Calgary Flames

Standouts from the Calgary Flames development camp scrimmage

The Calgary Flames wrapped up their development camp week, with 43 players taking to the ice for the team. This is the first time the Flames had their development camp in person since the pandemic, and was the first in-person Flames development camp for almost all of these players. While there was an extra focus on off-ice training, the week ended with a scrimmage session between the two groups.

The two groups were a mix of Flames prospects and a number of invitees. None of the Flames prospects who played regularly for the Stockton Heat were at camp, the team electing to give them a longer summer break after their long playoff run. Nearly everyone who was expected to be there was there, with the only notable exceptions being Arseni Sergeev and Demetrios Koumontzis.

The 90-minute scrimmage started with a 5v5 session, then the two sides moved to 4v4, then to 3v3. From there, the teams moved to five minutes of power play/penalty kill each, with Team Red starting on the man advantage and Team White on the penalty kill. They ended with a shootout, which featured some very nifty tries from both sides. Here’s how it all broke down.

Calgary Flames dev camp scoring summary

The 5v5 period opened with most of the Flames’ best prospects starting on the ice. Rory Kerins took the opening faceoff for Team Red against Ilya Nikolayev for Team White. Both teams traded chances through the opening frame, but it was Nikolayev who opened the scoring for Team White with a great goal off a nice passing play.

However, that didn’t last too long. Swedish prospect Lucas Feuk scored on a breakaway to tie the game at one. That is how this stanza would end.

The 4v4 period was pretty back and forth as well, with both teams more trying to figure each other out rather than really high flying action. Team White pulled ahead as Jack Beck put in a rebound off a really nice skating play from a teammate. That would be the only goal in this frame.

The 3v3 period was high-paced as both teams really pressed. Red started with Matt Coronato, Kerins and invitee Jake Lee, while White started with Nikolayev, William Stromgren, and Jeremie Poirier. There were numerous chances for both teams, but nobody scored right until the end. Camp invitee Evan Boucher was hauled down on his way to the net and was given a penalty shot which he ended up converting on. This tied the game at 2–2.

Team Red took to the power play first, with Coronato, Kerins, Cole Huckins, Cam Whynot, and Lee starting things off. Nikolayev, Lucas Ciona, Poirier, and Cole Jordan started on the penalty kill, and it would be the team down a man that scored first. Poirier started and finished a beautiful three-way passing play on a 3-on-1 to renew White’s lead.

Yan Kuznetsov hammered a shot from the point that went off the crossbar, bounced off the ice, but somehow stayed out of the net. Thankfully, Mikael Diotte tied it up at three with a nice clean shot from the top of the circle.

Team White’s turn on the power play saw them start off with Beck, Stromgren, Nikolayev, Ciona, and Poirier. Interestingly, Coronato started off on the penalty kill for Team White, which is a good sign of how the team trusts his two-way game. He played PK for Harvard last season, too. Neither team scored in this frame.

The teams then went to a shootout, which ended up being won by Team White. The team then saluted the crowd and each other for a great camp.

Standout performances

It is hard to be electric shift after shift during a scrimmage. Some prospects showed flashes of brilliance in moments and others showed worse results in segments. There was one player who was dialed in shift after shift, and was far and away the Flames’ best prospect in this scrimmage, and that was Jeremie Poirier.

There are not enough words to describe how much Poirier’s game has grown from when he was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft to today. He has gone from the a pure offence-first defenceman who had minimal capacity to play defence, to a very responsible two-way blueliner. Through the scrimmage, Poirier was always in the right place defensively, making great plays to stop forwards from getting chances on net. His positioning was noticeably sound.

Despite being defensively strong, he did not let that stop him from being an offensive threat. Poirier had a very nifty goal on a shorthanded 3-on-1 chance, creating a give-and-go play which he finished in tight. He also had a number of great chances from the blueline, and used his quick skating and phenomenal hands to open up time and space in the offensive zone. Every time he was on the ice, he made an impact. He is fresh off a stellar performance in the Memorial Cup-winning run by the Saint John Sea Dogs, and while he was good there, he looked head and shoulders ahead of the competition on the ice at the 7 Chiefs Sportsplex this week.

The other prospect who really made an impact was Adam Klapka. The recent signee from Czechia stood out physically, standing a whopping 6’7″, but also on the ice, being consistently in the right place at the right time. His skating was very good, and he was able to use his body to his advantage in the neutral zone. He also had outstanding vision, which allowed him to make good passes at all ends of the ice. He didn’t score in the scrimmage, but was a clear standout, particularly at 5v5.

Coronato showed flashes of brilliance through the scrimmage, using his incredible skating to try and blow by defenders on the outside. The problem was it felt like he was trying to do to much and be too flashy. As the Flames’ highest pick of late, there is definitely a weight on his shoulders to show that he can perform better than the rest of the prospect pool, but this scrimmage just looked like him trying to do too much. However, the skill level is definitely there and he will be an incredible piece for the Flames down the road.

I really liked the way that Beck played through the scrimmage. He is an exceptional forechecker, disrupting numerous breakouts and creating offensive zone chances. What stood out most was the way he would direct traffic in the offensive zone. There were numerous occasions where he had his head up and be pointing to where his teammates should pass the puck to create a chance. This high level of hockey IQ made an impact and led to a goal for his team, and while it did not come off Beck’s stick, his presence made it all happen.

Other very noticeable Flames prospects at camp were Huckins and Jordan. Huckins had really good passing and vision. After a very rough season, it was great to see him shine a little. Jordan was excellent after a very injury-plagued season. He always seemed to be in the right place, taking his cues from his teammates to guide where he was needed. The defenseman had an incredible chance in tight after floating from the blueline to the corner then right in front to receive a cross-ice pass which was stopped beautifully by the goalie.

The Flames’ best prospects were also very good, but not nearly as noticeably. This includes Kerins who was very good, particularly in the corners, Nikolayev, who scored and was responsible at both ends of the ice, and Kuznetsov, who was barely noticeable in the best possible way for a defensive defenceman.

The only prospect who did not look good in the scrimmage was Topi Ronni. He wasn’t necessarily bad per se, but he was noticeably one step behind on many of his plays. He would throw hits late on plays, and put himself out of position. He also was slower getting up the ice on the backcheck, leading to a couple odd-man rushes the other way.

Development camp awards

The Flames handed out two awards, and one was won by Ronni. He picked up the award as the fittest player in camp, so clearly he has the fitness to be good on the ice. Great to see the new guy picking up an award.

The big award, the Hardest Working Flame, was won by 2021 sixth-round pick Lucas Ciona. He looked very good in the scrimmage, battling hard in the corners and was able to get some nice chances in tight. The Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward was noticed in a big way by the team.

At the end of the day, development camp is not the be all and end all of prospect development. The Flames prospects don’t have their futures cast in stone after this camp—the ones who were good are not necessarily the guys who are going to be NHL superstars and the ones who struggled are not going to be busts. This is but a snapshot into how they are doing so far, and this camp shows there is a lot to get excited about for the future of this team.

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