Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ranking the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects (July 2016 Edition)

Where the heck did all these kids come from?

At risk of sounding like a grouchy old man at a resort overrun by young people, quantity was the predominant theme when compiling my latest ranking of the Flames Top 20 Prospects. Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, United States, Canada... there are kids everywhere.

Having just made nine picks at the draft, add in a couple free agent signings from Europe and suddenly Calgary has a larger than usual pool of prospects, or so it seems. It made the process of compiling a top 20 just a little more difficult this time around.

By my calculations, 38 players in the Flames organization meet my criteria for being a prospect. In fact, technically the number is 40. However, 2012 seventh rounder Matt DeBlouw and 2013 seventh rounder John Gilmour -- both having just completed their fourth year of college -- are not going to be signed and will become free agents on August 15.

It's because of the sheer numbers that I couldn't find a spot for diminutive 2016 sixth rounder Matthew Phillips, or 2014 second rounder Brett Pollock, acquired in the Kris Russell trade (one wonders how much quality the Stars would give up for a Russell rental). Goaltender Nick Schneider is another guy that didn't even crack the list of honourable mentions. Second-year pros Austin Carroll and Hunter Smith are also conspicuously absent.


This the third edition of the bi-annual rankings, which is a laborious exercise but also one that is a ton of fun.

Over time, these snapshots in time of the state of the organization's prospect cupboard will provide a nice way of tracking players as they rise and fall on the depth chart.

Since the last edition came out, much has happened. There have been trades -- players moving out, prospects and/or draft picks moving in. The second half of the season as well as the playoffs took place. Earlier in July we got a chance to see most of the prospects including eight of the new newest draft picks hit the ice at development camp.

Definition of "Prospect"

If you look at other hockey publications and websites, there are different definitions for "prospect". Some have age maximums, some exclude players once they're no longer considered an NHL rookie. My criteria is simple and comes down to two things:
  • Age 25 or under for skaters (age 26 or under for goalies)
  • Has not established himself as a NHL regular

For my rankings (and I explain this in greater detail in my Monday Top 20 Prospects sneak preview on Sportsnet960 ), note that this is not the order I expect players to ascend to the NHL. In other words, this is not a chronological list. In fact, the estimated time of arrival (ETA) is a non-factor. The two things I take into consideration are: 1. Likeliness to make the NHL, 2. Projected impact if they make it.

Grads and Departures

This time around and it's not unusual for the off-season edition, nobody from the January prospect listing has graduated from the list. A few have moved on but not for the reason Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland moved on, four players from the last top 20 have exited the organization:
  • No. 10 - Markus Granlund (traded to Vancouver)
  • No. 12 - Derek Grant (signed with Buffalo as a free agent)
  • No. 16 - Bill Arnold (free agent)
  • No. 18 - Joni Ortio (free agent)

With four spots opened up, and lots of other changes also, here we go.

Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects - July 2016

1. LW Matthew Tkachuk (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 18
  • Size | 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 1st round (6th overall) in 2016
  • Last Season | London OHL (57 gm, 30-77-107)
  • ETA | 2016-17
Having Tkachuk fall to No. 6 was huge for the Flames, who get the ideal fit they wanted in a smart, skilled, physical winger, who plays with an edge. Had eight points in four games at the Memorial Cup and was 20-20-40 in 18 OHL playoff games. Once he gets in the line-up, he may never come out.

2. G Jon Gillies (previously 1st, 5th)
  • Age | 22
  • Size 6-foot-6, 235 lbs
  • Acquired | Drafted in 3rd round (75th overall) in 2012 
  • Last Season | Stockton AHL (7 gm, 2-3-1, 2.31 GAA, .920 SV%)
  • ETA | 2018-19
After a superb showing in Penticton, Gillies got off to a terrific start with two shutouts in his first three games with Stockton. However, still bothered by an injury originally suffered two years earlier, he underwent season-ending hip surgery in November. Fully recovered now, he's raring to go.

3. D Rasmus Andersson (previously 2nd, 6th)
  • Age | 19
  • Size | 6-foot-1, 215 lbs
  • Shoots | Right
  • Acquired | Drafted in 2nd round (53rd overall) in 2015
  • Last Season | Barrie OHL (64 gm, 9-51-60)
  • ETA | 2017-18
Andersson followed up a strong Flames camp with another stellar year leading all OHL d-men in scoring in the regular season and playoffs. Ready to turn pro, Andersson's sub-par conditioning got him called out by the GM at development camp, but that's fixable though. He remains a major talent.

4. D Oliver Kylington (previously 6th, 7th)
  • Age | 19
  • Size 6-foot-0, 185 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired Drafted in 2nd round (60th overall) in 2015
  • Last Season | Stockton AHL (47 gm, 5-7-12), Calgary (1 gm, 0-0-0)
  • ETA | 2018-19
As a young man in the AHL, his defensive game grew a lot last year with his commitment to getting better the key. Spent much of the year quarterbacking Stockton's PP. His electric skating that enables him to jump into the rush and still be first man back is TJ Brodie-esque. He's right there with Andersson.

5. C Mark Jankowski (previously 8th, 15th)
  • Age | 21
  • Size | 6-foot-4, 205 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 1st round (21st overall) in 2012 
  • Last Season | Providence NCAA (38 gm, 15-25-40), Stockton AHL (8 gm, 2-4-6)
  • ETA | 2018-19
Will the much-maligned draft pick from 2012 actually pan out? As a senior, led PC to a terrific season while enjoying his best year offensively. Then had a productive few weeks in Stockton. Big and skilled, looks better and better every time you see him. Needs time but a solid two-way centre in the making.

6. LW Hunter Shinkaruk (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 21
  • Size | 5-foot-11, 180 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Trade with Vancouver   
  • Last Season | NHL (8 gm, 2-1-3), AHL (62 gm, 27-24-51)
  • ETA | 2017-18
Embraced a trade to his hometown by going 6-6-12 in 17 games in Stockton, then getting promoted to Calgary where the speedy winger was 2-1-3 in 7 games. Loves to score goals and is willing to take a pounding to get to those dirty areas. Could find a home in the top-six. Why did Vancouver unload him?

7. D Brandon Hickey (previously 3rd, 4th)
  • Age | 20
  • Size | 6-foot-2, 195 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 3rd round (64th overall) in 2014 
  • This Season | Boston University (36 gm, 5-3-8)
  • ETA | 2019-20
Back to college for year three, Hickey remains bunched with Andersson and Kylington as the Flames top D prospects. Last year he added the experience of playing for Canada at the World Juniors. He is a smooth skater, who does a lot of things well. We'll see if his offensive numbers bounce back this year.

8. LW Andrew Mangiapane (previously 9th, 20th)
  • Age | 20
  • Size | 5-foot-10, 180 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 6th round (166th overall) in 2015
  • This Season | Barrie OHL (59 gm, 51-55-106)
  • ETA | 2018-19
Late bloomer that overcame being snubbed in the OHL draft, the uber-talented winger put up big numbers once again with the kind of gaudy stats typically associated with first and second round picks. Stood out at rookie camp with his playmaking abilities. Time to see how he fares in the AHL.

9. G Tyler Parsons (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 18
  • Size | 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
  • Acquired | Drafted in 2nd round (54th overall) in 2016
  • This Season | London OHL (49 gm, 37-9-3, 2.33 GAA, .921 SV%)
  • ETA | 2020-21
Lost on that powerhouse Knights team was the guy at the back, who was also great. His .921 regular season SV% was second best and his .925 in the playoffs was tops. Calgary did not plan on drafting a goalie early but they had him ranked high. When he was still there late second, they had to do it.

10. RW Emile Poirier (previously 4th, 2nd)
  • Age | 21 
  • Size 6-foot-2, 195 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 1st round (22nd overall) in 2013
  • This Season | Stockton AHL (60 gm, 12-17-29), Calgary (2 gm, 0-0-0)
  • ETA | 2017-18
Season got off to a bad start with a poor Penticton and that carried into main camp. In a disappointing year, Poirier never got it going. Talent is still there if he can get back to using his speed and playing a little surly but must show some urgency as patience with the once prized prospect is surely wearing thin.

11. C Dillon Dube (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 18 
  • Size 5-foot-11, 182 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 2nd round (56th overall) in 2016
  • This Season | Kelowna WHL (65 gm, 26-40-66)
  • ETA 2019-20
Isn't very big but has good speed and plays with a lot of confidence. Has a real soft set of mitts and a dangerous shot he can seemingly put wherever he wants. Having just turned 18, he's a long way away but he packs a lot of potential. Will attend Canada's World Junior summer camp this weekend.

12. D Tyler Wotherspoon (previously 13th, 11th)
  • Age | 23
  • Size | 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 2nd round (57th overall) in 2011 
  • This Year | Stockton AHL (53 gm, 2-8-10), Calgary (11 gm, 0-1-1)
  • ETA | 2016-17
A make it or break it year for Wotherspoon. A frequent call-up his first three seasons, being waiver-eligible now means he should be in Calgary to stay. If he plays like he did late last year, he should be a key contributor. His game turned around after Ryan Huska healthy scratched him for a game in January.

13. RW Daniel Pribyl (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 23 
  • Size 6-foot-3, 216 lbs
  • Shoots | Right
  • Acquired | Signed as a free agent
  • This Season | Sparta Praha CZECH (45 gm, 16-29-45)
  • ETA 2017-18
Brad Treliving said Pribyl reminded him in some ways of longtime NHLer Robert Lang. He is a big guy that likes to be a playmaker but isn't afraid to shoot either. Major knee surgery may result in him starting in the AHL but second in Czech scoring last year, he could be up with Calgary before long.

14. LW Morgan Klimchuk (previously 7th, 9th)
  • Age | 21
  • Size | 6-foot-0, 185 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 1st round (28th overall) in 2013
  • This Year | Stockton AHL (55 gm, 3-6-9)
  • ETA | 2018-19
Klimchuk's first pro season was a struggle offensively. How bad was it? Went the final 33 games without a goal. While Huska praised his all-around game and warned that his stat line was misleading, bottom line is three goals for a goal-scorer makes for some mental baggage. Has the ability to bounce back.

15. D Adam Fox (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 18 
  • Size 5-foot-10, 185 lbs
  • Shoots | Right
  • Acquired | Drafted in 3rd round (66th overall) in 2016
  • This Season | U.S. NTDP USHL (25 gm, 5-17-22)
  • ETA 2021-22
Flames were giddy to get this smooth-skating, puck-moving d-man where they got him in round 3. He was a stud on the blueline for the U.S. national development team. Is in the mix to be part the U.S. World Junior team. Off to Harvard in September, his alluring skill set makes him a player to watch.

16. G Mason McDonald (previously 9th, 3rd)
  • Age | 20
  • Size | 6-foot-4, 200 lbs
  • Acquired | Drafted in 2nd round (34th overall) in 2014 
  • This Year | Charlottetown QMJHL (39 gm, 21-15-3, 3.33 GAA, .902 SV%)
  • ETA | 2020-21
It was an uneven season for McDonald. While making Canada's World Junior team was a nice accomplishment, he didn't play well and as a result didn't play much. His QMJHL season was also a struggle at times before he turned it on late. Expected to turn pro this summer and is likely bound for the ECHL.

17. D Brett Kulak (previously 11th, honourable mention)
  • Age | 22
  • Size | 6-foot-2, 187 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 4th round (105th overall) in 2012 
  • This Year | Stockton AHL (59 gm, 3-14-17), Calgary (8 gm, 0-0-0)
  • ETA | 2017-18
Making the season-opening roster last season was a great accomplishment, considering he was in the ECHL for a long time the previous year. Has size, can skate, and can also move the puck. Is not bad defensively either. Should get in more NHL games this season and could become a regular by next year.

18. RW Eetu Tuulola (not previously ranked)
  • Age | 18 
  • Size | 6-foot-2, 227 lbs
  • Shoots | Right
  • Acquired | Drafted in 6th round (156th overall) in 2016
  • This Season | HPK Jr. A FIN (29 gm, 9-5-14), HPK FIN (10 gm, 0-1-1)
  • ETA 2020-21
Tuulola's size is the first thing that stands out, but watch him closely and you'll see that this self-described Milan Lucic-like power forward has an intriguing assortment of other talents too including some very soft hands. His scoring barrage in the scrimmage made him the talk of development camp.

19. RW Garnet Hathaway (previously 17th, 19th)
  • Age - 24
  • Size - 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
  • Shoots - Right
  • Acquired - Signed as a free agent on April 13, 2015
  • This Year - Stockton AHL (44 gm, 8-13-21), Calgary (14 gm, 0-3-3)
  • ETA - 2016-17
Made his NHL debut on Feb. 29 and instantly became a fan favourite with his insatiable desire to throw his weight around, be a you-know-what disturber and just get himself noticed. Hathaway even brought his energy to the No. 1 line for a few games, although a fourth role is likely where his future lies.

20. D Adam Ollas Mattsson (previously 19th, not ranked)
  • Age | 19
  • Size | 6-foot-4, 210 lbs
  • Shoots | Left
  • Acquired | Drafted in 6th round (175th overall) in 2014 
  • This Year | Djurgardens SWE (22 gm, 1-3-4)
  • ETA | 2020-21
Ollas Mattsson loves to play physical and he reminded several players of that at dev camp. With one year to go on his contract in Sweden, he could arrive in North America by next summer. Playing with men in a very good Swedish league is good for him, so was playing in last year's World Juniors.

Honourable Mentions:

D Ryan Culkin (previously 15th, 13th) - Was rising fast when injuries struck.
C/RW Linden Vey (not previously ranked) - Putting off-ice issues behind him.
C Linus Lindstrom (not previously ranked) - Top scorer in Swedish junior.
C/LW Pavel Karnaukhov (previously 14th, honourable mention) - In the KHL.
G David Rittich (not previously ranked) - Raw skills excite Flames goalie coach.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Do so now! It's another way to be alerted to new Calgary stories I've written, other articles from my colleagues I enjoyed and I'll also sometimes use that space to weigh in on the news of the day.


  1. Great list. This is a big year for the organization's prospects, with many of the higher-end prospects moving on to the next level of competition. We'll know a lot more in 6 months which players (those in the top 10 in particular) will be pushing for jobs in 2017, which in my mind is when the Flames' window to compete really opens.

    1. I think you're bang-on with the 'window to win' and you're right, there will be movement. Who will surprise? Who will disappoint? If only we knew that now. Looking forward to next season getting going! Thanks for the note.

  2. Great read. I'm surprised Phillips didn't get an honourable mention though.

    1. He was right there in the discussion, for sure. I gave him lots of love in development camp and I'm pulling for him because he's a local kid, played out of the same rink as my kid, the odds are stacked against him due to his size, plus he's an entertaining player, for sure.

      Wouldn't surprise me if he pops up on this list in January but for now, given he went so late in the draft and this is knowing how effective Gaudreau has been as a 'small guy', it seems that every GM around the league says he won't make it. So I'm going to temper the expectations for now but if he torches the WHL again next season, let's get him on there somewhere!

  3. I am hoping Andrew Mangiapane gives the Flames' brass something to think about during training camp. I really like the kid.

    1. Wasn't that long ago he went undrafted in the OHL's bantam draft. It's bit quite a trajectory. He needs to play at the next level and there is zero reason to rush him past that level (the AHL) to get him to the NHL this soon. Considering the struggles in the AHL offensively that Klimchuk had and even Austin Carroll also, we'll see how that jump goes as that could tell us a lot.

  4. Thanks as always--love reading your work, and "honorable mentions" for your new podcasts (keep them going!!).
    Mangiapane and Phillips are really intriguing picks, and I'm hopeful they turn out well.
    Where where a couple places on this list that you struggled with ordering? It seems like #3 and #4 maybe?
    Also, you mention Tkachuk being on (potentially) on the team this coming season. Do you think he'll get the invite for the first nine or less games, to really evaluate his fit (on any line)??
    Thanks again, great insight as always.

    1. Touched on Phillips above. Love the player, not brimming with confidence he will make the NHL due to his size, he makes Gaudreau look like a giant, and can he fight through defence to get to the net, and win puck battles, etc? It's asking a lot and no GMs think he will thrive given he went late in the sixth round.

      Andersson and Kylington are really close for me. I'm interested to see them on the same team next year as that will help me lean one way or another come January when the mid-season rankings come out.

      I would be surprised if Tkachuk doesn't get at least a look with Calgary to start the year. If Vey and Chiasson are playing well and Hathaway has a strong camp, the vets could claim the open jobs, resulting in Tkachuk going back for another year as there is no harm in that. However, it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a few games, is one of the better players, and they just can't take him out again because he quickly becomes a relied-upon player.

  5. 3 Goalies rank in the top 20. This is an exciting time for Flames fans as it wasn't long ago we had ZERO top Goalie prospects. Can't argue with your choices except one- I'd swap Janko and Shink - Shink is already at the NHL level pretty much. Though if Janko sees a big team game or two they'd likely slot even. Great Job.

    1. Thanks for the note. If you heard the broadcast when the list was rolled out with Ryan Pinder on the radio, he disagree strongly with my placement of goalies but again, my philosophy is I go by what they have the potential to do and not just 1-in-a-1000 chance but I also weigh the likeliness that they make it. I understands it's tough to know with goalies but you still can't punish Parsons and rank him 15th, etc. My sense is he was Calgary's top ranked goalie so I need to recognize that.

  6. Get a picture of Shinkaruk without that dirty Canucks jersey on. Other than that , love the hockey talk in July .

    1. Ha ha. That has been common feedback. The team does these photoshoots in Sept at main camp and at development camp for prospects. Shinkaruk has not been to either with the Flames yet so a replacement photo is coming, but you'll have to wait until September or October. Just squint your eyes and it's not too bad.

  7. I think you have underestimated Eetu 2 lolo! He is right up there with Matthew and certainly before Poirier simply because of attitude and heart

    1. I hope you're wearing your seatbelt because I'm going to need you to pump the brakes a bit on the 6th round Finn and I don't want you to fly through the window!

      Maybe it will be some 6th round magic for Treliving but I'm going to wait until I see him in 'actual' games in the WHL next year (and in Penticton at rookie tournament) before setting the bar unrealistically high on this guy. But I love your enthusiasm and consider your opinion as "on the record" for future reference. Cheers.

  8. Love the summer content, and the pod cast, maybe not so much your chose for co host on the last one. After all I cant speak for everyone, but I’m listening because I value your opinions. I do think you need a co host as it is hard to have a conversation with just one person, but perhaps one with less experience filling air space with empty banter. Also may I suggest that as there is less current news at this time of year it would be a perfect time to examine prospects in greater detail not just against others in the Flames system, but as they stack up league wide. It would be interesting to know for example which organization has an abundance of Rws. Who has the best prospects at D, and how do the Flames measure up.

    A bit confused why Brett Pollock didn’t make this list. 72 games 30g and 48a for 78 points. How did Dillion Dube with similar all be it slightly lower numbers rank 11th? Do you see a problem with Pollock?

    Thx for the help getting through the off season.

    1. Thank you. By "last one" are you referring to Pinder on this Top 20 Prospects roll-out 'broadcast' done on Sportsnet960 or with Kerr? Co-host thing is my plan although perhaps not every time. Sometimes, I just want to snap one off on my own timeline and that's easier to arrange, especially in the summer. I'd rather do one solo than go a long period without one, due to unavailability of my preferred co-host, etc.

      Looking league-wide at prospects in other organization is a great idea but to be honest, I'd be lying if I knew the prospect bases for the other 29 teams nearly as well as Calgary. That's just not my focus. I could pour time into that to be able to speak comparatively on a league-wide basis but my audience is (mostly) very Flames-centric so not sure if that investment of time would be worth it. Interesting idea though.

      As for Pollock, my sense just from discussions I've had is that he isn't regarded as a high-end prospect, which is why he was included in a deal for a rental of Kris Russell alongside a potential 1st round draft pick and an established NHLer in Jokipakka. If he was an 'A' prospect, he's not in that deal. For me, I'd like to see him in the organization more. Penticton will be a nice opportunity to view him in game situations. There are attributes one should like but like Hunter Smith, also a second round pick, my gut for now is that there others with higher upside including Dube. But six months from now when I update the list, we'll see where he lands. Cheers.

    2. Hi Darren I was referring to the show you did with Rob Kerr. Different combinations of people seem to work to different effect. I enjoy Kerr with Boomer, they work well off one another. I enjoy your conversations with Pinder, but you, and Rob didn’t seem to have a great flow. Thx for the input on Pollock; its difficult to know where a player ranks just looking at the stats, and I did think we robbed Dallas in that trade. So I was left wondering.

    3. It's such a subjective thing. Others thought it went great. I've known Rob for years and thought it was fine and while we haven't done much on-air, I think chemistry comes with familiarity. Kerr and Boomer used to work together. Anyway, good feedback, thanks again.