Calgary has a very deep prospect pool. The cream at the top of their pool is solid with Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier. Either could easily be the top-ranked guy.
Overall I had to reduce my list of prospects for consideration for this ranking from 25 to just ten, and it was not easy.
Beyond the top five, it begins to get very muddy and players such as Connor Mackey, Glen Gawdin, and Matthew Phillips all on the cusp of making the roster in a now. They could make the team, be buried in the AHL or lost on waivers.
Some players have had years where they failed to develop, or even regressed dropping on the depth chart, but have shown in the past their potential. Eetu Tuulola, Dmitry Zavgorodny, Tyler Parsons, and Martin Pospisil come to mind.
There is no roster spots available this season after the Flames added Blake Coleman, Trevor Lewis, Tyler Pitlick, Erik Gudbranson, and Nikita Zadorov. Their AHL roster should be loaded and steeped in competition for top playing time.
2021-22 Top 10 Calgary Flames Prospects
- Connor Zary, LW/C – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 24th overall by Calgary Flames
Zary had a glimpse of the AHL to start last year while waiting for the WHL to resume. In his nine-game audition, he posted seven points showing he is ready for the challenge. He was returned to junior and finished his career in the dub with 24 points in 15 games as captain of the Blazers before an injury ended his year. Zary also made Team Canada for the WJC and had a pair of points in seven games as a depth player.
While Zary has played center in junior, look for him to move to the wing at the pro level, at least to begin his career. It is an easier position to play in making the transition to pro. His shot and aggressive style of play likely translates better on the wing at a higher level. Zary could be called up to the NHL if injuries mount on the Flames roster, but expect a full season in the AHL before he makes the jump to the NHL.
- Jakob Pelletier, LW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, 26th overall by Calgary Flames
Pelletier had a monster final season of junior. While several junior players played in the AHL because their CHL leagues were not available, the Q was an option for Pelletier. He posted over 1.5 points per game on a new team in Val-d’Or, leading to the QMJHL Championship where they fell short to Victoriaville. Pelletier also made an impact on Team Canada at the WJC, but again fell short and earned the Silver Medal.
With his junior career in the rearview mirror, Pelletier will make his pro debut and play a season in the AHL, making the adjustment to a bigger, stronger, and faster game. Lauded for his character, drive, and determination, he may not develop into a top-six offensive star at the NHL level, but his floor is a valuable and versatile player with offensive upside.
- Matt Coronato, LW – Chicago Steel (USHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 13th overall by Calgary Flames
As a member of the vaunted Chicago Steel, Coronato lit the lamp for 48 goals in 51 games. That’s a gaudy and impressive stat to be sure, but keep in mind he is on a highly talented team that plays an offense style at a lower level. His 21% shooting percentage is unlikely to carry over to the NCAA level where he will be a freshman at Harvard in his D+1 season.
He owns a laser of a snapshot and bugles the twine from inside the blueline. A number of goals come from just outside the crease as well, showing he is not a one-dimensional sniper. His playmaking ability showed signs of improvement as the season wore on. His strength and defensive play will need to develop and he may require a few years before he is NHL ready. His upside is promising right now as goal scoring is a premium commodity and he is a goal scorer.
- Dustin Wolf, G – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Drafted: 2019 round seven, 214th overall by Calgary Flames
Wolf may end up being the Flames all-time best value draft pick in franchise history. The fourth last overall selection from the 2019 draft has posted incredible stats in his WHL career with a 1.84 GAA, .935 SV% 106-34-6 record with 24 shutouts. Wolf was a member of the Gold Medal winning USA team at the 2020 WJC as back up to Spencer Knight. His ice time was limited, but he was never scored on splitting time in two games and playing a full 60 minutes against Austria.
His season began in the AHL waiting for the Dub to resume. Wolf surrendered five goals in his first game but returned to form allowing only three in his next two before returning to junior. With his junior career now over he will play his rookie season in the AHL if he can win a roster spot there against the competition of Adam Werner, Tyler Parsons, and Daniil Chechelev. It is not uncommon or alarming for goalies to see some ECHL time as 20-year-olds. If that turns out to be the case for Wolf, it may offer him the most playing time. With incumbent, Jacob Markstrom signed through 2025-26 and the addition of Dan Vladar, the Flames can be patient with Wolf.
- Adam Ruzicka, C/RW Stockton Heat (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round four, 109th overall by Calgary Flames
The bruising Slovakian was one of the few Flames prospects to show signs of improvement in Stockton last year. Ruzicka’s 11 goals and 21 points in 28 games was a team-leading production that earned him a call-up for his NHL debut. He saw ice in three games with the big club and had one point even seeing some playing time with Matt Tkachuk.
Ruzicka has the size NHL teams covet and he has shown some offensive chops in the OHL, internationally, and now at the AHL level. Where he needs to improve is in his skating. If he can become an average NHL skater he could become a Milan Lucic replacement in a few years.
- Jeremie Poirier, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2020 round three, 72nd overall by Calgary Flames
The offensive defenseman posted 20 goals in his draft year, and in last year’s short season, he scored at 1.12 points per game pace! So how is he not inside the top five on this list, or even further down on other lists? He also recorded a minus -41 as a rookie, a minus-25 in his draft year, but was only a minus -3 in his D+1 year. Poirier is a liability in his own zone and a work in progress defensively to be polite. However, he is showing signs of improvement in that department, but still has a lot of gains to make before he will be considered for a NHL job. Poirier has a year of junior to play, and will follow that up with one or two years the AHL proving he is defensively ready for the NHL.
His offensive vision and skill should have had him as a first-round talent. It is easier to teach the skills and abilities Poirier lacks than the assets he possesses and the Flames may be able to develop their third-round pick into a first-round player.
- Connor Mackey, D – Stockton Heat (AHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2021 by Calgary Flames
Mackey passed through the NHL Draft, but not under the radar of the Flames. The Minnesota State University alumni was invited to the Flames development camp back in 2017 and they have kept a watchful eye on his development since. Mackey developed into a solid two-way defender with a physical edge and an offensive upside. Posting back-to-back seven goals seasons and 20+ points in his sophomore and junior years. The Flames put pen to paper with him and he made his pro debut.
Mackey had a solid rookie year with 16 points and 33 PIM’s and was recalled to the Flames to make his NHL debut where he had a goal and three points in six games. Already 25-years old and on the cusp of graduating as a prospect, Mackey could split time between the NHL and AHL based on numbers as he is waiver exempt still. Mackey looks to be found money as a legit NHL player with middle six upside potential, a great find by the team.
- Ryan Francis, C Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2020 round five, 143rd overall by Calgary
The undersized playmaking pivot has first-round draft skill level but plummeted in his draft because of size. Craig Button once told me “Don’t scout players with a measuring tape.” That is great advice for the direction the NHL is headed. Big players that can play and small players that can is the times we are in now. And Francis can play!
He posted 72 points in 61 games in his draft year and then 50 in 32 last year splitting games between Cape Breton and the Sea Dogs where he joined fellow Flames prospect Poirier. The 19-year-old has a late birthday and now completed four seasons in the QMJHL. He is currently turning heads at the Flames rookie camp and is bound for a season in the AHL as a pro rookie.
Francis is highly skilled, has quick silky hands, and has quick feet to match. His reads, positioning, and puck support show he has good hockey sense. He is very deceptive with his intentions and is a fast-rising prospect to watch in the Flames system.
- Johannes Kinnvall, D – HV71 (SHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2020 by Calgary Flames
Another free agent gem uncovered by the Flames is the Swedish defender who has three seasons of SHL development under his belt. Kinnvall has shown to be a reliable offensive producer while remaining sound defensively.
The Flames will bring Kinnvall over to North America and allow him a full season with Stockton to adjust to North America and the smaller ice. He should walk into a top pairing role with the Heat, and run the powerplay as well. He could prove to be a solid free agent find, but already at 24-years-old, he needs to strike quickly to secure an NHL position.
- Mathias Emilio Pettersen, C – Stockton Heat (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round six, 167th overall by Calgary Flames
The Norwegian Wayne Gretzky has his work cut out for him to live up to that moniker. He has spent the seven seasons in North America playing his way to the NHL through the USPHL, USHL, NCAA and AHL. After scoring 35 points in 36 games at the University of Denver, his AHL rookie season was one of adjustment with just six goals and 14 points in 29 games.
Stockton struggled offensively last year but should be on an improved team and MEP should see a significant uptick in production in his sophomore year. At 21-years-old and entering his fourth season in the Flames system, he needs to move the needle this year or risk being overtaken on the depth chart.
There are several for the Flames as the team boasts a deep pool of prospects, but many of the players outside the top ten are now trending down.
Glenn Gawdin and Matthew Phillips – They are both no longer waiver exempt and to be assigned back to the AHL will have to be exposed. After the Flames rounded out the NHL roster with free agents, it appears as these prospects are no longer in the Flames picture. They have both proven to be prominent AHL producers but have failed to crack the NHL. Perhaps a fresh start in a new organization is their best chance.
Martin Pospisil – The pesky winger needs to stay healthy! Limited to a total of 40 games in the past two seasons due to injuries he is easy to overlook. However, he is hard to miss when in the lineup. His 21 points in the AHL are nice, but his physical play despite being only 172 pounds is impressive. No stranger to the sin-bin he can impact the game in a number of ways and was on the cusp of the top ten rankings.
Eetu Tuulola – A favorite of mine due to his combination of size and a quick shot, has failed to show enough development for consideration to the top ten and needs a monster season to remain a relevant prospect.
Tyler Parsons – Once considered to be the Flames future starting goalie, Parsons has struggled at the pro level. The emergence of Wolf and the additions of Dan Vladar and Adam Werner indicate the Flames faith in him.
Dan Vladar – Made expendable in Boston by Jeremy Swayman gets a second chance in Calgary and has the door open to be the backup to Jakob Markstrom.
Adam Werner – Made expendable in Colorado by Justus Annunen. Werner gets a second chance in Calgary and is expected to be the starting goalie in Stockton and likely the first call up to the big club if there is an injury.
Dmitry Zavgorodiny – Was lights out playing with Alexis Lafreniere in the QMJHL, and was impressive playing with Russia at the WJC. His transition to the AHL was less impressive. Hope remains.
Emil Heineman – Acquired in the Sam Bennett trade with Florida, the two-way forward is developing in the SHL. A long-term project with promise.
Yan Kuznetsov – The big Russian defender is a throwback to the old school – a big, defensive defenseman. His lack of offensive upside keeps him outside the top ten.
Rory Kerins – Don’t forget about me! Played only four games in the AHL with no OHL to play in. The season prior he posted 30 goals with the Soo. Look for Kerins to have a big season in his final year in the OHL.