshirt senior year and has transferred to Bowling Green State University. The Flames hold Nodler’s NHL rights until Aug. 15 of his final college season, so most likely those rights would expire following the 2023-24 season. Barring a breakout season with Bowling Green, it seems unlikely that he’ll be signed.
A third-round pick in 2020, Boltmann is a right shot blueliner who was touted for his mobility and shutdown ability in high school and the USHL.
Boltmann has spent two and a half seasons at the University of Notre Dame, making the jump to college midway through the 2020-21 season. His offensive numbers have been relatively lean – he has two goals and 18 points in 96 NCAA games – but his bread and butter is suffocating shutdown defence, facilitated by his smarts and mobility. He’s heading into his senior year at Notre Dame – because he was in college during the 2020-21 season, he’s eligible to return for a fifth season if desired due to COVID-19 pandemic disruptions – and the Flames will likely need to make a decision on him following this season.
When we think about progression in prospects, we’re not necessarily talking about scoring metrics, especially with those who are projected more as role players. What we’re talking about for them tends to be more along the lines of “have they developed a strength in an aspect of their game that can be projected to other levels of hockey?” Walker Duehr’s a good example of this; by the time he finished up his college run, he had a few aspects to his game that could be relied upon, even if he himself wasn’t putting up big offensive numbers. When it comes to Boltmann, the big question will be whether he’s shown enough progression in his ability to shut down attackers in college that the Flames think he can have success at the AHL level (or beyond).
We’ve discussed it elsewhere, but Boltmann’s skill package as a potential shutdown defender is unique within the Flames system – Yan Kuznetsov and Ilya Solovyov are only somewhat similar – that his 2023-24 season is worth keeping an eye on.
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