Calgary Flames rookie forward Matt Coronato is making a good impression in training camp. Coronato was the Flames’ first-round pick in the 2021 draft, selected 13th overall, and he is eyeing an NHL job at just 20 years old. He recorded four goals and seven points through six games, leading all Flames players and is tied for third in the league for points too. At this point, that’s as good a preseason as anyone could have hoped for and the young prospect has earned a job in the NHL.
Calgary Flames aim to get younger
The Flames fanbase breathed a collective sigh of relief when Craig Conroy—introduced as the new general manager in May of this year—said that he plans to leave roster spots for younger players to earn an opportunity to play. We watched helplessly last season as players like Trevor Lewis, Milan Lucic, and Brett Ritchie floundered in the bottom-six, favoured by head coach Darryl Sutter over prospects such as Matthew Phillips and Jakob Pelletier.
According to HockeyReference.com, Lewis, Lucic, and Ritchie were some of the worst Flames forwards in terms of 5v5 possession statistics last season, with the only NHL regular among them being Dillon Dubé.
|Player||Corsi For %||Relative Corsi For %||Fenwick For %||Relative Fenwick For %|
This new focus on leaving roster spots available for younger players opens the door for Coronato.
Coronato’s preseason performance
Coronato played in six of the Flames’ eight preseason games, posting respectable stats per NHL.com:
|Game Date||Score||Time On Ice||Goals||Assists||Points||Shots On Goal|
|September 24, 2023||10–0 W||14:08||3||1||4||3|
|September 25, 2023||3–2 SOW||21:16||0||0||0||3|
|September 27, 2023||3–2 SOW||17:27||0||0||0||4|
|September 29, 2023||1–2 OTL||14:01||0||0||0||1|
|October 2, 2023||5–4 W||17:18||1||2||3||2|
|October 6, 2023||1–3 L||17:29||0||0||0||1|
Even if he’s not lighting the lamp every night, Coronato is at least getting pucks on net and showing he can hold his own against NHL-level players.
Where Coronato fits in the lineup
Coronato was given a meaningful role throughout the preseason and he’s shown he is ready for the NHL. On top of his performance, injuries to Pelletier and Kevin Rooney open up even more space for Coronato to cement his place on the team. So where does he fit in with the current group?
The Flames do not have a lot of depth on the wings, so Coronato could immediately slot into the top-six and top power play.
The trio of Mikael Backlund, Blake Coleman, and Andrew Mangiapane excelled together last season and I would like to see them together again, at least to start the season, because we know they can be relied on.
My top nine forwards to start the year would be:
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Elias Lindholm||Matt Coronato|
|Yegor Sharangovich||Nazem Kadri||Dillon Dubé|
|Blake Coleman||Mikael Backlund||Andrew Mangiapane|
I’m not saying Coronato should be on the top line just because I’m excited to see him play—as I said, it’s best for his development to play in the top-six—but I also don’t think Dubé or Yegor Sharangovich can provide enough goal-scoring to draw focus away from Jonathan Huberdeau and Elias Lindholm. Mangiapane might be able to do that (remember when he scored 35 goals two years ago?), but as mentioned I’d like to see him remain with Backlund and Coleman for now since we know that line can provide the team some stability.
Coronato’s ability to score goals is also a natural fit for the top power play unit, which ranked 19th in the NHL last season and could use some additional punch.
If Coronato is not given these opportunities, then it would be best for his development to send him to the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers where he would play a much larger role.