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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eight From 80 Feet: Eight Random Thoughts After One Week of Training Camp

One week into main training camp and two weeks away from the season opener, here are eight thoughts on the latest goings-on with the Calgary Flames.

1. Rare Injury for Brodie

Calgary received some bad news Wednesday learning that key defenceman TJ Brodie would be sidelined week-to-week with a broken bone in his right hand, which for a left-shooter is the top hand on his stick. Leaving him in a brace, Brodie broke the fifth metacarpal, which is the bone attached to his right pinkie finger.

GM Brad Treliving said the recovery time should be between three and six weeks and if that turns out to be the case, expect him to miss as few as three regular season games or as many as 13.

While opening the season without him is disappointing for the team, it could have been worse. A six-week injury after the season is underway could cost a player as many as 20 games.

While Brodie told reporters on Wednesday he had never broken a bone before, it's not his first significant injury in his NHL career. The first was a concussion suffered in March 2012, which cost him the final 14 games of his rookie season.

He's been very durable since, missing only one game in each of the last three seasons with two of those for non-injury reasons. He was a healthy scratch in the opening game of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Last year, he was 'rested' in game No. 82 although later it was revealed he was playing through a sprained ankle the final month of the season.


2. Blue-Line Hiring Spree

With Ladislav Smid (surgery on a herniated disc in his neck) also expected to open the season on injured reserve, what Brodie's injury has done is not only doubled the quantity of jobs available on the blue-line but it has also changed the quality of jobs available.

When you're looking for a seventh defencemen behind six established players, young prospects generally aren't in that conversation. It's a role typically reserved more for an older journeyman-like player, who won't have their development stunted by spending lots of time in the press box.

But the situation has changed now. Now you're looking for a third pairing guy to open the season in the line-up. So while I'd suggest that Ryan Wilson, 28, and Jakub Nakladal, 27, were the leading candidates battling for that No. 7 job, there are a bunch more players that become viable options to consider when you start taking resumes for the No. 6 job.

It may be as simple as both Wilson and Nakladal make it now, but others vying to fill Brodie's spot would include Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak, both of whom were steady Monday night at the Saddledome. While I'd rank him behind those two, you could include Kenney Morrison in that mix also.

A long-shot yet another candidate given he can play up to nine NHL games without burning the first year of his contract is 18-year-old Rasmus Andersson, who was so impressive in Penticton and apparently looked just fine on Monday night in Edmonton.


3. Goaltender Idol Starts Tonight

Coming up on three games in three nights (at Colorado, vs. Vancouver, at Vancouver) and with three goalies competing to make the hockey team, I would not be surprised to see Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio each get in a full game in this next stretch.

We don't know if this will happen for sure although we do know Ortio will go the distance tonight in Denver. Coach Bob Hartley declared this yesterday.

Each of the three has made one appearance so far with each giving up one goal.
  • Karri Ramo (40 mins), 1.50 GAA, .952 SV% (21 shots)
  • Joni Ortio (30 mins), 2.00 GAA, .923 SV% (13 shots)
  • Jonas Hiller (29 mins), 2.07 GAA, .938 SV% (16 shots)

In terms of the quality of goal surrendered, it wasn't a very good one for Ramo or Hiller. Ortio's came on a perfectly executed two-on-one he had no chance on.


4. CBA Minimum requirements.

If you're Ortio, there are a couple of ways to look at tonight's game against the Avalanche. One is to look at the inexperienced group of defencemen that travelled to Denver and mutter, "WTF?"

The four pairings that made the trip are:

Ryan Wilson - Rasmus Andersson
Brett Kulak - Jakub Nakladal
Patrick Sieloff - Keegan Kanzig
Dustin Stevenson - Kenney Morrison 

Update: Sieloff-Kanzig pairing will not dress.


Combined, those eight players amassed four NHL games last season.

The other is to embrace the challenge before him, realize that he's probably going to be very busy, and just go for it. There certainly should be plenty of opportunity against an Avs line-up with so much talent up front to showcase himself.

In case you're wondering, there are minimum requirements written into the CBA that NHL teams must abide by with their line-ups for preseason games.


While Wilson is the only player that qualifies from that back end, eight of the 12 forwards Calgary brought to Denver count as "veterans" (in red) so the Flames line-up will be compliant, although barely.

Projected forward lines vs. Colorado:

Micheal Ferland - Matt Stajan - David Jones
Mason Raymond - Sam Bennett - Josh Jooris
Turner Elson - Markus Granlund - Derek Grant
Joe Colborne - Drew Shore - Brandon Bollig

Update: Initial reports had Emile Poirier playing right wing with Granlund and Elson but the projected line-up issued Thursday morning by the hockey club lists Grant in that spot


5. Making the Most of his ATO

When I saw the name Nick Schneider on the Flames rookie camp roster, I didn't bat an eye. While you knew Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald were the guys that would play, obviously the team would bring a third goalie as an emergency back-up so being there on an amateur try-out made sense.

When Schneider relieved Gillies and started the third period of the final game against Vancouver, again I wasn't surprised. I saw it as a nice way to thank the kid for helping the team out. However, my eyebrows did shoot up when right away, he acrobatically jabbed out his pad to rob Jared McCann on a two-on-none. His 20 minutes of work caught the eye of coach Ryan Huska and assistant GM Craig Conroy too, who after the game pointed out how well the kid had played.

It seems he wasn't done impressing. Taking on extra work last weekend with Gillies (concussion protocol) and Hiller (flu) out, he was on the ice a lot and sure enough, all that effort paid off as on Wednesday it was announced that the 18-year-old had signed an entry-level contract with the Flames.

The background on Schneider is he was ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the No. 9 goaltender in North America in their final 2015 draft rankings. However, he was not among the 24 goalies that got drafted. Calgary invited him to rookie camp on an ATO along with eight other players. The others have all since been released but Schneider survived and now he's assured himself that he'll be hanging around Flames development and rookie camps for years to come.

Born in Leduc, Schneider has played two seasons in the WHL. He broke in with Regina but was traded midway through 2013-14 to Medicine Hat. Last year with the Tigers, he posted a 15-7-1 record with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.

You can bet he'll be assigned to Medicine Hat soon and it's quite likely he plays the next two seasons there but clearly management liked what they saw from him the last couple weeks and he becomes a prospect to monitor moving forward. Chalk it up as a nice no-risk pick-up for Treliving in a year Calgary did not expend a draft pick on a goaltender.


6. Back to Barrie

On Tuesday, the Flames assigned 5-foot-10 spark plug Andrew Mangiapane to the Barrie Colts (OHL). Mangiapane more than doubled his point total last year with 104 points (43 goals, 61 assists) in 68 regular season games. He had 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists) the year prior. After a season in which he finished eighth in OHL scoring, it makes you wonder how many points the sixth round pick in June could amass this year. Is over 120 points possible?

It was a good camp for Mangiapane, who looked especially impressive in Penticton. Playing in his fourth game in six nights, I thought he looked tired in the exhibition game against the U of C last Wednesday and while he did well to earn himself an NHL preseason game, he reportedly struggled Monday night in Edmonton.

But he heads back to junior with his head held high as he certainly got himself noticed in his time in Calgary in demonstrating an electric skill set that makes him a real intriguing prospect to keep an eye on moving forward.

Interestingly, his coach in Barrie is Dale Hawerchuk, who was a sub-six-foot forward himself that enjoyed a phenomenal NHL career. Listed at 5-foot-11, Hawerchuk was picked first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1981. He went on to score 518 goals and rack up 1,409 points in his 1,188 NHL games. Not a bad guy for Mangiapane to learn from.


7. Thrilling 3-on-3 OT Coming Soon

The NHL team has identified 45 preseason games in which a five minute 3-on-3 overtime period will be held, regardless of the score after regulation. This gives each NHL team three games to get some practice in with the new format (in addition to any other games that end up tied and go to overtime ).

Calgary's three designated games are:
  • Friday, Sept. 25 vs. Vancouver
  • Saturday, Sept. 26 at Vancouver
  • Thursday, Oct. 1 at Winnipeg

I'm fascinated to see how Hartley deploys his trios in the extra period but given his penchant for having forward pairings that stay together, that would set up nicely with a mobile d-man to round out the group of three.

Here are four potential trios we could see come the regular season:

Monahan - Gaudreau - Giordano
Bennett - Hudler - Hamilton
Frolik - Backlund - Brodie
Byron - Jooris - Russell


Other candidates would include Joe Colborne, Mason Raymond, Lance Bouma, Micheal Ferland and Dennis Wideman.

From what we've seen so far, the new format promises to be very exciting and the way Calgary's defencemen are always activating anyway, I'd suggest the new format sets up nicely for the Flames.


8. Game On!

While we know the Flames get going on October 7 when the Canucks come to the Saddledome, the regular season for some prospects begins earlier than that, although that hinges on when they get cut from camp. Here's a rundown of when seasons begin for various teams that Calgary has (or will have) prospects playing for:

College
  • Providence College (Mark Jankowski, John Gilmour) - Friday, Oct. 9 at Miami (Ohio)
  • Michigan State (Matt DeBlouw) - Friday, Oct. 9 vs. Maine
  • Boston University (Brandon Hickey) - Saturday, Oct. 10 at Union
  • Brown University (Tim Harrison) - Saturday, Oct. 31 vs Holy Cross

Europe
  • Lokomotiv, KHL (Rushan Rafikov) - Season underway, is 0-0-0 in 6 gm
  • Djurgardens, SHL (Anders Ollas-Mattsson) - Season underway, hasn't played in a game yet.

Major Junior
  • Barrie, OHL (Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson) - Friday, Sept. 25 at Kingston
  • North Bay, OHL (Riley Bruce) - Friday, Sept. 25 vs. Peterborough
  • Charlottetown, QMJHL (Mason McDonald) - Season underway, team is 4-0-0
  • Brandon, WHL (maybe Morgan Klimchuk and/or Oliver Kylington) - Friday, Sept. 25 vs Swift Current
  • Calgary, WHL (Pavel Karnaukhov) - Friday, Sept. 25 at Kootenay
  • Medicine Hat, WHL (Nick Schneider) - Friday, Sept. 25 at Lethbridge

AHL
  • Stockton - Calgary's next-in-line prospects get going on Saturday, Oct. 10 vs. Rockford


By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.

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