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Revisiting the 2022 FlamesNation top 20 prospects ranking

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
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Folks, over the summer, we do our annual prospect profiles and rankings here at FlamesNation. Sometimes, those rankings are followed by players we ranked highly having great seasons. Sometimes, players we thought highly of disappoint, or players we didn’t rate highly have amazing years.
As the playoffs continue throughout the hockey world, let’s take a look back at our 2022 rankings and what we may have gotten wrong in retrospect.

Dustin Wolf

2022 Rank: 1
Wolf was the runaway leader in our internal voting, and for good reason: he had a spectacular 2021-22 season. He’s followed that up with a slightly better 2022-23 season, being named the AHL’s top goaltender and most valuable player. Wolf made his NHL debut this past season and is making a very good case for full-time NHL employment in the very near future. Quite simply, he’s one of the best goaltenders in the world who isn’t yet a full-time NHLer.

Matt Coronato

2022 Rank: 2
Coronato played the majority of the season with the Harvard Crimson in the NCAA. Pressed into service as a centre due to injuries on his team – notably to Arizona prospect John Farinacci – Coronato’s offensive output was a little lower than probably hoped, but he had a strong season and his ability to play up the middle or on the wing made him a really useful player for his team. He signed with the Flames after his sophomore college season and made his NHL debut in the season finale.
Coronato is part of a cluster of players in the “not as good as Wolf, and that’s okay” level of Flames prospects.

Jakob Pelletier

2022 Rank: 3
After a superb rookie AHL season in 2021-22, Pelletier made a push for an NHL gig in 2022-23. He was an excellent AHLer and a reasonably good NHLer given his level of pro experience (and the nature of the bizarre Flames season).
Pelletier was probably ranked where he should have been, right with Coronato on the below Wolf level. (He remains eligible for the 2023 list.)
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Connor Zary

2022 Rank: 4
We probably don’t talk about Zary enough. Is he as flat-out excellent as Wolf? Nope. Is he as polished as Pelletier? Nope. Does he have the high-level offensive upside (and scoring touch) of Coronato? Nope. But Zary is a really solid all-around prospect. He can play all forward positions and all over the lineup, and coming off an uneven 2021-22 season – primarily due to having no training camp due to a broken ankle – he was quietly consistent all season.
We had Zary at fourth, and that was probably about right given his body of work.

Adam Ruzicka

2022 Rank: 5
We kept Ruzicka eligible for the 2022 list, but he’s played enough games to graduate. Ruzicka spent the entire 2022-23 season on the NHL roster, but was a frequent healthy scratch down the stretch as the consistency issues that have been a hallmark of his North American career continued. Ruzicka’s really talented and has shown the ability to positively impact the game in a variety of different roles. He just doesn’t do it all the time (yet).

Rory Kerins

2022 Rank: 6
We’ll take the L here, folks, we had Kerins too high. We had a lot of optimism about Kerins’ first pro season, but he spent much of the year with Rapid City due to a log-jam of forwards ahead of him with the Wranglers. He had a good ECHL season and was pretty effective in short AHL stints, but he’s still a work in progress.

Matthew Phillips

2022 Rank: 7
Phillips was (and is) a very, very good AHLer. We, as a group, were a little skeptical of (a) if Phillips could translate his success to the AHL or (b) if he’d get a chance to do so. Spooky, eh? If nothing else, Phillips is (and will be) a very effective quad-A player, and there’s still value in that.

Jeremie Poirier

2022 Rank: 8
When we put together our list, Poirier was a promising offensive blueliner in the QMJHL who needed to shore up his defensive game. A year later, he’s a promising offensive blueliner in the AHL who still needs to shore up his defensive game. His offensive upside remains immense, though, and his scoring success early in his AHL tenure suggests we probably had him roughly in the right spot.

Jack Beck

2022 Rank: 9
When Beck’s healthy, he’s been really good for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. He missed time in 2022-23, though, as he did in 2021-22. But he remains a really effective 200-foot player, but probably doesn’t have the offensive upside of, say, Rory Kerins. But he’s arguably a more complete two-way player than Kerins is. Whether having him lower than Kerins was the right move probably depends on what you value in a player.

Cole Schwindt

2022 Rank: 10
I’ll admit it, I struggled with where to place Schwindt when we did our summer rankings due to seeing less of that player than I had of the rest of Calgary’s prospects. This season, he moved around quite a bit, as the Flames themselves seemed to try to figure out what he is within their system. Whether Schwindt’s lack of offensive consistency is a product of his skillset or lack of a clear role is yet to be determined. He remains a very intriguing player with a ton of upside.

Yan Kuznetsov

2022 Rank: 11
Kuznetsov is more or less than anti-Poirier. When we put together our list, Kuznetsov was a promising defensive blueliner in the QMJHL who needed to shore up his offensive game. A year later, he’s a promising defensive blueliner in the AHL who still needs to shore up his offensive game. Kuznetsov’s two-way game makes him a bit of a “safe” prospect, but Poirier’s offensive game arguably gives him more upside – hence, his higher rank than his Memorial Cup teammate.

Martin Pospisil

2022 Rank: 12
Pospisil was (and is) an intriguing prospect because of his size, skill and playing style. He’s big! He crashes and bangs! He scores goals! He gets hurt, arguably for reasons related to his playing style, and misses a bunch of time. It’s happened in every season in his pro career to date.
But just imagine if he can stay healthy and take that next step! That potential, and his injury history, is why he was ranked where he was ranked.

Topi Rönni

2022 Rank: 13
Rönni was sort of a “safe” second-round pick for the Flames in 2022. He’s a big, toolsy two-way forward. He bounced between junior and Liiga in his draft year… and did the same in 2022-23, too. He played in the World Juniors for Finland, helped his junior team win the SM-sarja U20 championship, and played a good chunk of his season as a bottom-six centre for a good pro team. He was probably ranked around where he should’ve been.

Emilio Pettersen

2022 Rank: 14
The case for Pettersen being higher: he had stretches of 2021-22 (and 2022-23) where he drove play and showed a ton of offensive flair.
The case for Pettersen being where he should’ve been: he had stretches of strong play, but the lack of consistency in his game caused him to bounce around the lineup a bit. (And he was even scratched at times this season.)

Arsenii Sergeev

2022 Rank: 15
Goalies are weird, and Sergeev is the second-best goalie in a system that includes Dustin Wolf, so the Flames can afford to slow-cook him in college. His strong junior season in the USHL – he was their goalie of the year in 2021-22 – earned him this rank, and he spent 2022-23 in a goaltending duel with teammate Logan Terness at UConn as they battled for the net. (Sergeev won and Terness entered the transfer portal.) Considering how weird goalies can be, this was probably the right spot for Sergeev.

William Strömgren

2022 Rank: 16
In part because of how younger players are often used on European pro teams, usually in secondary roles as they gain experience within their club, Strömgren’s been a tough player to get a handle on since being drafted. When we ranked, he had spent 2021-22 bouncing between pro and junior with Rögle. He moved to Brynäs after this ranking, and became a bottom-six regular on their pro team before signing with the Flames. Given his lack of a clear role with Rögle at the time, this ranking was probably about right.

Ilya Solovyov

2022 Rank: 17
At the time of our ranking, Solovyov was seen as a reliable secondary AHL blueliner. He took a step in 2022-23, emerging as a really capable shutdown defender (and started showing a bit of offensive prowess we hadn’t seen before). For what he was at the time, this was about right, but he’s one of the players to keep an eye on for our 2023 ranking.

Ilya Nikolaev

2022 Rank: 18
Nikolaev was, and remains, a bit of an enigma. He spent most of his season in the ECHL, where he had flashes of strong play but by all accounts wasn’t a consistent difference-maker. He missed a chunk of the season due to injury. This ranking was a product of Nikolaev being such a tough player to get a handle on.

Walker Duehr

2022 Rank: 19
At the time, Duehr was a really solid AHL energy player with NHL-level skating, so this was about right. But he took a big, big step this season and played much of the second half of the season in the NHL. He’ll graduate from this list.

Ben Jones

2022 Rank: 20
So, remember how we didn’t have a handle on what Schwindt would be in the Flames’ system? Well, ditto for Jones. However, Jones came to the Flames with three seasons of pro hockey – and step-wise progression in his offensive output – under his belt. Aside from some potential questions about where he would slot in as a centre, we probably had him too low. (Way too low.)

Unranked, but impressive

Every year in our ranking, there are a few players that we didn’t have in our top 20 that make us look silly. From the 2022 edition, those players are Tri-City Americans forward Parker Bell, Seattle Thunderbirds captain Lucas Ciona, and Calgary Wranglers blueliner Dennis Gilbert.
Bell emerged as a really effective WHL forward. Ciona signed his entry-level deal with the Flames early in the season and was one of the WHL’s top scorers. And Gilbert spent more time in the NHL than the AHL, playing enough games on the Flames’ third defensive pairing to graduate from this list.
The 2023 FlamesNation prospect ranking will be unveiled on the site in August. We look forward to several up-and-coming Flames prospects making us look foolish in the months that follow that ranking.

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