Oilers 4, Flames 3: Shaking off the rust
Photo credit:Photo courtesy the Stockton Heat
By Mike Gould1 year ago
The Calgary Flames are back.
Well, sort of.
Saturday’s exhibition clash against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place saw both teams dress prospect-filled lineups. The veteran-free game was the first of two between the Flames and Oilers (they’ll meet again at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday).
The Flames’ annual prospect camp kicked off on Sept. 15, giving their youngsters an opportunity to show their stuff and shake off any cobwebs in front of the organization’s development team.
For some prospects, like Dmitry Zavgorodniy and Emilio Pettersen, this has become a familiar process. Others, like Walker Duehr, Cole Huckins, and Cameron Whynot, are going through this routine for the first time.
The Flames dropped a 4-3 decision to the Oilers on Saturday in the organization’s first competitive hockey game of the 2021–22 campaign. Some prospects appeared more ready for game action than others — during the first intermission, FlamesNation managing editor Ryan Pike described it as the “I hope I don’t pull a hammy” game — but in the end, the Flames’ brass got an all-important first look at some of its most recent additions.
Here’s a brief list of who stood out for the Flames in Saturday’s loss.
After his 2020–21 season ended prematurely, Pospisil came back with a vengeance in Calgary’s first rookie game. He tore two ligaments in his knee as a result of a brutal knee-on-knee hit by Laval Rocket forward Yannick Veilleux on Mar. 10 and subsequently underwent shoulder surgery to correct a nagging issue.
Pospisil was a wrecking ball on Saturday and appeared not to have lost a step during his absence. The 6’2″, 189-pound forward slotted in at left wing on the top line (he can also play centre) and took command of the space afforded to him on the ice. He also wore an “A” for the club.
He also scored the Flames’ third goal of the game, banging home a rebound in front of the net. Regular viewers of the 2020–21 Stockton Heat recognized that tally as one seen numerous times prior to Pospisil’s injury last year.
Here’s what FlamesNation managing editor Ryan Pike had to say about Pelletier during yesterday’s game:
No kidding. Pelletier was burning past guys on Saturday, with his most memorable rush coming midway through the first period when he sped into the Oilers’ zone down the right side and managed to create a breakaway for himself after turnstiling the opposing defenceman. Edmonton goaltender Olivier Rodrigue was, ultimately, up to the task.
Pelletier also picked up the primary helper on the opening goal, spotting a streaking Walker Duehr from behind the net with a pinpoint one-timer pass.
Talk about athletic. Wolf looked like himself on Saturday, moving side-to-side with ease and looking far taller than his listed 6′ height between the pipes.
He had no chance to stop Edmonton’s first three goals. Henrik Rybinski netted the first two on grade-A chances; Philip Kemp scored the game-tying marker off an intended pass that deflected off Johannes Kinnvall’s stick and over Wolf’s shoulder.
Goal No. 4 was slightly more suspect: Kemp rifled a shot from a poor angle on Wolf’s left side and managed to sneak it into the net in basically the same spot as his first tally.
One iffy goal aside, Wolf was arguably the Flames’ best player on Saturday and dealt with an onslaught of Oilers chances near the end of the first and second periods.
Zavgorodniy was all over the puck on Saturday. The shifty right-shot winger typically set up in his regular home on the left side and was often used as a one-timer option in the offensive zone.
One such play late in the first period led directly to Pospisil’s rebound goal.
Zavgorodniy had a difficult transition to the professional ranks in 2020–21, going his first 20 AHL games without a point and struggling to advance beyond the third and fourth lines for the Stockton Heat. He eventually warmed up in the latter part of the season, finishing with a goal and four points in his last nine games.
There could be an opportunity for Zavgorodniy to seize a top-line spot for the Heat in 2021–22. He needs to continue generating grade-A chances, as he did on Saturday, to lock down a big role.
When FlamesNation contributor Pat Steinberg tweeted out warmup lines for Saturday’s game, some onlookers (myself included) were a little surprised to see college UFA signing Walker Duehr occupying a spot on Calgary’s second line.
The Flames added Duehr from Minnesota State University, Mankato in April on a two-year entry-level contract. He finished the 2020–21 season on an amateur tryout with the Stockton Heat, playing five games in a depth role and registering zero points.
Duehr is a big right wing (6’3″, 211 pounds) but he showed more than just his size on Saturday. He opened the scoring early in the first period after streaking off the bench and firing his own rebound past Rodrigue.
He also notched the primary assist on Calgary’s second goal, displaying some impressive awareness by dropping the puck right to a wide-open Ryan Francis on a 3-on-1 rush.
All things considered, it was an impressive rookie camp debut for Duehr. He’ll turn 24 in November so it’s critical he continues making a similar impact with Stockton if he wants to become a relevant prospect for the Flames.
The Flames’ 2020 first-rounder was arguably the most impactful skater for either side on Saturday. After picking up a helper on Duehr’s goal, Zary continued his terrific play with and without the puck at both ends of the ice.
During one memorable sequence in the second period, Zary dove in his own zone to break up an Edmonton opportunity before regaining the puck in the offensive zone and single-handedly getting it to within a few feet of Rodrigue’s goal.
Zary isn’t a burner on the ice like Pelletier. What he does extremely well, however, is carrying the puck at varying speeds and quickly shifting gears to deceive defenders. Zary is also a fantastic passer and is capable of pulling off some ridiculous moves (as seen above).
During his brief stint with Stockton in 2020–21, Zary primarily occupied the team’s top left wing spot. Expect him to shift to centre with the Heat in 2021–22, possibly on the first line. There’s no other way to put it: He’s very good. (Zary good?)
The Flames will return to action on Sept. 20 for a rematch in Calgary against the Oilers at 6:00 p.m. MT.
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