Gaudreau leads talented group of Calgary Flames prospects in Fall 2014 Top 20

By Brian Jung

 

Johnny Gaudreau recorded 80 points in 40 games with Boston College in 2013-14. He brings his sublime offensive skill set to the Calgary Flames in 2014-15. (courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Johnny Gaudreau recorded 80 points in 40 games with Boston College in 2013-14. He brings his sublime offensive skill set to the Calgary Flames in 2014-15. (courtesy of Rich Lam/Getty Images)

 

A new chapter begins for the Calgary Flames as general manager Brad Treliving enters his first full season managing the team. Overseeing his first draft with the Flames, Treliving added to the growing pool of talent with the selection of six quality prospects including Sam Bennett and Mason McDonald, who find themselves ranked for the first time among the Hockey’s Future Flames Top 20 prospects list.

The Calgary Flames also welcome two new minor league affiliates for the 2014 season, beginning with the relocation of their AHL affiliate team from Abbotsford to Glen Falls, New York, where the team will be known as the Adirondack Flames. Calgary also signed an agreement with the Colorado Eagles to be their affiliate in the ECHL for player development.

Changes and improvements are part of the rebuilding process, and with the new components for 2014 the Flames will look to continue their forward progress developing into a strong Western Conference team.

1. (2) Johnny Gaudreau, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2011

After completing an impressive junior season at Boston College, which included winning the Hobey Baker award and producing 80 points in 40 games, Johnny Gaudreau is ready for the next stage in his career and has taken over the number one ranked spot on the Flames’ Top 20 list. From signing a three-year contract to getting his first NHL game and goal under his belt late in the 2013-14 season, Gaudreau is poised to make an impact as the 2014-15 season begins.

Whether the Flames decide to keep the recently turned 21 year old in the lineup once the season begins is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, the organization will benefit from his scoring abilities regardless of where he plays. Early indications from his performance at development camp this year show that Gaudreau is in excellent shape, which will make for a difficult decision for management and the coaching staff in regards to his future as the start of the season approaches. Gaudreau could find himself splitting time between Calgary and Glen Falls; however, if the New Jersey native produces similarly to Sean Monahan‘s 2013-14 season he might find his stay in Calgary to be longer than expected.  

2. (NR) Sam Bennett, C 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2014

The talent and tenacity that Sam Bennett brings to the game has landed the newly drafted prospect the second ranked spot on the Fall 2014 Top 20 list. Bennett is considered an elite prospect and one of the most complete players in his draft class, which earned him the honors of being ranked number one among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final list for 2014. As the second center from the OHL selected in the first round by Calgary in consecutive years, the Flames have solidified the center position with the duo of Monahan and Bennett.

Though the older Monahan who was able to remain with the Flames for the entire 2013-14 season, Bennett is in a position to take advantage of the opportunity to play for the Kingston Frontenacs for another year. He will also have a good chance to represent Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championship. Last year, Bennett produced 91 points in his second season with the Frontenacs, which was more than double the points he scored as a rookie. A third season could see Bennett produce even more points as he continues to develop the strengths of his game and works towards his goal of becoming a force in the NHL.                          

3. (3) Sven Baertschi, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2011

The 2014-15 season could be one of the most important years in Swiss native Sven Baertschi’s career. Baertschi finds himself surrounded by an increased amount of quality talent that have raised the competitive level and expectations of the forwards in the Calgary system. After falling short in his attempts to remain in the Flames lineup last year, Baertschi finished the 2013-14 season in Abbotsford, where he found mixed success. He produced just 29 points in 41 games with the Heat.

Baertschi will once again have an opportunity to demonstrate whether he has the determination to keep a spot in Calgary’s lineup. If he is unable to do so, however, he could find himself at a turning point with the organization.

4. (4) Max Reinhart, C, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2010

Max Reinhart holds onto the fourth slot in part due to his consistent, hardworking style of play. As one of the key figures for the Abbotsford Heat last year, Reinhart produced a team high 63 points in 66 games and will be looked upon to lead the way as the team heads to Glen Falls, New York. The 22 year old played a pivotal role for the Heat last year, bringing a package of scoring, physical play and leadership to the team. Reinhart also played an instrumental role in helping Abbotsford’s rookies have successful seasons in 2013-14, in particular with Markus Granlund, who found instant chemistry with Reinhart.

Reinhart was also a reliable call-up for the Flames last year and will most likely see time in the lineup again in 2014-15. Reinhart will likely serve as an injury call-up, though he has developed his game to the point where he could see more time in the lineup than the previous two seasons, where he suited up for a combined 19 games.  

5. (14) Markus Granlund, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2011

Markus Granlund makes the biggest move up the top 20 rankings by jumping up to the fifth position from fourteenth. After a breakout rookie season where he put together a 46 point campaign in 52 games for Abbotsford, the Finnish forward will look to avoid a sophomore slump and continue to build upon the valuable experience he had in 2013-14.

While adjusting to a different culture on and off the ice last year, Granlund remained focused and played confidently throughout the season, earning respect from his teammates and rookie of the year honors for the Heat. The 21-year-old also impressed management and the coaching staff enough to earn a call up to Calgary, where he was able to experience the rigors of the NHL. Granlund suited for seven games and scored two goals and added an assist. The organization will gauge his development level this year based on how Granlund responds to his second season in North America.   

6. (5) Corban Knight, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade with Florida, 2013

Following Reinhart and Granlund in the rankings is Corban Knight, who rounds out a trio of forwards Calgary will be closely watching in 2014-15 to determine their readiness to suit up for the Flames. Knight found great chemistry with both Reinhart and Granlund in Abbotsford last season, which led to Knight producing 44 points in 77 games.  

The Alberta native played a confident game in 2013-14 and, like Granlund, also earned a seven-game stint in Calgary, scoring his first NHL goal in just his third game. Knight will also be monitored to see how he responds in his second season with the organization, which should be interesting given the playmaking talent he brings to the game and the he has potential to make an impact for either Adirondack or the Flames.

7. (7) Tyler Wotherspoon, D, 6.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2011

Leading the way for the defensive core is Tyler Wotherspoon, who had a quality season as a first-year pro in 2013-14. Wotherspoon easily transferred over his shutdown style of play to the Abbotsford Heat, and when injuries occurred in Calgary, Wotherspoon jumped into the Flames’ lineup with ease, playing confidently in 14 games. Wotherspoon is a steady and consistent defender that has the markings of a mainstay defenseman whom the organization can benefit from for years to come. While the offensive side of his game is limited, the shutdown aspect is the focal point to this sturdy defender’s game.

Wotherspoon will once again be a fixture on the blue line for the organization. Where he will play, however, will most likely be determined as the season progresses. The 21 year old will most likely be utilized in a similar manner to last year, where he found himself splitting time between the NHL and AHL. Wotherspoon is another prospect that could see more time in Calgary in 2014-15 given the nature and talent he brings to his position.   

8. (8) Patrick Sieloff, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2012

After a season on the sidelines recovering from a staph infection, Patrick Sieloff is ready for a fresh start as the 2014-15 season begins. The organization has taken his return with extra precaution in order to incorporate the physical defender into the lineup when he is fully healthy and able to once again endure the rigors of playing at full contact speed.  

Despite the physical setbacks Sieloff has experienced in the past few seasons, his positive outlook to continue battling through these obstacles illustrates his perseverance as he works toward his goal of playing in the NHL. Sieloff has worked hard with his off-ice conditioning and will be closely monitored as the season advances in order to determine if the injury has affected his game at all, and if so, which areas require further attention for a full recovery.

9. (9) Emile Poirier, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 22th overall, 2013

After completing three solid seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques, Emile Poirier is primed for the next level in his career as he prepares to suit up for the Adirondack Flames and perhaps the Calgary Flames. The Montreal native appeared in two late season games with the Abbotsford Heat in 2013-14 and made an immediate impression by scoring two goals and adding two assists. Poirier stayed with the team through the playoffs, where he scored one goal in three games.

As a versatile winger who prefers to play on the off wing, Poirier has the ability to contribute as a goal scorer, play maker and agitator. Poirier was the only top 20 goal scorer in the QJMHL last year to eclipse over 100 penalty minutes with 128 in 63 games. With the combination of grit and talent, Poirier is shaping into a prospect that the Calgary Flames can greatly benefit from.

10. (11) Joni Ortio, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 171st overall, 2009

After a fantastic season demonstrating his capabilities and moving up the ranks, Ortio heads into the 2014-15 season determined to reach his goal and solidify a roster position in Calgary. However, with the signing of Jonas Hiller and the return of Kari Ramo for a second season, Ortio will face strong competition as he competes for one of the goaltending positions in Calgary.

The 23-year-old Finnish goaltender earned team MVP honors in 2013-14 after helping the Abbotsford Heat record one of the best seasons in franchise history, leading the team into the playoffs. Ortio remained composed no matter the team he played for and eventually earned a call up to Calgary, where he played his first nine games in the NHL. As a result, Ortio gained the confidence of the organization, which signed him a two-year contract on July 24, 2014.

11. (6) Mark Jankowski, C, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2012

Mark Jankowski suffers the largest drop in ranking among the Flames’ top 20 prospects as he falls five spots to the eleventh overall position. Although Jankowski did not take any steps back in his development last season, he has suffered a recent hip injury that has currently sidelined the 19 year old. How Jankowski responds to the injury will be a factor in where he stands with the organization. Jankowski also faces increased pressure from the amount of forwards successfully developing in the system.

With the size and talent Jankowski possesses he can put together an impressive offensive package; however, he has yet to combine it all on the ice. As he begins his junior year with Providence, Jankowski will have to elevate his game to the level that is expected from a first round pick and take the lead for the Friars.

12. (10) Jon Gillies, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2012

Faced with the decision of either turning pro or returning for a third season in college, Jon Gillies opted for the latter and will be back in goal for the Providence Friars. Given the goaltender scenario with the Calgary Flames, Gillies made the wise decision to return to Providence and further develop his game and mature as a goaltender for one more season.

Consistency is something Gillies has demonstrated in his first two years with the Friars, where he posted an identical save percentage of .931 and allowed 73 goals in each of the past two seasons. However, Gillies did not outperform or exceed expectations during an early exit with Team USA in the 2014 World Junior Championship or in the NCAA Frozen Four. The 20 year old will have an opportunity to fine-tune his game in the collegiate ranks for one more year, which will give the goaltender situation in Calgary time to get sorted out before he reaches the pro ranks.

13. (12) Morgan Klimchuk, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2013                                

After compiling 187 points in 201 games with the Regina Pats, Morgan Klimchuk is ready to find success at the next level in his career. Klimchuk signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Flames on December 17, 2013, giving the 19 year old sufficient time to continue his development.

Klimchuk has the instinctive markings of a valuable team player with his maturity on and off the ice. With his natural leadership skills and the combination of his scoring and playmaking abilities, Klimchuk will compete for a roster position with the Calgary Flames. If, however, he unable to do so he will have to return to Regina for one more season.  

14. (13) Bill Arnold, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2010

Not many players have the opportunity to play with a good friend, let alone advance to the next stages in their careers at the same time. Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau, however, share this rare opportunity. Both finished successful careers at Boston College, leading to both signing their first pro career contracts on the same day and playing in their first NHL game together. Both will once again have an opportunity to play on the same team as the 2014-15 season starts.

Arnold continues to develop into a powerful center with strong skating skills and good hands. He has the ability to create in front of the net, especially when Gaudreau is on the ice at the same time. The Massachusetts native also has the versatility to play on the wing if required, which might be the scenario he finds himself in this season given the amount of centers the Flames have stockpiled.

15. (16) Ben Hanowski, LW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, 2013

As one of the three prospects acquired from Pittsburgh in the Jarome Iginla trade, Ben Hanowski has been with the organization long enough to be at a crossroad in his career. Hanowski will be one of the first players to be evaluated in regards to his future with the organization after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Flames on July 12, 2014. The contract gives the team an opportunity to determine the course of action with the 23 year old once the season is complete. 

In 2013-14, his first season in the AHL, Hanowski produced a noteworthy 31 points in 55 games. He also appeared in 11 games with the Calgary Flames, recording just two assists as he adjusted to the different level of play. With the increased amount of forwards in the system, Hanowski could start feeling the pressure to increase his level of play in order to impress management and earn a longer term contract with the organization. 

16. (15) Kenny Agostino, LW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, 2013

Kenny Agostino joins Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau as three collegiate players from the top 20 list that will make the full-time jump to the pro ranks in 2014-15. Over the course of four years at Yale, Agostino recorded close to a point-per-game average, scoring 132 points in 134 games with the Bulldogs. Following his graduation from Yale, Agostino was called up by the Flames for eight games. Agostino dedicated the offseason to improving his overall health, along with increasing his strength and conditioning, which will be key factors as he prepares for his next call up from Calgary.

17. (NR) Mason McDonald, G, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2014

Mason McDonald joins Sam Bennett as the only two prospects from the 2014 NHL Draft to crack the Flames top 20 list. As the first goaltender selected in the 2014-15 NHL draft, McDonald was drafted with the mindset that he will be the future long-term goaltender for the Flames.

With a large frame of 6’3 and 181 pounds, McDonald has great positioning and covers the angles well for a goaltender of his size. He has strong lateral movements and can slide from to post to post relatively quickly. His calm demeanour and focus will help the 18-year-old goaltender mature as he works his way up the ranks. For the upcoming season, McDonald will look to start a full year in goal for Charlottetown in the QMJHL after being traded last year to the Islanders mid-season and appearing in 16 regular season games.

18. (NR) Josh Jooris, C, 6.5C
Free agent signing, 2013

After completing his rookie season with the Abbotsford Heat, Jooris will look to avoid falling into a sophomore slump as he enters his second season in the Flames organization. Jooris had a slow start to the 2013-14 season but gained momentum and confidence as the year progressed. However, when the team was battling for a playoff position in the final month of the season, Jooris only contributed one point in a stretch of seven crucial games. Jooris will have to respond with a strong start to the 2014-15 season in order to continuing building the confidence he gained from last year.

19. (20) John Ramage, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 103rd overall, 2010

Ramage moves up one spot in the standings as he completed his rookie season adjusting from the college ranks to the pace of the AHL and ECHL. After 50 games with the Abbotsford Heat, Ramage was assigned to the Alaska Aces just prior to the start of the playoffs. Ramage had an offensive breakout in the post season, recording 13 points in 20 games and helping the Aces win the Kelly Cup. Ramage took to the challenge of playing in Alaska with a positive mindset and benefited from the opportunity to enhance the offensive side of his game.

Ramage enters his second season physically and mentally stronger from the experience gained last year and will look to continue developing both sides of his game.   

20. (NR) Keegan Kanzig, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2013

Keegan Kanzig cracks the top 20 rankings for the first time since being drafted in 2013. The Victoria Royals defenseman is not only the biggest pound-for-pound prospect in the system at 6’7 and 240 pounds, he is one of the most mature as well. The 19-year-old holds a leadership role as one of the alternate captains in Victoria and has already played an important role helping the new draftees adjust to their new surroundings. As a physical defender who strives to improve his development by taking feedback and applying the necessary time to work on different areas of his game, Kanzig also sets an example that hard work and effort pays off. Having a defender like Kanzig, who will look to take on more responsibilities as he moves up in the organization, will be an asset in upcoming seasons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Follow Brian Jung on Twitter via @brianjung80

  

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