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The Calgary Wranglers didn’t have the organization’s top prospects very often in 2023-24

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Photo credit:David Moll/Calgary Wranglers
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
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When he was named general manager of the Calgary Flames, Craig Conroy pledged to give the organization’s young players a chance at the NHL level. Conroy stuck to his guns, and between promotions due to merit and some injuries during the season, some of the organization’s top prospects spent considerable time with the big club.
But the natural consequence of that opportunity at the NHL level is that the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers didn’t have the top prospects a whole lot over the past season.
Let me explain.
Every summer, the FlamesNation writing staff conducts an internal ranking of Flames prospects. Last year, due to ties, we had seven players hit the top five: Dustin Wolf, Matt Coronato, Jakob Pelletier, Samuel Honzek, and a three-way tie for fifth between Jeremie Poirier, Samuel Morin and Connor Zary. Honzek and Morin were in junior for the season, so we’ll focus just on the five pro prospects in the top five: Wolf, Coronato, Pelletier, Poirier and Zary.
  • Dustin Wolf played 17 NHL games and 36 AHL games, bouncing between the two levels for much of the season due to injuries to Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar.
  • Matt Coronato played 34 NHL games and 41 AHL games, starting the season in the NHL and then getting a few more subsequent recalls.
  • Jakob Pelletier was injured in pre-season and ended up requiring major surgery. He played 13 NHL games and 18 AHL games.
  • Jeremie Poirier suffered a serious arm laceration and missed much of the season. He played 23 AHL games.
  • Connor Zary played 63 NHL games and 6 AHL games, starting the season in the AHL and then getting a call-up and never looking back.
Between injuries and call-ups, the Wranglers really didn’t have the organization’s top five pro prospects in their lineup all that often.
Top 5 PlayingGamesPct.
045.6%
12027.8%
24156.9%
368.3%
411.4%
500.0%
On average, the Wranglers had 1.7 of the organization’s top five prospects in their lineup in any given game. Considering that all five spent time at the AHL level this season, that’s kind of wacky.
But, if we’re being honest, that was kind of the point of the Flames embracing a youth movement. Wolf spent 67 of the NHL season’s 192 days on the Flames roster – over a third of the campaign – which gave the Wranglers an opportunity to give third-stringer Connor Murphy a try. Jeremie Poirier’s nasty laceration made the Wranglers lean on Ilya Solovyov more. The absences of Zary, Pelletier and Coronato created an opportunity for Adam Klapka to become the prime offensive weapon for the Wranglers, and created an opportunity for William Strömgren to really come into his own in the back half of the AHL calendar.
Ice time, at both the NHL and AHL levels, is a key driver of player progression. Because some key players weren’t available to the Wranglers’ coaching staff, they had to try out other players in those roles, and it led to a few players really thriving when given those opportunities. And while the Wranglers’ season ended earlier than they would have preferred with a Pacific Semi-Final playoff exit, we may not fully understand the developmental boost some of their promising youngsters received from the added playing time when they return for prospect camp in the fall.

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