This Flames organization has faced it’s fair share of criticism when it comes to not giving young players enough of a shot in the big league. Despite fans begging and pleading for the organization to inject some youth into the lineup, it has been a rare occasion for the team when they let a young player have the opportunity to show what he can do.
However, there is no doubt that the young players who have made it onto the Flames roster have been impressive. Players like Adam Ruzicka, Jakob Pelletier, Dennis Gilbert, and Walker Duehr have all found a way to make their mark and have positive impacts on the team.
So out of all the young players who have put on the Flaming C, who has been the most impressive? We asked, you answered.
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The young guns
There are some nerves that come into play when it comes to giving a young player NHL minutes, both from the player himself but also the organization. For the player, it makes sense. However, from the organization’s point of view, “When you are young, they assume you know nothing“. Well, it’s safe to say that the young players on this Flames roster have put that point of view to bed.
No doubt all young players have impressed overall, but let’s take a look at who our readers think has impressed the most.
Pelletier, who has basically become Jonathan Huberdeau’s son at this point, has been fantastic since his call up. The Flames started off Pelletier on the fourth line, but then moved him up to a line with Kadri and Huberdeau. Pelletier is providing some much-needed speed and chemistry to that line, and slowly we are starting to see Huberdeau pick up some points. Over the past 7 games, both Pelletier and Huberdeau have collected 6 points. Good for the Flames for giving Pelletier an opportunity to succeed, and hopefully they take this lesson and apply it to other young players that they may not have given a fair chance to (*cough* Matthew Phillips *cough*).
What an absolute breath of fresh air Duehr has been for the Flames bottom six. The bottom of the Flames’ roster has been absolutely miserable to watch all year long. Duehr however, has been the absolute opposite. Again, for a team that has been in desperate need for speed (especially in the bottom six), Duehr has provided exactly that and more. The South Dakotan has collected a goal and an assist in his last two games, and he has improved the group’s depth greatly. He should be a lock for this roster and should not be sent down for the rest of the season.
A player who seems to be going a little under the radar in the Flames fanbase is Dennis Gilbert. With both Kylington and Stone out of the lineup, Gilbert has stepped onto the scene and has provided some pretty good stability for the Flames defence group. Gilbert has produced a 55% Corsi for and a 49% high danger chances for. With the limited number of minutes Gilbert has seen, those stats are definitely not bad. It will be interesting to see if Gilbert can build off this and put up even better numbers, but so far Gilbert has been pretty decent overall.
What a season of extremes Ruzicka has gone through. On December 21 2022, Ruzicka was on pace to finish the season with 64 points. However, since then, Ruzicka has only produced two points in his last 18 games. Yes, two points. To be fair to Ruzicka, part of his drop off in production has to be due to him being moved down to the bottom six, but it has still been a steep decline in production nonetheless. Ruzicka’s best hockey was played when he was a part of the Flames top six, and if the Flames want to see him get going again, they are probably going to have to put him back up with that group. We will see if a spot opens up for Ruzicka, but for now, he looks like he is going to stay as a bottom six/healthy scratch for the team.
The kids are alright
There is no doubt about it, we have seen all the young players impress. Albeit, some have impressed longer than others, but it has been a beneficial thing for the Flames to give their young players opportunities to shine. Now the question is, if the Flames are serious about making the playoffs, do they learn from this and continue to give players the minutes they deserve, or will they continue to lean on their veterans?