It’s finally September, and it’s just about time for NHL hockey to begin again. And while the Calgary Flames have not yet taken to the ice at Scotiabank Saddledome, preseason action is already underway in a number of the Flames prospects’ respective leagues. Coming off of a very good 2023 draft, the cupboards are looking a little more full, and the expectations are sky high for the team’s brightest young talents. Here is what to expect from the Flames’ prospects that are not playing professional hockey in North America.
The 2022 second-round pick had a very decent year last season. Playing mostly in a depth role, the centre had five points in 22 games for Tappara in the SM-Liiga. He also spent a bit of time in the U20SM-sarja, Finland’s highest junior hockey league, where he put up 10 points in seven regular season games, then added 15 playoff points—good for second in the league.
This season, he will almost certainly be spending the full year in the big league, and should be pushing up the lineup to hopefully play in a top-six role for the team. Tappara is losing their top centre from last year in former NHLer Jori Lehtera and will be needing support up the lineup. This could be an opportunity for Ronni to push his way up the depth chart.
Ronni is very underrated currently having spent the year in Europe. While he is starting the season as the fourth line centre, if he can start putting points on the board, it will bode well for a smooth transition to North America. I would expect him to play the full season in Liiga and put up 20 or so points.
A relatively unknown to most draft observers, the Flames took Yegor Yegorov in the sixth round of this year’s draft. The netminder spent last season exclusively in the MHL, Russia’s junior league, playing in the Dynamo Moskva system. He featured in 15 games, playing as the 2A goalie, but put up a 0.915 save percentage with two shutouts.
Yegorov has a big opportunity to earn the starting role this year. The team’s starting goalie last year, Rostislav Glushchenko has signed with a different VHL (Russia’s second highest men’s league), side for next season, leaving the team with Yegorov, Maxim Yeryomenko, the 2B last year, Ilya Podsukha, who played one game, and Matvei Spichyov, who is making his MHL debut this season.
This is the year for Yegorov to claim the starting role for the club. If all works out well, he could even see time in the VHL or if things go really really well, he may even earn a game or two in the KHL, but that’s probably a long-shot at this point.
He has two more years in Russia for sure before he is eligible to come over to North America, and a really strong year this year could set him up for a good career in North America down the road.
Ah, what could have been. The Flames’ third-round pick in 2020 had a decent rookie season in 2021, putting up 14 points for Notre Dame but followed that up this past year with a five-point outing in a similar number of games. While a flawed stat, his plus minus fell from +5 in 2021–22 to -5 in 2022–23.
I wish I could say I have hope in a huge season in Boltmann, because he seems like a good kid, but alas I don’t expect much will come from this. I would bet he probably rebounds a little on the points total, going up to 10–15 points this season assuming he stays healthy, but still remains firmly a second or third pair guy for the Fighting Irish.
Coming off of a 90-point season in the BCHL, Suniev is one of the more exciting offensive prospects in the organization right now. He is heading into his first season at UMass in the NCAA, and will almost certainly see his point totals drop. Going from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond is no doubt an adjustment, but how he handles himself through it will be what matters.
UMass is a very good program, with 13 drafted prospects in their lineup. Minutes are going to be tough to get for Suniev, and especially as a freshman, he is going to have to fight especially hard to earn a place. The good news is that other drafted prospects have made an impact on the team simply by playing well. Cole o’Hara and Taylor Makar both made a huge impact last season with the team and earned heavy minutes. There is no doubt that Suniev can do the exact same. If he can perform the way he did for Penticton, the sky’s the limit for him. I would imagine though that it is a slow start for him as he gets adjusted to the gameplay in the NCAA. He probably finishes somewhere between 10–15 points if he’s healthy.
This is a big season for Sergeev. After stealing away minutes last season, Sergeev has an opportunity to take the starting role for the UConn Huskies (Go Ice Bus!). Last season, Sergeev played as the 1A for the team, starting 19 games and ending with a 0.912 save percentage. He outdueled Logan Terness to earn 1A from the sophomore netminder.
Terness is now at Ohio State and UConn will now have Sergeev battling with Ethan Haider for the starting job. Haider is joining UConn from Clarkson, after finishing his first three seasons with Clarkson University. He was the starting goalie for the team for two of the last three years, and this will push Sergeev to be better to keep the role.
Sergeev is a very good goalie who has shown he can be a starting netminder in the NCAA. I bet he takes that starting role, playing somewhere in the 20–25 game range for UConn.
After having multiple prospects in the QMJHL for the last number of years, the Flames are down to just one prospect in the league in Morin. The good news is that Morin is an elite pffensive defenceman who will be going into his 19-year-old season with the Moncton Wildcats.
Moncton finished second in the QMJHL’s Maritime Division, and Morin finished third in the league in scoring among defencemen in the league. The expectation would be that Morin continues to be among the best offensive defencemen in the league, putting up somewhere in the 70–90 point range this coming season. From there, the hope is that he continues to work on his two-way game, and if that comes at the expense of him putting up points, so be it.
Initially Littler was expected to make the jump to the NCAA this coming year, but instead he will be joining the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. He played four playoff games for the team this past season, putting up one assist in that time.
Littler is coming off of a very good season in the BCHL, in which he put up 68 points in 51 games, good for sixth in the league last season. Moving from here to the USHL shouldn’t be as big of a jump as had he moved directly to the NCAA, so expect him to have a very good season this coming year.
Cedar Rapids has lost their top two scorers to the NCAA this year, so Littler will likely have an easier time earning more minutes than on a tougher team. However, without as many strong players, it may be a tough year for the team, who will be without some of their best players. That being said, I would still expect Littler to be a point-per-game player this coming year in the league.
While there are no guarantees that Hurtig even makes the jump to North America this season, his rights are owned by the Calgary Hitmen, and given the Flames and Hitmen are part of the same umbrella organization, I would expect him to make the jump.
The defensive defenceman is coming off of an eight-point season last year in the Swedish J20 Nationell. This while picking up a nasty shoulder injury which required offseason surgery and rehab. Once that rehab is done and he can get back on the ice, expect him to hopefully be in Calgary with the Hitmen.
He probably will take some time to get used to the North American game, but given he is a big-bodied defenceman who can play a heavy game, this adjustment shouldn’t take too long. I would imagine he should put up between 5–15 points depending on how long the rehab and adjustment take.
Bell simply does not get the recognition he deserves in the Flames’ prospect pool. Not the flashiest guy on the ice, Bell quietly put up 64 points in 55 games on an average Tri-City Americans side. For some reason, he didn’t earn an entry-level contract with the Flames last season, and will be back in the WHL this season.
I would expect him to have another big season with the Ams, pushing to be one of the top forwards in the league. If he can stay healthy this season, he should be a 70–90 point player this year. If he puts up these type of numbers this season, he could be a huge add for the Flames going forward.
The Scottsdale, Arizona product was drafted in the fourth-round of this year’s draft and will be back in Vancouver playing alongside Samuel Honzek with the Giants. The 6’3″ forward is coming off of a 51-point season playing on a fine Giants team last season. This season he will be one of the older players and will be shooting for a big jump in production.
Lipinski should play top-six minutes this season, and should be a 60–70 point player if he stays healthy. He has played most of the past two seasons, taking huge strides forward in point production. If he hits a point-per-game that would be massive for his prospect stock, but if he doesn’t I would image he comes quite close to it.
The Flames’ top player outside of the AHL, Honzek is probably the most exciting prospect to watch in the organization. Possessing a unique mix of size and skill with the ability to finesse the puck, Honzek is poised to have a huge year this year.
Coming off of an injury-shortened season which saw him put up 56 points in 43 games, Honzek will be looking to have a huge season this year in Vancouver. If he can stay healthy, expect him to put up somewhere in the 80–90 point range and finish inside the top-20 in scoring league-wide. If he can crack the 90-point plateau, he would likely finish in the top-10 and may show him to be closer to NHL-ready than initially expected.
What to expect next for Flames prospects
Preseasons have already started in some leagues, and regular seasons are just around the corner. Hockey is getting started already and it’s time to start getting hype about the Flames’ prospects.