Photo credit:Terence Leung/Calgary Wranglers
Who is the Calgary Flames’ top prospect?
By Ryan Pike11 months ago
Folks, the 2022-23 regular seasons are winding down for the major professional leagues, and as we start to look ahead a bit to the post-season (and the end of the season), a topic of debate often comes up. Who is currently the Calgary Flames’ top prospect?
There are four players we feel have claims to that title.
A 22-year-old Quebec-born winger, Pelletier carved out a strong QMJHL career for himself with stops in Moncton and Val-d’Or, and represented Canada in the 2021 World Juniors (capturing silver). He was the Flames’ first-round selection in 2019.
Pelletier is in his fourth post-draft season, and his progression has been steady and pretty consistent. He spent two post-draft seasons in junior, where he was a top player (named a league all-star in each season) and captured a league trophy in 2019-20 as the most sportsmanlike player. He was an all-rookie team honouree in his first AHL season in 2021-22, and he was among the top producers in the AHL when he was called up to the Flames.
As of this writing, Pelletier has played 23 NHL games. He’s been good, but he’s admitted in interviews that he’s struggled at times with a few aspects – notably the sheer amount of games played in rapid succession. Pelletier’s a smart enough player that his hockey sense and two-way abilities will help him keep his head above water, and he feels like a player that could be impactful in the NHL next season after he’s had time to adjust.
The new shiny toy in the system, Coronato is a 20-year-old forward from Long Island who was the Flames’ first-round selection in 2021. A standout in the United States Hockey League with the Chicago Steel, he spent two seasons with the Harvard Crimson of the NCAA before signing his entry-level deal after his sophomore season ended.
While Pelletier’s a high-floor player whose bread-and-butter is smart two-way play, Coronato’s calling card is goals, goals and more goals. He made his reputation in the USHL as a goal-scoring machine, and he was able to translate the things that made him successful scoring against junior-aged players and effectively score against college-aged players. He took a big step in the second half of his freshman season, when a couple teammates left for the Beijing Olympics, and he’s maintained that consistent scoring pace for a season and a half.
Now, Coronato has played zero pro games, so it’s yet to be seen what adjustments he’ll need to make to be an effective pro. He’s primarily a winger, though he can play centre, which might make it easier situationally to give him additional ice time here and there to help him progress. Based on his age and relative inexperience, there’s a lot of developmental runway left for Coronato.
The fourth-from-last player selected in the 2019 NHL Draft, Wolf is a really good goaltender. Like, really, really good. Exceptional, even.
He was a good goaltender in the WHL prior to being drafted, working his way up from local hockey in California all the way to being Carter Hart’s understudy in Everett. (Then he took over as starter after Hart left for the pros.) Post-draft, he was the league’s top goaltender for two seasons. Then he went pro and joined the Flames’ farm system, where he’s been the AHL’s top goaltender for two seasons.
Wolf’s played over 100 AHL games and has maintained a ridiculous level of performance. He hasn’t gotten a chance to dip his toe into the NHL waters yet – he’s dressed as backup twice – but it seems like a matter of time before he gets his chance.
(But there’s no way he can be as good in the NHL as he’s been in the AHL and WHL… right? Right?)
The Flames’ first-round selection in 2020, Zary’s a western Canadian kid who plied his trade as a forward for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.
A late birthday, Zary went pro (as a 19-year-old) in 2021-22 after his post-draft season with the Blazers was cut short by injuries and pandemic complications. He broke his ankle blocking a shot in a prospect game against Edmonton – right before main camp was about to begin – and he didn’t start his AHL season until November.
The thing with Zary is this: he’s quite good. His two-way play isn’t as strong as Pelletier’s, and his scoring isn’t as showy as Coronato’s, and he can’t play goal like Wolf, but he’s smart, versatile, and his game doesn’t have many holes in it. He’s arguably not great at anything, but he’s not bad at anything, and perhaps due to the progression of players like Pelletier the Flames have had the ability to just let Zary stay in the AHL and polish his game.
Zary’s quietly been one of the Wranglers’ most consistent performers this season, and he still has two seasons left on his entry-level deal. He’s young, and he might not be getting the attention he deserves for being one of the AHL’s top players.
Which Flames prospect do you feel is the organization’s top prospect right now? Let us know in the comments!
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