While the odds of the Calgary Flames making the playoffs continue to dwindle, the team’s prospects are mostly on playoff teams. The ones in Canada in particular are all on contending teams, with multiple in prime positions to earn a spot in the coveted Memorial Cup.
Won last year by Yan Kuznetsov, Jeremie Poirier, and the Saint John Sea Dogs, the trophy is among the toughest awards to win in the hockey world. The top three teams in the three CHL leagues—the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League—join the host team. This year, Kamloops Blazers are the hosts of the tournament.
Each team plays the other three once, the top team gets a bye to the final, the second and third team face off in a single elimination semi-final and the fourth place team goes home. There is no room for failure in the tournament, and the prize is the most coveted in the CHL.
This year, nearly every Flames’ prospect in the CHL has a strong chance of making it to the tournament. Here are each team’s path forward.
Cole Huckins – Sherbrooke Phoenix
Sherbrooke has been a powerhouse club all year long, and currently sit at the top of the Q’s Western Conference. They are currently tied at 101 points with the Gatineau Olympiques, and either could take the top spot in the division. The Phoenix have three of the top 10 scorers in the league on their team, and their starting goalie has been among the best in the league.
Cole Huckins is not one of their top players, factoring mostly as a second line guy on either wing. However, he has been just shy of a point-per-game this season which isn’t bad at all for a 19-year-old.
The Phoenix likely face off against either Drummondville or Shawinigan. Both are sitting with 61 points and a tied 0.462 winning percentage on the year. The Olympiques are likely the top team in the Q, but if Sherbrooke continues the way that they are and wins through, they won’t have to face them until the conference finals. Between now and then, anything can happen.
Cam Whynot – Halifax Mooseheads
In the Eastern Conference, the Mooseheads are the second best team in their division, holding the exact same number of points as the Quebec Remparts. Halifax has the top three scorers in the league on their team and are in a really good spot to compete for the championship.
Whynot is currently out due to a foot injury he sustained blocking a shot a couple weeks back. He should be back in the next week or so and will likely factor in as a second pairing guy for the Mooseheads.
They will likely face off against one of Cape Breton, Charlottetown or Baie-Comeau depending on how the final matches go. If Halifax finishes first, they will likely play Charlottetown, but depending on how the last weekend of the season goes, it could be any of the three. Gatineau is the tough test in the league, but Quebec is no slouch either. If Halifax can win the first two rounds, and have a good showing in the conference final, then onto the finals they’d go—hopefully against Sherbrooke to guarantee a Flames prospect in the Memorial Cup.
Jack Beck – Ottawa 67’s
Jack Beck and the Ottawa 67’s have clinched the top spot in the entire OHL, with 103 points heading into the final weekend of the season. They made big additions at the trade deadline, but have gotten scoring from up and down their lineup this season. Add in the second best goalie in the league this season and the team is poised for a long playoff run.
Jack Beck has had an up and down season this year, being exceptional when he has been healthy, but missing a good chunk of the season in the middle with an undisclosed injury. He sits with 49 points in 43 games this year, and has played mostly on the top line of late.
North Bay, London, and Windsor are the tough tests in the OHL playoffs, but Ottawa only has to worry about Windsor in the conference finals, as they finished second in the East, and the other two if they make it to the finals. The 67s have 12 losses all season and are a heavy favourite to make it to the Memorial Cup.
Parker Bell – Tri City Americans
Unlike the other three prospects, Bell and the Americans are not heavy favourites in the WHL. They currently sit fifth in the league, and will face off against the fourth-ranked Prince George Cougars in the first round.
Bell has been very good for the Ams, playing mostly on the teams top line this season. He sits third in scoring on the team with 63 points despite missing 12 games this season due to a brutal injury suffered midgame.
The Seattle Thunderbirds and Winnipeg ICE are the top teams in the WHL this season, and either would be a very tough test for the Americans. Expect Bell and his team to push like underdogs do to make a name for themselves this postseason.
Lucas Ciona – Seattle Thunderbirds
What a year Ciona and the Thunderbirds have had. They have 10 prospects on their team currently—including Brad Lambert, Dylan Guenther, Reid Schaefer, and Luke Prokop—and are heavy favourites in the playoffs this year. They’ll play the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, who should be an easy test for the T-birds.
Ciona has been very hot and cold this season. He started the season as one of the top players in the league, earning himself an entry-level contract in the process. He then went cold for about five weeks, struggling to put points on the board, but has ended the season on a tear that saw him elevated to the top line alongside Guenther and Lambert.
The ICE are the top team in the WHL this season, but the sixth seed Regina Pats with Connor Bedard are no small challenge. The good news for both Seattle and Tri City is that both Saskatoon and Winnipeg are in the other division, and won’t be a challenge to face until the finals, if either makes it. Seattle are a favourite to make it to the Memorial Cup.
Best case scenario for Flames prospects
While the Flames don’t have anyone playing in Kamloops (besides one of the Blazers’ owners being a former Flame by the name of Jarome Iginla), there is a scenario where three of their prospects are in the Memorial Cup. For that to happen, it would mean Beck and the 67s making it through the OHL’s playoffs, which is likely the toughest test given he is their only prospect in the league.
It would also mean one of the Mooseheads or Phoenix making it through the Q’s playoffs, which is not impossible. Both have a very good shot of making it.
In the WHL, Ciona and the Thunderbirds are the heavy favourites relative to the Americans, but from a ratings perspective, having Bedard and Saskatoon in the playoffs is likely best case scenario for the league and the Memorial Cup. However, with the Flames likely falling outside the Bedard lottery, the most important thing for Flames fans is to see their prospects win the tournament. With last year fresh in the memories, it would be great to see some names of Flames prospects taking home the championship two years in a row.