For much of the 2017-18 season, Micheal Ferland rounded out the top line alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. After finishing 2016-17 as the Flames’ first line right winger, Ferland was poised to continue in that role, one in which he flourished in after finally being given a chance to succeed.

2017-18 season summary

Ferland, drafted 133rd overall by the Flames in 2010, started off the campaign on the Flames’ first line. No longer needing an audition, his performance to end off 2016-17 was enough to convince the coaches that that spot was his. The first month of the season started off slowly for Ferland, but as November came around, he showed flashes of brilliance and looked like he could truly belong on the first line for good. By the midpoint of the season, Ferland was on pace for 36 goals and 16 assists.

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Unfortunately, not too long after his 41st game, his scoring completely dried up and thus began his scoring drought. That didn’t stop him from setting career highs in both goals and assists though, as he eclipsed his previous career point total by 16 points.

Games played
Goals
Assists
Points
TOI/GP
5v5 CF%
5v5 CF% rel
OZS%
PDO
77
21
20
41
15:01
51.93
-1.99
56.10
1.016

Truth be told, Ferland worked well on the first line. Surpassing the 20-goal threshold for the first time in his career, he boasted a shooting percentage of 14.6%. While this deviates from his career average, Ferland has shown that he is definitely capable of scoring, especially given the right linemates. For the first half of the season, Ferland was the Flames’ best scorer, period. Of course, he cashed in most of his luck early and seriously struggled to find the back of the net in the later months of the season.

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On top of scoring goals, Ferland was setting up goals at an appreciable rate as well. Of his 20 assists, 16 of them were primary. Gaudreau was the biggest beneficiary of Ferland’s passing; eight of Ferland’s primary assists were on Gaudreau’s goals. Given that his season was broken up so distinctly into two halves in terms of scoring, it would not be unreasonable to think his potential lies somewhere in the middle.

Playing predominantly with Monahan and Gaudreau, the Flames accomplished a rare feat: the first line consisted entirely of Flames draftees. When he wasn’t playing on the top line, Ferland also skated with Mark Jankowski and Sam Bennett here and there, but Gulutzan was mostly consistent in keeping the first line intact.

Compared to last season

Ferland spent much of last season playing with a carousel of linemates. Finding stability in the form of a top line winger was a definite factor in elevating Ferland’s play. He saw a significant increase in ice time, as his average went from 11:34 TOI/GP to 15:01. Not only did his scoring increase, he also largely stayed out of penalty trouble. He had 24 penalty minutes to his name this season compared to the 50 he had the year prior. He also took more shots, registering 144 shots on net by season’s end, good for seventh on the team among forwards.

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Ferland was put in positions to succeed and he took advantage of it. Playing on the first line, he was used in the most offense-driven role he’s ever been in. Unsurprisingly, Ferland saw large improvements in several areas of his game.

Perhaps the most revealing way to look at his improvements are seen by looking beyond raw totals and comparing his production rates. His CF/60 increased from 53.39 to 62.60 and his high danger CF/60 went from 9.66 to 13.10. Of course, there is a lot to be said about spending an entire season with Monahan and Gaudreau rather than just the latter portions of one, but Ferland undeniably had a bigger impact for the Flames this time around.

What about next season?

Whether the Flames go and find someone else to fill Ferland’s role on the first line, or continue to play him there, they are certainly not in a conflicting situation. If they do opt to push him down the lineup in favour of someone better, then the obvious outcome is that their first line will indeed get better. But so too will their forward depth.

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Pushing Ferland down to a second line role (perish the thought of breaking up 3M), or even a third line role bodes well for the Flames as Ferland is a capable NHLer who will thrive in the circumstances he is put into. However, if the Flames opt to keep him as a first line winger, the established chemistry of the first line would be one less problem to worry about and the Flames can continue to find other ways to best fill out their forward depth.

Despite Ferland shooting at high percentages in his last two seasons, there’s nothing to suggest he won’t keep scoring even if his shooting percentage regresses. Will he ever put up 30 goals in a season? Maybe, he might just do it once or twice if he manages to catch lightning in a bottle. But mixing in a dose of cautioned optimism, if all goes well for Ferland then the Flames might at least be able to say they’ve found a possible 20+ goal scorer for the next few seasons.

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Ferland’s play next season likely ties directly into where he slots into the lineup. His scoring totals, ice time, and usage might all differ from this season, but he is a dependable player who’s able to play in different roles. He’ll likely start next season playing with Monahan and Gaudreau. While it remains unknown who Brad Treliving might seek to permanently fill that spot, Ferland is a good choice in the interim.


#5 – Mark Giordano
#7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart
#10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund
#13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass
#18 – Matt Stajan
#19 – Matthew Tkachuk
#20 – Curtis Lazar
#21 – Garnet Hathaway
#23 – Sean Monahan
#24 – Travis Hamonic
#25 – Nick Shore
#26 – Michael Stone
#27 – Dougie Hamilton
#33 – David Rittich
#36 – Troy Brouwer
#41 – Mike Smith
#44 – Matt Bartkowski
#61 – Brett Kulak
#67 – Michael Frolik
#77 – Mark Jankowski