It’s been a long and uneventful offseason for the Calgary Flames. After entering the offseason with seven major pending unrestricted free agents in 2024, new Flames GM Craig Conroy promised that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the Johnny Gaudreau situation. Well, we’re days out of training camps starting and the Flames roster is mostly unchanged.
The only exit in Calgary this summer was the team’s leading point scorer from a season ago, Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli was sent to the New Jersey Devils for a 3rd round pick in the 2023 draft (Aydar Suniev) and forward Yegor Sharangovich. Outside of that trade, the Flames will look to fill out their opening-day roster with some of the highly anticipated prospects waiting in the wings of Scotiabank Saddledome.
With new HC Ryan Huska at the team’s helm this year, line combinations could look much different than what we saw last year. Let’s dive into what the opening-day lineup could look like for the Calgary Flames.
After a season that saw the Flames struggle to consistently score, the forward group will look to be emphasized by new head coach Ryan Huska as well as new powerplay specialist Marc Savard. The Flames only added Sharangovich this offseason but will also get to look at former Harvard star Matt Coronato in his first full season.
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Elias Lindholm||Jakob Pelletier|
|Yegor Sharangovich||Nazem Kadri||Matthew Coronato|
|Andrew Mangiapane||Mikael Backlund||Blake Coleman|
|Adam Ruzicka||Dillon Dube||Walker Duehr|
Jonathan Huberdeau returns to the left side with Elias Lindholm with hopes to gel after a few short stints together last season. Jakob Pelletier joins the duo on the right side after making a name for himself last season with the Flames. Pelletier looks to bring chemistry with his francophone counterpart on the opposite wing but don’t be surprised if we see Andrew Mangiapane get a shot with Huberdeau and Lindholm as well.
Nazem Kadri also looks for a bounce-back year with newly acquired Flame Sharangovich. Sharangovich has played all three forward positions in his NHL career but found his most success playing on the wing last year in New Jersey. Coronato could potentially get a look on the second line to begin the season but we could also see Dillon Dube round out the second line on the right side.
On the third unit, we go back to some familiar faces with lifelong Flames Mikael Backlund centring a line between Blake Coleman and Mangiapane. As I mentioned earlier, Mangiapane is looking to have a breakout season and could get time on the top line. However, the trio played most consistently together last season and was one of the Flames’ best lines when the three saw the ice together.
To round out the forward group Dube moves back to the center of the ice to headman two big bodies on the wings Adam Ruzicka and Walker Duehr. Duehr and Ruzicka didn’t see much time together last season and have the potential to really complement each other’s skillsets on the fourth line. Dube and Sharangovich are also two pieces we could see interchanged with Sharangovich having more history playing at the center ice position.
Again, not much has changed on the backend except for the signing of 31-year-old free agent Jordan Oesterle, and the notable return of Oliver Kylington. After an absence from the team for all of the 2022-23 season, the Swedish D-Man will look to make his return to an NHL lineup this season. After taking time off for personal reasons, it’s difficult to say how Kylington will look when he enters camp. Although I have faith we’ll see Kylington in the lineup for the majority of the season if not all. The Flames will likely carry Oesterle on the roster but don’t be surprised if prospect Jeremie Poirer takes his place once the season starts.
|Christopher Tanev||MacKenzie Weegar|
|Noah Hanifin||Rasmus Andersson|
|Oliver Kylington||Nikita Zadorov|
Longtime NHL vets Chris Tanev and MacKenzie Weegar take the first pairing as the two were lockdown defenders last season. Tanev is one of the toughest players in the NHL but has notably struggled with injuries (playing through a lot). If Tanev can stay healthy this season look for the Flames top pairing to be one of the best shutdown defensive units in the NHL.
Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson will look to keep their chemistry alive as well heading into the 2023–24 season. The pair of 26-year-olds had good seasons last year. With Hanifin entering the final year of his contract, look for him to have a boost in play while we will expect to see Andersson head the top power play unit once again.
Nikita Zadorov has risen to be one of the most interesting personalities on the Calgary Flames. Zadorov’s pregame outfits are a lot flashier than the big man’s game but he will look to prove himself again this year after an up-and-down season last year. At times Zadorov was the Flames’ best defenceman last season, but other times he got caught and gave up some high-danger chances. With a new philosophy this year under Huska, it will be interesting to see how Zadorov, along with the entire D core responds. As I mentioned earlier, look for Kylington to slot in alongside Zadorov for his return to pro hockey.
It was a horrendous goaltending performance last season from both of the Flames puck stoppers. With prospect Dustin Wolf eyeing a breakout into the NHL, don’t be surprised if the Flames run with three goaltenders on their roster to start the season. Jacob Markstrom will look for a bounce-back year as a starter. The veteran went from a Vezina finalist in 2021–22 to one of the league’s worst starters in 2022–23. Dan Vladar will slot in as the backup to start the season but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Czech goaltender on the move before the trade deadline.
|(D) Jordan Oesterle|
|(G) Dustin Wolf|
The Flames’ new coaching staff will have some difficult decisions to make during training camp this year but should have a decent crop of young and established NHL talent to choose from. With full seasons expected from Coronato and Jakob Pelletier, the offensive side of the team will hopefully be much more successful than last season. Lindholm and Huberdeau look to have bounce-back seasons and cement themselves as top-25 players in the NHL once again.
The defence will remain almost unchanged and look to bolster their unit with prospects such as Poirier while Kylington will hopefully pick up where he left off in 2021–22 and be a daily NHLer once again.
The goalie situation could bring the most headaches for the new coaching staff as the team has three NHL-level goalies. However it shakes out, look for the Flames to have a bounce-back season. If the team can get a couple of key players to return close to their former selves, the Flames could be a contender for the division once again.