With Brad Treliving at the helm Calgary fans have seen a real changing of the guard when it comes to the club’s NHL roster, but also the prospect list voted upon every summer by Calgarypuck.com hockey fans.
Over the past two seasons, the Calgary GM has moved expiring contract players for draft picks which has given him more currency to either select more players, or use them to add established players to the NHL roster.
The prospect list took a bit of a hit, or at least it did at first glance when picks were used to acquire Dougie Hamilton, while this year the acquired picks were retained giving the Flames a 9 player boost to their prospect group.
This past off season Treliving really put his stamp with those 9 selections but also a series cut to the prospect ranks with many players in previous rankings cut loose from the Flames organisation, deemed not to be in the club’s long terms plans.
When the dust settled there was a daunting list of 36 players to rank for Calgary fans board with a lack of hockey news in the summer months.
From early July until late August fans graduated a player daily (run offs aside) to comprise the 2016 Calgarypuck Flames Prospect Ranking list, it’s fourth annual look at the future of the Flames.
With four years of data to look back on, Calgary fans can see both hope rewarded with graduates to the NHL club now making an impact on the rebuilding Flames, but also other players that were thought of quite highly but have withered on the vine.
All in all the process is important as it captures the sentiment of a group of knowledgeable hockey fans and presents an unbiased view of prospects from a fan’s standpoint should one of them be traded for either picks or established players.
Thanks again for all your voting, without which this process would be the opinion of one person alone.
The Top Five List
The top five list on a hockey club is always an interesting achievement, but one that is far from a sure thing. For example, being ranked 5th within a deep system could mean NHL ready, while 5th on a terrible prospect club could mean AHL fodder with no real NHL upside.
We’ve certainly seen both from the Flames over the years. Unfair to the player, but more often than not good times like the Flames system has seen in the past three or years is compared to the Eric Nystrom era, when the club had literally nothing in the system beyond a projected bottom six winger.
This year’s top five consists of zero guaranteed impact players this fall, but it’s top pick in recent 6th overall selection Matthew Tkachuk will certainly get a long look.
1. Matthew Tkachuk– Yet another example of the Flames being somewhat fortunate at the draft table. Every draft has discussion around “tanking”, the spirit of the game, being competitive and what it does to your locker-room. The Flames have always seemed to win that one game or two near the end of every season pushing their pick stock downward, leaving themselves at the mercy of team’s drafting ahead of them. Luckily the team has had players fall to them in 3 of the last 4 drafts (exception being 2015 when they traded their 1st round pick) that almost seemed to good to be true. This year was no exception when the Canucks selected Juolevi sending Matthew Tkachuk into Flames’ colours.
When you have skill up the middle, and the presence of a pint sized wizard on the wings, clearly a winger with size and jam is exactly what the doctor ordered. Tkachuk isn’t just grit though; a skilled winger with a great net presence and the hands to play down low with skilled forwards. A great compliment to the Flames’ roster, but does he make the team out of his first camp and graduate as Sean Monahan did three years ago?
2. Mark Jankowski – I have to admit I just love the drama of Mark Jankowski finishing 2nd on the prospect list. I didn’t vote for him in this spot (see #3 below) but I love the story of a guy drafted early, developed forever, and essentially forgotten about emerging as the 2nd ranked prospect in 2016. Classic. All the guy has ever done is improve. His college numbers aren’t gaudy but he’s filled out his frame while also filling in his resume, developing the other aspects of his game making him a very well rounded prospect. His hands, size and speed make him an intriguing prospect; question now is what half of the roster does he fit within.
3. Jon Gillies – With hip surgery behind him, Jon Gillies if finally back to developing his game towards the projected goal of taking over the Flames’ starting duties down the road. Word came out this summer that he has actually had a garbage hip for 2 years, altering his style from a lateral athletic goaltender to a big goalie playing the angles. A positive spin on things could suggest that with the surgery behind him he may have become more of a hybrid, well rounded stopper, improving his projection.
4. Oliver Kylington – What better way to make up for the lack of a number one pick in a draft (Dougie Hamilton trade) then to take a guy once ranked 5th overall with the last pick in the 2nd round. If he becomes what he once was projected to be you’ve nailed it. If he doesn’t you have to like the understanding of risk/reward from the Flame’s camp. So where are we now on the Shylington experiment? Doing just fine thanks. The young swede adapted well to the AHL in his 18th year, made his NHL debut late last season and looked like he was ready to take his game to a new level during the Flames prospect camp this summer. Well on schedule to a potential draft day steal in 2015.
5. Brandon Hickey – Its says something when a player like Brandon Hickey cracks the top 5 prospect list for a team that has a better than average crop of hopefuls. He represents the entire list of factors that can often get a player overlooked when it comes to ranking and comparing NHL prospects. One, he was drafted out of tier 2 junior in Alberta, two he’s developed his game on the East coast in college hockey, and three he plays a less than flashy style as a defenseman. Like Kylington, Hickey followed up a great 2015-16 season with a very impressive prospect camp this summer showing his wares against recent draft picks and other returnees. Don’t be surprised if this is his last year in college hockey.
Looking Back – Previous Top 5 Lists
The more summers of prospect rankings we do, the greater the depth of analysis possible. With four on the books it’s time to look back at previous years and how the top five lists in those seasons have done.
2013 – Of that summer’s top 5, two are now the club’s kingpins of their top line (Monahan at 1, Gaudreau at 3), the 2nd ranked is part of the rival Canucks, and prospects 4 and 5 (Gillies and Jankowski) are out of college and still on the team’s top 5 list this summer. As a grade that top 5 is doing very well in terms of projection.
2014 – Gaudreau was ranked 1st and now sits as face of the franchise. The 2nd ranked prospect is the club’s current third line center and future impact player in Sam Bennett, while players 3 and 5 are both toiling with the Canucks (Baertschi and Granlund who fetched this year’s #7 ranked Shinkaruk). Finally the 4th spot was held down by Emile Poirier, a 2013 first rounder that has sputtered since a solid first season in the AHL, coming in at 8th in this year’s ranking. On notice, but not given up upon. Two promoted, two traded, one sputtering.
2015 – Things haven’t gone all that well for the 2015 list in a year’s time. Sure the top dog, Sam Bennett established himself in the NHL with 18 goals including a wild four goal night against the Florida Panthers, but that’s where the struggles begin. With Poirier 2nd and stalled with a tough year, the third pick Gillies had surgery and missed all but a handful of games, #4 Micheal Ferland made the show but failed to deliver on the hype around his 2014-15 playoff performance, and #5 Joni Ortio struggled in camp and now sits on the sidelines without an NHL home.
Finishing low and drafting high is a great way to get a club’s graduation rate up, and that’s what the Flames did in sending Sean Monahan straight to the show in his draft year, while also graduating Johnny Gaudreau right out of college and seeing a shoulder injury as the only thing that kept Sam Bennett on the sidelines in his draft year.
However you also need some guys from further back on the list to make the mark if you’re going to be successful. Josh Jooris made the Flames in 2014 much to the surprise of most on lookers as Calgarypuck had him ranked 33rd that summer.
This past season had Sam Bennet, Micheal Ferland and Joni Ortio all graduate out of the top five, with only Bennett making an impact last season in Calgary. Markus Granlund was also graduated but dealt to the Canucks for Hunter Shinkaruk who also saw times on the Flames. Kylington, Hathaway, and Wotherspoon all saw some games at the top level but need big training camps to make the club full time.
Any guesses on some deep listed players from the 2016 list that might surprise? How about a rebound story in Ryan Culkin? Or a more predictable name like Garnet Hathaway making an impact in late September? Certainly Tyler Wotherspoon and his wavier status will get a long lok in camp, and one shouldn’t rule out a surprise from Brett Kulak or even Oliver Kylington.
Turnover on a prospect list can also come from less positive results, as players are traded, or merely unsigned, removing their names from the list of prospects in future summers. The 2016 off season was a cruel one from the Flames as GM Brad Treliving continued to make his mark on the team by jettisoning players that didn’t fit his program.
Traded – 7. Markus Granlund 24. Patrick Sieloff
Released – 5. Joni Ortio 14. Bill Arnold 18. Kenny Agostino 27. John Gilmour 29. Turner Elson 30. Bryce Van Brabant 33. Matt Deblouw
Movers and Shakers
A prospect list is a moment in time, a snapshot of where a large group of fans sees a hockey’s clubs future during the summer months.
Things get much more interesting however when you have many years of analysis and you can see the progression and/or regression of players from year to year. As we do every summer we take a look at which players made the biggest gains or had the biggest losses in terms of rank position from the summer of 2015 to the summer of 2016.
Up Up and Away
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Clearly hockey fans in Calgary have taken notice of the pint sized OHL star in Andrew Mangiapane, as the Barrie Colt went from 21st place to 9th spot in just a calendar year. When drafted small there’s an assumption that a player won’t pan out despite examples like Calgary’s own Johnny Gaudreau. Mangiapane pushed some naysayers to the side this past season by lighting up the OHL and playing with a rugged and pest like style.
The rest of the group are defensemen showing how much the view of Calgary’s blueline future has changed. Kylington and Andersson both moved further up within the top ten, while Kulak and Ollas Mattson inched their way towards that group.
Down the Drain
The list you don’t want to be on as a hockey player is the most spots lost year over year.
There are a myriad of reasons as to why a ranking will fall to a player beyond the obvious pick of a player regressing in development. Just like graduates may help a player move up the list, adding a lot of prospects can certainly beef up the team’s depth and with that push players down.
The Flames drafted 9 times this June and seemed to do quite well in adding interesting/intriguing players with their 2nd to 4th round picks, and with that we saw a skid for many players.
Number one on the list was Kenny Morrison who really struggled to adjust to pro hockey this past winter after a great start in Adirondack the previous Spring. Players like Hunter Smith and Keegan Kanzig are huge, but don’t seem to possess the skill or wheels to make their mark; their rankings reflect that. Finally a pair of Russians that may not make themselves available to the Flames have lost their rankings because of the likelihood of ever suiting up for the Flames.
An interesting list of players that have managed to appear in all four rankings (2013-2016).
The bad in that is the fact that you haven’t graduated, and made your way to the National Hockey League. The good, you haven’t been jettisoned suggesting the club still holds value in your development and sees potential in the players game.
College players with their slower entry into the pro ranks will always make up a percentage of this list. Either way it’s interesting to have a look at these players and their up and down sentiment from Calgary fans.
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For Kulak, Jankowski, Gillies and Wotherspoon things are going just fine. Two college players right on pace for where they should be, and two junior players that have done enough to keep the faith of the organisation.
The rest of the list has some concerns however. Former first round picks Poirier and Klimchuk are starting to cause concern with the fan base and Ryan Culkin’s injury concerns have hurt him in the list.
The Maginot Line
The point in a summer’s prospect list where prospects become suspect, or long long shots to make the club. Last year I had the cut off point or Maginot Line at prospect #17 (2015 Rankings), choosing to include Hunter Smith (potentially wrong) and eliminating Kenny Agostino (potentially right) as the line between somewhat likely and not likely at all. Included in that 17 was two additional players that the Flames chose to walk away from in Joni Ortio and Bill Arnold. Below that line was Brett Kulak and Andrew Mangiapane, both who climbed up the list considerably this summer.
This year my vote goes for 19.
Wanted to include the likes of Culkin and Hathaway but you have to draw the line somewhere.
That magic line in the sand between blue chip and just solid prospects. A team with many blue chip prospects is in good stead as they have players ready (chomping at the bit) to not only steal an NHL job, but potentially at an impact position.
We saw the Monahans, Gaudreaus and Bennetts do just that in prior years. Last year I had the line at 3 with Bennett, Emile Poirier and Jon Gillies getting elite status.
I’m going to hold at 1, with Matthew Tkachuk getting blue chip status before the rest get question marks. Had Gillies finished 2nd in the polling I would have anointed two players to this list but Mark Jankowski still has too many question marks in terms of upside to have the list slide down to three.
Once again thanks again for all your contributions to keeping hockey fans sane in non-NHL news months!