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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Training Camp Update: One Week In, Breaking Down Who's in and Who's on the Bubble

Training camp 2016. (Photo by Rob McMorris)

The Flames made 11 cuts on Wednesday, which leaves the number of players in camp -- or at least listed on the training camp roster (looking at you, Johnny Gaudreau) -- at 49 with a breakdown of 27 forwards, 17 defencemen and 5 goaltenders.

Factoring in the guys coming back from injury like Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund and Daniel Pribyl and the before-mentioned absentee and the 40 or so skaters remaining is small enough to get the number of practice groups down to two now, after being three up until now.  They will practice at the Saddledome at 10:30 am and 12:00 pm today. One last session will be good for raspy coach Glen Gulutzan, whose voice started abandon him on Sunday and was almost gone by Monday night's opening game.

Of those remaining, that includes a bunch have no real shot at making the team. But with Stockton's training camp not starting until Monday, guys like Matt Frattin, Roman Dyukov, Austin Carroll, Hunter Smith and Ryan Lomberg will get the benefit of a few more organized ice times at the Saddledome.

Those demoted to the AHL already, a list that is nine players deep, those guys will head to California and get ready. Some will drive, some will fly, and there is ice time booked daily out there for them to informally get together as a small group and keep the legs moving before Ryan Huska and his coaching staff arrive and get things going next week.

Earlier in the week in this piece, I looked specifically at five training camp battles. For example, who will play right wing on the top line? Who will line up beside Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer? Who will play with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik?

Today, I take a step back and examine in general, how many roster spots are available and who is on the bubble, fighting for those spots.


Forward

Locked and Loaded (7)

Much like when you put together a puzzle at home, you start with the edge pieces that are easier and more certain and fill in the rest afterwards, we'll take the same approach here. Here are the pieces that not only do we know will be on the team but we also know with virtual certainty where they will slot.
  • LW Johnny Gaudreau
  • C Sean Monahan
  • C Sam Bennett
  • RW Troy Brouwer
  • C Mikael Backlund
  • LW/RW Michael Frolik
  • C Matt Stajan

Tentative Configuration

Gaudreau - Monahan - _______
_______ - Bennett - Brouwer
_______ - Backlund - Frolik
_______ - Stajan - _______


Noteworthy

Of course, one could put an asterisk on Gaudreau given he's unsigned and the possibility looms that he could still be in that situation when the season begins, but given this is more of a 'bigger picture' look, I'm going to pencil him in.

The Flames top nine consists of three pairings that at this point are expected to be a thing. Gaudreau-Monahan and Backlund-Frolik have a history of success together. Brouwer-Bennett is obviously new but Gulutzan is determined to try them together and the first test drive on Monday could not have gone much better.

With Stajan, he could see some time on the wing this year and will likely see time in the press box too, but more often than not, I would expect him to centre the fourth line.


Locked (3)

There are guys that I view as certainties to be on the roster on opening night, but I'm just not sure where they'll draw in in terms of first line, fourth line, or somewhere inbetween.
  • LW/RW Micheal Ferland
  • LW Lance Bouma
  • RW Alex Chiasson

Noteworthy

Ferland has been deployed on the right side frequently so I see him as the more logical guy to play his off-wing if necessary. Bouma is looking for a bounce-back season and while his success two seasons ago came alongside Backlund, the fourth line is just as likely of a landing spot.

As for Chiasson, I'm not sure yet what to expect although he's been an NHL regular the last few years so I'd expect him to be on the roster come October 12. I'm just not prepared to pencil him into the starting 12 just yet.


Bubble (11 for 4 spots)

There are guys more likely and less likely to make the team on this list and I've loosely listed them in order from most likely to least likely based on what I've seen/heard so far. Obviously, there could be a fifth spot available temporarily if No. 13 remains absent.

There are guys in camp still but not on this list. Morgan Klimchuk is one example. It's just not his time yet.
  • C/RW Freddie Hamilton - On a one-way, can play multiple positions/roles
  • LW Chris Higgins (PTO) - Could help PK but does he still have enough game at age 33.
  • LW Lauri Korpikoski (PTO) - See above, although the speedy Finn is three years younger.
  • RW Garnet Hathaway - Cheap AAV will helps his odds, brings energy, ideal 4th liner.
  • C/RW Linden Vey - Can score, play multiple positions, plenty of NHL experience
  • LW Brandon Bollig - Good in the room but does he do enough outside of it to stick.
  • LW Hunter Shinkaruk - Waiver exempt still, a bit more AHL seasoning might be best
  • LW Matthew Tkachuk - No need to rush him, but possible fill-in if Gaudreau sits.
  • RW Daniel Pribyl - Not skating yet, so likely starts in AHL to get game-ready
  • RW Emile Poirier - Coming off poor AHL season, but in third year as a pro
  • C Mark Jankowski - No need to rush him, continue his development path in the AHL

Noteworthy

While I have Higgins and Korpikoski both ranked fairly high, I don't necessarily see both getting a contract. It could be one or the other. They'll need to show they've still got some game but you sense Gulutzan would like to add a veteran to provide a bit more experience to a very youthful line-up.

Hamilton could be a valuable player to have on the roster given he can center or the wing and could also slot in in a variety of roles. He could play RW on the top line, or he could centre the fourth line.

With his new two-year, one-way deal in his back pocket, Hamilton has looked good in his two games with a couple of goals. He could be a useful guy to have around, who could play centre if Backlund isn't ready, or in place of Stajan when he gets a night off. As a right-shot, he could slot in anywhere on the wing. He's an economically priced ($612,000) utility forward that would be a useful guy ala Paul Byron to have on the roster.

Working for Hathaway is his cheap NHL salary of $690,000. Working against him is he is waiver-exempt still so the high energy, high character banger-and-crasher can be shipped down without fear of losing him.


For young Tkachuk, he'll probably be back in junior for another season. Although if Gaudreau isn't around opening night and even if he is, he could get a few NHL games to start the season. But before he plays in that 10th game, I'd expect him to be back in London.

The other guy that is intriguing is Pribyl. There is a lot of mystery with this player, who was second in the Czech league in scoring a year ago. Due to his knee surgery that he is returning from and with a two-way contract and being waivers-exempt, the easy play is to start him off in Stockton. However, he could be up in Calgary sooner than later.

For your background, the waiver-eligibles on this list that would need to be exposed to the other 29 NHL teams to be assigned to the AHL are Hamilton, Higgins, Korpikoski, Vey and Bollig.

It should also be noted that there's no guarantee they go with 14 forwards. They could go with 13 to save some cap space but the schedule is pretty busy early, having some options is usually preferred.


Defence

Locked and Loaded (4)

Again, these are the guys that will be on the team opening night -- barring a trade or injury, of course -- and we also know where they'll slot in.
  • LD Mark Giordano
  • RD TJ Brodie
  • RD Dougie Hamilton
  • RD Deryk Engelland

Tentative Configuration

Giordano - Brodie
_______ - Hamilton
_______ - Engelland


Noteworthy

I see no reason to expect Giordano and Brodie to be split up. They're the teams's top two defenceman, they work well together, until I see signs indicating otherwise, I expect same old, same old.

That leaves Hamilton to slot into the second pairing and Engelland would be part of the 5-6-7 mix that round out the blueline.


Locked (2)
  • RD Dennis Wideman
  • LD Jyrki Jokipakka

Noteworthy

Both of these guys will be on the roster, barring a trade of Wideman. The latter seems highly unlikely at this point. A deal could still happen at some point in the year as he's a pending UFA but around the trade deadline is more realistic. Acquiring a big salary like Wideman ($5.25 million) is more feasible for cap-crunched teams later on when there's less money remaining and some cap space has been built up.

Just back from the World Cup where he represented Finland, Jokipakka as a left-shot is probably the leading candidate to play on that second pairing with Hamilton but we'll have to see how it plays out. Those auditioning for the seventh spot like Tyler Wotherspoon could surprise and jump into that spot. While it would make for two right-shooters, Wideman is a candidate also.


Bubble (5 for 1 spot)

Based on what I've seen and with a dose of age and experience factored in, there are five legitimate candidates with a shot at that No. 7 job. Again, some guys are more likely than others and I've handicapped them in an approximate order as I see them today.

Absent from the list are the two highly-touted Swedes Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington that both remain in camp. Let's be honest, there is zero need to rush Kylington into the NHL at just age 19. Defence is a position where ideally 2-3 seasons in the minors at minimum is best for development. Andersson is a first-year pro and Stockton will be his home this year for sure.
  • LD Tyler Wotherspoon - Waiver eligible now, three years of pro complete, it's his time.
  • LD Brett Kulak - Big night offensively Monday, made opening night roster a year ago
  • LD Ryan Culkin - Healthy, his game is looking sharp and he's back in the next-up mix.
  • LD Nicklas Grossmann (PTO) - Brings lots of experience but foot speed an issue.
  • RD Kenney Morrison - Having a far more impactful camp after a poor first pro season

Noteworthy

Given the Flames are expected to be pushing up against the upper limit of the salary cap, Morrison's AAV ($925,000) is considerably higher than the other three under contract so that will work against him. It's for this reason that settling for a salary ($625,000) well below his qualifying offer will actually help Wotherspoon make the team. Kulak ($656,000) and Culkin ($656,000) have that same advantage.

Fair or not fair, an additional consideration might who is waiver-exempt and from that perspective, Kulak, Culkin and Morrison are all guys that can be shuttled up and down as the Flames need them this season, without having to clear waivers.

If he'd agree to it, a two-way deal for Grossmann would be best. They could put him in Stockton like Corey Potter a few years ago as an experienced depth option should injuries mount, but meanwhile, the team can roll with their youth and see how they perform.

Of course, the elephant in the room when you talk about defence is a possible Kris Russell return but we'll cross that bridge should that actually happen. Same thing for fan favourite Jakub Nakladal. For now though, Flames brass have to be impressed with that they've seen both this week and in Penticton from their youth in camp. These existing solutions are also far cheaper solutions to what a Russell would cost and these days, every dollar matters.


Goaltender

Locked and Loaded (2)

Put to rest the saga from a year ago that accompanied the three goalies the Flames had in camp on one-way contracts.


This year, the only competition will be the division of playing time.
  • G Brian Elliott
  • G Chad Johnson

Noteworthy

Elliott will be the starter, for sure, but Johnson will be a very capable back-up and is definitely someone capable of stringing some starts together if Elliott hits a rough patch. Hard to imagine that this year's duo come in at less than half the price of what was spent on goaltending in 2015-16.



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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Five Flames Training Camp Battles to Watch

The non-stop conversation topic that refused to go away, has gone away. Phew. If only the same thing would happen with the Kardashians.

As a welcome reprieve from a year ago when the battle in the Flames goal crease was all anyone in Calgary was talking about, this year there is no such drama.

Alluding to the three-goalie nightmare with Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio, general manager Brad Treliving said after the season that it's something he'd never do again.

True to his word, training camp opened this week without a hint of mystery in net. Calgary traded a second round pick for Brian Elliott. He will start. They signed veteran Chad Johnson as a free agent. He will back-up. Top prospect Jon Gillies has fully recovered from hip surgery. He will start in Stockton.

Yawn.

But fret naught, there are still many other training camp battles going on that will give you several topics to roll-up the sleeves and debate the next time you're hanging out at the pub.


Five Training Camp Battles


1. Who will play with Gaudreau and Monahan?

One guy is waiting for the Brinks truck to arrive and the other is recuperating from a strained back. That said, I would be shocked if Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan aren't side-by-side, just like old times, when the Flames open the season October 12 in Edmonton. What's quickly become an age-old question though is who will be on the starboard side.

Best Guess - Alex Chiasson

With word Friday from coach Glen Gulutzan that he wants Troy Brouwer to be alongside Sam Bennett, that removes -- at least for now -- the lead horse from the discussion of who will play right wing on the top line. From the list of other candidates, I sense many players will get their shot over the season's 82 games. But for now, the guy I'm looking at that packs some intrigue is newly acquired Alex Chiasson.

Acquired from Ottawa in the summer in exchange for Patrick Sieloff, the 25-year-old comes to Calgary seeking a fresh start after a couple down years with the Senators. While behind the bench here is assistant coach Dave Cameron, the same guy he struggled under, also behind the bench is the coach whom he's had the most NHL success with in Gulutzan. Aware of the upside with the 2009 second rounder, who scored 19 goals in 86 games in a season-and-a-bit as a rookie, can Gulutzan's presence along with being back in the West be the tonic? At 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, there's plenty of size there and he has shown an ability to finish. Given the nominal acquisition cost, what a find it would be if it worked out. Chiasson's thrifty $800,000 salary would also nicely off-set the big dough to be earned by his linemates.

Other Candidates - Micheal Ferland, Hunter Shinkaruk, Chris Higgins, Linden Vey

Dark Horse - Daniel Pribyl

The severity of his knee injury and the long rehabilitation required from it -- it's been about five-and-a-half months since his surgery -- means there's a good chance Pribyl opens the year in Stockton. He is not yet skating with the team. But when he's ready, he was the second-leading scorer in his country last year. He's big and skilled and you know the team likes him -- Treliving comparing his style to former NHLer Robert Lang.

While he may not open the season in that spot, he could very well end up finishing the season there and if so, what a free agent signing he could turn out to be.


2. Who will play with Bennett and Brouwer?

With Gulutzan declaring on Friday that he would like to keep Bennett and Brouwer together for a while to see if they can build some chemistry, that begs the question of who might end up playing alongside them.

Best Guess - Micheal Ferland

Long term, this really feels like Matthew Tkachuk's spot and what a snarly trio they would form. However, most expect Tkachuk to eventually return to London (OHL) for one more season and that opens up an opportunity for someone else. Of the other candidates, Micheal Ferland could be the best fit.

With Ferland you get some decent hands -- although he's struggled to score at the NHL level thus far -- and a good hockey IQ. Of course, you also  get some edge and physicality too and after a year in which that element of his game would come and go, perhaps Brouwer's presence and his outspoken reputation would help get Ferland's game to the next level. One guy, who knows very well what Ferland's upside is would be Gulutzan. After all, he had an ice level view of his impactful playoff series against the Canucks two years ago. In need of a new contract after this season, the motivation should be there for Ferland and should he land this role, what a golden opportunity it would be.


Other Candidates - Lance Bouma, Chris Higgins, Hunter Shinkaruk

Dark Horse - Matthew Tkachuk

I was admittedly wrong on Monahan three years ago as I assumed he'd go back to junior and he just refused to let that be an outcome. He got in the line-up, produced, and the Flames could not get him out of the line-up. It would certainly not be stunned if the same thing unfolded with Tkachuk, Calgary's most recent sixth overall pick.

You know he's going to get a lot of playing time in the pre-season. If he can play the same surly, agitating and impassioned game as he displayed at the Young Stars Classic last weekend in Penticton, he also could make it hard for Gulutzan to pull him out of the line-up. While there is still some junior in his game, Calgary could really use someone that goes out and pisses off the opponent. A mature young man off the ice, there is no doubt that he could make the jump. It could be argued that since the AHL is not an option, sheltered minutes in the NHL would also be best for his development given he has already dominated at major junior.


3. Who will play with Backlund and Frolik?

Continuing the theme of partnerships, I will assume Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik will be linemates again because why not. They've shown great chemistry in the past and are a vital part of the Flames middle-six. An additional luxury with Frolik is he could also easily slide over to his natural side of left wing so that further opens up the list of possibilities.

Best Guess - Lance Bouma

Coming off an injury-plagued season in which he never really got himself going, the best-case scenario for the Flames would be for Lance Bouma to return to his form of two years ago. Much of his success when he scored 16 goals came while playing alongside Backlund so you can see the appeal of trying him in that spot once again in hopes that he can bounce back to 10-12 goals.

Bouma provides a physical presence that would nicely complement the two Europeans and on a line that would also be tasked out with some difficult shutdown assignments, he is better equipped than some of the other candidates to take on that type of role. Entering year two of a three-year deal, this is a big season for Bouma. The 26-year-old needs to get his season off to a positive start and re-establish himself as a key ingredient on this team. He also needs to stay on the ice and out of the trainer's room, which has been his biggest challenge.

Other Options - Lauri Korpikoski (PTO), Michael Ferland, Garnet Hathaway, Hunter Shinkaruk

Dark Horse - Chris Higgins (PTO)

In camp on a professional tryout, Higgins is a versatile veteran that Gulutzan is very familiar with from his time in Vancouver. While he's not the player he used to be, the speedy winger is still someone that could help fill a bottom-six role and buy the club some time to get a prospect like Tkachuk one more year of seasoning in junior.

While his previous stint in Calgary was a while ago, he left a good impression and he could be the type of veteran Gulutzan sees as important to have around to complement all the youth.


4. Who will play D on the 2nd pairing beside Hamilton?

Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie make for a formidable top pairing. While both are left shots, Brodie prefers playing the off-side so it works out well for the two workhorses. That leaves Dougie Hamilton on the second pairing and the question of who rounds out the top four.

Best Guess - Jyrki Jokipakka

Unless Kris Russell finds his way back to the Flames, this is one of those spots that could see a carousel of players rotate through because there isn't a slam-dunk option currently in camp. Dennis Wideman in a contract year, despite having lost a step, could definitely log the minutes required in this role. Tyler Wotherspoon with a terrific camp could earn himself a promotion into this role. If the Flames contend, a trade deadline acquisition could be the player that finishes the season in this role.

But for now, my money is on Jokipakka getting the first look. The 25-year-old was a pleasant surprise when he came over from Dallas in the Russell trade. There is more jam and physicality to his game than I was expecting. The 6-foot-3 Finn can also move the puck and was a coveted addition to the Finnish World Cup team.

Other Options - Dennis Wideman, Tyler Wotherspoon, Jakub Nakladal (unsigned)

Dark Horse - Kris Russell

If the Flames legitimately feel they have a team that can make the post-season and potentially make some noise when they get there, it's hard to imagine they're comfortable with their depth on defence. It's not so much about the current inventory at the NHL level, but what if there are a couple significant injuries on the blueline? Do you have enough trust in your mostly inexperienced call-up options if you need to bring up a couple guys from Stockton?

Whether or not there is enough money in the vault is probably the biggest question with Russell, an Alberta guy through and through, who loves the city. There is an affinity for Russell as well within the front office. While he's regularly ridiculed by the advanced stats community and there are holes in his game, he also has shouldered a lot of playing time over the years. You cannot discount the pivotal role he played in helping the Flames overcome the loss of Giordano and get into the playoffs in 2015.


5. Who will be the 7th Defenceman?

Clarity finally on Ladislav Smid leaves the Flames with six defencemen on one-way contracts so there is room for a player to join the mix and compete with Deryk Engelland for minutes on the third pairing.

Best Guess: Tyler Wotherspoon

In his sixth training camp with the Flames and on the cusp of his fourth pro season, it's go-time for the 2011 second rounder. It's been a winding journey for Wotherspoon, viewed as the next-in-line on the blueline for a long time but then losing his grip on that label last year when Brett Kulak leapfrogged him to make the opening-night roster. When I spoke with Wotherspoon last month after he signed a one-year deal, he talked about the excitement of getting a fresh start under Gulutzan, who knows him from his WHL days. He also talked about the turning point in his season last year, which ultimately led to a promotion to Calgary and a strong showing with the Flames.

Now waiver eligible, staying in the NHL is entirely on his shoulders. If he plays well in camp and shows that after 162 games logged in the AHL, he is ready for big league employment, his cheap $625,000 contract would be ideal for the cash-strapped Flames. If Calgary chooses to send him down, maybe another team decides to take a shot at him.

Other Options: Nicklas Grossmann (PTO), Brett Kulak, Kenney Morrison, Jakub Nakladal (unsigned)

Dark Horse: Ryan Culkin

Rewind to early February 2015 and Culkin had risen up the AHL depth chart to the point where he might well have been the next call-up when Calgary needed a defenceman. Instead, he suffered a season-ending wrist injury. Last year, his season began with a separated shoulder and assigned to the ECHL to get back up to game speed, he let that affect his game and he ended up spending three months buried in Adirondack.

But he's back, he's healthy, he's confident again after overcoming last year's "mental depression" as he called it and he got September off to a great start with a solid showing in Penticton. With Gulutzan wanting his defencemen to be pushing up ice and very involved in the play, Culkin's two-way game would fit in very well.



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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.



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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

FF80F Podcast: Episode 6 - Ryan Leslie Joins Darren Haynes for a Wrap-up From Penticton


The good news is the casual sit-down was great and insightful as Ryan Leslie, host of Flames TV, stopped by the palatial Flames at 80 Decibels on-location studio in Penticton, B.C..


We discussed the Young Stars Classic weekend -- not so much the play-by-play of the games -- but looking bigger picture, who stood out, the background and personality of some of these guys (Ryan with some great anecdotes about Matthew Tkachuk). We also touch on a few that disappointed.

The bad news is I experienced some regression on my technical execution of the podcast.


Unfortunately, it was not until after we were done that I discovered that the audio was being captured by the laptop microphone a ways away and not by my new Blue Yeti microphone set up between us. Damn it! I do know what went wrong though so consider this a blip only.

It's not terrible and because the content was great, I am traipsing on nonetheless and I did the best I could to clean it up in post-production. But I'll get the audio back to normal again in the next podcast, which will be coming soon. So apologies to the hardcore audiophiles out there but you'll survive and thanks for the understanding.


Topics Broached
  • Penticton and what's great about the location
  • Tkachuk, his attributes on the ice, what makes him tick off the ice
  • Others than impressed including Mark Jankowski, Tyler Parsons, Dillon Dube and more.
  • Who were a handful of prospects that left us wanting more
  • Q&A - Prospect questions submitted by readers

Options to Download/Listen

You will be able to download Flames at 80 Decibels from all your favourite websites soon as well as through your regular podcast player or app. Here are a few of the more popular links to where you can download the latest episode:

Catching up On What You've Missed

The good news about summer podcasts is for the most part, they're all still very much relevant. After all, there hasn't been much Flames news lately. So if you haven't heard them all yet, check them out:
  • Episode 5 - On August 28, PostMedia sportswriter and longtime Flames beat reporter Scott Cruickshank stopped by to look ahead to the season as well as reminisce about the 2004 Stanley Cup run and what it was like to cover that series both home and away. 
  • Episode 4 - On August 14, Ryan Leslie from Flames TV stopped by and provided a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes with the Flames -- on the charter, etc. Other topics included who will play RW on the top line, who will benefit the most from the new coach.
  • Episode 3 - On August 5, I connected with Mr. Kerr again, this time to dig into a variety of other off-season topics like the Gaudreau/Monahan contract 'stalemate', Troy Brouwer and expansion.
  • Episode 2 - In the more technically-sound second episode (thanks to Rob Kerr's audio equipment) on July 19, Rob joined me as co-host and we debated the Flames season-opening roster. 
  • Episode 1 - In the July 11 impromptu pilot, featuring zero technology, I recapped development camp. This was was a solo effort with sub-part technology but fresh on the heels of the prospects being in town, lots of good stuff discussed.

Look for another podcast soon as training camp gets going. Thanks for listening.



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    Monday, September 19, 2016

    Penticton 2016: Flames 4, Canucks 3 (OT) - Six Post-Game Impressions With Quotes

    It's over.

    The Flames wrapped up a successful Young Stars Classic on Monday night with a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Penticton's South Okanagan Events Centre.

    Two wins and an overtime loss in the annual rookie tournament makes for a productive start to the 2016-17 season.


    Six Post-Game Impressions


    1. Lomberg Earns Rave Reviews

    I've written all weekend about Ryan Lomberg but just when you think this guy -- one of the few on an AHL-only deal -- couldn't get any more impactful, guess again.

    What a compelling performance it was on Monday. He had two goals including the shorthanded winner in overtime, a game-high six shots, a game-high seven penalty minutes, and was a game-high plus-3. If that wasn't enough, after the game he posted on his Instragram several in-focus pictures he took of the Ogopogo. Phew, what a night.

    The winning goal came unassisted. When Canucks defenceman Ashton Sautner lost an edge and fell near the boards outside the Calgary blueline, away raced Lomberg. After beating Thatcher Demko up high on his earlier breakaway goal, this time he squeaked one through the pads.

    Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames
    "A great, great feeling. I saw it trickle in and I looked up and I see all the boys headed for me so it was awesome," said the centre, who is 5-foot-10, a solid 190 pounds and sports an admirable mane of hockey hair. 

    Included in his busy night at the office was a spirited first period fight with rugged Yan-Pavel Laplante. which even left his teammates in awe.

    "I'm almost scared for the guys out there. I think they underestimate him a little bit. He's a scary guy," said Calgary forward Dillon Dube. "When he had that fight, that was unbelievable. Then he comes out and scores two goals after that,I was very impressed by him and I think he's probably been the best player on the ice every night for us."

    Lomberg was satisfied with his night's work.

    "That was probably the most fun I've had in a little while," said the 21-year-old with a smile. They say you play your best when you're having fun and I guess that's what happened tonight." 

    That said, there remained an air of dissatisfaction as he is on an AHL deal and desperately wants a shot at playing in the NHL.

    "I want to play for the Calgary Flames, I want to earn an NHL contract. That's been my goal since day 1, that's what I'm here to work for and trained so hard every day this summer," he said.

    He is in the same situation as Garnet Hathaway a couple years ago,  whose story Lomberg is familiar with and serves as inspiration. Hathaway was also on an AHL-only deal initially but then got signed to an NHL deal after he had a good year with Stockton. 


    Seeing is Believing

    Asked to describe Lomberg, there was a lot of searching for adjectives.

    "Reminds me a little bit of Brad Marchand," suggested Dube. "He's one of those tough little guys, who gets under everybody's skin but when he gets the chance, he'll score and that makes it even worse for the other team."

    “All weekend, if there was one guy that was really noticeable consistently I thought it was Ryan," said coach Stockton coach Ryan Huska. "He brings something to the table. Even as a young man he understands if he’s going to play at a higher level, and hopefully one day at the NHL, there’s a certain style he has to bring.

    "We saw a little bit of that tonight and we saw on the offensive side he can contribute as well. It was a real big weekend for him in a lot of different ways.”



    Lomberg first landed on the Flames radar when Calgary was heavily scouting Kyle Connor two years ago at Youngstown (USHL). He was the captain of that team.

    "He's as advertised," said assistant GM Brad Pascall. "He's a hard working guy. Good skater. He's a guy that goes into every face-off as if it's game seven and a minute left. You just love the effort that he brings." 

    Matthew Tkachuk also played against him that same season in the USHL.

    "Honestly, he doesn't remind me of anybody," said Tkachuk. "I've never really seen somebody like that, who can put the puck in the net like he does but can hit as hard as he can and can fight and he's so fast and so strong. He's really tough to play against."

    He certainly has created quite the fan club.

    “He’s one of the guys you really do pull for," said Huska. "We have a lot of people happy he had a really good weekend here, and hopefully it’s a sign of some really good things to come."


    2. Dangerous Dillon Dube

    While the spotlight may have been on Lomberg, Dube had his best game of the weekend and the first two weren't bad either. This guy can play.

    "It was a good day. My line was playing good, I got a lot of opportunity to play today. I think that's the most ice time I've had and I tried to make the most out of it," said Dube, who will eventually return to the area to play his third season with Kelowna (WHL).

    Playing centre and paired with Matthew Phillips for the first two games, Dube shifted to left wing on Monday and was just as effective in that role, find himself around the puck all night.

    In just one example of his vision and playmaking ability, he darted down the wing and while I looked into the slot from my perch high above the ice surface -- without any of the back pressure he was facing -- and could not see an available passing option, he somehow did, precisely threading a pass cross-ice and onto the tape of Andrew Mangiapane in the slot for a scoring chance.

    "He was our best forward. Ryan (Lomberg) you noticed because of the fight and a couple of goals, but because of the way Dillon played the game, to me, he was one of our most noticeable guys," said Huska. "He had chances, he made plays with the puck, he killed penalties, he was on the power play and he played with some hunger."


    Skilled but With an Edge

    Because of his size, speed and slick collection of offensive skills, then add in his pleasant and personable demeanor off the ice with him always smiling, and you don't expect him to play with such an edge but that quality is there too and makes him even better. He's not afraid to get his nose dirty around the net and he'll lay the lumber to the back of your leg if he's pissed off.

    "I definitely like to be mean in the corners sometimes, but I've calmed it down. I hold it in pretty good now," said the Cochrane kid about his temper, which he says he probably gets from his dad. "That was the biggest thing when I was younger and I had to grow out of it a little bit. I have to pick my spots. I don't want to get hurt and be running around against all these big guys because lots of them could have their way with me."

    Huska had Dube briefly the last year he coached for the Rockets.

    "I remember as a 15-year-old when he first came into Kelowna, we had to tone him down a little bit because he'd become unglued when he didn't need to," said Huska. "So we had to work with him. Similar to Matthew, you don't want to take it away from a player because that's what makes them special but they have to learn how to use it to their advantage."


    3. Tuu Much Tuulola 

    Development camp darling Eetu Tuulola quietly had another effective showing in Penticton. Early indications are that the sixth rounder from last June is looking like a real steal for a guy acquired so late in the draft.

    On Monday, it was Tuulola's shot that was deflected in by Dennis Kravchenko to put the Flames on the scoreboard.

    On a power play, Tuulola then notched the tying goal. First he tipped Kenney Morrison's point shot. Then he promptly corralled the rebound and lifted it past Demko.

    The 'Finnish Milan Lucic', a reference the 6-foot-2, 230 pound right winger uses when describing his style, will play this season for Everett (WHL) so will find himself back in B.C. a lot over the next six months.

    "It was really awesome to put an NHL jersey on. It's always been a dream to be an NHL player so I think I'm now a step closer to that," said the 18-year-old, who contributed a pair of assists in Friday's game. "It's a lot of work but I'm happy to do it."

    This is Tuulola's first time in North America. He also came over on his own for the draft, leaving his parents back home in Finland.

    "Young guy, who moved away from home and starts living in a new place, new city, but I think it's been a great experience for me. I think I've grown up a little bit this year," he said.


    4. Quieter Night for the Big Line

    Interestingly, the Flames rolled out the same top line for all three games with Tkachuk at left wing, Mark Jankowski at centre and Austin Carroll on right wing.

    As I wrote on Friday, it was supposed to be Morgan Klimchuk playing his off wing on the top unit but he ended up tweaking his groin in the pre-game warm-up. He ended up missing all three game and well it was a tough break for the Calgary kid determined to rediscover his scoring touch -- and Pascall said he was understandably angry about his misfortune -- he is expected to be ready for when main camp opens on Thursday at WinSport.

    On Monday, that trio was good early in generating several chances, but were pretty average after that including not very good at all on the power play. But with all the ice time they got this weekend, the three games in 72 hours was a lot of high tempo action, perhaps fatigue was a factor.

    Jankowski did have a shorthanded breakaway in the first period and after failing to convert it, he then got a second chance in the form of a penalty shot after a slash from behind while he was moving in. However, the effort on the penalty shot was even worse as he moved in slowly and never really looked dangerous in easily being turned aside by Demko. Was it the end of his shift maybe? Who knows, but based on that sampling, this might not be a guy that will be very high in the shootout order. Joe Colborne, he's not. Or not yet, anyway.

    Carroll's subpar evening featured three trips to the penalty including one that looked like it would be costly 3:12 into overtime. It was a continuation of the chippy game he played on Saturday. Carroll also had a blatant giveaway that led to the Vancouver goal that tied it 2-2 in the second.


    Tkachuk Ready for Main Camp

    As for Tkachuk, no doubt he might be tired as I was exhausted just from watching his antics the first two games. In cruise control for much of the final two periods, he did level the boom with a heavy bodycheck halfway through the third. While it drew an 'ooh' from the crowd, it was well after the victim had moved the puck so resulted in an interference penalty.

    Elbowing, cross-checking, high-sticking and spearing were among his ticketed violations over the weekend as as the 2016 first rounder racked up 22 penalty minutes over the weekend. As a comparison just to emphasize the drastically different style between him and the team's previous sixth overall pick, Sean Monahan has just 38 penalty minutes in his three NHL seasons. Crazy.

    Fully focused on getting ready for main camp, Tkachuk says his weekend in the Okanagan was mission accomplished.

    "It was a really good test, this whole weekend, for training camp," he said. "Ultimately my only goal to get out of this was to be ready for main camp."


    5. Trying Time for the Tryout Guys

    Of all the guys at rookie camp on tryouts, one guy in particular to keep an eye on is Mikkel Aagaard. It would surprise if an invitation isn't extended to him to stick around for main camp. No decisions have been made yet, said Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall, but given the native of Denmark ended up playing all three games in Penticton, clearly there is some interest there.

    The 20-year-old centre, who stands 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, is without a home at the moment. He's coming off his overage season with Sudbury (OHL),

    It wasn't all good for Aagaard on Monday. It was his man that converted a centring pass to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead in the second period. However, he showed great drive and strength in the third period in one sequence by stealing the puck away from a much larger defenceman and than fending him off as he took the puck to the net for a dangerous scoring chance.

    Getting the Flames first goal on Monday was another tryout invitee in Krevchenko, a stocky 5-foot-9 centre, who is also homeless after moving on after playing NCAA the past two years at U-Mass Amherst. He also played Friday and was noticeable that night too.


    Brayden Burke, the prolific playmaker from Lethbridge, ended up playing just the one game and that may not bode well for his future but again, nothing is decided yet. Pascall says the management group will meet again on Wednesday and then make some decisions on who will be sticking around to start main camp.


    6. Back-to-Back-to-Back Good Efforts

    In each of the three games, the Flames held a wide edge in shots. They outshot the Jets 43-23, the Oilers 38-28 and then held a 43-28 edge over the Canucks. That's a plus-45 shot differential for the weekend. Pascall was impressed at how prepared the players were.

    "For me, it's more re-assurance that some of these guys have made some progress, have invested in themselves and taken it upon themselves to say hey, this is a big summer for me and I need to come into Penticton and be ready to go."

    In particular, he came away very satisfied with the 2016 draft class in which six members were in attendance -- Tkachuk (1st round), Tyler Parsons (2nd), Dube (2nd), Tuulola (6th), Matthew Phillips (6th) and Stepan Folkovsky (7th).

    "It was confirmation that guys that we drafted this summer, whether it was Dube or others, geez, we've got some good players coming here," said Pascall. "A lot of these guys will go back to junior but you have them on your side, and you can see them with our logo on and know that we have some really good, legitimate prospects coming our way."

    Does the dominating performance by the Flames rookies ultimately mean anything? Not really. But winning always beats the alternative.


    Next Up

    The rookies flew back to Calgary on Monday night and will be back on the ice in Calgary once a couple more times before main camp begins on Thursday with fitness testing at WinSport.



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