Thursday, September 22, 2016

Training Camp Primer: Ten Players to Watch from the 66 Attending Training Camp

As we let the sun go down on rookie camp, now the tune changes to Bennie and the vets.

Calgary Flames main training camp got underway Thursday with 62 of the 66 players -- 38 forwards, 21 defencemen and 9 goalies -- listed on the camp roster reporting for fitness testing at the Canadian Sport Institute at Winsport.

Then, starting on Friday, fans can follow the yellow brick road to the Saddledome where the players will hit the ice in three groups daily with each team named after past Flames greats Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski and Brad McCrimmon. Ice times for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm and all sessions are open to the public.

Groupings and who skates when is listed here on the Flames website.


To help you out and enlighten you to who's who in the zoo, here is a thorough primer to every player that is in town, trying to crack Calgary's season-opening 23-man opening roster.

To make it easier to digest, I've broken the 66 players into 10 groupings.


1. Excused for World Cup (4)

Participating in the World Cup of Hockey:
  • 3 - D Jyrki Jokipakka. (Finland)
  • 11 - C Mikael Backlund (Sweden)
  • 13 - LW Johnny Gaudreau (North America)
  • 67 - RW Michael Frolik (Czech)

Noteworthy

Mikeal Backlund's status is up in the air after he got rocked on Tuesday by a heavy open-ice body check by Finnish defenceman Sami Lepisto. Brad Treliving did confirm Thursday morning he does have a concussion.

"The good news? Right now, part of our medical team is in Toronto so they’re seeing him on a regular basis," said the Flames GM. "Reports back are he’s doing well. Like these injuries, he’s under the protocol. It’s a day-to-day situation we’ll monitor. Mikael will be staying there for the next couple days and we’ll come up with a plan after that.”

With their tournament now over, Michael Frolik and Jyrki Jokipakka are expected back in Calgary on the weekend. They will join the team on the ice shortly after.


Player to Watch

Obviously, all eyes will be on Johnny Gaudreau. Of course, the issue is all eyes will not be able to be on Gaudreau until he signs a new deal. The restricted free agent needs a new contract and until he gets one, he won't be spotted at the Dome.

"No update,” said Treliving, repeating the same response he’s been giving all summer. “We’ll continue to bang away at it. You hope for the best. We hope it’s going to get done and going to get done soon. Time will tell.”


2. Wounded (3)

Identified separately on the camp roster as "not skating" to begin camp are:
  • 15 - D Ladislav Smid (neck)
  • 23 - C Sean Monahan (back)
  • 74 - RW Daniel Pribyl (knee)

Noteworthy

Sean Monahan and Daniel Pribyl are both recovering from injuries. Monahan strained his back in August, forcing him to withdraw from the World Cup. Pribyl is coming off major knee surgery in the spring.

"He’s progressing, he’s doing well. We just want to be cautious with this," Treliving said about Monahan's condition. "So, he’s going to take the first couple days and continue with some individual work. We’ll get through the first little bit here — at least the first three preseason games. We’re looking at him (coming back) in the last three or four preseason games to prepare for the season."

He also gave an update on Pribyl.

"Danny’s been doing really good," said the GM. "His is just the calendar. I think he’s five months, post-op. He’s been skating on his own. He’ll go through his medical today. The guys are really encouraged where he’s at."

Player to Watch

Clarity has finally come on for Ladislav Smid as Treliving acknowledged the 30-year-old would not suit up this season. Smid has had two neck surgeries in the past and his season ended last year when he was hurt in that same area again. He is not retiring yet and he will spend the year on LTIR.

“Everybody knows Laddy’s been through a lot with his neck. We’ve talked pretty regularly over the course of the summer. He will not be playing this year," said Treliving. "He’s had a long history — physically, he’s not able to go. He’s been out here the last couple weeks with the guys, staying active. We’re going to look at Laddy doing some projects for us in the front office and maybe having some scouting assignments for him and integrating him. He won’t be participating on the ice.”

Smid spoke about his situation.

"It’s obviously hard,” said Smid. “But it’s not a decision we made overnight. We talked the whole summer. It wasn’t just me deciding it, it was doctors. I heard so many different opinions so we kind of made the decision together.”


3. Veterans on PTOs (6)

These are older players that have agreed to professional try-outs, who hope to impress enough to earn a contract for the 2016-17 season:
  • 8 - D Nicklas Grossman, 31, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs (13-73-86 in 589 gm with Dal, Phi, Ari)
  • 20 - LW Chris Higgins, 33, 6-foot-1, 205 lbs (165-168-333 in 711 gm with Mtl, NYR, Cgy, Fla, Van)
  • 21 - LW Lauri Korpikoski, 30, 6-foot-1, 193 lbs (78-103-181 in 540 gm with NYR, Ari, Edm) 
  • 42 - C Luke Adam, 26, 6-foot-2, 206 lbs (15-11-26 in 90 gm with Buf, Clb)
  • 48 - D Colby Robak, 26, 6-foot-3, 194 lbs (0-4-4 in 47 gm with Fla, Ana)
  • 55 - D Mikhail Grigoriev, 25, 5-foot-9, 179 bs (KHL)

Noteworthy

Five of the six players have NHL experience -- some with a little, some with a lot. Considering the Flames finished 30th in the league in penalty killing last year, it's not surprising that a theme with the two most notable forwards -- Chris Higgins and Lauri Korpikoski -- is that they both have been regularly deployed on the PK in their career. 

Two others -- Luke Adam and Colby Robak, are both second round draft picks from 2008. They have spent most of their careers in the minors. The mystery name we don't know is Mikhail Grigoriev, who has been playing in the KHL. He was a guy the scouts have liked and had on their list and as he was doing some training in Toronto, the invite went out and he accepted it.

Player to Watch

The guy with the best chance to earn himself a deal is Higgins. New coach Glen Gulutzan is very familiar with the veteran from his time in Vancouver. The Flames liked the speedy winger when he was with Calgary briefly in 2010. Having been bought out by the Canucks, he could be available for cheap and that is also a consideration.


4. Rookie Camp Invitee Holdovers (4)

These four got invites to come to rookie camp and did enough to earn an extended stay in Calgary:
  • 92 - D Aaron Hyman, 18, 6-foot-5, 225 lbs (1-2-3 in 38 gm with Calgary, WHL)
  • 94 - LW Brayden Burke, 19, 5-foot-11, 175 lbs (27-82-109 in 72 gm with Lethbridge, WHL)
  • 95 - C Mikkel Aagaard, 20, 5-foot-11, 180 lbs (24-29-53 in 64 gm with Niagara/Sudbury, OHL)
  • 96 - C Dennis Kravchenko, 22, 5-foot-9, 180 lbs (11-15-26 in 30 gm with U-Mass Amherst, NCAA)

Noteworthy

All four got into action in Penticton with Mikkel Aagaard drawing into all three games, Dennis Kravchenko playing twice, and the other two -- both eligible to return to their major junior teams -- getting one game apiece.

Player to Watch

Aagaard was the best of the bunch in Penticton and could have the best chance of landing a contract. Would it be an NHL contract? Seems unlikely, but an AHL deal could be in the offing. He is too old for junior now so is looking for a team to play on.

Aagaard captained Denmark's World Junior Championships team in 2015 and he got himself noticed in Penticton with some speed, some skill and he doesn't shy away from getting his nose dirty. Depth at centre in the minors is lacking so that could be his in.


5. AHL-Only Contracts (6)

These are players under contract to Stockton. They would play either in Stockton or Adirondack, which is the Flames ECHL affiliate:
  • 38 - RW Matt Frattin
  • 46 - RW Matt Bailey
  • 56 - LW Ryan Lomberg
  • 57 - C Mike Angelidis
  • 65 - LW Jamie Devane
  • 76 - D Roman Dyukov

Noteworthy

While Calgary retains the option of ripping their AHL-only contract and signing them to an NHL contract, that is very unlikely. More so, players like longtime Syracuse captain Mike Angelidis and speedy winger Matt Frattin -- who packs the most NHL experience of the bunch -- are brought in to provide some leadership and veteran stability to Stockton. The jump to the AHL that many will be making for the first time this season is a big one and these players are important to help Calgary's young prospects make the transition.

Player to Watch

Without question, the guy to keep your eyes on and he probably won't leave you with a choice is scrappy buzzsaw Ryan Lomberg, who was the talk of Penticton and for good reason. He is fast, he is feisty, he can score, he is relentless and he's a great story. He's also not very old at just 21, his situation being much different than the case with the others. Expect this Brad Marchand-esque play-a-like to make an impression with hopes that he can turn a big year with the Heat into an NHL deal next year, similar to the career path Garnet Hathaway took. 


6. Turning Pro (7)

Most of this group are Flames draft picks, who are expected to turn pro, leave major junior behind, and play in the minors this season:
  • 54 - D Rasmus Andersson
  • 60 - LW Brett Pollock
  • 72 - G Mason McDonald
  • 73 - D Keegan Kanzig
  • 77 - C Mark Jankowski
  • 80 - D Stepan Falkovsky
  • 88 - LW Andrew Mangiapane

Noteworthy

Six of the seven are Flames draft picks, which go back as far as 2012 in the case of Mark Jankowski or as recently as this past June with big Belarusian defenceman Stepan Falkovsky. The other, Brett Pollock, was a Dallas second rounder acquired in the Kris Russell trade.

It's not a lock they will play in Stockton though as depending on how they perform and overall numbers, some may end up in the ECHL. Mason McDonald is a candidate to go to Adirondack so he can be starter there and get lots of playing time, rather than be stuck as the back-up behind Jon Gillies. Falkovsky's situation is very much a mystery though. Where the seventh rounder will play in 2016-17 has not yet been decided. He played last year with Ottawa (OHL) but they're set at overagers as well as with imports.

Player to Watch

Jankowski is the guy that everyone will be anxious to see. Drafted 51 months ago, this is his first training camp and it will be interesting to see how he looks alongside some of the Flames young stars up the middle like Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, as well as a veteran like Matt Stajan. He's destined to play in Stockton this year but how quickly could he muscle his way into the picture up the middle? Seeing how he fares this camp and with inevitably some preseason games will provide an early indication.


7. Returning Minor Leaguers (12)

These are guys that played a majority if not all of last season in Stockton and will return there if they don't win an NHL job:
  • 25 - C Freddie Hamilton
  • 28 - RW Emile Poirier
  • 32 - G Jon Gillies
  • 45 - LW Morgan Klimchuk
  • 49 - LW Hunter Shinkaruk
  • 53 - D Kenney Morrison
  • 58 - D Oliver Kylington
  • 61 - D Brett Kulak
  • 62 - RW Austin Carroll
  • 63 - D Ryan Culkin
  • 64 - RW Garnet Hathaway
  • 71 - RW Hunter Smith

Noteworthy

Morgan Klimchuk was supposed to skate on the top line in Penticton with Matthew Tkachuk and Jankowski but tweaked a groin prior to the first game and ended up not playing at all. He is supposed to be ready to go again though and wants to re-establish himself as a two-way player after his offensive totals dried up last year. A bunch of these players saw short stints with the Flames last year with Garnet Hathaway (14 games) the most seasoned in that regards.

It was revealed late in the day on Thursday by CapFriendly that veteran of the group Freddie Hamilton had agreed to a two-year, one-way deal with an AAV of $612,500. While it may have seemed alarming at first that a 24-year-old journeyman with 33 NHL games would get a one-way, this does not mean he will be in Calgary. What it does mean for a team up against the cap is like the salary agreed to by Tyler Wotherspoon, his odds are better because he'll be cheap.

Hamilton's NHL AAV is over $100,000 less than what his NHL salary would have been had he accepted the Flames qualifying offer of $721,875. For the player, the advantage is he gets two years of term instead of one and is guaranteed that amount even if he is in the minors (similar to Joni Ortio's cheap one-way deal last year). As a good, reliable veteran minor leaguer, Hamilton could have commanded a big jump in his AHL salary anyway -- although certainly not to $600,000-plus, but some compromising going on from both sides. Also, remember that his salary does not count towards the cap if he is in the AHL.

Player to Watch

The clock is ticking on speedy right winger Emile Poirier. Entering his third pro season and fourth training camp, Poirier is coming off a disappointing year in which the 2013 first round pick took a step backwards. Last season got off to a bad start in Penticton and that seemed to cast a shadow over his entire year as he struggled offensively and never got back to the level he was at as a rookie. Can he put himself back on the radar or is his time with the organization running out? That's certainly one of the storylines to follow at camp.


8. Returning Veterans (11)

For the most part, these were all regulars on the Flames last season:
  • 5 - D Mark Giordano
  • 6 - D Dennis Wideman
  • 7 - D TJ Brodie
  • 17 - LW Lance Bouma
  • 18 - C Matt Stajan
  • 26 - D Tyler Wotherspoon
  • 27 - D Dougie Hamilton
  • 29 - D Deryk Engelland
  • 52 - LW Brandon Bollig
  • 79 - LW Micheal Ferland
  • 93 - C Sam Bennett

Noteworthy

I don't doubt Calgary would trade Dennis Wideman if they could find a taker but it's hard to believe he would be sought after given his huge $5.25 million price tag, even if the Flames did eat some salary. The guy most in jeopardy of being put on waivers and being buried in the minors is Brandon Bollig, who is in the final year of his contract. While a great guy in the room, does he do enough on the ice to be serviceable in a fourth line role in the current era of the NHL? Michael Ferland was always one of Bob Hartley's favourites. Where he fits in with Gulutzan will also be something to watch. He has an alluring set of tools, but consistency has been elusive. Sophomore centre Sam Bennett could be someone that thrives with the new coach.

Player to Watch

Opportunity is now for defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon. In his fourth year of pro hockey, Wotherspoon is waiver eligible now so to be sent to the minors, the 23-year-old needs to be exposed to the other 29 teams. It's up to him to make himself a player that Calgary is compelled to keep or at least show the rest of the league he's someone another team should take a chance on.

His 11 games last season was his best stint so far and his thrifty $625,000 NHL salary helps his odds of making the team given the Flames will be tight against the cap.


9. Veteran New Arrivals (6)

These players are new to the organization after a busy off-season:
  • 1 - G Brian Elliott
  • 10 - RW Linden Vey
  • 31 - G Chad Johnson
  • 36 - RW Troy Brouwer
  • 39 - RW Alex Chiasson
  • 40 - G David Rittich

Noteworthy

Everyone here are on one-way deals and will be in the NHL except for Linden Vey, who is on a two-way deal and is on the bubble. Czech free agent signing David Rittich will end up in the minors.

The two high-profile players here are obviously the two former Blues in Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott. Teammates on that St. Louis team that reached the Western final last year, they are now teammates once again in Calgary. 

Player to Watch

Considering how awful the Flames goaltending was last year, Brian Elliott is the guy to keep an eye on. Calgary was badly in need of a starter and Elliott is someone fully deserving of a starting gig after some superb years in St. louis, which for one reason or another, never seemed to earn him the playing time he deserved.

With Gillies still a couple years away, this is a golden opportunity for Elliott, who also needs a new contract after this season. How well he plays early could dictate how quickly an extension will be on the table and how likely it will be the Flames will be a legitimate playoff contender.


10. Returning to Junior (7)

For the one notable exception, these guys are all locks to return to major junior for another season:
  • 19 - LW Matthew Tkachuk
  • 47 - LW Matthew Phillips
  • 60 - LW Dillon Dube
  • 70 - G Nick Schneider
  • 75 - RW Eetu Tuulola
  • 82 - G Tyler Parsons
  • 98 - D Riley Bruce

Noteworthy

There were some great performances from this group at the Young Stars Classic. As documented in Monday's recap, centre Dillon Dube was excellent. I thought Eetu Tuulola had another decent showing and I really liked Memorial Cup-winning goaltender Tyler Parsons, who is a big fan of Jonathan Quick and is lightning quick in the net.

Player to Watch

From this group it will be all eyes on 2016 first rounder Matthew Tkachuk, who took Penticton by storm playing the type of get-under-your-skin game that will make him a hated man pretty much everywhere except for in Calgary, where he will be loved.

He plays with edge, intensity, but he's also highly skilled and his skating continues to improve. In my latest podcast, recorded while in Penticton, Flames TV host Ryan Leslie and I discussed Tkachuk at length so give that a listen for more intel and anecdotes on the son of longtime NHLer Keith Tkachuk. Could he make the Flames like Sean Monahan did three years ago? It's not expected but it wasn't expected with Monahan either. Once he gets in the line-up and he will get a lot of preseason action, I expect he'll make it hard on Calgary to take him back out of the line-up.



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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2 comments:

  1. The 2013 class of first round picks (exception Sean Monahan) has to make some sort of statement this year.. when the trades of Iginla and Bouwmister issued Calgary a harvest of picks in the first round of 2013 ie Klimchuk and Poirier and now Shinkaruk.. Will be watching those 3 closely to evaluate those trades back then...

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    1. The drop in certainty when you are picking outside the top 20 in the first round can be substantial so all along, between Monahan, Poirier and Klimchuk, a realistic expectation would be hoping two pan out. Now it may only end up being one, which would be a disappointment but all three should never have been an expectation. Addition of Shinkaruk but at the cost of what appears to be a fringe NHLer in Granlund changes that a little bit but again, based on acquisition cost, don't expect him to be a top line player on this team. Of those other three not named Sean Monahan, if one pans out into a legit top-nine forward, that should be the new goal if you ask me. Hope for more but realistically, one of those three so ultimately two of the four including Monahan is closer to reality.

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