Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Who will MacKenzie Weegar play with?

Calgary Flames fans are still on Cloud 9 after seeing the return they got in the Matthew Tkachuk trade. Although Jonathan Huberdeau might be the most well-known name in the return, however many fans are equally, if not more, excited about defenceman MacKenzie Weegar.

On a pairing with Aaron Ekblad, Weegar has impressed many in the hockey world with his two-way play. He is elite—there is no other way around it. Weegar has the ability to drive play at both the offensive and defensive end, and is going to be an enormous boost for an already stacked defence group in Calgary.

Weegar is now the best defenceman on the Flames roster, and it’s no doubt he is going to contribute a lot to the team. However, when he is on the ice for the Flames, who will be his defensive partner? We asked, you answered.

Great options for Weegar

Weegar can play both sides, however, he spent a lot of his time on the left side when he was paired with Aaron Ekblad. Assuming that the Flames coaching staff want to keep him on the left side, Weegar’s main options for defensive partners are Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, and Nikita Zadorov. All three are intriguing options, and all three will probably get a boost from having Weegar beside them.

The more I thought about this, the tougher it became to pick one player. All options would be good, but let’s see who our readers think would be the best option for MacKenzie Weegar.

Chris Tanev

Most readers believe Tanev is the partner who makes the most sense. And frankly, after what we have seen from Tanev throughout the years, it is really tough to argue. Each year it seems like Tanev finds a way to elevate his partner’s play to a level that they have never been able to reach. We saw the Tanev effect with Hanifin and the season after we saw it with Kylington.

We even saw the Tanev effect back when he was in Vancouver when Quinn Hughes was a rookie. Now imagine what Tanev could do with Weegar, who is already an established elite two-way defender. Best pairing in the league? Maybe!

If the coaching staff decides to have Tanev and Weegar play together, that likely means the other pairings would be Hanifin-Andersson and Kylington-Zadorov. Hanifin and Andersson work very well together, we saw that last year when they were one of the best pairings in the league, but how would Kylington and Zadorov do? Zadorov played very well last year, however, penalties seemed to still be a problem. Would that make things tough on Kylington, who still has areas in his game to clean up as well?

Regardless of the potential of this elite pairing, the Flames won’t be able to see it in action as Tanev will be likely remained sidelined to start the season. Should his recovery process go much more (read: months) ahead of schedule, then there’s a chance this pairing could come to fruition much sooner rather than later.

Rasmus Andersson

What a pairing this could be. Andersson has already been a great defenceman for the Flames, but it’s hard not to get excited about the potential boost that Weegar would give Andersson. Before the acquisition of Weegar, Andersson was looked at as the future of the Flames blue line. The Flames clearly thought the same when they gave him a six-year $4.55M extension in 2020.

Weegar has been known as a defensive defenceman in the past, but later started to really show off what he was capable of on both ends. Can Weegar place more of an emphasis on the defensive end in order to give Andersson opportunities to contribute offensively and join the rush? Or maybe this pairing becomes just a pure two-way force.

If Weegar and Andersson become a pairing, that would make Tanev and Hanifin, and Kylington and Zadorov be the remaining pairings. Again, we have seen the success that Tanev and Hanifin have had together during the 2020–21 season, but that leads us back to the same question mark in Kylington and Zadorov being a pairing.

Nikita Zadorov

This would be very interesting. Instantly, this would probably be the best player that Zadorov has ever played with. It does have the capability of working out, however, some things would need to be sorted out first. Will Zadorov be able to focus on the defensive end and stay back to allow Weegar to contribute offensively? Or will both players be in a pure shutdown mindset? Weegar has the ability to do both, Zadorov on the other hand, not so much.

However, this is where things get tough. Assuming this pairing happens, that would make either Andersson or Tanev play minutes on the bottom pair. That alone does not make this pairing worth it for me. The only way it would make sense is if all pairings play equal minutes throughout the game.

Additionally, one might say it would be good for Tanev to play bottom-pairing minutes because of his injury history and his age. However, Tanev has been very healthy for the Flames as he has played two full seasons. Tanev only missed games during last year’s playoff during his stint with Calgary so far and as mentioned, is now sidelined.

However, as Tanev returns from injury, maybe easing Tanev back in with third pairing minutes could be the wiser route. In regards to his age, I think that is a topic that can be discussed once Tanev starts to show some regression in his game. So far, we haven’t seen that one bit.

Simply, don’t count out a pairing of Weegar and Zadorov just yet, it might be what the Flames ultimately have to do while they wait for Tanev to get back to 100%.

Someone else

One wild card that I have thought about is moving Weegar to the right side, and having Kylington as his partner. This would be a wild pairing. Kylington, who has already shown flashes of his offensive brilliance, would thrive. Weegar would allow Kylington to be the dynamic, speedy, and shifty skater who joins the rush and puts up points with offensive flair.

On top of that, Kylington and Weegar would also have the potential to both be offensive forces together for the team. Imagine not just three forwards who are threatening in the offensive zone, but five players during a possession. It could really unlock another level of the potential we kept hearing about for Kylington back in 2015.

However, again, this means that one of Hanifin, Andersson, or Tanev would have to play on the bottom-pairing. This time, one of them would have to play on their opposite side too. It most likely isn’t worth all the juggling, but I can’t help but think that Kylington would just take off with Weegar.

Plenty of defensive options of Calgary

Although it is tough to figure out what might work best for the Flames, it’s never a bad thing to have options. And wow, do the Flames ever have some options. It will be really interesting to see what the team decides during training camp, but it will be even more exciting to see Weegar put on the Flaming C.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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