With training camp underway, the Calgary Flames have some decisions to make in regard to their opening-day lineup line combinations. While many have speculated what Ryan Huska may do, it was a surprise to many of us to see Adam Ruzicka skating on the wing on a line with Dillon Dube and Nazem Kadri when camp opened up.
Ruzicka now has a chance to finally solidify a full-time NHL roster spot for the first time in his career, and it might be in a better position that expected.
A look back on Ruzicka’s 2022–23 season
Ruzicka came out of the gates flying last season for the Flames, and after getting a taste of NHL hockey just a year prior, he was looking to make a name for himself to stick. Ruzicka recorded six goals and sixteen points in his first twenty games, spending quite a bit of time on the wing with Elias Lindholm and former Flame Tyler Toffoli. He looked like a great fit on that line, and his play was exceeding all expectations that anyone had for him going into the year.
Things went off the rails after the start though, Ruzicka would only play 24 more games and only record two points in that time span. He was often buried on the fourth line with no special teams time or he would be in the press box. After such a great start, it was disappointing to see how things would end last season.
Ruzicka’s 2023–24 outlook
It’s a new season and it seems like there is a breath of fresh air around the team. Ruzicka will be on the team’s opening night roster, especially with the recent news of Jakob Pelletier’s injury, but it will be up to Ruzicka on where he will be playing in the lineup.
Ruzicka has all the raw tools to be a solid player in the league, he has a big frame, good puck skills, and can skate. The problem he has had has been his consistency and his will to fight game in and game out. When Ruzicka is feeling it, we can all see it—he plays with pace and is not afraid to make creative plays. However, when he isn’t on his game, the same fire and creativity are absent, and that’s where it seems like Ruzicka loses some trust from his coaches.
If Ruzicka can show through camp that he can produce through training camp alongside some of the Flames best players, that spot with Kadri and Dube could be his. If he doesn’t perform well, then he is probably going to be the Flames fourth line centre to start the season, a position where Ruzicka saw no success last season. But with Connor Zary and Ben Jones knocking on the door and with Kevin Rooney looking to reclaim his spot on the NHL roster, there is no job security with Ruzicka. He will have to earn of second of ice he gets.
Ruzicka’s spot to lose
The Flames didn’t bring in any forwards on PTOs to camp this season, so whether Ruzicka is playing on the wing or at centre, it will be his spot to lose. As long as he can play up to his potential, this should be the year where Ruzicka could stick not only in the lineup, but potentially in a top-six position given the Flames’ current roster and their injuries.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire