Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ranking the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects (August 2015 Edition)

Presenting the first edition of the Flames From 80 Feet prospect rankings.

The intention is to update this list twice a year. In the summer, after the NHL draft and development camp have taken place, then again five or six months later in January or February, with the World Juniors complete and a half-season of hockey in the books.

Over time, these twice-a-year snapshots of the state of the organization's prospect cupboard will provide a nice way of tracking players as they climb or fall on the team's long-term depth chart.

Definition of "Prospect"

If you look at other hockey publications and websites, there are different definitions of who can be considered a prospect. Some have age maximums, some exclude players once they're no longer considered an NHL rookie. Here is my criteria:
  • Age 25 or under
  • Has not established himself as a NHL regular

For my rankings, I should note that this is not the order I expect players to ascend to the NHL, but rather it is sorted by the impact/role I expect that player to have when (or if) they do make it to the NHL.

I've also included an ETA, which is my guess at their potential arrival date in the NHL as an established full-time player. at which point they would also graduate from this prospect list.

Note: On August 17, I joined Ryan Pinder on Fan960 radio to count down these top 20 prospects. Listen to the archive of that show for additional insight into why I've ranked players where I have.

Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects - August 2015

1. C Sam Bennett
  • Age - 19 
  • Size - 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 1st round (4th overall) in 2014
  • Last Year - Kingston OHL (11 gm, 11-13-24), Calgary (1 gm, 0-1-1)
  • ETA - 2015-16
After missing most of last year due to shoulder surgery, Bennett joined Kingston briefly then came to Calgary, where he made his NHL debut in the regular season finale. He was a fixture in line-up in the playoffs. He's got speed, skill, tenacity and could very well be the team's best player in a few years.

2. RW Emile Poirier
  • Age - 20 
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 200 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 1st round (22nd overall) in 2013
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (55 gm, 19-23-43), Calgary (6 gm, 0-1-1)
  • ETA - 2016-17
Not quite ready yet as we saw in his first pro season as he got in six NHL games but wasn't a factor in limited ice time. Began last year injured after off-season shoulder surgery so this year, expect Poirier to start in the AHL but if he can build on last year, he'll become a mid-season call-up candidate.

3. G Mason McDonald
  • Age - 19
  • Size - 6-foot-4, 190 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (34th overall) in 2014 
  • Last Year - Charlottetown QMJHL (56 gm, 28-22-4, 3.06 GAA, .906 SV%)
  • ETA - 2019-20
The first goalie taken in the 2014 NHL Draft continues to develop as hoped. After a strong year in the QMJHL last year, he attended Hockey Canada's U20 summer camp two weeks ago and most experts have him pegged as the favourite to be the starter in the 2016 World Junior Championships.

4. D Brandon Hickey
  • Age - 19
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 190 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 3rd round (64th overall) in 2014 
  • Last Year - Boston University (41 gm, 6-11-18)
  • ETA - 2018-19
The Leduc native is quickly climbing the club's prospect rankings after an impressive freshman season at Boston University that earned him an invite to Hockey Canada's U20 summer camp. There, he performed well and has a good chance of making the team bound for Finland this Christmas.

5. G Jon Gillies
  • Age - 21
  • Size - 6-foot-5, 215 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 3rd round (75th overall) in 2012 
  • Last Year - Providence NCAA (39 gm, 24-13-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV%
  • ETA - 2017-18
Just turned pro after three terrific seasons at Providence, where he went out on top, winning the national championship. Most college goalies take three full seasons in the AHL before they're NHL-ready but with Calgary's long-term goaltending picture murky, he could get a chance sooner.

6. D Rasmus Andersson
  • Age - 18
  • Size - 6-foot-1, 215 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (53rd overall) in 2015
  • Last Year - Barrie OHL (67 gm, 12-52-64)
  • ETA - 2018-19
After two seasons with Malmo in Sweden's second division, he was a stand-out last season in the OHL as Aaron Ekblad's replacement in Barrie. Kylington gets most of the hype but Andersson was chosen first. GM Brad Treliving says they had Andersson ranked much higher than where they got him.

7. D Oliver Kylington
  • Age - 18
  • Size - 6-foot-0, 180 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (60th overall) in 2015
  • Last Year - AIK/Farjestads Sweden (35 gm, 6-6-12), Farjestads Jr Sweden (10 gm, 4-3-7)
  • ETA - 2018-19
By now, you probably know his story and how he slipped from one time being touted as a top five pick in 2015 to nearly falling to the third round. He's already an NHL-caliber skater and playing in North America next season -- either AHL or WHL -- will help the rest of his game. His ETA could move up.

8. C Markus Granlund
  • Age - 22
  • Size - 5-foot-11, 185 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (45th overall) in 2011 
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (21 gm, 9-8-17), Calgary NHL (48 gm, 8-10-18)
  • ETA - 2016-17
Has displayed a dangerous offensive skill set and polished 200-foot game in the AHL but has struggled to solidify himself in the NHL. However, he's still 22 and while more time in the minors is possible due to the team's crowded forward picture, there is still a high upside with this player.

9. LW Morgan Klimchuk
  • Age - 20
  • Size - 6-foot-0, 185 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 1st round (28th overall) in 2013
  • Last Year - Regina/Brandon WHL (60 gm, 34-46-80)
  • ETA - 2018-19
He has declared himself ready to turn pro but we'll see. An overage season in Brandon could still be in the offing. As the least hyped of the first rounders in 2013, every development camp Klimchuk reminds us not to forget about him. He's deadly when he gets the puck anywhere around the net.

10. LW Micheal Ferland
  • Age - 23
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 215 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 5th round (133rd overall) in 2010 
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (32 gm, 7-8-15), Calgary (26 gm, 2-3-5)
  • ETA - 2015-16
Strong, skilled and smart, there is a lot to like about his game. The challenge for Ferland, who has had a winding journey to the NHL, is harnessing all of those attributes and displaying them consistently. But if he can, he demonstrated in the playoffs against Vancouver the impact he can have.

11. D Tyler Wotherspoon
  • Age - 22
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (57th overall) in 2011 
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (61 gm, 2-22-24), Calgary (1 gm, 0-0-0)
  • ETA - 2016-17
The way he was used (or not used) last season has many wondering where exactly he fits into the Flames picture. Once considered the top blue-line prospect, his grasp on that label is slipping. Defencemen take a long time to develop and he's far from overripe, but this is a critical season for him.

12. G Joni Ortio
  • Age - 24
  • Size - 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 6th round (171st overall) in 2009
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (37 gm, 21-13-1, .912 SV%), Calgary (6 gm, 4-2-0, .908 SV%)
  • ETA - 2015-16
Gets his chance in the NHL this season at which time we'll start to get a sense of whether he could be part of the club's long-term future in net or if he is just a placeholder until Gillies or McDonald are ready. Showed enough in his brief NHL call-up last year to have many still very high on the Finn.

13. D Ryan Culkin
  • Age - 21
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 195 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 5th round (124th overall) in 2012
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (37 gm, 1-17-18)
  • ETA - 2017-18
Turned pro last season after four years in the QMJHL and had a solid rookie year. As the season went on, he inherited more playing time and more responsibility and was one of Adirondack's most relied upon defencemen at the time he suffered a season-ending wrist injury in February.

14. C Bill Arnold
  • Age - 23
  • Size - 6-foot-0, 218 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 4th round (108th overall) in 2010  
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (61 gm, 15-23-38)
  • ETA - 2017-18
Johnny Gaudreau's old centre at Boston College was never going to get to the NHL as fast nor have the same kind of impact, but don't sleep on Arnold either. In his final NCAA season, some referred to him as the best two-way player in college and there's room for that type of ability in an NHL line-up.

15. C Mark Jankowski
  • Age - 20
  • Size - 6-foot-3, 190 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 1st round (21st overall) in 2012 
  • Last Year - Providence NCAA (37 gm, 8-19-27)
  • ETA - 2018-19
A year ago, he wouldn't have been on this list. But, after a championship-winning season at PC where he may not have been a big scorer but was still a much relied-upon player -- and after a stellar display at development camp -- it's too early to write off a guy, who was always viewed as a long-term project.

16. RW Hunter Smith
  • Age - 19
  • Size - 6-foot-7, 220 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 2nd round (54th overall) in 2014
  • Last Year - Oshawa OHL (57 gm, 23-26-49)
  • ETA - 2018-19
Skating is a concern but beyond that, there is lots to like. He's a massive body that plays physical and the trajectory his offensive totals have been on during his time in the OHL intrigues. The Memorial Cup champion also brings leadership qualities the Flames covet. I'm curious to see him in the AHL.

17. D Kenney Morrison 
  • Age - 23
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 205 lbs
  • Acquired - Signed as a free agent on March 19, 2015
  • Last Year - Western Michigan NCAA (37 gm, 5-10-15), Adirondack AHL (10 gm, 2-4-6)
  • ETA - 2017-18
The native of Lloyminster was never drafted but after three years of playing NCAA for Andy Murray, he became a free agent coveted by many NHL teams. The definitive late bloomer, if his first full AHL season turns out like his try-out last year, Calgary may have themselves a gem.  

18. RW Austin Carroll
  • Age - 21
  • Size - 6-foot-3, 225 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 7th round (184th overall) in 2014 
  • Last Year - Victoria WHL (69 gm, 38-39-77)
  • ETA - 2017-18
Watching him up close at development camp, you realize why Calgary is excited about what they have. Continuing a theme, Carroll also has an alluring blend of size and skill and has especially soft hands around the net. If you know the tragic story with his Dad, you know he's built mentally tough too.

19. RW Garnet Hathaway 
  • Age - 23
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
  • Acquired - Signed as a free agent on April 13, 2015
  • Last Year - Adirondack AHL (72 gm, 19-17-36)
  • ETA - 2016-17
He's done it the hard way. Undrafted, earned an AHL-only deal at last year's development camp. Impressed in his first pro season to earn an NHL contract. He's older and his upside is limited but the team really likes the full package and he has a legit shot at becoming an effective bottom six player.

20. LW Andrew Mangiapane
  • Age - 19
  • Size - 5-foot-10, 170 lbs
  • Acquired - Drafted in 6th round (166th overall) in 2015
  • Last Year - Barrie OHL (68 gm, 43-61-104)
  • ETA - 2019-20
If the NHL game continues to evolve as it has recently with an emphasis on speed and skill, there may be room for a shorter but highly-talented player like Mangiapane. Development camp was my first glimpse of him in person and his creativity with the puck and vision on the ice was tremendous.

Honourable Mention - C Drew Shore, LW Pavel Karnaukhov, D Patrick Sieloff, D Keegan Kanzig, D Brett Kulak, LW Kenny Agostino


  1. This is great info Darren, thanks!

  2. I also agree this was great info but after the majority of training camp done now it will need updated sooner than later. This really is a deep talent pool of prospects considering the Flames are deep up on the big club right now.