It hasn’t been an especially long offseason this year, but with the disaster that was the Calgary Flames’ 2021 season coming just before, it feels like forever since we’ve seen fun Flames hockey. Many were promised and expected big changes, but the Flames have not made any meaningful changes this offseason—except for losing Mark Giordano in the expansion draft. A new season always offers hope though, and so do watching prospects take the next step.
Before the veterans join the team and training camp begins, the Flames have called their young prospects to town alongside a number of new faces for Rookie Camp, which opens today. Let’s break down who will be there, what’s happening, and what to watch for.
Who’s all going to be there?
The Flames announced their roster yesterday on social media:
Rookie Camp will feature 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. Here are the main groups to keep an eye on.
Prospects who played in Stockton last year without NHL experience
- Walker Duehr
- Mathias Emilio Pettersen
- Martin Pospisil
- Dmitry Zavgorodniy
- Yan Kuznetsov
- Colton Poolman
This group of players will all spend the entire year in the minors, barring an inordinate string of injuries to the main squad. Up front, Pettersen and Pospisil should be among the leaders on forward for Stockton, with Zavgorodniy trying to break into that top group. Duehr will be playing his first full professional season after graduating from college, so he will likely play a middle- or bottom-six role.
On the back end, Kuznetsov will be playing his first full professional season as well, and the hard-nosed shutdown defenseman will no doubt be trying to solidify his spot in the depth chart. He’ll be focusing on reliability and defensive soundness first, and any offense will likely be a bonus this year.
Poolman is coming off his first full professional season, so look for him to take a step forward and show the Flames he’s a legit option for an NHL callup down the line.
CHL Prospects and graduates from last year
- Connor Zary
- Jakob Pelletier
- Jack Beck
- Cole Huckins
- Ryan Francis
- Rory Kerins
- Lucas Ciona
- Jeremie Poirier
- Cameron Whynot
- Cole Jordan
- Dustin Wolf
Zary, Wolf, and Kerins are in a unique position as they already have a few AHL games under their belt due to the player development agreement in place between leagues. Wolf’s main goal this season will be to lock down the starting gig in Stockton, away from some stiff competition in Adam Werner and Tyler Parsons (both not at Rookie Camp).
As two of the top prospects in the organization, watch for Zary and Pelletier to be head and shoulders better than any other skater at this camp. Showing the Flames brass that they are too good for this group of players is the first step to them fighting to make the Flames this year.
Outside of Zary, Pelletier, and Wolf, the rest of this group will be headed back to junior. However, Francis is the one other forward to watch in this group. He is coming off an absolutely dynamic year in the QMJHL where he actually outscored Pelletier in overall points.
On defense, the two players to keep tabs on are Poirier and Jordan. Poirier is an offense-first defenseman who loves to strut his stuff and make highlight reel plays. With this group of players, he could put on a show from the blueline. Jordan was drafted in the 2021 draft and is an excellent transition player. It will be interesting to see how he does against stiffer competition and if he can hold his own.
Prospects coming over from across the pond
- Ilya Nikolayev
- Johannes Kinnvall
- Ilya Solovyov
This group of players will spend the entire year in the minors. It’s hard to predict what Nikolayev is at this point with how up and down his career has been in Russia so far, so he’ll be an interesting player to watch play on North American ice.
Kinnvall is the main draw of this group. He has had a great career in Sweden as an offensive defenseman and power play quarterback, a role he’ll want to capture with Stockton this season. He’s an older player so he should be one of the better defenders at this camp.
Solovyov has had success at every level he’s played in, and because of his relative anonymity he’s underrated in depth chart talks. Watch for Solovyov to have a solid Rookie Camp and a strong season in Stockton.
- Mark Simpson
- Reid Perepeluk
- Koletrane Wilson
- Greg Moro
This group will play either with Stockton or with the Kansas City Mavericks in the ECHL. Simpson is a hulking defenseman who was with the Heat last season, and should be one of the more polished players at camp. He is truly huge, standing at 6’6″ and 197 lbs; how smaller forward can handle him will be a good test.
Perepeluk is a new face with the organization. Fun fact: he’s listed as a RW/D on EliteProspects. Might we see some unexpected offense from the newly signed defender?
Wilson is another player back with the organization after a year between the AHL and ECHL. He is a self-claimed late bloomer and despite having a minor league contract, his goal is to make the Flames. Watch for him to come out guns blazing.
Players on ATOs
- Ben King
- Connor Ungar
- Carter Serhyenko
These three players, all from the WHL, will be looking to impress NHL management and try to earn a professional contract.
King, a right shot center from the Red Deer Rebels, has played three WHL seasons and will be heading back to Red Deer to finish his fourth. Ungar, also from the Rebels, is a fairly green goalie with just 15 WHL starts on his resume. He’ll also be back with Red Deer this season. Serhyenko rounds out the goalies at camp. He has 25 games of WHL experience and will be back with the Prince Albert Raiders.
The goal of these three was perfectly described by King in an interview last week: “You go there with all that high-end talent and get into good habits, then come back here and have a head start on everyone.”
Who won’t be there?
- Josh Nodler
- Mitchell Mattson
- Jake Boltmann
- Matthew Coronato
- Arseni Sergeev
These four—headlined by 2021 first-rounder Coronato—won’t be at camp this year. The NCAA has very strict rules around their players being non-professional athletes. They limit their attendance at NHL camps to only summer development camp and require the player to pay the majority of the cost to attend. Instead, all four will be hitting both their local ice and the books this week.
Sergeev will suit up for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm this season, but is slated to attend the University of Connecticut in 2022-23. Ensuring he is still eligible for the NCAA is important.
- Emil Heineman
- William Stromgren
- Lucas Feuk
All three of these Swedish prospects will be playing in Sweden this coming season. International travel is still difficult, and while the Flames would have probably loved to see new prospects Heineman and Stromgren face off agains the rest of their top prospects, this will have to wait until next year.
Most older prospects
- Matthew Phillips
- Glenn Gawdin
- Oliver Kylington
- Connor Mackey
- Adam Ruzicka
- Luke Philp
This group of players won’t be at Rookie Camp solely because they’ve grown out of it. They’re all viewed by the organization as established professional players, so they’ll get their chance to shine at main camp, where they’ll all be fighting to earn spots on the big club.
Exclusion from Rookie Camp is is a great sign for players like Ruzicka and Philp. It means they’ve done a great job progressing in Stockton the past couple seasons and the organization is clearly happy with them.
Chechelev is a goalie who probably should be at camp, but isn’t for whatever reason. He’ll e playing his first North American season, team and location to be determined.
Rookie camp schedule
Camp opens today with fitness testing and medicals at WinSport. The players then hit the ice tomorrow for practice in the afternoon.
There will be two prospect games through camp. One on Saturday September 18th for a game against the Oilers’ prospects in Edmonton then again on Monday night against the Oilers’ prospects at the Saddledome. Flames hockey is back.