Another season of Calgary Flames hockey starts today, which means anyone who drafted a Flame in their fantasy league finally gets to put them into their starting lineup, after an eternally long wait of four days into the fantasy week. With lots on the line from a team perspective, the Flames will need players to step up to the plate, and fantasy hockey is no different.
Coming off a disappointing 2020–21 not just team-wise, but from a fantasy perspective as well, the Flames will be looking for a big bounce back this season. With coach Darryl Sutter now on board for the entire season, the Flames should realistically be a better team than they were last year. However the big question is how much of an impact will Sutter’s defensive style have on the fantasy outlook of the teams big players? The Flames aren’t one of the more valuable teams in fantasy, but they still own a few solid options for fantasy managers.
Let’s take a look at predicting the breakout player, sleeper, MVP, and player to watch from a fantasy perspective on the Calgary Flames for the 2021–22 season.
Breakout – Andrew Mangiapane – LW/RW
This isn’t the first time writing about how Andrew Mangiapane will breakout this season in fantasy, and it probably won’t be the last. The reigning World Championship MVP is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, and that is set to end starting this season. Mangiapane looks primed to explode onto the mainstream scene, and become a household name for fantasy managers.
Last season, Mangiapane put up the best numbers of his young career, posting 32 points along with 18 goals in 56 games for the lowly Flames. His 19 goals were one short of tying Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm for first on the team. Over a full 82 game season, he was on pace for 47 points and an impressive 26 goals. His 15 goals at even strength ranked 14th in the NHL last year, ahead of fantasy draft first-rounders like David Pastrnak, Brayden Point, and Leon Draisaitl.
Mangiapane has seen his goal and point totals increase every season he’s been in the league, and there’s no reason that trend will stop this year. Now fully established as one of the Flames’ most important forwards, Mangiapane is set to see a huge increase in ice time and responsibility in a thin Flames forward group.
Along with posting a career-high in points and goals last season, it’s no coincidence he also posted a career-high in average ice time at 16:40. That should be set to continue to increase even more this season. Last season, Mangiapane’s most common linemates were Mikael Backlund and Milan Lucic on the team’s third line. He also finished the season with the seventh most power play time among forwards on the team. Both of those factors are set to change in a big way which is great news for his fantasy outlook.
With Mangiapane firmly in the Flames top-six playing alongside Blake Coleman and on the Flames second power play unit, he should see consistent ice time with the Flames top players giving him ample opportunity to blow past his career best in points and goals from last season. 55 points and 30 goals is a real possibility for Mangiapane this season.
Sleeper – Rasmus Andersson – D
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Rasmus Andersson is going to breakout this season offensively playing a larger role for the Flames. After seeing Andersson promoted to the team’s top pairing last season alongside Mark Giordano, many predicted a breakout year offensively for Andersson.
Instead he had the worst year of his career, and struggled in a larger role with the Flames. Andersson completely fell short of expectations last year, that said it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Andersson from a fantasy perspective. He finished the season with 21 points in 56 games, just one short of his career best of 22 points from 2019–20 in which he played 14 more games. In a full 82 game season Andersson was on pace for 31 points and seven goals both of which would’ve been a career-highs.
He also posted a career-best six power play points, which would be around eight in a full 82 game season. Similarly, another career-best pace of 140 shots on goal rounds out his value. Andersson didn’t have the huge breakout season many predicted, but he still put up a career year offensively and quietly finished the year top 55 for points, power play points, and shots by defencemen, making him worth owning in most leagues.
Going into this season, Andersson was ranked outside NHL.com’s top 250 players, and was drafted as the 100th defencemen off the board in Yahoo with an ADP of 177th, right around the 15th round. That seems far too low for a player who provided top-55 production in points, power play points, and shots at the position last year.
With the Flames losing Giordano in the offseason, another huge opportunity for Andersson has arisen. The Flames defence core is completely barren of offensive defencemen, presenting Andersson the opportunity to be the go to guy on the Flames defence when it comes to producing offence. As it stands right now Andersson is lining up on the team’s second pairing, along with playing on the Flames top power play unit.
Andersson is incredibly underrated in fantasy this season due to his lackluster 2020–21 season. He provides tremendous value and upside this season and at just 2% owned, he can still be added in almost every league.
MVP – Johnny Gaudreau – LW
This was a toss up for me between Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. The two are by far the Flames’ best players, as well as their most important ones. Both had disappointing seasons in fantasy last year, especially Tkachuk who was coming off a year in which he led the Flames in points. Now paired up together on the top line, both Tkachuk and Gaudreau are set for huge bounce back seasons. That said, Gaudreau’s elite offensive talent gave him the nod to me as the Flames’ most valuable fantasy asset for 2021–22.
Gaudreau’s 2020–21 season has drawn plenty of criticism, with the former 99-point scorer posting just 49 points across 56 games. Following a huge down year with 58 points in 70 games in 2019–20, many expected Gaudreau to bounce back to his point per game level that we saw for two seasons between 2017–19. Unfortunately for Gaudreau, it was a disastrous season for the Calgary Flames, with the team finishing 20th in the league for goals, and 21st on the power play.
Gaudreau’s struggles were well overstated however. Considering the circumstances surrounding his season, Gaudreau’s production was still impressive. He led the Flames in overall scoring, in goals, and in assists. This while playing with replacement level players for most of the season, and experiencing a midseason coaching change. There isn’t much he can do about the situation and the players around him, but he made the most out of a bad situation. Despite his down year, Gaudreau still finished 12th among left wingers for points, and eighth for assists.
The Flames midseason coaching clearly had a big impact on Gaudreau. On March 4, 2021, the Flames brought in Darryl Sutter. In the month of March, Gaudreau posted just seven points in 15 games. Outside of that rough stretch? Gaudreau posted 42 points in 41 games, a pace of 84 points over an 82 game schedule.
Before being united with Lindholm and Tkachuk on the Flames’ top line to close out the 2020–21 season, Gaudreau was spending most of his time alongside Sean Monahan and Brett Ritchie. Monahan had the worst season of his career with just 10 goals and 28 points. Ritchie meanwhile is a fringe fourth liner at best, and posted just eight points in 32 games. It’s not hard to see why Gaudreau struggled to produce at times, as he was single handedly carrying his line offensively.
Now entering the 2021–22 season, the Flames have had a full training camp with their new coach, have added Blake Coleman to the top-six, and Gaudreau looks set to play with two top-end offensive producers for the first time since the 2018–19 season. It has all the makings of a huge return to form for Gaudreau, and one that could see him become a top-25 forward in fantasy.
From the embers rises a fantasy resurgence
Because of their awful 2020–21 season, the Flames have been hugely overlooked in fantasy going into the 2021–22 season. With their top players all coming off of down years, and concerns around Darryl Sutters coaching, there isn’t much hype around the Flames in fantasy circles. However there is certainly some great fantasy value on this roster. Expect the Flames to surprise many in fantasy leagues this year, and show throughout the year that they have a deep list of must-own fantasy players on their roster.