The junior prospects for the Calgary Flames have all been off to a positive and productive start to the 2013-14 season.
Beginning with the performance of Sean Monahan, who instead of being sent back to the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) for another season, has impressed coaches and management to earn and maintain a spot in the lineup for Calgary. The 19-year-old scored in all but two games during his nine game try-out period and is one of the Flames’ top scorers with 14 points through 23 games, which includes eight goals. If Monahan can endure a full NHL season while continuing with the production and success he has found so far this year, then the sixth overall pick in 2013 will most likely be a top candidate for the Calder Trophy.
In addition to Monahan, GM Jay Feaster took the opportunity with the 2013 draft to bolster the Flames’ junior corps by selecting four additional talented prospects. At the draft, Calgary added Emile Poirier (QMJHL), Morgan Klimchuk (WHL), Keegan Kanzig (WHL), and Eric Roy (WHL). The new class of prospects join Ryan Culkin (QMJHL), Coda Gordon (WHL), and Brett Kulak (WHL) from the class of 2012, who are each having great starts to the 2013-14 season as well. Collectively the junior prospects for the Flames are strengthening the outlook in Calgary.
Emile Poirier, RW, Gatineau Olympiques
Acquired: 1st round (22nd overall), 2013
Emile Poirier is definitely putting to rest any doubt of his first round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. Poirier is off to a fantastic start in his third season with Gatineau, notching 36 points in 25 games, and is tied for sixth in QMJHL scoring behind top prospects like Val-d’Or’s Anthony Mantha (DET) and Halifax’ Jonathan Drouin (TBL).
Although the 19-year-old has been a top goal scorer in Gatineau over the past few years, this season Poirier has elevated his game to the next level. The 22nd pick overall is on track to exceed his career point totals for goals and assists and has already posted career highs for shorthanded goals (4) and game-winning goals (5). Poirier has been more accurate so far this season and currently has a career best shooting percentage of 19.5-percent to date.
Poirier is a well-rounded player that can play in any situation required. His keen hockey sense and speed makes him a threat, especially on the penalty kill where he can turn a shorthanded situation into a scoring opportunity. The Montreal native has recorded four shorthanded goals already this season.
The talented winger was recognized as one of the top players in the CHL and represented the QMJHL in the 2013 Subway Super Series against Team Russia, going scoreless in two games. Poirier will also be in the mix of forwards that Team Canada will consider for the 2014 WJC roster. The recognition Poirier is receiving is due to his dedication, skill and hard work, which can further improve as he develops and matures as a player in the Flames organization.
Ryan Culkin, D, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 5th round (124th overall), 2012
Ryan Culkin started off the 2013-14 season with the honor of being named captain of the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL, earning the privilege to lead Remparts through his work ethic and leadership skills. Culkin has played well in all situations this season, leading the defensive corps in scoring with 21 points in 25 games. The Montreal native is on pace for a career season and could surpass last year’s career best total of 45 points in 67 games.
The fourth year veteran has produced 13 assists on the power play, finding great chemistry with fellow top prospects Adam Erne (TBL), Fabrice Herzog (TOR), and Anthony Duclair (NYR). Culkin has also been an effective shutdown defender on the penalty kill and recorded his first career shorthanded goal in a game against Cape Breton.
As Culkin fine-tunes his game in preparation to play at the pro level, he has demonstrated that he possesses the skill set and the composure to become an effective leader and defender with an offensive upside.
Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Regina Pats
Acquired: 1st round (28th overall), 2013
Morgan Klimchuk rounds out the trio of Flames’ first round picks in 2013 that are off to a brilliant start to the new season. Klimchuk has been a consistent source of production this season, logging 29 points in 26 games. The 18-year-old has recorded points in all but eight games and is currently averaging 1.12 points per game. If Klimchuk can maintain his current rate of production, then he will be on pace for a career best season.
The offensively gifted forward had an impressive month of October, scoring 14 points in 11 games, which helped earn him a spot representing the WHL in the Subway Super Series against Russia. Klimchuk joins Emile Poirier (QMJHL) and Rushan Rafikov (RUS) as Flames’ prospects representing their respective leagues in the tournament. Klimchuk brings an excellent source of scoring and composure to the team, while having the versatility to play in different situations.
Klimchuk can attribute the success he has found so far this season to his awareness and anticipation of plays. The left winger has already notched six multi-point games, and recorded a natural hat trick against Lethbridge on November 6. Klimchuk scored at even strength, shorthanded, and on the power play in the game against the Hurricanes, showcasing his versatility to execute in different situations.
Klimchuk brings a balanced attack to the offense, where goals are scored just as much as plays are setup by the talented winger. As the Pats’ continue the hunt for a playoff position in a tightly competitive WHL Eastern Conference, Klimchuk will be tested and looked upon on as a leader on the scoring sheet and in the locker room this season.
Keegan Kanzig, D, Victoria Royals
Acquired: 3rd round (67th overall), 2013
The offensive success the Flames’ prospects have found in 2013-14 has even trickled down to Keegan Kanzig. The 6’7 defenseman, not known for the offensive side to his game, recorded his first two career goals with the Victoria Royals in three seasons. Kanzig continues to gain confidence engaging in the offensive zone as he develops this aspect of his game.
Kanzig is known more so for his shutdown defense and enforcer attributes. The big defender is a force to contend with on the blue line and has no problem engaging opponents in dropping the gloves. Through 16 games, Kanzig has been in four bouts already. However in a game against the Edmonton Oil Kings on November 6, he fought Brandon Baddock and found himself on the wrong end of a solid punch. Baddock caught him clean on the chin and has only recently returned to the lineup.
When Kanzig returns to the Royals’ blue line, he will once again be depended on to shut down opposing scorers and provide a presence on the ice. Kanzig will also have an opportunity to find the score sheet as he builds upon his first goal this season. The 18-year-old prospect could develop into a quality defender due to his size and ability to build an all-around game that is not found in many players of his stature.
Coda Gordon, LW, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 6th round (165th overall), 2012
Coda Gordon is another WHL prospect in the Flames’ system that is off to a great start to the 2013-14 season. Gordon is one of the top scorers this season for the Swift Current Broncos, with 33 points in 27 games and leads the team in plus/minus at plus-15. The 19-year-old left winger also ranks among the top-15 scorers in the WHL so far this season. In previous years, Gordon had a tendency to produce points in bunches, followed by a series of scoreless streaks, however this season, Gordon appears to have found a more consistent touch to his game.
Showing up every night has been key to Gordon’s success this season, not only on the score sheet but also as a leader. Gordon is another Flames’ prospect who has been recognized for his leadership skills and has been appointed as one of the assistant captains for the Broncos this season. The Broncos are one of the top teams in the WHL Eastern conference and Gordon will be depended on nightly to help continue with the success this season for Swift Current.
Brett Kulak, D, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round (105th overall), 2012
As Brett Kulak enters his fourth season with the Vancouver Giants, he finds himself as one of the top producing defenders in the WHL for 2013-14. Kulak is tied for fourth among WHL defenders with 27 points through 27 games. The Giants’ defender ranks second on the team in points and goals, with five of his 10 tallies coming on the power play. The heads-up play of the 19-year-old has been exceptional this season, and as a result, he has been producing over a point-per-game average.
If Kulak can maintain the production he has generated so far this season, he is on pace for a record-breaking season and could see career highs in all scoring categories. Kulak has also seen an increase in penalty minutes and is playing with an extra edge this season as he prepares for the next stages in his career. The veteran blueliner has developed into a valuable all-around defender for the Vancouver Giants and as a prospect in the Flames organization.
Eric Roy, D, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 5th round (135th overall), 2013
Eric Roy jumped out to a hot start to begin the 2013-14 season, recording seven points in four games in the month of September. However since then, Roy has cooled off, recording only seven points in 21 games since. Roy has the skill set to become an offensive threat from the blue line, however finding consistent production every night will be a key challenge for Roy to tackle this season.
Regardless of the slow-down in production, Roy still ranks as one of the top scorers for the Wheat Kings. Roy is seventh overall and second among defenders, only behind fellow blueliner Ryan Pulock (NYI), who has 23 points. Playing alongside Pulock has given Roy the opportunity to further develop the offensive side of his game, as was evident in 2011-12 when Roy recorded 53 points in 69 games.
With more than half a season left in front of him, Roy still has enough time to post career highs in goals and assists if he can rediscover the consistent success he found at the beginning of the season. Playing through adversity and strengthening the mental side of the game will benefit the defender as he advances in his career.
Other prospects that have gotten off to a fantastic 2013-14 season include the trio of collegiate players, Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, and Jon Gillies. Gaudreau is the top scorer in Hockey East so far this season and recently had two career performances, recording seven points in two games. Gaudreau is off to a great start recording 24 points in 13 games so far this season playing alongside fellow Flames’ prospect Bill Arnold. Both have increased their speed and strength, which have elevated their production and play this season.
Arnold has been off to a hot start this season as well, with 18 points in 13 games. His maturity as a player and a leader has been recognized by his teammates and has been appointed as an assistant captain for Boston College.
Providence goaltender, Jon Gillies, is another prospect in the Flames system benefiting from an excellent start. The 19-year-old goaltender broke the Providence all-time shutout record and now holds the honor with eight. Gillies has posted impressive numbers through 12 games this season with a 1.70 goals against average and .946 save percentage, which is a result of outstanding focus and composure that comes from his maturity level.
With the recent injury to Calgary captain Mark Giordano, GM Jay Feaster recently shuffled the deck of cards for the Flames by acquiring Ladislav Smid (D) and Olivier Roy (G) from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Roman Horak (F) and Laurent Brossoit (G). With Smid, the Flames added a veteran defender that can provide support while Giordano recovers from an ankle injury. Roy adds a goaltender back into the mix, with the departure of Brossoit. The departure of Horak frees up additional room for the talented forward group competing for future roster positions, which include those in the junior and collegiate ranks.
Follow Brian Jung on Twitter @brianjung80