Sam Bennett anointed top prospect after graduations in Calgary Flames Top 20 prospects

By David Hahn
Sam Bennett - Calgary Flames

Photo: Calgary Flames prospect Sam Bennett, along with Sean Monahan, provide the club with a formidable source of strength at center ice (courtesy of Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

 

Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving has acquired an embarrassment of riches in the course of his tenure, and recently started to see results from past drafts and acquisitions. After a surprising 2014-15 season, the Flames should shed the label of underdogs, as former prospects like Josh Jooris and Sean Monahan graduated along the way to leading the scrappy Flames into the playoffs.


The next group features Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland, whom Flames fans have already become acquainted with thanks to their contributions in the playoffs last year. Beyond them, Tyler Wotherspoon is fighting with a number of intriguing prospects on defense to earn a potential roster spot in Calgary. Likewise, Joni Ortio’s one-way contract and recent success in the AHL is forcing the issue in goal.

It’s clear that Treliving has raised expectations this year, with the team’s acquisition of Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins punctuating a series of roster moves that has the team pointed in the right direction. Flames Head Coach Bob Hartley has raised expectations himself, and with an emerging and relatively young team, Calgary can look forward to a number of top prospects for many years to come.

20. (NR) Andrew Mangiapane, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 166th overall, 2015

The Barrie Colts duo of Andrew Mangiapane and Rasmus Andersson drew rave reviews from their performances during the Penticton Young Stars tournament. Mangiapane is already being compared to Johnny Gaudreau, both similar in stature and style. Last year, the undersized Colts forward joined teammates Kevin Labanc (SJ) and Joe Blandisi (NJ) in the 100 point club, impressive enough for the Flames to take him in his second year of draft eligibility. The Colts are hoping that Mangiapane makes it back to them, where he figures to be one of the OHL’s leading scorers once again.

19. (NR) Rasmus Andersson, D, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2015

One of the most active defenseman in the OHL last year, Rasmus Andersson was engaged in all three zones and was most effective when he was pushing the pace. Andersson’s compete level is off the charts, as referenced by his willingness to physically involve himself along the boards. Not only does his game have a little bite, but Andersson scored 12 goals and 52 assists, good for third in scoring by a defensemen in the OHL. The Flames already recognized his talents, signing him to a three year entry-level contract just a few short months after being drafted, and retaining him in camp for an extended look at what he might accomplish against NHL-level talents.

18. (NR) Hunter Smith, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 54th overall, 2014

Junior hockey players are often given nicknames during the course of their career, and in Hunter “Big Rig” Smith’s case, his is accurate. The 6’7” power forward imposed his will last year for the Oshawa Generals, who not only won the J. Ross Robertson cup as OHL champion, but went on to win the Memorial Cup as well. Smith was a major part of that, producing at just under a point-per-game clip. His calling card will obviously be his physical size and presence on the ice, but a developing offensive skill game is slowly blossoming as well. His first test within the organization will come with the Stockton Heat, the Flames’ brand new AHL affiliate.

17. (20) Mark Jankowski, C, 6.5C
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2012

Any time an organization spends a first round pick on a particular player, that young man is thrust into the spotlight and his game is constantly dissected. That’s the scenario Mark Jankowski has faced as the 21st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Nevertheless, Jankowski, along with fellow Flames prospect Jon Gillies, have been cornerstones for 2014-15 NCAA Championship victors Providence College.

Jankowski has been a consistent performer, and has shown an upward development path as he embarks on his senior year. His long term future is yet undecided, but the Flames patience has to be recognized as they continue to wait to reap the rewards of their initial investment.

16. (16) Kenny Agostino, LW, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh, 2013

One of the oldest Flames prospects in Penticton was Kenny Agostino, who has moved into more of a leadership role helping the youngest Calgary hopefuls along in their development. After leading the Adirondack Flames in scoring with a 15 goal, 28 assist campaign, Kenny Agostino is vying for a roster spot in Calgary. Forever linked to former Flame Jarome Iginla, Agostino hopes to follow in the footsteps of Josh Jooris and Micheal Ferland as former Penticton standouts that were able to translate their success to main camp and eventually to NHL competition.

15. (NR) Brett Kulak, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2012

When Brett Kulak lines up for the Stockton Heat, it will be his fifth team in just over one calendar year. After graduating from the WHL, Kulak worked his way up from the ECHL, to a part-time contributor in the AHL, and even earned his first NHL action last year. With the organizational shift of affiliates, the offensively-minded defenseman is hoping for a full-time job in Stockton, where he briefly displayed his ability as a dangerous scoring threat.

14. (14) Ryan Culkin, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2012

Playing the lottery would be a poor choice for promising Flames prospect Ryan Culkin, who recently recovered from a gruesome wrist injury, which happened when he was cut by a skate in the beginning of February. The young blueliner was having a quality season before the injury, and the reviews were again good throughout the summer and into the Penticton tournament. Unfortunately, Culkin suffered another setback when he was upended into the boards, and will miss the first two months of the 2015-16 season. Upon his return, he should figure into the Stockton defense corps as a trustworthy, mobile option.  

13. (NR) Brandon Hickey, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2014

Just one year ago, Brandon Hickey was an afterthought playing in the AJHL after spurning the WHL in favor of maintaining a commitment to Boston University. Hickey’s freshman season was an emphatic statement, finishing with six goals and eleven assists in 41 games, helping the team to win the Hockey East title. One particular statistic that jumps off the charts is Hickey’s 91 blocked shots, the highest total among all Hockey East defensemen.

He has a lot of tools already, and started to gain confidence as the season progressed last year. He should be confident, at this point, thanks to a particular invitation by Hockey Canada to participate in their World Junior camp, showing why the upstart defenseman is in demand as he begins his sophomore year.

12. (NR) Oliver Kylington, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2015

Oliver Kylington is coming to North America, the question now is exactly where he is going to land. After completing his second season as a professional in Sweden, Kylington is eligible to play for Stockton in the AHL or for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. The former top-ranked European defenseman fell from grace last year, as the young defender struggled down the stretch and split the year between three teams and levels of hockey.

Kylington’s whirlwind year will conclude with a new North American home, which should help him settle into a routine on and off the ice. His offensive instincts and puck-possession skills – while raw – have drawn comparisons to fellow countryman Erik Karlsson. It is not out of the question for Kylington to get to that level. However, his work away from the puck will need to improve considerably if he is to return to his former billing as one of the top prospects in his draft class.

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

Playing for a rebuilding franchise usually is a difficult task for most prospects, but Mason McDonald saw a lot of rubber and turned aside most of it last year. McDonald faced the third most shots in the QMJHL, and his .906 save percentage was second in the league. The tall, lanky goaltender used his extremities well, relying on his flexibility to make highlight-quality saves for the Charlottetown Islanders. Calgary liked what they saw last year, and inked McDonald to a three year entry-level contract in July. He will return to junior hockey this year, and will be in contention for a spot on Canada’s World Junior team.

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