It appears the Tobias Rieder experiment might be over. Signed for $700,000 from a PTO where he looked promising, he struggled to carry his game into the regular season. While he did score a goal against Washington, he struggled to make his presence felt on a Flames team lacking consistency.
While it is always sad to see a player struggle to make it in the NHL, it opens the door for a player in Stockton to prove their worth in Calgary. With the Flames trying Elias Lindholm at centre, their centre depth looks much stronger with Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund and either Derek Ryan or Mark Jankowski down the middle joining Lindholm. The Flames will likely be looking for someone to play on the wing to challenge their bottom six that has struggled to produce.
The Flames have struggled to find consistency, but things in Stockton are looking quite good. Sitting at the top of their division with a 6-1-1 record, the Heat are off to a blazing start. With a number of players looking excellent so far, here are four that might find their way up to Calgary.
The most likely call-up for the Flames, Dillon Dube is best known for having two excellent pre-seasons in Calgary before he finally made the team out of camp last season. However, things did not go as planned for the Cochrane native as he struggled to stay healthy last season. In the end, he played 25 games for the Flames, and had one goal and four assists in that time. He ended the season with Stockton with 39 points in 37 games. Currently he has a goal and six assists in seven games for the Heat to start the season.
Dube is a player who is too good for the AHL, but has struggled to translate his game to the NHL level so far. He did not have a great camp in Calgary this year, and was publicly called out by Coach Bill Peters about his play. At some point, the Flames will want to know what they have in a guy like him, but the question is: is this his time? Dube shoots left, but can plays all three forward positions. Peters likes players who can take draws, and with Dube able to slot in on the fourth line with Andrew Mangiapane and either Ryan or Jankowski, he may be a perfect fit for this team right now.
Dube also doesn’t require waivers to be sent down if he is called up, which provides the Flames with flexibility moving forward.
There is something about the Flames and taking diminutive forwards in the later rounds of the draft who are fast and have a nose for the net. Joining Johnny Gaudreau and Mangiapane is Matthew Phillips, the former Victoria Royals captain taken in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Since then, Phillips put up 112 points in his final season of junior and 38 points as a rookie in Stockton last season.
This season, Phillips has three goals and four assists in eight games for the Heat. The big question about Phillips has always been if can he translate his mammoth success in the WHL to professional hockey. So far the answer seems to be yes. However, the question the Flames will be asking is can he do it at the highest level against elite talent? With the Flames struggling to find consistency, is now the best time to try out a player with no NHL games played? While he can play centre or right wing like Dube, he is a right handed shot, something the Flames sorely lack. This may make him more appealing for a call up.
The former Swift Current Bronco, Glenn Gawdin led his team to qualify for the Memorial Cup, putting up 125 points and 101 penalty minutes in 67 games. The Flames signed the forward midway through last season, watching to see if he could drive play away from his linemates. In his rookie season in Stockton, Gawdin had 38 points in 64 games, and was an impact player especially in the second half of the season.
Once again, Gawdin is making his presence felt in Stockton. He is currently a point per game player with two goals and six assists. While he has definitely found his feet in Stockton, it is hard to see the Flames bringing up the centre at this point in this season. Not only will the Flames likely want to see him grow his game in Stockton, they are also likely looking to bring in a winger to play on the fourth line. Unless they believe Jankowski is on his way out and Ryan slotting in as a winger, they are likely not looking for someone to play down the middle. However, Gawdin has definitely impressed this season in Stockton, so expect him to get a call-up at some point this season, if not now. The biggest plus about Gawdin is he, like Phillips, shoots right. On a team sorely lacking right shooting forwards, Gawdin could be a prime callup candidate.
A sleeper pick for a callup might be Ryan Lomberg. With 11 games in the NHL split between the last two seasons, Lomberg brings a ton of energy and grit to the table, if not a lot of scoring at the NHL level. He has impressed in Stockton this season with four goals, two assists, and 12 penalty minutes in eight games so far this season. While he has struggled to translate his offensive abilities in Stockton to the NHL level, he is a ball of energy on the ice and may be the firecracker the Flames need to get their depth players going. However, Lomberg is in his fifth professional season and is at the is-what-he-is stage of his career. The Flames will likely be looking to see what they have in their younger guys instead of bringing up a player who is probably a career AHLer.
Who will it Be?
The best bet here is Dube. He’s the most NHL ready of the four, and his positional versatility combined with quick feet is a great combination for the bottom-six.
Who do you think the Flames will bring up to fill the potential hole left by Rieder? Will he clear waivers or will another team try to pick him up? Do you think the Flames will send him down right away or will he stay in Calgary a little longer?
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