Coming in at the #9 spot in the 2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings is Memorial Cup finalist Lucas Ciona. The 2021 sixth-round pick took a huge step forward in his D+2 year, earning an entry-level contract from the Calgary Flames along the way. Let’s take a deeper look.
Ciona’s development so far
Ciona was the second of the Flames’ two sixth-round picks from 2021, drafted with the 173rd overall pick that year.
The first thing that jumps off the page for Ciona is his size. At his draft, he was listed at a very large 6’2″, 205 pounds. He is currently listed at 6’3″, 223 pounds, which is an enormous growth in muscle in two years.
In his draft year, Ciona was coming off of a huge step-up year, going from 0.25 to 0.57 points-per-game in the 2020–21 season.
He then took another stride forward in his D+1 year, moving up to 0.66 points-per-game, when he put up 35 points in 53 games, but saw a huge increase in the number of goals he scored, going from three to 17 in that season. However, at 0.66 points-per-game, the question marks were big surrounding the prospect. Could he hit the point-per-game mark or would he fizzle out to be a fine selection that did not earn a contract from the Flames?
The answer was the former—Ciona absolutely exploded to start this season. In the first seven games of the season, Ciona put up a whopping 15 points, good for 2.14 points-per-game. Then on October 30, the Flames signed the prospect to an ELC.
He then went through a bit of a slowdown, which in fairness was to be expected, but went down to about 0.75 points-per-game for much of the rest of the season, before powering right back up to the end of the season, when he powered to 75 points in 63 games—good for second on the team and 30th in the league.
Ciona’s strengths and weaknesses
What is most impressive about Ciona is his tenacity in the offensive zone. The forward is so strong at forcing turnovers in the offensive zone, creating chances for himself and his teammates. He loves to find open ice right in front of the net, pushing his weight around to create space to work. This goal is a prime example of how good he is at creating turnovers in the offensive zone. He creates the turnover, finds his teammate in front, then pops the rebound into the net. Take a look:
Ciona is built to be a prototypical power forward, with both the size and skill to be effective in this role. He also has the smarts to get himself free in that area, allowing himself to be an effective net-front presence on the team. Take a look at this goal he scored:
As the captain of the Seattle Thunderbirds this year, he was the guy who had to stand up for himself and his teammates, and he was not one to back down from a challenge. The forward prospect got into it with a Memorial Cup opponent, and had this to say about the interaction
He’s clearly a personality, and that on its own makes him a fan favorite in Seattle and likely in Calgary next season.
Ciona’s next steps
On the face of it, Ciona seems like an excellent prospect—someone who should probably be ranked higher than ninth. The problem is trying to project a sixth-round big man into the NHL takes a bit more work. He has shown himself to be a scorer at the WHL level—there is no doubt that he can produce results—but will need to show a ton more if he wants to be effective at the AHL level and beyond. In his D+2 season in the WHL this season, he still finished just 30th in the league. For reference, former sixth-round pick Matthew Phillips finished with 112 points in his D+2 season with Victoria in 2018.
Perhaps more telling, Ciona finished just 0.03 points-per-game better than 2022 Flames prospect Parker Bell, who is nearly a year younger than him. And while Ciona did earn himself a contract in the back of a wonderful start to the season, his production went from hero to zero and back to hero to end the year. Not great for consistency.
The big year for Ciona is next year when he starts in the AHL with the Wranglers. If he can show signs of promise at that level, particularly being defensively responsible as well as disciplined at both ends of the ice, the Flames may have something in their 2021 sixth-round selection, otherwise he may go the way of much of the rest of his draft class which has already started to look like one of the worst draft classes in recent memory.
Calgary Flames 2023 Top 10 Prospects
Honourable Mentions | #10 Arseni Sergeev | #9 Lucas Ciona | #8 Parker Bell | #7 Walker Duehr | #6 Matthew Phillips | #5 Jeremie Poirier | #4 Connor Zary | #3 Jakob Pelletier | #2 Matt Coronato | #1 Dustin Wolf