After an offseason that led to the Calgary Flames losing two-fifths of their top power play unit, it’s going to be interesting to see how the 10th ranked power play from 2021–22 goes from here. Obviously the additions of Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau bring incredible offensive power, with both players getting extensive time on their previous team’s power play. Let’s take a look at the options for the Flames’ two power play units for 2022–23.
Calgary’s first power play unit
Kadri finished last season with eight goals and 29 points on Colorado’s top power play unit. Matthew Tkachuk finished last season with 12 goals and a matching 29 points. These numbers are very comparable when you consider the loss of Johnny Gaudreau as well. With Gaudreau driving the top power play unit last season as the primary puck carrier and set up man, Tkachuk was primarily a trigger man.
Where Kadri fills in for Tkachuk, Huberdeau will look to fill out Johnny’s role. Compared to Gaudreau’s production of six goals and 27 points, Huberdeau posted five goals and 38 points, coming out on top in pure production.
Beyond comparing the obvious exits and entries on unit one, Tyler Toffoli will hopefully breakout in his first full season on the Flames’ top unit. Eight of Toffoli’s 20 goals last season came on the power play—four with Montreal and four with Calgary. This is arguably the most exciting role for Toffoli in his first full season in Calgary. A full season on the top unit with the likes of Kadri, Lindholm, and Huberdeau screams goal lights for Toffoli.
As for the remaining two spots, Elias Lindholm will take draws and round out the front end with Huberdeau or Kadri slotting in on the backend with Rasmus Andersson. Lindholm’s whippy one-timer saw him reach 10 goals and 19 points last season, so we might expect to see the same type of production in a similar role this year.
As for Andersson, he finished last season with two goals on the top unit and 19 points, making him an essential on the first unit in my opinion. With Andersson’s quick puck movement and speed, he’s the obvious choice as the single defenceman.
Overall the top unit should look very strong this year with the projected lineup as:
Toffoli – Lindholm – Kadri
Andersson – Huberdeau
Calgary’s second power play unit
This is where things will get interesting for Darryl Sutter and co. come training camp. Veteran Mikael Backlund will likely lead the second unit at centre. He finished last season with seven power play assists. With Kadri hoping up to the top unit, Backlund easily takes the second unit centre position with little competition.
Andrew Mangiapane will look to fill a role similar to Toffoli’s on the top unit. Mangiapane finished with eight of his 35 goals last season coming on the power play, complementing three assists for 11 total power play points. Mangiapane could have a major breakout season after signing a three-year deal this offseason.
Beyond Mangiapane, the opposite winger could raise some eyebrows. The Flames’ biggest weakness entering the year is obviously winger depth. Dillon Dube looks like the easiest answer for the Flames, but with some offensive inconsistency last season the floor is presumably open.
Jakob Pelletier still isn’t guaranteed a spot on the big club this year and with Sonny Milano signing a PTO, the competition obviously grows. The Milano PTO is very interesting as the winger finished last season with 14 goals where five came on the power play.
Although Milano fell off quickly for Anaheim during the second half of last season, if the first half player shows up to camp and plays more of a two-way game, it would not surprise me if he gets a contract. For now, Dube is the safest prediction but don’t be surprised if there’s a revolving door of players in this role the first part of the season.
At this point, the second unit likely brings Noah Hanifin back to take the back end spot. Hanifin had a successful campaign on the second unit last year finishing the season with one goal and 13 points on the man-advantage. Those 13 power play points make up over a quarter of his season total of 48 points.
Outside of Hanifin, there’s another question mark. Again the easy answer would be Oliver Kylington who spent some time last year on the second unit as well. Similarly to Dube, Kylington struggled offensively at times last season—especially on the power play with only three of his 31 pints coming on the man-advantage.
MacKenzie Weegar is undoubtedly a strong player, but offence is not the name of his game—much like Chris Tanev. That leaves little options once again unless Micheal Stone makes the roster off his PTO. Even if he does sign a contract, I don’t see the Flames carrying seven defencemen just to get the big point shot in on the power play.
Weegar may slide in due to his decision making and overall hockey IQ. But again, depending on how the winger situation unfolds we could potentially see an additional forward take the final spot over a second defenceman.
Tentatively, unit two looks like it will start off the season with:
Dube – Backlund – Mangiapane
Hanifin – Kylington
Predicting the Flames’ power play
The first power play unit for the Flames has the potential to finish near the top of the league in production. Worst case scenario with the second unit is that the coaching staff have to rework the first line and possibly send one of Toffoli, Huberdeau or Kadri down to amp up the lack of projected offence. Last season the Flames power play was extremely top heavy and look for much the same entering this year.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire