#isitoctoberyet?

Well, not quite. But it’s right around the corner. In just 22 days, the puck will drop in Toronto to start the 2018-19 NHL season. It’s been a long summer but our patience will soon be handsomely rewarded with what should be a great hockey season.

This might not be the time of the year where we can expect to see lots of blockbuster trades or big UFA signings, but it is still a very important time in the offseason. Teams are rounding out their rosters in preparation for training camp and opening night and some GMs still have a fair bit of work left to complete. Several big name RFAs have yet to sign contracts with their teams, and are ineligible to participate in training camp or the preseason until they do. With a number of interesting UFAs still on the market, teams are starting to send out PTOs and ATOs, and of course, there are blue chip prospects that are itching to make their mark in training camp and earn a roster spot come the first week of October.

For the Calgary Flames, GM Brad Treliving has done a good job signing all pending RFAs to contracts and adding a few impact players in free agency. On paper they can easily ice a full roster but there are still spots are up for grabs. With a few prospects that look like they could make the jump to the NHL this year, battles at camp will definitely be interesting to watch.

Calgary’s opening night roster does have several fixtures; most roster spot locks are held by familiar faces. 

On forward:

  1. Johnny Gaudreau
  2. Sean Monahan
  3. Mikael Backlund
  4. Matthew Tkachuk
  5. Michael Frolik
  6. Sam Bennett
  7. Mark Jankowski
  8. James Neal
  9. Elias Lindholm
  10. Derek Ryan

On defense:

  1. Mark Giordano
  2. TJ Brodie
  3. Travis Hamonic
  4. Noah Hanifin
  5. Michael Stone

In goal:

  1. Mike Smith

Barring any major injuries, Gaudreau and Monahan will remain a pair on the top forward line, Backlund will center the second forward line, Giordano and Brodie will almost certainly be the team’s top defense pair, and Smith is the starting goalie. Beyond those six players though, there are no other real slotting locks on the team. Every other player on the Flames’ roster could be in a couple different spots on the roster and might even move down the lineup in favour of a new rookie.

That leaves two forward spots completely unaccounted for, two defense spots (basically the third pairing) and the backup goalie position up for grabs. We could see several players outside the above locks in a Flames jersey this season including a few very intriguing rookies.

On forward:

  1. Curtis Lazar
  2. Garnet Hathaway
  3. Austin Czarnik
  4. Andrew Mangiapane
  5. Dillon Dube
  6. Spencer Foo
  7. Glenn Gawdin
  8. Matthew Phillips
  9. Ryan Lomberg
  10. Morgan Klimchuk
  11. Anthony Peluso

On defense:

  1. Brett Kulak
  2. Rasmus Andersson
  3. Dalton Prout
  4. Juuso Valimaki
  5. Oliver Kylington
  6. Marcus Hogstrom

In goal:

  1. David Rittich
  2. Jon Gillies
  3. Jeff Glass
  4. Tyler Parsons

Some of the battles in training camp have a clear favourite, whether that be due to contract flexibility, NHL experience, handedness, or any other reason, but any of these players could find themselves on the opening night roster with a strong showing at camp. Assuming the Flames ice a roster with 14 forwards, seven defenders, and two goalies, there are four forward spots, two defense spots, and one goalie spot that can be won at camp. All four of us at TWC took a stab at what the opening night roster might look like.

Karim

Gaudreau Monahan Lindholm
Tkachuk Backlund Neal
Bennett Ryan Frolik
Mangiapane Jankowski Czarnik
Lazar
Hathaway
Giordano Brodie
Hanifin Hamonic
Kulak Andersson
Stone
Smith
Rittich

Personally, I think Peters will opt for a safe lineup on opening night. Replacing Micheal Ferland with Lindholm gives the top line a guy who can add offense to Gaudreau and Monahan, and still cover defensively. Neal on the second line adds a volume sniper to the dominant Backlund line which should allow that line to convert more positive possession plays into goals. Mangiapane has nothing left to prove in the AHL, so playing a depth role on a line with some legitimate scoring power could give the Flames its best fourth line in years. 

Andersson is better than Stone at this point and Stone will probably sit in the pressbox until he gets traded. Rittich will likely be the backup goaltender solely because Gillies is waiver exempt. 

John

Gaudreau Monahan Neal
Tkachuk Backlund Lindholm
Bennett Ryan Frolik
Dube Jankowski Foo
Czarnik
Mangiapane
Giordano Brodie
Hanifin Hamonic
Stone Kulak
Andersson
Smith
Rittich

Neal wants to play on the top line, Gaudreau and Monahan want him on the top line, it’s silly not to try out this combination initially. Should the trio suffer defensively, that is when Neal and Lindholm can swap places. Lindholm slots in perfectly with Tkachuk and Backlund, and easily gives the team an elite shut down line. The third line appears to be the one that people differ on the most, but I believe this is the only combination available. Bennett and Ryan can swap places, while also having a reinvigorated Frolik to help defensively. The fourth line would be an absolute blast to watch, with Czarnik and Mangiapane waiting upstairs for the call.

While I would prefer to see Andersson start the season on the ice, my gut tells me he will be the 7th defender.

Bill

Gaudreau Monahan Neal
Tkachuk Backlund Lindholm
Bennett Ryan Frolik
Mangiapane Jankowski Czarnik
Hathaway
Lazar
Giordano Brodie
Hanifin Hamonic
Kulak Andersson
Stone
Smith
Rittich

It makes sense that Neal should slot into the first line to get that offensive touch the Flames sorely lacked last year, and with the arrival of Lindholm. The lineup here basically keeps 3M as the fall-back option while the Flames look to generate better scoring throughout their forwards.

If any forwards from Stockton make the lineup come training camp, they should be getting playing time and not watch from the pressbox. Mangiapane has the most realistic shot at getting regular minutes.

Prabhat

Gaudreau Monahan Neal
Tkachuk Backlund Frolik
Bennett Ryan Lindholm
Mangiapane Jankowski Czarnik
Lazar
Hathaway
Giordano Hamonic
Hanifin Brodie
Kulak Andersson
Stone
Smith
Rittich

Gaudreau and Monahan are already among the league’s elite duos. I do believe that adding a proven sniper in James Neal will give the top line another level of dynamic.

I am also predicting that head coach Bill Peters sticks with the 3M line to start off the season. It was one of, if not the most effective shutdown lines in the nhl for two seasons, and there is every reason to believe that Frolik should be back to his old self. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

It would be smart of Bill Peters to make a pairing that can handle the bulk of defensive zone starts in Giordano and Hamonic. On the other hand, Hanifin and Brodie can handle the offensive zone starts, which puts the two defenseman in a position to use their offensive instincts to its full potential.

After years of mediocre depth in several spots on the roster, the Flames finally have a number of combinations they can try out this season. Peters is a coach who loves to employ the line blender, so it’s nearly impossible to predict who he’ll ice on opening night. Just yesterday, there were reports strongly indicating a desire to start Peluso on the NHL roster. Regardless, whoever is lucky enough to start for the Flames on opening night, they’ll have to play well and consistently contribute with so many hopefuls snapping at their heels all season long.

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About the Author Karim Kurji

mechanical engineer | diehard flames fan | content creator @wincolumnblog

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