For better, or worse, there will be a 2022 Beijing Olympic games this year. That much is true. For most hockey fans, there won’t be as much excitement as there has been in years past due to the fact that NHL players will be skipping the games for the second straight time.
This year, participation was void due primarily to COVID concerns, but there are a number of players that wish it wasn’t the case. We aren’t here to get into the nitty gritty details, but it is a big loss for the players, the NHL, and fans.
That being said, hockey will still be played this year and as a Flames fan you won’t have to worry about the moral dilemma of cheering for the Canadian team or Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk on the USA national team.
Of the 12 teams going to the games, there are 20 former Flames players or draft picks that you can look out for and perhaps even cheer for if you are so inclined. Some you will remember fondly, others not so much. Let’s take a look at who showed up.
Someone at the IIHF erred on their schedule and released the Canadian men’s Olympic roster earlier than anticipated, which includes four former Flames players. Adam Cracknell is actually a former Flames draft pick, taken in 2004 in the ninth round. He played 83 games for the Quad City Flames in the AHL, but never suited up for the Flames NHL team.
Corban Knight, who was acquired by trade in 2013, played in nine games for Calgary and registered just a single goal. He was much more productive in the AHL, playing in 92 games for Abbotsford and netted 26 goals.
Ben Street was signed as a college free agent and played in just 19 games for the Flames, registering only 2 assists in two seasons, but was fantastic in the AHL. His highlights include the 2013–14 season where he netted 60 points in 58 games for Abbotsford.
Finally, you know him and love him, Tyler Wotherspoon. Some may like to call him “not Nitkita Kucherov”, but Wotherspoon is the biggest Flames “veteran” on Team Canada. Playing in 30 games in the NHL—and far more in the AHL—Wotherspoon was always on the verge of making the roster full time but just could never quite make it. After failing to get a qualifying offer from the Flames, he jumped around from AHL affiliate and currently plays in Utica. Good for Wotherspoon to represent Team Canada!
One more Flames draft pick in John Gilmour has been selected to represent Canada on their taxi squad as well. As more teams start to release their taxi squads, there might be even more former Flames heading to Beijing.
The USA roster includes two former Flames.
Kenny Agostino, who you’ll remember being part of the Jarome Iginla trade, will suit up for the American squad. He played in 10 games for the Flames over a few seasons, but is best known for being too good for the AHL but just not quite good enough for the NHL.
Nick Shore was also named to the team, who played nine games for the Flames in 2018 after being traded from the Senators midseason in 2017–18.
The Finnish roster includes one former Flame, Markus Granlund. Granlund was drafted by the Flames in the second round of the 2011 NHL draft and played three seasons in Calgary. He had stops in Vancouver and Edmonton before heading overseas to play for Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL, his current team.
The Swedish Mens’ team has two former Flames players on it, since most of the Flames roster right now takes up the population of Sweden.
Joakim Nordstrom, who played with the team last season for 44 games, and Oscar Fantenberg who played 15 games for the team in 2018–19. Nothing all that memorable during their time as Flames aside from some top notch names.
A player by the name of Erik Gustafsson has also been named to the Swedish squad, but he’s different than the one who played in Calgary. That Erik Gustafsson currently plays in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks.
ROC aka Russia
Three former Flames hit the ice for the Russian Olympic Committee.
Pavel Karnaukhov, a fifth-round draft pick of the Flames in 2015 who never even played for their farm team, was named as the only forward formerly in the Flames organization. The other two are defencemen in Nikita Nesterov, who played 38 games last year for the Flames, and Alexander Yelesin, who was brought over from Russia and despite playing a leading role for Stockton, played in just four NHL games for the team in 2019–20.
Two more Flames were added to the list today, with Tobias Rieder and David Wolf cracking the German roster. Rieder played in 55 games with the Flames in the 2019–20 season and was actually a decent depth forward who just lacked a bit of scoring touch. David Wolf was always touted as the “Big Bad Wolf” after being signed by the team, but appeared in just three NHL contests.
Unfortunately for David, he will not be the most famous Wolf that plays for the Flames. We see you, Dustin.
Another dose of double Flames for the Swiss, with Raphael Diaz and Reto Berra joining the fray. Diaz appeared in 56 contests in 2014–15 for the Flames, netting two goals and two assists as a decent bottom pairing defenseman.
Berra played in 29 games for the team in 2013–14, posting a 9–17–2 record with a 2.95 GAA and .897 SV%. This was good enough for the team to trade him at the deadline for a second round-pick. Of course the Flames completely whiffed on that draft capital taking Hunter Smith, who is unsurprisingly not on an Olympic roster.
Continuing the trend of twos, Milos Roman and Marek Hrivik made the roster for the Slovaks. Roman was a fourth-round pick in 2018 that now plays in the Czech league, and Hrivik played in just three games for the team after suffering a number of injuries.
Speaking of Czech, we get who absolutely are the two most notorious former Flames playing at the Olympics.
Michael Frolik played in 319 games for the Flames, totaling 63 goals and 165 points. He arguably is Brad Treliving’s finest free agent signing and was a key part of the 3M line that dominated top units across the NHL for a number of seasons. He was traded partway through the 2020 season for a pick that would become Daniil Chechelev, and is now playing in the Swiss-A league after a rough season with Montreal last year.
The other member of the Czech team is Roman Cervenka. You read that right, the former best player not currently playing in the NHL. Many will remember Jay Feaster’s tire pumping for Cervenka prior to the 2012–13 NHL season. Unfortunately, it only translated into 39 NHL games and nine goals. Cervenka would not touch NHL ice again in his career, opting to remain playing in Russia and Europe.
Former Flames forward Spencer Foo has officially been named to Team China’s roster at the 2022 Olympics. Foo was a highly coveted NCAA free agent who chose to sign in Calgary over Edmonton, but never materialized into an NHL option. He did have two goals in four games in the 2017–18 season towards the end of the year, but those were the only points he scored in the NHL.
Foo left to play for Kunlun Red Star in the KHL in the 2019–20 season and has been playing there for the three seasons since. It will be his first time representing China on the international stage.
Denmark & Latvia
There were no former Flames noted on the Denmark or Latvia rosters.
All in all, there are 22 former Flames players heading to Beijing so far which is a decent representation. That number could grow as taxi squads are announced as well. Of course, you can look at that in a number of ways, but here is to wishing them all as much success as the Olympics have to offer.