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What does the future hold for Adam Ruzicka?

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
9 months ago
Adam Ruzicka has become a forgotten player for a lot of Flames fans. It makes sense because all the attention this off-season has been on the 2024 pending UFA’s like Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Mikael Backlund to name a few. There is also excitement around younger players getting a shot to play full time in the NHL next season like Jakob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato, and Dustin Wolf.
But Ruzicka is an interesting player who is entering a make-or-break year. He is 24 years old and has one year left on his contract making $762,500.
What type of player can he be? Where does he fit in the lineup? What does his future look like in Calgary?
Let’s try to answer those questions.

What type of player can he be?

This is a challenging question to answer because Ruzicka has not been given a long-term opportunity in the NHL in a specific role. He has been placed throughout the lineup when he has got into game action which makes it difficult to evaluate him.
At his best, he is a top nine forward who can play center or wing. He has all the tools to become an everyday NHLer. He’s built like a tank, has sneaky good hands for someone his size, and he has a pretty high end hockey IQ. He is a guy who sees the ice well and can make plays when he is allowed to and when he plays with good players.

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The problem Ruzicka has run into is inconsistency. One night he will be one of the best players on the ice and pick up two points. The next three nights he is a non-factor.
He also needs to play with more intensity. Ruzicka needs to do a better job of using his size to his advantage. He could do a better job of protecting pucks, forechecking, and being a physical presence in his own end.
So what can he be at the NHL level? What is a realistic expectation? I can see Ruzicka becoming an everyday NHLer if he can bring more intensity on a more consistent basis. When he is engaged and on his game, he is a really effective player. But when he is not, he is a non factor.
Where does he fit in the Flames lineup?
Here is the Flames lineup as of July 16, 2023:
LWCRW
Jonathan HuberdeauElias LindholmYegor Sharangovich
Andrew MangiapaneMikael BacklundBlake Coleman
Dillon DubeNazem KadriMatthew Coronato
Jakob PelletierAdam RuzickaWalker Duehr
Finding a spot for Ruzicka to thrive in the Flames forward lineup is going to be tough to do. The competition is fierce among left shot forwards.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Blake Coleman, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, Yegor Sharangovich, Mikael Backlund, and Jakob Pelletier are all left-handed forwards. Who out of that group is Ruzicka going to replace? As of right now, probably none of them.
As the roster is currently constructed, Ruzicka will likely be battling for the centre or left wing spot on the fourth line.
But if Craig Conroy makes a Lindholm or Backlund trade and doesn’t acquire a centre in return, Ruzicka will have a chance to move into the top nine where he probably should be playing. He has never had success playing on the fourth line in the NHL. But keep in mind that was under Darryl Sutter. Fourth liners job in a Darryl Sutter system is to get the puck out, forecheck hard, and not get scored on. There isn’t much room for creativity and offense. Maybe that changes with Ryan Huska and Marc Savard in charge.
Where does he fit in the lineup? It’s looking like Ruzicka is going to be competing for the fourth line center or left-wing spot. That’s not where he is best suited, but it’s going to be difficult for him to move up in the lineup with all the left shot forwards ahead of him on the depth chart.

What does his future look like in Calgary?

There are a few different options for the Flames and Ruzicka.
First would be to give him another opportunity in the 2023-24 season. You’d hope that would be higher in the lineup based off the success he had playing in that role last season. But if not, it will be on the fourth line.
Secondly, they could trade him. I don’t know what his value would be on the trade market. Based off the trade market this summer, I can’t see a return for Ruzicka being very high. Maybe a fifth-round pick at the most? If that is the case, then it doesn’t make sense to move him. But you’d have to consider trading him if there is a team who likes him and is offering something like a second or third-round pick.
Finally, they could put him on waivers and hope he goes unclaimed. I don’t think he would make it through waivers. There would be a team who would be will to take a flyer on a guy with his size and skillset.
What does his future look like in Calgary? It’s hard to say because we don’t know what this team is going to look like come trainign camp. There are still moves to be made, especially at centre.
But as of right now, there are a lot of players ahead of him on the depth chart. He is going to have to have an excellent training camp and hope that there are some more trades to go down this summer or even some injuries during the season. If not, he is going to have a hard time making a difference in the Flames lineup.

My two cents

I hope the Flames keep Ruzicka and give him an opportunity in training camp to win a job in the top nine. I think Ruzicka could be a good player if he is playing with good players and has a little more freedom to create offense.
 
What do you want to see the Flames do with Adam Ruzicka? Let us know in the comments section! 

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