Historically, the Calgary Flames have had some great luck finding players from the NCAA. From Hobey Baker Winner Johnny Gaudreau to prospects like Mathias Emilio Pettersen and Connor Mackey, the team has had some good players come from the American College system.
Currently, the Flames have five prospects spread across four college programs. Four of these prospects went into their respective playoffs this weekend, and unfortunately each of their respective teams was knocked out in the first round. While disappointing, some Flames prospects have had great years this year and have started to make a name for themselves.
Before we dive into it, it is worth noting that this year is a huge anomaly for these teams. For players like Friend of the Blog Demetrios Koumontzis and Arizona State, they played every single game this season on the road, and travelled thousands of kilometers to even have a season. It is worth taking these performances with a grain (or many grains) of salt. Let’s dive into it.
Demetrios Koumontzis – Arizona State Sun Devils
Koumontzis had an interesting season. On the one hand, he increased his point totals in the shortened season, but on the other hand, nothing jumped off the board. He finished tied for seventh in team scoring with ten points.
Arizona State played the season in the Big-10, and flew in and out of the Great Lakes Region each weekend to play. The finished the season 7-16-3, and as a team struggled mightily to get things going. Koumontzis was a good representation of this, playing up and down the linup throughout the season. He played part of the season up on the top line, and languished in the bottom six for stretches. Inconsistent is probably a good word for his season.
What’s next for him? Koumontzis goes into his final season with ASU next year, and will need to exceed his form in his first year in order to challenge for a contract from the Flames. In his rookie season, he put up 20 points, but has not come close to matching that since. After a weird COVID-impacted season this year and an injury shortened last season, next season will be key for Koumontzis’ future.
Josh Nodler – Minnesota State University
Although Nodler only put up 11 points, the sophomore found himself centering the top line for much of the season. While he mostly played at centre, he did have a couple of reps playing on the right wing. A right shot centre who can play on the wing could be a valuable asset for the Flames down the road. Nodler finished the season third in points, just two off the lead, and was second in assists. He also led the team in plus minus with an even zero.
MSU had an atrocious season, winning just five games all season long, and Nodler played in all of them. While the season was poor, Nodler was one of the team’s best players. MSU isn’t a strong team, and Nodler will need to take more of a leadership role on and off the ice going into his final two seasons. If he can continue growing his game and become the key guy at MSU, it will help him secure an ELC from the Flames.
Michell Mattson – MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
The former fourth round pick hasn’t done a whole lot of anything since being drafted. Although he finally got his first and second NCAA goals this season, he languished on the fourth line for most of the season, and then was scratched for most of the team’s last ten games.
Not a whole lot else to say about Mattson. He has one more season with MSU, but will have to push hard to retain his spot with the team. His time with the Flames is probably reaching its conclusion.
Jake Boltmann – Notre Dame
An off-the-board third round pick, Boltmann is an interesting Flames prospect. Initially pledged to join Minnesota this year, he did not sign his National Letter of Intent, and instead joined Notre Dame in December. Through 19 games, he put up no points and had nine shots on net. Although none tickled twine, he did have some good looks. While his numbers did not sparkle, he did give us the most wholesome moment by a Flames prospect this season:
This is a hard season to evaluate no doubt, but the hope was that the freshman would have at least come away with a single point. Undoubtedly it took him some time to find his feet moving over from the USHS-MN to the NCAA, but he will need to start putting some points on the board in order to show the Flames that they were right in drafting him in the third round last year. While he has made some good plays, next season will be pivotal.
Yan Kuznetsov – University of Connecticut
Friend of the Blog Yan Kuznetsov made some history this season, joining fellow Russian Vladislav Firstov as the only NCAA players ever selected for Team Russia at the World Juniors. The defensive defenceman was a stalwart on the Huskies’ top pairing, and played a ton of penalty kill minutes this season. He has clearly grown into his role, having seen his ice time continue to grow.
One thing of note for Kuznetsov is his vision of the ice. He is a very calm player, who is able to see plays developing, and is able to make long-range passes to create chances. While his offensive numbers do not jump off the page, the sophomore is just 18 years of age and has continued to take strides in his development. Take a look at this incredible pass from Kuznetsov to set up Firstov
In our chat with him earlier in the season, Kuznetsov mentioned wanting to continue growing his offensive game and make the jump to the pro ranks in Calgary. Is he there yet? It may be too early to say, but expect that he is a player that the Flames will be looking to sign sooner rather than later. The team needs strong defensive prospects, with many having graduated to the NHL already. Kuznetsov still probably has another season of growth to his game before he can really make the jump to the AHL level, but he is not far off.
Photo credits: UConn Huskies