Calgary Flames prospects making an impact at NCAA level

By Brian Jung

Johnny Gaudreau - Boston College Eagles

Photo: Boston College winger Johnny Gaudreau leads a deep and talented group of college prospects in the Flames system. Notre Dame upset Gaudreau and the Eagles in the Hockey East tournament last weekend (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

The NCAA has been a source of quality talent for the Calgary Flames. With a group of eight highly skilled NCAA players, the Flames are stocked with prospects developing and preparing to graduate to new levels in their careers.

Leading the way is Johnny Gaudreau, who is considered the top collegiate player in the nation this season. Joining him is his Boston College line mate and 2010 Flames draft pick, Bill Arnold. The two Americans have greatly contributed to the success of Boston College this year as one of the top programs in the country.

Following Gaudreau and Arnold is a trio of sophomores playing for the Providence Friars. Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski and John Gilmour have each played a key role in their positions, particularly the performances of Gillies in goal and Gilmour on the blue line.

Rounding out the remaining NCAA prospects in the Flames system are Kenny Agostino, Matt DeBlouw, and Tim Harrison. The three have valuable lessons to take away from each of their respective seasons as well.

While the Flames are stacked with NCAA players, the stockpile of players outside North America remains light, as Rushan Rafikov represents the only overseas prospect currently in the system.

NCAA

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th Round, 104th Overall, 2011

It has been an incredible season for Johnny Gaudreau, who has posted a NCAA best 1.86 points per game average for the 2013-14 regular season. Gaudreau has been a threat in every game this season, particularly in the games where he has scored, as Boston College went 22-1-2 when the New Jersey native found the back of the net.

The junior forward can attribute the success he has found on the ice this season due to his off-ice training, which has helped develop and strengthen his physical attributes. At 5’8 and 155 pounds, speed plays an important role in his game, and it will be key for Gaudreau to continue strengthening his lower body power in order to increase his quickness.

As Gaudreau continues to collect honors and accolades, BC’s focus will turn to the NCAA tournament after a first-round defeat to Notre Dame in the Hockey East tournament. However with the Flames summer development camp in sight as well, the 20-year-old is primed to showcase that he is ready to take over as the Flames next top prospect.

Bill Arnold, C, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th Round, 108th Overall, 2010

Bill Arnold has been instrumental in generating the success Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes (CHI) have found this season with the BC Eagles. The Massachusetts native played an excellent two-way game during the regular season and provided the space for his wingers to produce. The scoring opportunities for the trio stemmed from the pivot play of Arnold, especially his strong down low support and defensive awareness to turn the play back up ice. Arnold also provided enforcement for the line as he recorded 48 penalty minutes in 37 games.

Arnold possesses the instincts of a natural playmaker with his ability set up his teammates on the fly. This is exemplified with his career high 36 assists combined with Arnold taking only 70 shots compared to Gaudreau and Hayes, who put up 147 and 124 shots, respectively. Regardless, Arnold still managed a solid .171 shooting percentage while scoring twelve goals. As Arnold prepares for a final post season with the Eagles, the senior center will have also have the next stages of his career with the Flames peeking in the background.

Jon Gillies, G, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd Round, 75th Overall, 2012

Winning starts with defense and for the Providence Friars it comes in the form of goaltender Jon Gillies, who continues to provide stability and support in goal. The sophomore goaltender followed up his impressive rookie season by compiling an 18-7-5 record with three shutouts and a 2.17 goals against average so far this season. This has led Gillies to earn numerous honors this season, along with nominations for the Hobey Baker and the inaugural Mike Richter Award, for most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey.

As the Friars head to the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament, they can thank the exceptional play of Gillies for the team’s four consecutive victories over Maine, two at the end of the regular season to earn a bye to the tournament quarterfinals and two more to sweep their rematch in the quarterfinals. The ability to remain focused and composed is a gift the 20-year-old can utilize to carry the team on his shoulders through the upcoming tournaments and in seasons to come. 
 
Mark Jankowski, C, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 1st Round, 21st Overall, 2012

Jankowski continues to make forward progress in his second season with the Providence Friars. The Dundas, Ontario product has recorded 24 points in 36 games, which included five more goals than his freshman year. Despite the increase in points, there have been gaps in his offensive production. Jankowski will have to work on fully utilizing his frame to help produce more consistent scoring. However he does possess great puck handling skills and soft hands which resulted in a few highlight reel goals, including one against American International earlier in the season.

With a 6’2 frame, Jankowski has added some grit to his game but needs to get stronger on the attack, along with winning battles along the boards. It will be just a matter of time before Jankowski puts together all the ingredients of a solid two-way center. With the upcoming post-season for the Friars, it will present a valuable opportunity for Jankowski to make an immediate impact for Providence.

Kenny Agostino, LW, Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, 2013

Kenny Agostino once again finds himself as one of the top point producers for Yale with 32 points in 33 games. The New Jersey native has averaged just under a point-per-game in his four years at Yale compiling a total of 132 points in 134 career regular season games. Being a consistent source of production, Agostino stepped up when the Bulldogs struggled earlier in the season and provided an offensive spark to get the team back on the winning track.

The 21-year-old has matured as a player with his ability to deal with the ups-and-downs that come with both success and adversity. Agostino has the markings of a leader with his skillset and experience to make the right decisions on and off the ice. With his decision to play out his senior season at Yale rather than opting out to turn pro, Agostino will have an opportunity to graduate with his degree even if the team does not get a chance to defend their National Title after an early exit from the ECAC tournament.

John Gilmour, D, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th Round, 198th Overall, 2013

John Gilmour continues to be a source of steady defense on the blue line for the Providence Friars, as the Montreal native has carried over the success he found in his freshman season into his sophomore year. Gilmour posted 17 points to lead all Providence defensemen in the 34 regular season games. Gilmour has stepped up his defensive game, which has slotted him ample ice time on the power play and penalty kill units. He is a smart defender that provides timely offensive contributions and defensive breakups with the ability to read and anticipate plays.

The selection of Gilmour will provide a familiar presence for both Jankowski and Gillies as they move forward in the Flames system, due to his support on both ends of the ice for his fellow teammates. Gilmour has excellent on-ice vision and a quick first pass to move the puck out of the defensive zone or to create scoring opportunities in the opponent’s end. With his high hockey IQ, Gilmour has the potential to turn into an all-around threat on the back-end if he continues to advance in his offensive development, along with increasing his physical attributes. 

Tim Harrison, RW, Colgate Raiders (ECAC)
Drafted 6th Round, 157th Overall, 2013

After a senior season at Dexter Prep that saw Tim Harrison post 43 points in 28 games, the Massachusetts native experienced a year of adjustments in his freshman year at Colgate. The 6’3 winger witnessed a significant drop in production by recording only five assists through 32 games. Although Harrison did not post impressive numbers, it should not be considered a setback year but rather a season of adjustments to gain experience at a new level of play.

The 20-year-old forward turned heads at the Flames 2013 summer development camp as a hard-working, physical player who could generate offensive opportunities with his tenacity and size. A positive sign for Harrison would be his ability to carry over his physical style of play to Colgate, while being responsible and controlled at the same time to accumulate only 10 minor penalties for the entire season. After a freshman season of adjustments, Harrison can build upon this experience to target areas that need improvement over the summer as he prepares for the upcoming season.

Matt DeBlouw, C, Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th Round, 186th Overall, 2012

After a promising freshman season where Matt DeBlouw posted 21 points in 42 games, the 19-year-old fell into a sophomore slump recording just four assists in 22 games heading into the Big Ten tournament. DeBlouw found himself as a healthy scratch a few times this season, including a stretch of nine games on the sidelines due to his inconsistent and lackluster performance throughout the year.

Despite the setback in the season, DeBlouw still has an opportunity to finish in a positive manner with the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. It will be a test of character and determination to see how DeBlouw responds in post-season action. Numerous players experience similar slumps throughout their careers, and staying positive will be key for him to overcome the adversity he has faced this season.

Russia

Rushan Rafikov, D, Loko Yaroslav (MHL)
Drafted 7th Round, 187th Overall, 2013

In his third season with Loko Yaroslav (MHL), Rushan Rafikov continues to develop the offensive side of his game while recording career highs in numerous categories. The 18-year-old defenseman doubled his previous point total, posting a career best eight goals and twelve assists in 47 regular season games. Rafikov also recorded a career high plus-30 defending the blue line for first place Loko Yaroslav. Rafikov was scoreless in seven playoff games for the club, which lost in the second round of the playoffs.

At 6’1 and 185 pounds, Rafikov will have to increase and strengthen his physical attributes in order to take his game to the next level. Having played in the 2013 Subway Super Series, Rafikov experienced firsthand the difference in physicality and speed of the North American game.

Rafikov recently received an invitation from the Calgary Flames to attend their 2014 summer development camp, where he will have another opportunity to play on North American ice. It has also been suggested that he consider bringing his game to the CHL.

Follow Brian Jung on Twitter: @brianjung80