While the Calgary Flames are set to miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, there are positive indications the trend will be changing soon with the growing batch of prospects excelling in the system.
Sean Monahan has taken over the lead in the top 20 rankings with his ability to step in and make great strides as a NHL rookie. The stellar play of Joni Ortio, AHL All-Star Chad Billins, and Josh Jooris have led them onto the top 20 with slots opening up due to the graduation of Lance Bouma, the departure of Laurent Brossoit to Edmonton, and drop in rank of Mark Cundari.
With the exception of Monahan, the Flames’ pipeline is filled with prospects preparing to head into post-season competition. As these prospects begin to crack the Flames lineup, they will also have the potential to take charge and lead Calgary to a playoff run in the near future.
1. (2) Sean Monahan, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 6th overall, 2013
Sean Monahan deservedly sits atop the Flames prospect list with his noteworthy performance during his NHL rookie season and in particular during the most recent battle of Alberta, where he took over the game and scored both goals in a 2-1 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers. Early indications show that the 19-year-old has the potential to become the next franchise player, as he also leads the Flames in scoring with 19 goals in 55 games. As the end of the season approaches, Monahan is set to graduate from prospect status and will have a great opportunity going forward to become one of the new leaders in Calgary.
2. (3) Johnny Gaudreau, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2011
Excellent on-ice vision and incredible speed has Johnny Gaudreau leading the nation again as the top collegiate player. Gaudreau continues to follow up each solid season with an even stronger one, and this year has been no exception. With a 29-game point streak, Gaudreau is three games away from breaking the Hockey East single-season record held by Paul Kariya. The junior forward has once again been nominated for the Hobey Baker award while helping propel Boston College into one of the top programs in the nation. Playing alongside fellow Flames’ prospect, Bill Arnold, the two skilled prospects continue to add hardware to their resumes with their recent Beanpot Championship. They will be looking to keep up their offensive tear heading into the Hockey East and NCAA tournaments.
3. (1) Sven Baertschi, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2011
Sometimes in order to take a step forward, a step back is required to evaluate a situation. For Sven Baertschi, he finds himself in this predicament as he drops two spots from his previous top ranking. Despite numerous opportunities to elevate his play to the next level with the Flames this season, Baertschi fell short. After registering just 11 points through 26 games in Calgary, Baertschi was sent down to Abbotsford, where the 21-year-old has embraced the assignment as an opportunity to get his game back on track. Baertschi has provided an offensive spark for the Heat with 17 points in 30 games. Baertschi realizes that the game moves by at a fast pace and the window of opportunity is shrinking for the highly skilled forward to make the most of his talents.
4. (4) Max Reinhart, C, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2010
Making a significant impact for the Abbotsford Heat this year, Max Reinhart has been an integral member of the team with the production he has generated. Reinhart has more than doubled his point total from last season with 45 points in only 51 games. Reinhart has found great chemistry with his teammates, in particular rookie Markus Granlund, and the two have connected on numerous spectacular goals this season. The 20-year-old continues to make an impression on coaching staff and management with his confidence and play making abilities, which earned Reinhart a promotion to Calgary on March 5th.
5. (13) Corban Knight, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade with Florida, June 2013
Knight is one of the rookies leading the new class in making a statement this season for the Abbotsford Heat. The Alberta native has 37 points in 57 games including five game winning goals. The 23-year-old also joins Markus Granlund as a Heat tandem that rank among the top AHL rookies in scoring. Knight showcased enough of his offensive skills and impressive hockey IQ that he also earned a promotion to the Flames on March 5th.
6. (5) Mark Jankowski, C, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2012
With a logjam starting to form with quality talent at the center position, Mark Jankowski will have tough competition to fend off as they contend for higher rankings. In 34 games with the Providence Friars, the sophomore center ranks third in scoring with 22 points. Jankowski recently contributed in the final two games of the regular season by assisting on both game winning goals in back-to-back games against Maine. As one of the top players for Providence, Jankowski will be looked upon to help lead the Friars in the Hockey East tournament.
7. (6) Tyler Wotherspoon, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2011
As a rookie blueliner, Wotherspoon has been a reliable and consistent defender for the Heat this season. Although he only has nine points through 48 games, the BC native was a team best plus-13 when he was recalled to Calgary . Wotherspoon is taking advantage of his first pro year like fellow rookie defender John Ramage, as they both develop their shut down skills against bigger and faster players. If Wotherspoon continues to develop in a positive uptrend, then the 20-year-old could be shaping into one of the future defensive leaders for Calgary.
8. (7) Patrick Sieloff, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2012
Despite an injury that has kept Sieloff on the sidelines, the 19-year-old defender still has the talent and upside to make an impact for the Flames organization. Sieloff has excellent hockey sense to be considered a reliable blueliner. With the possibility of getting back on the ice before the end of the season, the Michigan native has been working hard on getting his conditioning back up to playing levels. In the meantime, Sieloff has been studying the game off the ice and spending time with the organization, learning the ropes behind the scenes in order to be prepare when he plays at the NHL level.
9. (8) Emile Poirier, LW/RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2013
Poirier continues to have a career season for the Gatineau Olympiques. Through 61 games, Poirier has 84 points and has already set career best numbers in every scoring category. A few impressive numbers that stand out are his 43 goals and 127 penalty minutes to go along with plus-27 rating and eight short-handed goals. Poirier is an all-around player that is willing to play a physical game yet has the speed and hockey sense to be a threat on the penalty kill, all while sporting one of the best plus-minus ratings on the team. The versatility Poirier brings to the game will benefit him as he takes the lead as the top right wing prospect for Calgary.
10, (10) Jon Gillies, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2012
Gillies continues to provide quality goaltending in his sophomore season for Providence. The American goaltender sports a 16-7-5 record through 29 games, and came up with two big back-to-back wins against Maine to send the Friars into the Hockey East tournament on a winning note. After a disappointing early exit playing for Team USA at the 2014 WJC, Gillies has refocused on his game and is still considered one of the top goaltenders in the nation, as indicated with his nomination for the Hobey Baker award.
11. (NR) Joni Ortio, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 171st overall, 2009
With his rising development and exceptional play in Abbotsford this season, Joni Ortio returns to the Flames Top 20 and takes over the slot once held by goaltender Laurent Brossoit. The Finnish goaltender has played an important role for the Heat by stepping in and carrying a heavy workload while making countless key saves. Through 28 games, Ortio has put together a 20-6 record with two shutouts. With an injury to Karri Ramo, the 22-year-old was recently called up for action in Calgary. In his first NHL start, Ortio looked solid in goal however he did not receive any goal support in a 2-0 loss against the Los Angeles Kings. He is currently 2-2 for the Flames with a .916 save percentage in four games. If Ortio continues to impressive with his calm demeanour play, he might start being mistaken for another goaltender from Turku, Finland who used to wear a Flames jersey not too long ago.
12. (9) Morgan Klimchuk, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2013
Despite missing 14 games with a hip-flexor injury, Morgan Klimchuk continues to excel for the Regina Pats. During his absence, Regina went 5-9, however with Klimchuk back in the lineup, the Pats have gone 19-10 and have taken over first place in the WHL East Division. The crafty winger has bounced back strong posting 35 points since returning, bringing his season total to 71 points in 54 games. Klimchuk is playing with a high level of determination this season and it will be essential for the Calgary native to remain healthy in order to help the Pats reach the postseason.
13. (14) Bill Arnold, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2010
Centering one of the most potent lines in the nation this season falls on the shoulders of Bill Arnold, who is playing alongside talented wingers, Johnny Gaudreau and Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect, Kevin Hayes. The trio have combined for an astounding 159 points through 34 games. Arnold has been an instrumental playmaker setting up a career high 32 assists. The Massachusetts native also surpassed his career best point total with 44 points this season, and is six goals away from setting a career high in goals scored. As Arnold and Gaudreau continue to progress up the ranks, the Flames could have something special developing if the lethal combination remain intact.
14. (16) Markus Granlund, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2011
Markus Granlund continues to impress in his AHL rookie season, as he remains one of the top scorers among rookies in the league and for the Heat. Through 50 games, the Finnish forward recorded 44 points, including a team-high 23 goals. Not only has Granlund successfully found the score sheet, he is also doing the small things to create a solid two-way game. Granlund has been an important source of production for the Heat, which has been recognized by Flames management and resulted in a recent call up to Calgary. In his third NHL career game, Granlund registered his first NHL-point assisting on a Mark Giordano goal against the Minnesota Wild. The game also presented an opportunity for Granlund to play against his older brother Mikael, as they met for their first NHL head-to-head game. He scored two goals in three games since his first point and averaged over 16 minutes of ice time in that span.
15. (12) Kenny Agostino, LW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, March 2013
Agostino entered his senior year with the goal of graduating with his degree while preparing for the next stages in his hockey career. It is apparent that the 21-year-old is on track to achieve his goals while having an impressive season in the process. Agostino has 30 points in 31 games and as one of the leaders for the Yale Bulldogs, Agostino has stepped up his game this season, which has resulted in a nomination for the Hobey Baker award, joining Gaudreau, Gillies, and Arnold as prospects in the Flames system recognized for their exceptional play in the NCAA this year.
16. (19) Ben Hanowski, LW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, March 2013
Hanowski has been a confident and consistent source of production for the Heat this season. Through 51 games, Hanowski has distributed his 27 points with 12 goals and 15 assists. The Minnesota native continues to impress with his maturity level and appears like a veteran even though he is playing in his first professional season. The Calgary Flames will be able to gauge the return value of the package from the Iginla trade as Hanowski begins his NHL career following a recent call-up.
17. (NR) Josh Jooris, LW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, July 2013
Josh Jooris has been making a positive impact for the Heat this season and most recently has found chemistry on a line with Sven Baertschi and Corey Locke. Jooris has a natural hockey sense that helps create chemistry with new linemates in a short period of time. The Ontario native has stepped into the season with great confidence after being signed as a free agent and it is apparent that his work ethic has translated into success on the ice. Jooris has accumulated 21 points in 58 games, including quite a few highlight reel plays.
18. (NR) Chad Billins, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, July 2013
The off-season signing of Chad Billins continues to pay off dividends for Abbotsford as his solid contributions resulted in his selection to represent the Heat in the 2013-14 AHL All-Star game. Billins ranks as one of the top point producing defenders in the AHL with 37 points in 56 games and leads all Heat defensemen in points. The Heat own one of the top power play units in the AHL this season at 21.5-percent with Billins quarterbacking on the blue line. As the push towards the playoffs approach, Billins will be looked upon to continue his offensive production.
19. (15) Michael Ferland, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2010
What began as a promising season for Michael Ferland has resulted in an early ending in his first year with the Heat. Ferland was in the midst of starting to find his game as he recorded 18 points in 25 games, when a season-ending knee injury took out the Manitoba native. Ferland will be faced with sufficient time to rehabilitate and recover from the injury as he looks to bounce back from the injury, while getting stronger for next season.
20. (18) John Ramage, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 103rd overall, 2010
Ramage rounds out the top 20 list by bringing his solid defensive game to the ranks. The first year pro has carried over his hard-nosed style of play to Abbotsford and as a result has logged 46 penalty minutes in the process. The recently turned 23-year-old continues to gain valuable experience and important lessons from veterans such as Shane O’Brien and Christopher Breen as he further develops his game this season.
Follow Brian Jung on Twitter: @brianjung80