Calgary Flames

The case for Matt Coronato to make the Flames opening night roster

Matt Coronato might be the most exciting Calgary Flames skater prospect currently in the pipeline. The 20-year-old was drafted 13th overall by the Flames in the 2021 NHL Draft and is now eyeing a spot on the Flames 2023–24 opening night roster. And with training camp set to open up in just a matter of weeks, this is the case for Matt Coronato to make the opening night roster come October 11.

Flames roster spots up for the taking

The Flames’ opening night roster is far from complete at this point in time. Through the free agency period the Flames chose to not bring back multiple skaters that were mainstays on the roster last season. Milan Lucic, Brett and Nick Ritchie, Trevor Lewis, and Tyler Toffoli will all not be returning. Whether that was due to a change in philosophy or a lack of cap space, the Flames have some spots to fill.

And it looks like new GM Craig Conroy and Head Coach Ryan Huska will be leaving those spots open for the kids to try and take. That means Coronato will not only have a crack at making the roster, but he will no doubt be getting a legitimate look at cracking the teams roster for their first game against the Jets.

Why Coronato should make the team

Coronato has been making waves throughout the Flames organization since he was drafted back in the summer of 2021, and for good reasons. In his draft year he lit up the USHL while playing for the Chicago Steel. Coronato scored 48 goals and 85 points in just 51 games and then followed that up by scoring nine goals and 13 points in nine playoff games—helping lead the Steel to a championship in the 2020–21 season.

Coronato then played two seasons at Harvard University where he had a total of 38 goals and a total of 72 points across 68 games at the two years—pretty impressive stuff. This also doesn’t include the time he spent playing for Team USA at a couple of international tournaments. At the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships, Coronato scored four goals and had seven points in five games at the tournament and then had eight points in 10 games at the 2023 World Hockey Championships in his first professional tournament.

Coronato got his first taste of NHL action at the very end of the 2022–23 season when he suited up in the last game of the year against the Sharks after he signed his entry-level contract with the Flames just a couple weeks prior. He did more than hold his own in that game, playing on a line with fellow rookie Jakob Pelletier and Stanley Cup Champion Nazem Kadri, Coronato showed what kind of skillset he has. He was darting around the ice creating havoc and opportunities, and while Coronato didn’t find the scoresheet, it seemed that he had already developed some great chemistry with the aforementioned Pelletier, maybe a sign of things to come.

The Flames don’t just have spots, they have gaps

The Flames have some holes in their lineup, with Tyler Toffoli off to New Jersey, there could be a spot in the top-six to be had for Coronato. The Flames already don’t have a ton of right shooting wingers on their team, the only other right shot winger currently on the roster is Walker Deuhr. We know Jonathan Huberdeau has a tough time on his offside, and we don’t know too much about newcomer Yegor Sharongovich, so a spot could open up pretty quick for Coronato if he performs well at training camp.

The most impressive part about Coronato’s game is his shot, he very well could come to the camp with the best shot on the Flames roster, which they will need with Toffoli no longer around. He can be a big part of the Flames power play—which will need a lot of work—and he has been a very reliable two way player through his entire career. At Harvard and through his time with Team USA, he has been used on the penalty kill and in defensive situations late in games, never a bad thing to have at your disposal.

Calgary’s youth movement

Training camp should be interesting this time around with some spots still in the air. While Coronato should be a shoe in with his combination of his shot and speed, he won’t be the only young player looking to make the team. Jakob Pelletier will be sure to make a push after his recall last season, Walker Deuhr is looking to become a full timer after bursting onto the scene late last year, and Dustin Wolf will be looking to crack the roster after winning the AHL’s MVP Award.

The Flames would be wise to add them all to the roster considering last year they were too old and too slow towards the bottom of their roster. Coronato will definitely be headlining the kids who will be making a push come training camps start.

Alex Russo

Contributor for the Win Column CGY | 1/3 of The Burning Leaf Podcast
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