The Calgary Flames have pledged to ice a younger roster next season. New GM Craig Conroy has said on multiple occasions that he would leave spots on the opening roster for younger players and give them a real shot to make an impact in the NHL. This is a complete 180 from what the previous regime under Brad Treliving and Darryl Sutter believed, and it has added a much needed sense of excitement about the Flames’ top prospects.
Whether Conroy actually follows his own advise remains to be seen, but the Flames have several high potential prospects who could be impact NHLers as soon as next season.
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Which rookie will have the biggest impact?
We presented the following poll:
The Flames still have three NHL calibre goalies on their roster. Dan Vladar has been in trade rumours all summer long but remains on the roster, at least right now. With Dustin Wolf‘s career in the AHL being nothing short of spectacular, and him making his NHL debut at the end of last season, it only makes sense for him to play significant NHL games in 2022-23.
But, with Vladar blocking his way, there really isn’t a way for Wolf to even serve as the backup behind Jacob Markstrom unless an injury occurs. However, Wolf could easily be the player to have the biggest impact next season.
With Wolf being a goalie, if he gets an opportunity with the Flames and performs well, there is no way the Flames can deny him the net. This is their goalie of the future and, like the Edmonton Oilers did with Stuart Skinner a couple years ago, it is imperative for them to take their cues from Wolf rather than obey a predetermined development program.
Wolf received the fewest number of votes in our poll, but perhaps that’s because of the high ceiling and low floor of his potential impact next season. There is an equal chance of Wolf playing 30 games as him playing three.
The winner of our poll, Matt Coronato is the top skater prospect in the Flames system and will be playing professional hockey next season after signing his ELC in March. Where he plays remains to be seen, as he could start in the AHL for the Calgary Wranglers or the NHL for the Flames.
While some are skeptical of Coronato’s ability to become a full time NHLer right out the gate next season, I’m not in that camp, and neither are the majority of respondents. Coronato is a goal scorer, through and through, and the Flames lost Tyler Toffoli and Milan Lucic this offseason (kidding about Lucic). Coronato is going to be relied on to score goals and he’s in a perfect position to do so right out of camp.
The Flames’ NHL right shot winger depth is as follows:
- Matt Coronato
- Walker Duehr
That’s it. That’s the list. They have exactly zero right wingers with extensive NHL experience and Coronato is at the top.
If there was a season for a rookie RW with goal scoring ability to make the team, it’s this one. I firmly believe Coronato will be on the team out of camp and he could even start on the top line across from Jonathan Huberdeau.
Coronato was my pick, as he was for the majority of respondents.
Jakob Pelletier barely counts as a rookie next season. The cutoff is playing fewer than 25 games in the previous season, and thanks to Darryl Sutter, Pelletier played only 24 last year. Pelletier received the second most votes in our poll, and I think he’s a dark horse candidate not only in terms of potential Flames rookies, but among Flames players in general.
Pelletier has proven that he can play a very strong two-way game at the professional level already. With the smarts to play in all three zones, he has the biggest chance of staying in the lineup and making an impact on both sides of special teams. With the French Connection having some success last season, it’s not out of the question to expect Pelletier and Huberdeau to spend at least some time together next year as well, which greatly increases the chance of Pelletier making a legitimate impact.
He likely won’t be in the running for the Calder or anything, but if Pelletier can establish himself as a Michael Frolik-esque player, he could be majorly impactful in the middle-six playing with a center like Nazem Kadri.
I think Pelletier deserves a lot more credit than he’s being given. He put up three goals and seven points while skating 14 minutes a night last season. With a more offensively driven mindset and a more consistent spot in the roster, Pelletier could be a breakout candidate for the Flames
Best of the rest
These three players represent the most likely Flames rookies to play games next season. They do have some very intriguing players in the wings, though. Connor Zary had an incredible bounce back season for the Wranglers, and Jeremie Poirier proved that his offensive game could translate from the QMJHL to the professional level. Add in Sam Honzek and Etienne Morin from this past draft and the Flames have some interesting names coming down the pipe.