Thursday, September 17, 2015

Flames Rookies Win 5-1 over U of C: Six Quick Thoughts on Six Prospects

On the eve of Flames main training camp getting underway, 20 Calgary prospects took to the ice at WinSport on Wednesday night with one more chance to make an impression.

Going up against the University of Calgary Dinosaurs, the Flames scored four times in the first period -- three goals coming in an 82-second span, and cruised to a 5-1 victory.

Here are some quick thoughts and player/coach reaction on six players that were in uniform in that game.


1. Pavel Karnaukhov

Big, lanky and smooth, the 6-foot-3 centre has been piling up the points lately, leading the way with two goals and one assist on this evening. Heck, it's only been one week of hockey but it could be argued that Pavel Karnaukhov has already had a more prolific career with the Flames than the great Andrei Taratukhin.

First, he made a slick set up to Kenney Morrison. Next, he snapped a shot into the low corner. Then he bowled his way through a couple of bodies into the slot and ripped another shot past the Dinosaurs goalie.

"I thought tonight was maybe his best game. He's been one guy that has consistently gotten better every game that he's played," said coach Ryan Huska. "He's the big centreman that everybody talks about. He skates well and he has a good skill set."

While he tried and did so with a smile, you sense Karnaukhov is not overly comfortable speaking English. He was asked if he would be nervous heading into main camps with stars like Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

"We'll see. I think so (nerves)," he said. "I don't know those guys, but I think it will be fun. I hope."

Coming off a 20-22-42 season in 69 games in his first year with the Calgary Hitmen, The Belarusian was the Flames fifth round draft pick in June.


2. Morgan Klimchuk

Playing in his third game, Morgan Klimchuk put Calgary ahead 2-0 with a perfect shot off a set up from Bill Arnold. That's goals in three straight games for Klimchuk, who seems to be getting better each game after being not very noticeable in the opener last Friday in Penticton in which his goal was an empty netter.

For one of the older prospects, the steady ramp-up is coming at the right time as he'll look to continue to get better in main camp starting today and show Flames management that he's ready to be assigned to the AHL this year instead of being returned to junior hockey.


3. Oliver Kylington

Maybe the bar has been set too high, a result of all the hype that accompanied him when many thought the Flames surely got the steal of the draft in June by plucking Oliver Kylington -- once considered a potential top-five pick -- 60th overall.

It's only been essentially two games but when you watch him, I find you're left wanting more. Oh, he's fast. But you sense he's also going to be a project. He finished a game-high plus-4 and had two assists but didn't impact the game as much as that would imply. On one of his helpers, it came after he got rocked at centre ice on one of his frequent rushes up the ice. The puck was scooped up by a teammate and Kylington was on the bench by the time the goal went in.

One observation is he skates backwards less than you think. When coming back, he seems to skate forwards a lot then turn at the last second. Maybe it doesn't matter, but it's different.

As a confident young man, perhaps he's been waiting for main camp and real NHLers to really make a statement so it's obviously far too early to judge now and there's been far too small of a sample. However, between Rasmus Andersson and Kylington, two Swedish defencemen drafted very close together. Andersson has demonstrated, so far, a far better all-round game and better hockey smarts.


4. Jon Gillies

Getting the start with Mason McDonald nursing a minor ailment, Jon Gillies looked like he was fighting the puck a little bit early. He mishandled one shot early, it fluttered high in the air and landed behind him but it was pulled off the line by a defenceman. Gillies was also aided by his goal posts once or twice.

In the end, he was perfect on nine shots faced in 40 minutes of action before being replaced to start the third period by Nick Schneider. Gillies finishes rookie camp with 54 saves on 56 shots in seven periods of action.

There was a brief scare in the late going in the second period as a U of C player coming off the wing and cutting hard to the net ended up crashing heavily into Gillies, who remained down for 30 seconds or so. The 6-foot-5 goalie looked like he was flexing his left leg afterwards but he was reportedly fine. Replacing him after two periods was already the plan going into the game.


5. Ryan Lomberg

Ryan Lomberg was once again noticeable. He's got a non-stop motor and he just scoots around out there with no real polished style but not really caring either. He hits guys, he's got a great shot -- he scored top corner (the only goal) in a five minute 3-on-3 demonstration that was held after the real game. He gets noticed.

"Every shift, you see the same thing from him. He's on pucks, he moves his feet all the time. He really works hard and that's something that really stands out every time you see him on the ice," Huska said. "For a guy we didn't know coming into this, he's impressed a lot of people."

There was one play that looked nearly identical to his desperate back-checking effort against the Oilers on Saturday. Against Edmonton when he hustled back hard to stop the breakaway and cleared the puck with a dive, he was called for a penalty shot. Last night, he swatted the puck away but this time did so without getting the skates of the player. It was a superb play.

If you watch him, he's built much like Scott Nichol and plays like him too. You'll remember the diminutive longtime NHLer, who scratched and clawed his way to 662 career games including two seasons with the Flames in the early 2000s. Lomberg is on an AHL deal for this season but if he continues to play how he has so far, he could very well earn a NHL deal a year from now.


6. Mason Marchment

The son of former NHLer Bryan Marchment, who was at rookie camp on a try-out, Mason Marchment has had an interesting career in that he's a late bloomer who also underwent a late and significant growth spurt.

In his OHL draft year, the forward was 5-foot-4 and not on anyone's radar. He was playing single A midget back in his hometown when he broke his ankle. In the approximately six to eight weeks he spent in a cast, he grew six inches. That's right, six inches in less than two months.

"A lot of sleep," said Marchment, with a smile, when asked what the secret was in sprouting up so quickly.

The next two years he played AAA midget in Ontario before moving on and playing one season of Junior A with Cobourg. Last year he went to Erie's camp and made the OHL team going 8-18-26 in 54 games in his first taste of major junior.

"He was good. You can tell he's another guy, who has some good puck smarts," said Huska, who also singled out Marchment for his impressive play on Monday in one game in Penticton, a night in which he played left wing with Karnaukhov and Klimchuk and set up the latter's goal.

"There was a few times tonight where you noticed his ability with the puck where he made some pretty good moves with his hands. I've been impressed with his offensive hockey smarts and the way he handles the puck," Huska said.


Can Never Have Enough Big Guys with Skill

Marchment says he would describe himself as a "skilled power forward".

"I've always been a little skilled guy, and then I grew. I like to think I kept my hands," he said. "I've got good vision. I like to pass the puck and I have a pretty good shot too."

You can tell his skating is a work in progress and that's understandable considering how much his body has changed. But he's been effective.

"My skating has come a long way. When I grew, I was a pretty sloppy skater. I just feel that every year I'm getting better and better and keeping up is getting easier," said Marchment. "When I grew and when I hit 6-foot-0, I was maybe 170. I was pretty skinny. So it's taken me a while to bulk up."

Now he towers over you at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds and he's very much a presence on the ice. He's an intriguing situation and we'll learn today if he's done enough to earn an invite to the Flames main camp. If not, know that the 20-year-old will attract the attention of some organization again next summer where he'll get more chances to try and get a pro hockey contract.



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