The Calgary Flames are back on the ice as their prospect camp opened up this week at Winsport. 25 players were invited to camp, with the majority being the organization’s North America-based prospects. Not joining camp are those playing overseas, those in or bound for the NCAA, and the team’s older prospects. This means that you won’t see the likes of Dustin Wolf, Jakob Pelletier, Jake Boltmann, Topi Ronni, or newly drafted Yegor Yegorov this week. However, there are a ton of prospects who will be looking to make a name for themselves at camp this week, particularly in Penticton as the Young Stars Classic takes place this weekend.
The Flames’ prospects will take on the young stars of the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets this coming weekend in the Okanagan, and while the prize for winning is not the Stanley Cup, it presents a huge opportunity for prospects and camp invitees to show their skills to the Flames’ management and coaches prior to main camp opening.
With the first game tonight, here’s who to be watching:
Easily one of the most exciting prospects to watch in Penticton this year is 2021 second-round pick William Stromgren. When he was drafted, and basically all the way since, there have been major questions around why the Flames drafted him. With Logan Stankoven, Matthew Knies, J.J. Moser and others still available, the Flames took a bit of a leap on Stromgren, and to this point it simply hasn’t paid off.
Over the past year, Stromgren served as a fourth line forward for Rogle BK in Sweden’s SHL, putting up eight points in 45 games. These numbers do not jump off the page, but he finished eighth among all U20 prospects in the league in points, though was 20th in terms of points-per-game despite playing the third most games of all prospects his age.
He finished the season with the Wranglers, playing two regular season games with the team without recording a point.
This is going to be the beginning of Stromgren’s first full season in North America and will be one of the first times that most Flames fans will get to see the Swedish forward in action, and eyes should absolutely be on him. As a second round pick and one of the older players, he should be one of the team’s better players in Penticton, and should be in a key position to succeed on the ice.
It’s going to be a challenge for Stromgren to earn a roster spot on the Wranglers this season, and even if he does, the fight for minutes is going to be tough. He is going to need to perform really well at Penticton to get attention right off the bat before camp even begins, and then will need to really perform if he is going to have a shot of making the Wranglers this season.
After the sad news that Jeremie Poirier is injured and will not participate in Penticton, the team’s blueline is looking substantially weaker, and will need a player to step up offensively. This is where Etienne Morin can jump in and show why the Flames selected him in the second round of this year’s draft.
An offensive defenceman and one of the top offensive defencemen in the draft this year, the Flames took a gamble on him with his defensive game still very much a work in progress. This is the first chance the team will have to see how he does in their system and among their coaches.
Given the lack of depth on the blueline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morin playing alongside very defensive Yan Kuznetsov in Penticton. This is a good opportunity for the Flames to see exactly the shape of his two-way game, as well as whether he can be an effective player in a game against other prospects. He will almost certainly play heavy minutes in Penticton, and should also be a great opportunity for fans to catch the team’s exciting young blueliner. Definitely one to watch.
A camp invitee, Oliver Peer comes in as a smaller skilled forward who could be a depth signing for the Wranglers in a season or so. He is known for his exceptional skating and deception with the puck, as well as how much he has grown his game in the last year.
The OHL was the only league to have taken an entire year off for the pandemic in 2020, and caused a major issue with scouting prospects as well as in prospect development. Peer is very much a victim of that, having played just over 100 junior games to this point in his career. Last season, the centre put up 67 points in 60 games, but was unfortunately not drafted this year.
Camp this year is not a chance to earn a job for this season, as he is heading back to the Windsor Spitfires this season. Instead, it’s a chance for the Flames to evaluate him, give him things to work on for next year, and get him to play alongside some older players to learn from.
Peer is the most exciting invitee at camp this year, and is one to watch in Penticton this year.
This one feels like it should be a no-brainer. Of course Samuel Honzek is going to be a player to watch in Penticton as one of the Flames’ two first-round picks on the roster this year. He’s also brand new, having been selected in the 2023 NHL Draft, and this will be the first time that Flames fans will get to see their future star in the team’s colours.
However, there is a deeper reason to watch Honzek, and that is to watch where he plays. Drafted as a winger, there has been a lot of talk as to whether he can play centre. His coach has come out and said that he prefers Honzek at centre and will slot him in down the middle for the Vancouver Giants this season. Honzek all but confirmed that this would be the case. With a lack of centre depth at camp this year, it will be interesting to see whether Honzek slides into the role this year.
Speaking of centres, the one true centre prospect to watch at camp this year is Rory Kerins. The forward is just one season removed from being the second-leading scorer in the OHL, behind only Wyatt Johnston who played the full season in the NHL with Dallas last year.
However, Kerins spent last year wallowing in the ECHL, playing just six games in the AHL. Not great. This was partially a result of him being fine at camp and fine in the ECHL, but also because of how much depth there was on the Wranglers last year as well as how few call-ups there were to the Flames.
This is going to be a huge opportunity for Kerins to prove he is more than just an ECHLer, and can be an impact player at not just the AHL level but potentially at the NHL level. This starts with him having a strong camp, and playing a big role on the team in Penticton. He should get this chance, and will likely be playing alongside some of Honzek, Stromgren, Matt Coronato, and Lucas Ciona. If he can show he can hold his own with the team’s top prospects, he has a much better chance of earning an AHL job this season.
When and where can you catch the games?
Prospect camp opened yesterday and the first Penticton game takes place tonight as the team takes on the Vancouver Canucks. They will then take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, then the Winnipeg Jets on Monday lunchtime to round-off the tournament. All Flames games will be streamed on the team’s website calgaryflames.com.
Wins or losses are mostly just a matter of bragging rights, but prospects playing well and making in impact is going to be the key to this weekend. It’s definitely worth catching a game if you are able to.