The Calgary Flames’ main camp is nearing its end with just two games remaining in the preseason schedule. The team is just about ready to go with their roster for puck drop on opening night. Most of the Flames’ prospects have been sent back to their respective camps—the majority headed to the Stockton Heat to start their season in California.
With their first preseason game against the Bakersfield Condors this Friday, training camp is well underway already in sunny Stockton. While there are a number of returning faces coming back to Stockton, there are many new faces to keep an eye on. Let’s break it all down.
Stockon Heat returnees
Guess who’s back, back again?
With the Flames’ roster full of veterans, it was going to be a challenge for many of the Heat’s older prospects to make the big club. Here is who has come back already for camp:
|Emilio Pettersen||Matthew Phillips||Luke Philp||Martin Pospisil|
|Adam Ruzicka||Eetu Tuulola||Dmitry Zavgorodniy||Colton Poolman|
|Alex Gallant||Mark Simpson||Yan Kuznetsov||Koletrane Wilson|
|Andrew Shortridge||Greg Moro||Dustin Wolf|
This group broadly breaks down into three categories. The first is the Flames’ older prospects (bolded), who spent all of last season with the team. They are at various stages of their development, with some like Phillips, Ruzicka, and Pospisil, expected to earn a call-up to Calgary at some point this season, while others will need to keep growing their games at the AHL level in order to earn a role at the next level.
The second group is the AHL depth group (italicized), which comprises five players. They either spent the majority of last season with the team in Stockton or bounced between Stockton and Kansas City. Expect all to push for regular roles with the team in Stockton, especially Koletrane Wilson, who is going into this season with a lot to prove. The Win Column recently interviewed Wilson on his hockey journey, and it’s clear he is driven to succeed.
Finally, the Flames have two prospects who spent part of the season last year with the Heat, but the majority elsewhere. Dustin Wolf was very impressive in his short stint with the Heat. While he allowed six goals in his first game, he put up a 0.947 and 0.963 save percentage in his subsequent two games with the Heat. He then followed that up with a 0.940 save percentage in the WHL with Everett last season. Expect him to push for the starting role with the Heat this season.
Yan Kuznetsov is the other player here, but more on him down below.
New kids on the block
The good news for the new players coming into Stockton is there will be an established core of players who can help them to establish themselves on a new team, and for some in a new league. Here are the new players coming to camp so far:
|Westin Michaud||Ryan Olsen||Jakob Pelletier|
|Reid Perepeluk||Nick DeSimone||Kevin Gravel|
|Ilya Solovyov||Andy Welinski||Matt Greenfield|
The two most interesting names on this list are Jakob Pelletier and Ilya Solovyov, both of whom were drafted by the Flames and both of whom look to make an impact this season. Pelletier has been a standout in the QMJHL over the last number of years, and made a big impression at rookie camp this year. Pelletier will be hoping to push to the top of the Heat’s depth chart this season.
Solovyov is coming over from the KHL, after a unique development path through the KHL, OHL, and Belarusian system. He will be hoping to earn minutes on a very tight Heat blueline.
This blueline is made even tighter by the additions of Nick DeSimone, Kevin Gravel, and Andy Welinski, who all have a lot of AHL experience under their belts. Welinski and Gravel also have some NHL experience as well, and will no doubt be looking to make their way back to the big league if they can get some good performances under their belts.
Reid Perepeluk, Ryan Olsen, and Westin Michaud are all depth additions who will be looking to earn a spot in Stockton as opposed to in Kansas City. Of the three, Olsen is the most interesting, having put up 48 points in 44 games with the EC Kassel Huskies of the DEL2 in Germany.
Finally, the Heat added netminder Matt Greenfield. The former U of C Dino spent last season with the Mavericks in the ECHL, putting up a 0.916 save percentage through 25 games.
Stockton’s camp additions
We’re here for a good time, not a long time
The Heat have also brought seven players in on try-outs for this year’s camp. They are:
|Ryan Francis||Bryan Lemos||Nick Pastujov|
|Mikael Robidoux||Lane Scheidl||Alec McCrea|
The most interesting name on this list is Ryan Francis, who instead of being reassigned to the Saint John Sea Dogs was sent to Stockton on a try-out basis. While he is technically eligible to play in the league, he is also eligible to join the Sea Dogs for his overage season. With the Dogs set to host the Memorial Cup this spring, they would hope to have their forward back East for the season. However, if he makes enough of an impact at camp, there is a good chance the Flames offer him an entry-level contract (ELC) and end his junior career.
The remaining six are ECHL depth players who put up decent numbers in the league but likely do not have much to offer at the AHL level. Should any impress this year, there is a chance they steal a job at the AHL level, but likely do not provide much more. The only note here is Nick Pastujov, who is the brother of Sasha Pastujov who was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks this past season.
Finally, although Kuznetsov is on an ELC, there is a chance that he spends the season in Saint John with the Sea Dogs. Drafted in the CHL’s import draft by them, the Flames may look at Kuznetsov as being good, but needing additional refinement. He could also work to form a long-term partnership with Jeremie Poirier that could be good for the Flames for the next generation. The Sea Dogs have just brought in Paul Boutilier, the defense consultant of Thomas Chabot and others, to help their blueline, and having him working with Kuznetsov could help take his game to the next level.
Potential movement between the Flames and Heat
(Re)-call me maybe
The Flames have yet to trim their roster down to the requisite size for the start of the season, and subsequently still have a few bodies to send back down to Stockton to start the season. While this list is far from set, they likely include the following players
|Connor Zary||Walker Duehr||Byron Froese||Glenn Gawdin|
|Justin Kirkland||Brett Ritchie||Johannes Kinnvall||Michael Stone|
|Oliver Kylington||Connor Mackey||Adam Werner|
As good as Connor Zary and Johannes Kinnvall were in rookie camp, both are currently injured, and are likely to rejoin the Heat once they are all healed up.
Adam Werner has been third-best at training camp, and will almost certainly join Walker Duehr, Brett Ritchie, and Justin Kirkland. It is worth noting at this point how much of impact Duehr has made in his time at camp. An unknown commodity when he was signed out of college, the Flames may have a real player in him as early as later this season.
Here is where the hard decisions come. Up front, the Flames have a spot in their roster centring the fourth line, and it is likely a choice between Glenn Gawdin and Byron Froese. The smart money is on Gawdin who has been better through camp and has been thought of as being the fit for that role for some time. With Tyler Pitlick out for the time being, this may be Gawdin’s chance to show that he can make the jump to the big leagues.
On the back end, the real story has been how good Oliver Kylington has been this summer. Having sat in purgatory between the AHL and NHL for the last number of seasons, he has come to camp determined to prove that he deserves a spot on the team this season. Both Mackey and Stone have also been quite good, but either can likely be sent to Stockton without too much worry. If the Flames keep one up, it will likely be Stone, given his reputation for being “good in the room.”
Absentees from camp
There are two players who still have not joined the team as of yet, netminders Tyler Parsons and Daniil Chechelev. Parsons had not satisfied quarantine requirements to be at the Flames’ camp, and is not at the Heat camp as of yet. Technically, this is because he has not been waived to go back down to Stockton but it seems as though the Flames are waiting for something to happen first in order for him to get a shot in Stockton. Time will tell how this one plays out.
Chechelev is the more interesting name. Originally without a contract, he earned an ELC from the Flames late this summer with the expectation being that he would join either the Heat or the Mavericks for this season. It is a bit surprising he is not on the roster at this point, but there is a chance that he is still working through immigration issues coming across from Russia.
What’s next for camp?
Camp is already well underway, with on ice sessions happening this week. The preseason opens on Friday with a game away against the Bakersfield Condors at 6PM PDT/7PM MDT. They then come home to play the Condors again on Sunday evening at 5PDM PT/6PM MDT.
The Heat’s regular season officially opens up against the Tuscon Roadrunners at home on Friday October 15th. With a very deep roster and lots of players competing for a call-up to the big club, expect this to be a very good season for the Heat. There’s lots to get excited for down in Stockton.