Stop me if you've heard this story before. The top-line right wing spot is fine, a rookie will be expected to contribute significantly on the second-line, and the remaining right-wing spots will be filled with grinders and defensive specialists. Sound familiar? It should, because it's been the same story for the last three seasons for the Calgary Flames.
Jarome Iginla is a safe bet for a 35-goal, 70-point season, as long as he stays healthy. Players with those statistics usually don't have something to prove, but Iginla is an exception, as he looks to re-affirm his status as one of the game's premiere players, and not just a good player who had one great season.
For the second consecutive year, rookie Chuck Kobasew is being penciled on the 2nd line. The 21 year-old struggled to begin the season and notched just 4 goals in 23 games before being dispatched to the minors. However, his confidence improved as the year progressed and he ended up with 21 goals in just over half-an-AHL-season. This year, he'll likely be paired with veterans Steven Reinprecht and Martin Gelinas, which should allow him to learn on the job and not worry about making an occasional mistake. Once again this season, the job is Kobasew's to lose.
Chris Clark should begin his third full-season playing on the 3rd line alongside Stephane Yelle, a position very much suited to his style of play. The Flames' depth, or lack thereof, has forced Clark to spend much of the past two seasons on a scoring line, leading to some undeserved criticism for his lack of production. The reality is that he will bring a physical game to the ice every night and chip in with 10 goals a season. If Clark is expected to play a bigger role, the Flames are in trouble.
Journeyman Shean Donovan rounds out the Flames' starting quartet of right-wingers. The 28 year-old veteran of more than 500 NHL games adds size & speed to what is shaping up to be the Flames' best 4th line in years. Although he won't be counted on for more than a few goals, Donovan has averaged a goal every eight games throughout his career and could surprise a few people if he's able to play with some talented line mates.
Columbus castaway Matt Davidson should also see some NHL action this season. Although he won't be expected to be anything more than a depth player, the 26 year-old Davidson adds another big, defensively responsible body to the Flames' forward depths.
As seems to be the trend this season, there's not much help available on the farm. Garrett Bembridge will struggle to find playing time in Lowell, while Darren Lynch is likely to return to the WHL for his overage season.