Calgary Flames’ rebuild aided by rookie performers

By Brian Jung
Photo: Calgary Flame rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau is a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Calgary Flame Johnny Gaudreau is a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon Sportswire)

 

The Calgary Flames continue to move in a positive direction with their rebuild process as their prospects make an impact at the NHL level. The additions of Johnny Gaudreau and Josh Jooris have enhanced the team offensively, while Markus Granlund has provided reliable support in place of injured forwards.

 

When the Flames lineup was plagued by injuries in November, Granlund and a supporting cast of prospects stepped in and helped post a 9-4 record for the month. One of those prospects included Corban Knight, who has recently been traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward prospect Drew Shore.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, 21

Johnny Gaudreau has been a bright spot for the Flames this season as he continues to improve month-to-month. Gaudreau recently earned NHL Rookie of the month honors by scoring 13 points in 14 games to lead all rookie scorers for the month of December. The New Jersey native also recorded his first NHL hat trick on December 22nd against the Los Angeles Kings, which was part of a four game point-streak where he posted seven points. Gaudreau has demonstrated great confidence with his playmaking skills and patience with the puck in order to baffle opponents and create scoring opportunities. The 21-year-old ranks second among NHL rookies in scoring and third among the Flames with 33 points in 43 games.

Gaudreau also received news that he will be heading to the NHL All-Star game in Columbus and will be one of six rookies that will participate in the skills competition. At this rate, Gaudreau is poised to be another vital part of the young core moving forward for Calgary.   

Josh Jooris, C, 24

Playing alongside Gaudreau, Josh Jooris has also made an impression this season with his hard-working style of play. It has been quite a season for Jooris, who was recalled from Adirondack in October after playing just two games in the AHL. Similarly to Gaudreau, Jooris scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut and also recorded his first NHL hat trick in December. The two rookie forwards have created great chemistry on the same line and as a result, Jooris has 14 points in 31 games.

The Ontario native holds one of the best shooting percentages on the team at 19.6% and is tied for the team lead in game-winning and power play goals with three and four goals respectively. However an upper-body injury that Jooris first sustained from a hit in his first NHL game, sidelined the forward for three games at the end of December, and most recently has led to Jooris being placed on the injured reserve list as of January 8th, 2015.  

Markus Granlund, C, 21

Granlund has quietly put together an impressive campaign with the Flames this season. The Finnish forward started off with nine points in his first ten games and through 31 games has a total of five goals and eight assists. Granlund has demonstrated excellent hockey sense and positioning, which earned him time on the penalty kill unit. As a strong two-way center, Granlund has been effective with pressure on the forecheck as well as being defensively responsible on the backcheck.

The 21-year-old was assigned to Adirondack on January 7th. Howeverm Granlund was notified the following day that he would remain with Calgary for the interim with Jooris being placed on the injured reserve list.
 
Sven Baertschi, LW, 22

Sven Baertschi was one of the first prospects called up from Adirondack when injuries started to plague the Flames lineup in November. Baertschi appeared in 14 games and recorded three assists in limited action during that span. Over the past three seasons, Baertschi played in 51 games with a combined 24 points. The 22-year-old was reassigned to Adirondack on December 9. Baertschi has now appeared in a total of 65 NHL games and has met the Hockey’s Future criteria to graduate from prospect status.

Michael Ferland, LW, 22

The NHL debut for Michael Ferland did not play out as expected after receiving a hit to the head from Anton Volchenkov of the Nashville Predators. The 22-year-old left the game early after playing just under ten minutes. Fortunately for Ferland, he required only a short stint on the injured reserve list before returning to action. The Manitoba native returned to the Flames’ lineup by registering one assist in ten games. However with Joe Colborne coming off the injured reserve list, Ferland was reassigned to Adirondack on December 11th and he recorded three assists in 13 games since returning to the AHL.  

Max Reinhart, C, 22

Reinhart appeared in four games for Calgary this season and recorded zero points with a minus-3 rating in limited action. Over the past two seasons, Reinhart has played in a combined 17 games in the NHL with a total of five points. Reinhart has ten points through 33 games with Adirondack.

Corban Knight, C, 24

Knight was called up by Calgary in November and played in back-to-back games before being re-assigned to the Adirondack Flames. Knight averaged just over six minutes per game and was held off the score sheet in both games. Last season, Knight played in seven games and scored his first NHL goal. Knight has been traded back to the Florida Panthers, who drafted him in 2009.   

Joni Ortio, G, 23

With the recent injury to Karri Ramo, Ortio was recalled by Calgary on January 8th and saw his first NHL action of the 2014-15 season by shutting out the Vancouver Canucks. Ortio stopped 36 shots as he posted his first NHL career shutout. The Finnish goaltender appeared confident in goal with his positioning and solid rebound control. Last year, Ortio appeared in nine NHL games and posted a 4-4 record with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage. The second NHL appearance for Ortio will provide management further indicators of his development as they determine the future in goal for Calgary.

2015 World Junior Tournament Update

The only prospect to represent the Calgary Flames in the 2015 WJC was Rushan Rafikov, who finished with a silver medal after Team Russia was defeated by Team Canada in a thrilling gold medal game. Rafikov was one of the more productive defensemen for Team Russia and finished with three points (one goal and two assists) in seven games. Rafikov demonstrated a mobile game with good positioning to limit exposure of getting beat on the rush. Rafikov was also appointed an alternate captain and provided leadership from the blue line.

Calgary Flames Prospect of the Month

Calgary FlamesJon Gillies has provided a strong performance for the Providence Friars this season, which includes receiving Hockey East’s player of the month honors for November and December. Statistically, Gillies is having a career best season through 20 games, with a 2.02 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Gillies also helped back-stop the Friars to the 2014 Catamount Cup title with a shutout victory against Vermont in the championship game.
 
This is an exciting time for Flames fans and it will be great to hear from all you, feel free to leave your feedback, opinions, thoughts and ideas!
How do you think the prospects for the Flames have performed so far this season in the NHL? 
How do you think the second half of the season will shape out?     

Follow Brian Jung on Twitter via @brianjung80