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Recapping my pre-season predictions: ‘The Flames will have two rookies make their debuts’

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
16 days ago
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The Calgary Flames turned a corner in 2023-24 with the adoption of an “out with the old, in with the new” philosophy. They fired Darryl Sutter and his coaching staff, and Brad Treliving and the team agreed to part ways, which meant a new face in the general manager’s chair in Craig Conroy and a new face behind the bench in Ryan Huska.
As a result of turning that corner (not in the way that gets them closer to competing for a Stanley Cup immediately, but one that puts them on the right path as a franchise to get back in the race), the new regime made it clear that there was going to be room for young players to play in the lineup. And not only were they going to be able to play in the lineup, but they were going to have the chance to make an impact as well.
But actions will always speak louder than words, and as a result, I decided to make a prediction about not only those with the rookie status playing in the National Hockey League but focused on those who have never been given a chance to play at the highest level making their debut for the club.

Prediction: The Flames have two rookies make their NHL debut

Result: Correct

When I did this prediction series at the beginning of the season, I wanted to have a few very bold predictions (and make it clear that they were the boldest I was going to go). But I also wanted to have a few softballs, and this felt like one of them. Of course, you never really know until it happens, but two is a relatively low figure. With a certain number of injuries, there is a way for two rookies to make their debut.
There is a quasi-contingency within this prediction, and that is that it’s more focused on the idea of “making a debut” instead of just having “two rookies” play for them.
Our fearless leader here at FlamesNation, Ryan Pike, wrote an article covering the number of rookies that donned the Flaming C this season, and the final total finished at 11. Eleven rookies played in a game this season, which, as Pike puts it, is much more than last season’s figure of six. But I’m focused on the number of rookies who made their National Hockey League debut. That list looks like this:
  • Connor Zary
  • Martin Pospisil
  • Ilya Solovyov
  • Adam Klapka
  • Yan Kuznetsov
So, I did end up with the correct result, and thanks to the right circumstances and Huska and Conroy’s trust in young players to help fill spots, the result was correct by three times the predicted number!
It’s honestly hard to believe that Zary and Pospisil made their debuts this season. It felt as if they were in the same boat as Matt Coronato and Dustin Wolf, both having played a game with the team before “officially” earning their spot on the roster. But that is not the case. Instead, they made their debuts after some time in the American Hockey League with the Calgary Wranglers, and after both being called up, they made such a significant impact with the NHL squad that they were allowed to stay (and play on the same, very effective line).
As for the other three, they played various amounts of time, ranging from only one game for Kuznetsov and 10 for Solovyov. There were also varying degrees of success in those games, but the most important thing was that fans were able to see new faces and learn more about players who are looking to be full-time NHLers soon. There were sequences of positives in their respective NHL time this season that showed why fans and management should have faith in them, and that’s what anyone should be looking for out of young players trying to take everything about the experience in as well.
The Flames are headed down a different, younger pathway, and plenty of players are aware that anyone has a shot at playing decent minutes at the NHL level. If you perform, you will receive an opportunity, as shown by Zary and Pospisil. With six rookies playing their first NHL games in Flames uniforms this season, who knows how many will do it next year?

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