Friday, September 11, 2015

Penticton 2015: Flames vs. Jets - Game Preview Featuring Agostino, Poirier and Mangiapane

It's the Flames and the Jets tonight to kick-off the 2015 Young Stars rookie tournament. To get you set up for the game, here is some pre-game reading in the form of six perspectives that I've split into Deep Thoughts and Quick Thoughts.

Deep Thoughts 

1. Agostino Looking to Stay Hot

Arriving in the dressing room Friday morning, Kenny Agostino got a pleasant surprise. He learned that in tonight's game against Winnipeg, he would be playing left wing on a line with Sam Bennett and Emile Poirier, who just happen to be the Flames top two prospects, according to my August ranking of the Top 20 Prospects.

"No complaints," said Agostino with a smile. "I'm excited to play with those two. They're both fast players, move the puck well and have a high skill level. I think we'll mix well together."

After four years at Yale, Agostino is in his second pro season. His first with Adirondack was one of adjustment, as is so often the case for rookies. But once he settled in and it came around the same time he was put on a line with Poirier, he lit it up pretty good. In fact, really good:
  • First 38 games: 4-8-12, average of 0.32 points-per-game
  • Final 29 games: 11-20-31, average of 1.07 points-per-game

"Once I got that opportunity midway through last year and I realized that I had the offensive instincts to excel in the AHL, my confidence took over and I played my best hockey," said the 23-year-old.

While those first few months of being a pro can be frustrating, the unfortunate part is there are no shortcuts. You have to go through the growing pains.

"You can't replace experience -- going through the process of Penticton last year, going through your first pro training camp, going through your first pro season. It's completely different than anything you had in college hockey," he said. "The game style is different. The way you carry about your business daily, you're a pro, and there are things you have to learn about that I really soaked in last year."

Agostino realizes his time to shine and make an impression starts tonight.

"Everyone says this is a prequel to training camp but for most guys here, especially guys in a position to push for a roster spot, training camp starts now. Once you got on that bike yesterday, you're under the microscope," he said. "I'm really looking to attack this training camp instead of just feeling it out."

2. Poirier Takes No. 28 Out For a Spin

The phone call came shortly after development camp this summer. It was the Flames offering Emile Poirier a new jersey number.

Perfectly fine with ditching his old training camp number of 57, Poirier gladly accepted the offer of No. 28. After all, he knew wasn't going to be able to get his old Gatineau number of 27 as it will be on the back of defenceman Dougie Hamilton.

"I said ya, it's alright, I am OK with it," Poirier said.

This development comes the same week that Micheal Ferland -- who also wore No. 27 in junior -- confirmed he was going to stick with No. 79. For Flames fans looking to buy a Poirier or Ferland jersey, it looks like you're good to go.

Poirier says he's excited to be spending this September on the ice and getting ready for the season. Last year he was recovering from shoulder surgery, which sidelined him from shortly after the season concluded until the end of October.

"I'm ready for it," said Poirier. "Last time I didn't have a chance to do this so this year, I'm going to take advantage of it and give it all I've got."

Poirier spent most of last season in the AHL, piling up 42 points (19 goals, 23 assists) in 55 games. He also got into six NHL games -- all of them on the road -- in which he had one assist in limited ice time.

He says when he makes it back to the NHL, he'll know what to expect.

"I know how it is now and I'll be more ready and I'll be less stressed," said Poirier. "That's just the way it is. First time, it's always a learning process. Same thing from the AHL to the NHL. When you come back, it's always better."

He says he also got good advice after his stint with the big team, feedback which came in his native tongue.

"All the coaching staff up there helped me a lot. Plus they're all from Quebec too so they spoke to me in French so that was nice."

3. Mangiapane Begins at Right Wing

His whole life, Andrew Mangiapane played centre. But that changed once he reached the OHL where Barrie coach Dale Hawerchuk shifted him to the wing.

His two seasons with the Colts have been spent mostly on the wing, splitting his time between the left and right side. Despite shooting left, Mangiapane -- much like Poirier -- says he prefers the right side.

"They both have their advantages and their disadvantages, but I like the off-side a little bit more," he said. "It gives you more options going in off the rush. You're opening up to the middle so you can cut in or take a shot,"

Last season, he shifted back and forth depending on who he played with. Brendan Lemieux plays left wing so when Mangiapane was on that line, he played right wing. It was the opposite when he lined up beside right-winger Kevin Labanc.

Mangiapane may have a little extra jump tonight in that he's already piled up six points in three preseason games with Barrie. "Just trying to get my legs underneath me. Get some chemistry with the new teammates. It went OK," he said.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Mangiapane was Calgary's sixth round pick in June. He finished eighth last year in OHL scoring with 104 points (43 goals, 61 assists) in 68 games.

"I'm looking forward to trying to show my stuff to the organization, it's their first time seeing me in competitive game mode," said Mangiapane.

A takeaway when you watch Mangiapane is while not very big, he is a very skilled player, who can handle the puck in traffic and has the ability to make something out of nothing. It's not a fair comparison but you do see elements of Johnny Gaudreau.

"There are more smaller players now in the NHL that are making a bigger impact. That gives me a little bit more confidence that I can make it too," said Mangiapane.

He's playing alongside another one tonight in Tyson Baillie, the 5-foot-10 high-scoring centre from the Kelowna Rockets in camp on a try-out. Big Bryce Van Brabant will play left wing on that line.

Quick Thoughts

1. Catching up with this Buddies

Against the Jets, Bill Arnold will centre a line with Morgan Klimchuk and Austin Carroll. In a way, playing with a big point producer on left wing and a big guy that can score on right wing is a little like how his final season at Boston College went when Arnold centered Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes.

With Gaudreau and Hayes going straight to the NHL, Arnold says that's motivation for him.

"I'm so happy for both of them. It's a blast to be ble to turn the TV on and see them tearing it up. It's really cool and it goes give me motivation, because that's my end goal," Arnold says. "I want to be doing what they're doing and I know I can do that and I look forward to proving that."

2. Getting the Jump on his Teammates

After an impressive NHL debut last season -- after spending much of the season injured, Sam Bennett is viewing rookie camp as an opportunity to get off to a quicker start than the other veteran Flames he'll be battling with in terms of roster positioning and responsibilities.

"This is huge. To be get in some games, I'll have an advantage over all the players on Calgary that can't play in these games right now," Bennett said.

As you'll recall, Bennett didn't play a game last year until Feb. 25 with Kingston. After piling up 24 (11 goals, 13 assists) in 11 regular season games, he joined the Flames after the Frontenacs lost in the first round of the playoffs and was a fixture in Calgary's line-up in the post-season.

3. Staying on that Upwards Trajectory

With his dark black beard, hulking 6-foot-7 Hunter Smith looks like a 10-year NHL veteran. Instead, he's not even a pro -- yet. But the 2014-15 Memorial Cup champion says he's ready to make the jump to the AHL.

"Obviously it was a short summer but it was a sweet summer and I think I got a lot accomplished," said Smith, acknowledging that his fitness results on Thursday all improved.

Also improving significantly over the last few years has been his offensive production in the OHL (stats below include playoffs):
  • 2011-12 and 2012-13: 1-0-1 in 50 gm
  • 2013-14: 19-32-51 in 76 gm
  • 2014-15: 32-35-67 in 78 gm

"That's a huge reflection of the work I've put in but there's still a lot of jumps that need to be made. It's not done yet and there's a lot of hard work ahead."

Smith will play right wing on a line with Ryan Lomberg (on an AHL contract) on left wing. Centering the line will be Pavel Karnaukhov, fifth round draft pick from the Hitmen.

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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