Believe it or not, the Flames’ training camp is almost over. They’ve played one of their two intra-squad games, and are just five days from the start of the season.
With such a short camp, the team has had to make decisions much more quickly around their opening night roster, unable to spend time really evaluating players the way that they do every other year. Instead, lines that resemble the opening night roster were formed right away, and although there has been some movement, the framework has remained mostly the same for each line.
Yesterday, the team made their first set of major moves, reshuffling their training camp groups, making some lineup changes, and sending some players down to make room for new bodies. Here is how it all shook up.
Flames training camp groups
After spending the first half of camp in two relatively even groups, the Flames shuffled things up, moving to one group of almost all NHLers, and one group of everyone else. Here is how group one looked:
With Sam Bennett currently injured, this more or less resembles the opening day lineup, especially at forward and in net. Looking at their lines, the Flames have kept Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan with Dominik Simon, who will be relied on to get into the corners and feed the two stars just like he did with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
They also elected to move Dillon Dube up the lineup to play alongside Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm. After a dominant playoffs, the team likely felt that Dube was due for a promotion, something I have advocated for going into this season. Instead of being on a crash-and-bang line with Bennett and Milan Lucic, Dube will likely be relied on for more defensive zone starts and will face tougher opposition.
This change sees Josh Leivo moved alongside Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane, who will likely be the Flames’ shutdown group. But adding Leivo gives the team a much more balanced look, and the ability to roll three dominant lines in the offensive zone, and at least two for defensive zone draws.
On the back end, the Flames have Mark Giordano paired up with Rasmus Andersson, a pairing that has been effective in the past. With T.J. Brodie now playing in Toronto, this pairing seems like the one the Flames’ will start with this season. This then moves Chris Tanev down to play with Noah Hanifin.
The Sunday Census returns for TWC, where we ask burning questions with social media polls and have you vote on them. This week was all about Chris Tanev. Check it out here.
With Tanev brought in to fill Travis Hamonic‘s role, this seems like the most logical step. This leaves Juuso Valimaki with Nikita Nesterov, but expect that pairing to change a little bit before the season starts.
Most surprising of all is the final pairing of Connor Mackey and Michael Stone. Mackey has received high praise from his coaches and even from the captain for how great he is, that this is not a huge surprise.
Although one consequence is that both Oliver Kylington and Alex Petrovic are playing in the second group. While Kylington has only just started at training camp, watch to see how he performs after signing a new contract. This move also enforces the idea that the Flames may look to sign Michael Stone off his PTO, if only for added depth.
Group Two features everyone else. They’re broken down as follows:
|Louis Domingue||Byron Froese||Glenn Gawdin||Oliver Kylington||Carl-Johan Lerby||Alex Petrovic||Mathias Emilio Pettersen|
|Matthew Phillips||Brett Ritchie*||Buddy Robinson||Adam Ruzicka|
|Alexander Yelesin||Artyom Zagidulin||Dmitry Zavgorodniy||Dustin Wolf||Jakob Pelletier||Connor Zary|
There is a lot going on here. The four players that have been crossed off, Garret Sparks, Luke Philp, Colton Poolman, and Eetu Tuulola have all joined Justin Kirkland in being assigned to the Stockton Heat. By making these moves, the team opens up space for Kylington, who had some immigration hold ups in his return to Canada, as well as for Dustin Wolf, Jakob Pelletier, and Connor Zary, who have joined the team after the World Juniors. They should be ready to play in the intra-squad game on Monday.
The Flames have also brought in Brett Ritchie on a PTO. A former second round pick of the Dallas Stars, Ritchie last played in the Boston Bruins’ system, putting up six points in 27 games in the NHL and four points in 12 games in the AHL last season. He is also the younger brother of Nick Ritchie, who plays for the Bruins.
This group is likely made up of players who will play in the AHL, as well as a few still waiting for the WHL to begin. The big question in this group is which players will make up the Flames’ taxi squad. There are a number of players who are in contention for a spot, but the next few days will help clarify this.
The Flames will play their final intra-squad game Monday evening, which will be broadcast on Flames TV. The team will also need to sign any of their players on PTOs by Monday so that they can clear waivers prior to deadline.
Any player who is sent down to Stockton or is assigned to the taxi squad this is waiver eligible will need to clear prior to being moved. While waivers are sometimes a nerve-wracking process, there is the added caveat this season that players will have to quarantine upon arrival, which can change the waiver claim strategy for many teams in the league.
Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days to see what the opening night roster against the Winnipeg Jets will look like.