The Flames finished their annual Development Camp this past weekend, with on and off ice sessions held at Winsport. The event finished with a scrimmage on Sunday morning, which was packed with Flames fans excited to see what the future holds for the organization.
The players were eager to prove themselves to the organization’s brass. Your friends here at The Win Column were on hand to watch the scrimmage, and we have a few takeaways from it.
The Future of the Flames
With a limited amount of play, it’s hard to come to any conclusions, so these takeaways are more about initial impressions than they are about forecasting where a prospect will end up.
Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier
The two tiny forwards formed an impressive tandem on Team White (Group B). While Phillips is 5’7’’ and Pelletier stands a bit taller at 5’9’’, the two impressed with speed, skill, and surprisingly strength.
Both players were not only flashy with their shooting and passing, but also threw a number of hits, showing that they won’t let their size define their worth. They had a chemistry that was noticeable from the first minute of the scrimmage, and helped carry their team against a much stronger Team Red (Group A).
The Arizona State prospect was stunning in the scrimmage. Not only did he generate a number of scoring chances, he worked hard on and off the puck. He also made some great passes to set up his teammates and was a force to contend with on a consistent basis.
His standout moment came in the second half of the scrimmage. He cut hard to the net, put the puck between the legs of a Team White defender, cut through him and another defender, eventually scoring high far side.
He was so impressive that Brad Treliving called him out unprompted as the most improved prospect at the camp this week. Although he’s officially signed with the Sun Devils for next season, he is definitely a player to keep an eye on.
You may be thinking, who? The 6’2” Swedish goalie was an invite to this year’s camp and was lights out. Not only did he stop some a number of chances during regulation, he was perfect in the first shootout, stopping all the shots he faced.
Whether the organization does anything with him going forward is an interesting question, but he stood out during the scrimmage, and is definitely an under-the-radar player to keep an eye on going forward.
The fourth round pick of the Flames last season has been an intriguing player to watch. However, while many in his draft class looked to take a step forward in their development, he was largely unnoticeable.
With a number of turnovers and generally average play through the scrimmage, he is a player who could have really shown off his skill this weekend. Development camp is not the be all and end all of prospect development, but it definitely would have been nice to see more out of him this weekend.
One thing that we noticed at the scrimmage was the level of enthusiasm that the players had. There was no shortage of grit and hard hitting this weekend, and while most of it was clean, Onyebuchi’s hit from behind on his teammate was not.
For an invited player looking to stand out on a team not known for their grit, Onyebuchi clearly crossed a line with his play. Although he finished the day with a goal and an assists, that play didn’t help him cement himself as a player the Flames need to sign for next season.
The Big Questions
Good news, all five goalies the flames had at Dev Camp this week stood out in the scrimmage. Bad news, none of them are NHL ready for next season. The question remains, what do the Flames do with all of them?
With David Rittich and Cam Talbot in Calgary next season, we will likely see some combination of Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons, and Artyom Zagidulin in Stockton, and Nick Schneider will likely be in the ECHL to start the season.
Dustin Wolf will be back with Everett in the WHL, and Rifalk is unsigned. However, it seems impractical to put Parsons back in the ECHL, given his development and the Flames wanting to see what they have with him.
It’s equally impractical for them to have signed Zagidulin from Russia only to bring him over to play in the ECHL for the one year he has on his contract. There is a logjam in the Stockton crease, at least right now.
The scrimmage saw a number of forwards and goalies standout, but not much in the way of defense. With Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson pushing for spots with the Flames next season, and Oliver Kylington knocking on the door, the Flames defensive depth is beginning to wane in Stockton.
Having drafted only one defenseman in the last three drafts, that being Valimaki, the Flames are seeing that catch up to them now. The addition of Rinat Valiev last season did something to help the issue, but it still persists. This is a question the Flames will look to answer between now and the start of training camp.
The next time we see (some of) these players will be at Training Camp in the fall, where they will be vying for spots with the big club. Development camp is only a small sample, but it is unlikely that any of these prospects will be playing in Calgary to start next season.
Both Phillips and Glenn Gawdin looked good in the scrimmage and took strides in their development last season, but likely need more conditioning in Stockton.
Pelletier has said that he wants to “make it hard for them and show them what [he] can do,” but also admitted he’s expecting to be back with in Moncton for next season. While it is unlikely he’ll start the season in Calgary, look for him to make a splash in September.
The Flames will probably make a few more minor league moves, potentially signing some of the camp invites to minor league deals. With the roster in Stockton a little thin, and the progression of players like Valimaki, Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, and others, the Flames will be looking for a few more bodies to ply their trade out in California.
There were some intriguing players at camp this year who could be wearing the red and white in Stockton come next season, Pelletier’s junior teammate Jeremy McKenna among them.
It’s naive to draw any real conclusions from what happened in a two-hour scrimmage in July, but it was promising to see development from so many prospects. It’ll be interesting to keep tabs on them as next season, but at the end of the day it’s probably best to take these observations with a grain of salt.
With a full summer of training ahead, the real test will be in training camp, where the top prospects will go toe-to-toe with more skilled and experienced players in the system. Phillips, Pelletier, Gawdin, Parsons, Koumontzis, and Posposil are names every Flames fan should remember; they could become household names in a few short years.
What do you think of the Flames prospects? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @wincolumnblog
Photo by @NHLFlames