It doesn’t seem so long ago that the Calgary Flames seemed to be desperately holding onto their aging core of veterans such as Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kipprusof, living in seemingly a state of denial with little to no promising young players to look forward to in the future.
Now, just a short time later the Flames are a young team lead by superstar young players in Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, with plenty of help on the horizon. The team went from being considered a lottery team to advancing to the second round of the playoffs, and their future only looks brighter.
1. Sam Bennett: Centre –6’1” / 178 lbs Drafted: 4th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Flames.
A shoulder injury that required surgery derailed any chance of Bennett making Calgary out of training camp. Bennett is a very confident player and was certain he would have made it. Instead he was returned to the Kingston Frontenacs to finish the last 12 games of the regular season where he scored 24 points. The Fronts were dismissed in four straight games and Bennett was returned to the Flames and he made his NHL debut in the final regular season game and earned his first NHL point. In the playoffs he continued to impress playing in 11 games scoring three goals and passing the eye test with flying colours. Bennett has played his final game in junior and is a lock to be the second line centre in Calgary.
2. Emile Poirier:Right Wing –6’2” / 200 lbs Drafted: 22nd overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by the Flames.
Like Bennett, Poirier suffered a shoulder injury in training camp, but he was able to return quick enough to play in 55 AHL games where he scored an impressive 42 points. Poirier also had a six game look with the Flames and recorded his first career NHL point. He did not however get a chance to crack the Flames lineup during their playoff run and will try to earn a roster spot out of camp. The free agent signing of Michael Frolik may hinder Poirier’s chances of cracking the Flames roster, but he will have looks at the NHL level during the season if he fails to make the team out of the gate. Poirier has average NHL size, but plays an aggressive bigger man’s style of game, so avoiding injury will be key. He is quick and is very capable of burying his scoring chances.
3. Joni Ortio:Goalie –6’1” / 185 lbs Drafted: 171st overall in the sixth round of the 2009 draft by the Flames.
The 24-year old Ortio has 15 games of NHL experience to his credit now and is close to graduating from the prospect ranks. He has NHL size and athleticism, and his performance in both the AHL and NHL have been impressive. However, the Flames also have Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo signed to $4.5 and $3.6 million contracts ahead of him. The Flames have let it be known that they will not carry three goalies on the roster, so unless they make a trade or there is an injury, expect Ortio to be the odd man out. Both Hiller and Ramo will become UFA’s next summer opening up a door for Ortio.
4. Kenney Morrison: Defence – 6’2” / 210 lbs Acquired Signed as a free agent in 2015
The big Lloydminster defenceman was one of the most sought after free agents to come out of college this season. The Flames signed him and he managed to get in ten games in the AHL with Adirondack, scoring two goals and four assists. He skates well for a bigger man, with a long reach and the ability to transition the play up the ice, carrying the puck and running the power play with his big hard shot. The addition of Dougie Hamilton makes the Flames defence extremely deep and arguably the best in the NHL. While Morrison is already 23-years old, he can expect to continue to develop in the AHL, but it wont be long before he pushes his way into the Flames lineup.
5. Jon Gillies: Goalie – 6’5” / 215 lbs Drafted 75th overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by the Flames.
The All-star college goalie has signed a contract and will begin his pro career. Given the log jam the Flames have in net, Gillies seems a lock to begin his career learning the pro game in the AHL. Gillies won tournament MVP honors in the Frozen Four in 2015, and had impressive career stats with Providence with a 2.08 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He has the size and skill to be a number one goalie.
6. Tyler Wotherspoon: Defence – 6’2” / 210 lbs Drafted: 57th overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Flames.
A graduate of the Portland Winterhawks who have been a defence producing factory lately with other recent grads including Seth Jones, Matt Dumba, and Derrick Pouliot. Wotherspoon is a big reliable two-way defenceman. He was given a look at the NHL last season and was a minus -3 in his one game with no points. Given the Flames depth on defence he can expect to see regular minutes in the AHL where he will continue to develop and gain confidence.
7. Brandon Hickey: Defence – 6’2” / 190 Drafted: 64th overall in the third round of the 2014 draft by the Flames.
Hickey has taken a huge step in his development in his freshman year at Boston U., according to Flames GM Brad Treliving. The Flames third round pick from 2014 had a very strong first training camp and produced 17 points and a plus -19 rating as a college rookie. Calgary will take their time with Hickey, but they have high hopes for the Edmonton native.
8. Hunter Smith: Right Wing / Centre – 6’7” / 208 lbs Drafted: 54th overall in second round 2014 draft by the Flames.
Hunter had a breakout season playing a prominent role with the Oshawa Generals, helping them to a Memorial Cup Championship. He improved his game, going from a big physical winger to an offensive contributor, and was dominant on draws after being moved to centre. He is the son of Brad (motor city Smitty) Smith and like his old man, he loves to hit and fight, but is a better skater and goal scorer. The big man has huge potential.
9. Austin Carroll: Right Wing – 6’4” 215 lbs
Drafted: 184th overall in seventh round of the 2014 draft by the Flames.
The Flames believe they found a hidden gem in with their seventh round pick from 2014 in Austin Carroll. The big winger had an impressive final season of junior in Victoria, scoring 38 goals with a plus 23 and 124 penalty minutes. Brad Treliving loves his game and was very impressed at last years training camp. Carroll will turn pro this year and will likely begin in the AHL. The Calgary native is a prototypical Calgary Flame.
10. Morgan Klimchuk: Left Wing – 6’0” / 180 lbs
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by the Flames.
The third first round pick the Flames had in 2013 was used on Klimchuk. Since then his game seems to have leveled off. The good news is, it is at a pretty high level, scoring 80 points in his final season of junior where he was traded from Regina to Brandon and produced 50 points in 33 games. What serves Klimchuk well is his quickness, both on his feet and how he thinks the game. The NHL is the fastest league in the world and Klimchuk will be able to keep pace. He is a well-rounded player who can play in any role.
Recent Roster Graduates: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Michael Ferland, Markus Granlund
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling
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