With the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship underway, it’s always a good mix of unknown players meshing with NHL talent that’s no longer competing in the playoffs. This year, with the Calgary Flames missing the postseason, they were slotted to send six players to the Worlds. Unfortunately with Dillon Dube‘s injury, he’s missing the tournament. How might the other players international performances affect the Flames? We asked, you answered.
The Flames are well-represented at the Worlds
The other five players the Flames have in the tournament are Andrew Mangiapane competing for Team Canada, Connor Mackey playing on for USA, Nikita Nesterov with Russia, Emilio Pettersen playing for Norway, and Ilya Solovyov suiting up for Belarus.
The list essentially includes one of the Flames’ best forwards, three prospects, and a depth level defenceman. No offence to Nesterov, but his impact on the tournament and the Flames won’t exactly be as meaningful as the other four. As for the others, they all have unique opportunities to impress at the international level, add to their hockey resumes, and return to the Flames system with more experience.
So among them, who’s the player to keep the closest eye on?
Mangiapane will build on top line experience
From the Twitter poll, Mangiapane’s potential performance was voted as the most important for the Flames’ future. There’s definite merit to this, as Mangiapane has been playing on Canada’s top line with Connor Brown and Adam Henrique. Mangiapane has two goals and an assist in two games since joining the team. The biggest takeaway for him will be that fellow NHLers will realise pretty quickly how good he is at hockey.
For the Flames, there’s the added lens of seeing how he fairs with top line responsibilities, and they can assess whether he’s someone who can take a few reps on Calgary’s top line in case the Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk line don’t stay put. Further, they can also see about giving him added special teams time on both the power play and penalty kill.
The Worlds gives Mangiapane the chance to have the spotlight on him, and so far he’s relishing it. Team Canada is back in action against Italy today, which will be rather lopsided, given that Italy has yet to win a game.
May 30, 2021 Update: Canada beat Italy by a score of 7–1. Mangiapane scored two goals and added two assists to bring his point total to seven points in three games.
Mackey gets exposure
The young defenceman has suited up for two games for USA, and while he hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet yet, he’s getting reasonable ice time, averaging just under 15 minutes per game so far. There hasn’t been anything of note for Mackey’s time with Team USA yet, but he’s getting more minutes per game than Adam Clendening and Chris Wideman.
The 24-year-old will want to get more noticeable contributions for Team USA as he fights for a main roster spot with the Flames come the 2021-22 season. Chances are he’d be challenging for third pairing minutes with Calgary, so he’s at least getting additional reps in now while there’s still hockey to play.
Pettersen bringing AHL experience with him
After finishing up in the NCAA with the University of Denver in 2019-20, Pettersen spent 2020-21 playing in the AHL with the Stockton Heat. Scoring six goals and eight assists over 29 games, his first stint playing professional hockey was not too bad at all.
Representing Norway, he has scored one goal in five games, while averaging 17:19 minutes per game. That puts him near the top among forwards on the team. Norway, like Canada, hasn’t fared too well in the tournament so far, with just two wins—one of which was a shootout win over Latvia.
The 21-year-old is still taking forward steps in his hockey development, and representing his country at the Worlds will be another display of his talent as he tries to climb up the depth rankings in the Flames system.
Solovyov caps off a dream year
The Belarusian probably didn’t think he’d be drafted by any team after being passed on in his first two years of eligibility, yet lo and behold, the Flames decided to take a chance on him. Selecting him with their seventh round pick in 2020, it was his play with the Saginaw Spirit in 2019-20 that really caught the Flames’ attention.
He spent the past season playing out of the KHL with the Dinamo Minsk, dressing for 41 games at 20 years old, putting up two goals and seven assists in the regular season. So far in the Worlds, he has played two games with an average of just under 12 minutes per game. He hasn’t made it onto the scoresheet yet, but neither have a lot of his fellow teammates.
His hockey play so far ultimately earned him an entry-level contract with the Flames, and he’ll be suiting up for the Stockton Heat next season. For the Belarusian, it’s all really just beginning for him. If he can build on this experience playing in the Worlds for the first time, he can elevate him game once he’s in the AHL.
May 30, 2021 Update: Belarus was shutout by Switzerland, but Solovyov played the most he’s played yet at the tournament, getting nearly 18 minutes of ice time.
Lopsided levels of importance
The thing about the Flames at the Worlds right now is that they are all at unique portions of their hockey careers. There’s no doubt that Mangiapane’s one of the Flames’ most important players, but there are three prospects all with potential as well.
Long story short, we all know what type of player Mangiapane already is. No one is denying what he brings to the team. However, the other prospects in the system are all having bonus opportunities to impress, and using the Worlds is a good enough stage to do so during these trying times.
As the tournament is wrapping up its preliminary round, there’s a good chance that half of the Flames playing will be packing their bags pretty soon. Nevertheless, representing one’s country at the Worlds while donning a hockey jersey is always a good moment. While Mangiapane’s Flaming C is secured, the other three will keep pushing to be wearing one more often than not in the coming years.
Photo from IIHF.com