What better way to fill in those annoying gaps between the hockey season, the hockey off season, and the next hockey season than to conduct a series of 40 prospect polls in 40 days from early July until mid August.
I mean seriously, why would hockey think it should just go away, right?
For the third straight summer Calgarypuck.com has solicited the voting opinion of its readership to rank the Calgary Flames prospects from one to the mid 30s.
As a result we’ve built up an interesting database of past opinions, some of which have proven astute, others completely off the mark.
With that we present our 2015 Calgarypuck Prospect Ranking Summary.
Thanks again for participating with your votes!
|6||Mark Jankowski||38%||Poll||Run Off|
|7||Brandon Hickey||57%||Poll||Run Off|
|13||Rasmus Andersson||54%||Poll||Run Off|
|19||Brett Kulak||54%||Poll||Run Off|
|26||Adam Ollas Mattson||29%||Poll|
|30||Bryce Van Brabant||33%||Poll|
|32||Riley Bruce||53%||Poll||Run Off|
|35||Chad Billins/ David Wolf|
The Top Five List
Having a deep prospect list is important, but the guys at the top are the players that are going to stir your franchise’s collective drink in the upcoming seasons. Someone will finish 1st every year, so that in itself doesn’t prove a bright future, but if a team can boast 5 blue chip prospects in any given summer they are well on their way.
This year’s top five features at least four players that could figure prominently into the team’s plans this fall.
Sam Bennett – entered the prospect rankings after being drafted last June, and was only bested by Johnny Gaudreau for the top spot last summer. If you’re going to get nosed, may as well be to a Calder Candidate.
This year he takes top nod, winning 96% of the vote. He’ll likely center the third line, or patrol the left side on the second line this winter. 40 points? 50? 60? A look at the Calder? Time will tell!
Emile Poirier – Likely won’t start the season in Calgary given the team’s glut of waiver snagged forwards, but I wouldn’t bet against him to see at least 20 games in the show this season.
Poirier, a 2013 first round choice has been in our poll for three straight off seasons pulling in ranks of 9th, 4th and 2nd showing exactly the kind of progression you’d hope to see from a top prospect.
Not many more stops after two!
Jon Gillies – The Flames top ranked goaltender prospect just completed his finest year since the draft in winning a national championship and taking home mvp honours to boot.
Gillies turned pro at the end of his college season and is gearing up to lead the newly minted Stockton Heat in the AHL this season. Gillies has been in our polling for three summers with results of 4th, 10th, and 3rd.
Micheal Ferland – Always interesting when a player makes a big mark in the playoffs then comes back the next season somewhat proven, but still a prospect in the true sense of the word. Ferland’s impact on the Canucks in the first round last year certainly played out in the prospect poll this summer as he collected fourth spot, up from 15th last summer. To further prove how far this player has come, he was 26th the summer of 2013. Firmly on the radar now!
Joni Ortio – Ortio served notice he was ready last year when he was recalled from Adirondack and served up four straight wins to help the Flames to their way to a playoff spot. Calgary fans recognized that by giving him the 5th spot in the prospect poll along with a heated debate as to the club’s best goaltender vs Jon Gillies.
Ortio finished 9th last year, showing his progression into the club’s top five prospects. Last summer his move to 9th was 21 spots ahead of his 30th place 2013 ranking.
A prospect list isn’t worth its weight in bandwidth if players don’t come off said list and make the big team. Luckily the rebuilding Flames have had a parade of short appearances and then graduation ceremonies from their prospect dataset.
The summer of 2013 had Sean Monahan go from drafted in June to first place in the prospect poll in July, then the NHL roster in October.
The summer of 2014 was no different with two players graduating from the prospect rankings to full time NHL duty, that however is where the story similarities halt.
One would expect to graduate the top ranked prospect, and the Flames did that in back to back summers when they asked Johnny Gaudreau to find full time housing in Calgary. But did anyone expect to see 35th ranked Josh Jooris find a permanent spot on the NHL roster?
This year it looks like a slam dunk that Sam Bennett makes the grade making three straight summers when the number one ranked prospect moves on to greener pastures.
Is there another Josh Jooris in there? Best candidates would include any of the following …
Bryce Van Brabant
Honorable mention in this category to Markus Granlund who was a whisker shy of graduating but still counts as a prospect due to age and games played.
We’d be remiss to not mention those that moved on to other organizations either through trade or the Flames trimming their prospect list, and 2015 is no different in that regard.
The Flames traded prospects number; 3, 8, and 14 in Sven Baertschi, Max Reinhart and Corban Knight over the past calendar year, the first on the list starting a controversy that may never go away, that is until the player either becomes a regular in Vancouver, or moves his game to Europe.
The Flames walked away from prospects; 25, 28, 29, 31, 36 and 39 (Hanowski, Roy, Cundari, Ramage, Acolatse and Thiesen, with the only real surprise being Ramage as he was a late call up and a black ace during the playoffs.
Movers and Shakers
A steady progression up or down a prospect list is easy to project as the gain or loss is linear enough to use a ruler to forecast the future. But what about the guys that are all over the place?
A huge move up from last year could be an indication of a player that has “found it” suggesting he’s a guy to keep an eye on, while a move in the other direction could be met with an ejection seat as early as this fall.
Up Up and Away – Brandon Hickey. A player that went from “who?” status when he was plucked in the third round last summer to a guy that is now on the radar for the World Junior program for Christmas time. He has a TJ Brodie trajectory on him. Entered our poll at 23rd spot, and now sits 7th. (honorable mention: Micheal Ferland and Austin Carroll who both improved 11 spots)
Down the Drain – Patrick Sieloff. What once looked like a can’t miss defensive prospect, now could be doing just that. Don’t blame the player though as Sieloff has had injury after injury wiping out a complete season in 2013-14 and leaving him sputtering to find his old game and progression arch this past season. He’s young enough to turn it around, but it’s a huge season for him in Stockton. (honorable mention: Keegan Kanzig (-5), Tyler Wotherspoon (-4) both had their ranking tumble a tad mostly due to the improvement of others and the bulking up of prospect depth … David Wolf was omitted from this category due to his rank having more to do with a departure to Germany than a change in value).
The Maginot Line
Think I’ll add this by way of poll today, but at what point in the ranking does a prospect become a suspect. If you peruse past Calgarypuck prospect rankings (here is 2009, a top ten list that will make you quake in your skates) you’ll see some pretty suspect names in the club’s top ten. In year’s like these one would suggest a line of say 8th is the point where a team’s real future, and guys taking up space come to pass.
This year my vote goes for 17.
Now there are players past 17 that I think have a solid chance, but my mental check marks hit a snag at Kenny Agostino and the 18th spot so I’m calling it 17 for the summer of 2015.
I’ll update this story with the consensus view later on this week.
Like the Maginot line all prospect lists have a point where a blue chip (IBM reference) prospect meets just a prospect. Deeper the blue chips, brighter the future. Now clearly recent graduates and a young NHL roster comes into play, and the Flames would be a much different list if they were holding Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau back from NHL duty.
But for the purposes of the actual 2015 list where does blue chip prospect meet good prospect? My cut point is at #3 and Jon Gillies. The top three all have star potential, while after that point there are reasons to slight each and every player through the list (apologies to Joni Ortio).
Once again thanks again for all your contributions to keeping hockey fans sane in non-NHL news months!