What to expect from Calgary Flames prospects playing professional hockey in North America

The Calgary Flames’ opening roster is set and the season is underway. There are a number of prospects already on the team, with more likely coming for call-ups down the stretch. The team has a surprisingly large number of prospects that will be with the Wranglers this season, and some will be likely starting with Rapid City in the ECHL. Here’s what to expect from all of them:

Likely NHLers

Jakob Pelletier

This one hurts. The organization looks to be without Pelletier for months after he had surgery for his shoulder. When he does return, probably next calendar year, he will likely slot into the NHL for the balance of the season. Coming back from a shoulder surgery is a big ask and it will take him time to get back to form this season. I would imagine he ends up around a quarter-point-per-game depending on when and if he comes back this season.

Matt Coronato

Coronato has unsurprisingly made the Flames out of camp and has already looked good in his short spell with the team. I would imagine he spends the entire season in the NHL, becoming one of the few prospects to make the jump straight from the NCAA to the NHL without playing in the AHL. Points wise, it’s hard to guess where he ends up, but if he can crack 40 points this season, it would be massive for the team.

Walker Duehr

Once again, Walker Duehr has shown himself to be an NHLer in Calgary. He started the season with the Flames, and barring a major downturn in production, looks to have a spot on the team for the full season. The forward put up 11 points in 27 games with the Flames last year playing in a mostly fourth line role. I would imagine he stays in a similar role, putting up somewhere in the 30-point range assuming he stays in the lineup.

Dustin Wolf

While disappointing, given the Flames still have both Dan Vladar and Jacob Markstrom, Dustin Wolf will start the season in the AHL with the Wranglers. He will have to continue to put up incredible numbers in the AHL to earn a call-up to the Flames. How the Flames manage their goalies this season is going to be fascinating, but it hinges on Wolf forcing the team’s hand by earning a call-up to the big club.

I think by mid-season the Flames will be moving on from Vladar, and will find a way to trade him to another team. Wolf will probably slide into the backup role, playing 15–20 NHL games depending on when he earns the job. If he can finish with a 0.900 plus save percentage, it’ll be enormous for the team.

Likely AHLers

Connor Zary

Zary had a decent training camp this year, but will start the season in the AHL. He had a good season in the AHL, with his second half particularly good for the Wranglers as he has adapted to playing centre. There is a very good chance he earns an NHL look before the end of the season, but having another full season in the AHL would probably be better for his development. Expect him to be a point-per-game AHLer, centring the team’s top line.

Ben Jones

A former seventh-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, Jones had a very good season with the Wranglers last year, putting up 54 points in 71 games. He was quietly one of the most effective players on the team, and was one on the shortlist for a call-up at the end of last season. This season he will start with the Wranglers again, but if his production continues to be strong, he could earn himself a look at the NHL level. Expect him to push closer to the point-per-game mark in the AHL.

Mathias Emilio Pettersen

This is probably the last season Pettersen has to show what he is. The Norwegian product was very good in the USHL and then in his two seasons in the NCAA before turning pro, but his production has since slowed. Last season was the first year where he really showed his skill consistently at the AHL level, putting up 44 points in 61 games, but the former fourth-round pick is running out of runway to develop into an NHLer. Now 24, this will likely be the last season he has to show what he is.

Short of being a near-point-per-game player and ideally earning a call-up to the Flames, it’s hard to see him remaining in the prospect pool beyond this season. He probably passes the 50-point mark this season, but I just don’t see him beating that.

Martin Pospisil

Pospisil brings a very heavy physical element to the Flames’ prospect pool, but injuries and bad luck have held him back from achieving his potential. Like Pettersen, this is probably his last season with the Flames in the prospect pool and staying healthy will be the key. If he can do so and put up 50-odd points this season, there’s a chance the Flames keep him around. However, he hasn’t played a full season of hockey in a very long time, playing just 20 games last season, and I’m not sure he will this season either. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Rory Kerins

Kerins is such a fascinating prospect. He finished his OHL career as the second-leading scorer in the league, behind only Dallas’ Wyatt Johnston, then turned pro and played nearly the entire season in the ECHL last year. It doesn’t really make a ton of sense how he dropped off, but he will need to find that spark again in his game.

The goal for Kerins is to earn a consistent spot in the AHL this season and put in the work to get his game up to the level it was in the OHL. Hard work and consistency are going to be key for Kerins this year, but even if he plays on the fourth line in the AHL, putting up even 20 points, it will be a huge step in the right direction. If he languishes in the ECHL all year this year, it’s going to be hard to see how he comes back from there.

Cole Schwindt

Schwindt had a very average first season with the Wranglers after being acquired in the Matthew Tkachuk trade, putting up 32 points in 70 games. He had a very good training camp and was one of the later cuts this season. Expect him to be fired up going into the AHL season, looking to prove he deserves to be in the NHL. He’s always been a very well-rounded prospect but will need to translate that into higher point totals this season in the AHL to earn an NHL look.

Adam Klapka

Like Schwindt, Klapka had a fine AHL season but a very good camp this year with the Flames. Klapka should be an NHLer in the future; he has the hands, skating, and most importantly size to be an impact player in the big league. The problem has been putting it all together on a nightly basis in the AHL. He probably earns a game or two in the NHL if he can show that at the AHL level, but it will take him putting up much more than the 25 points he put up last season to earn that.

Brady Lyle

Recently signed by the Flames, the 24-year-old blueliner is coming off of a very good season in Springfield, where he had 31 points in 51 games for the Thunderbird. He is not a small man, standing 6’3″ and weighing in comfortably above 200 pounds. Expect him to play a big role with the Wranglers, putting up somewhere in the 40-point range for the team.

Jeremie Poirier

Poirier had a very good season for the Wranglers last year, doing all the right things offensively and taking strides to improve his defensive game. As great as his offence has been, he will need to keep working on his defensive game if he wants to earn a look at the NHL level. Poirier finished 16th in the AHL in points among defensemen, and if he can continue to be one of the league-leaders in points among blueliners, he may earn a few NHL games this year.

Ilya Solovyov

The Flames’ standout player in training camp, Solovyov is a testament to the phrase “hard work pays off”. The Flames took the Belarussian in the seventh round in the 2020 NHL Draft, and he has continued to impress at every level. He was heavily relied upon last season by the Wranglers and while his point totals weren’t as high as Poirier’s his value to the team was off the charts. If he continues to be a workhorse on the Wranglers’ blueline, he could earn a look in the NHL and perhaps even earn a chance to stay with the team longer than any of us ever imagined.

Yan Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov has had an interesting development path, spending time in the NCAA, QMJHL, and now the AHL. Going into his second full season, expectations are starting to rise for the Russian blueliner. He hasn’t really shown himself to be overly offensive, which he was never really expected to be, but he also hasn’t really shined defensively either—which was his strong suit. This is going to be the key for this year, and earning a big role on the Wranglers will be pivotal.

Likely ECHLers

Ilya Nikolayev

The numbers game would suggest that Nikolayev likely spends chunks of the season in the ECHL, which is really not great. After spending most of this past season there and putting up marginal results, it seems likely he will end up again. The hope for him is to prove the numbers wrong and earn a spot in the AHL for more of the season than in the ECHL. That’s probably the best case scenario.

William Stromgren

While Stromgren will start in the AHL almost certainly, the odds are that the numbers point to him ending up in the ECHL. He struggled to make a name for himself in the SHL last season, but is now over in North America to try and show he can be more than his statistics suggest. The goal for him will be to stay in the AHL, even if that means he ends up in a depth role.

Daniil Chechelev

Probably the most interesting name, CHechelev was not listed on the Wranglers’ opening night roster, with the third goalie spot going to Connor Murphy. It is likely that Chechelev ends up in the ECHL with Rapid City, but there has been no news on him of late. Hopefully, he ends up there, but for his sake, he can aim to earn an AHL job when and if Wolf goes to the NHL

What to expect next?

Hockey is up and running already in the NHL, and it’s time to start getting hype about the Flames’ prospects. The team has such an interesting prospect pool this year, it will be exciting to see who stands out this season.

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