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

By David Hahn

Joni Ortio

Photo: Joni Ortio has proven capable of excellence at the AHL level, but now faces a prove-it season in a crowded crease (courtesy of Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire)

 

10. (NR) Kenney Morrison, D, 7.0C
Signed as free agent, 2015

When the Calgary Flames inked Kenney Morrison shortly after the conclusion of his 5 goal, 10 assist junior year at Western Michigan University, most assumed that he would join the Flames AHL affiliate beginning this year. However, Morrisson essentially opted to volunteer to continue his hockey season and made an impressive three-point AHL debut. Not to be confused with a gifted offensive talent, Morrison does enough of the small things to warrant consideration as one of the Flames first call-ups should the need arise.

9. (12) Bill Arnold, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2010

Former Boston College standout Bill Arnold forayed into the AHL for the first time last year, and came away looking like an impressive option to be called up after a 15 goal, 23 assist season. Arnold did a lot of the small things right, and slowly started to earn the trust of coaches and teammates. The 23 year-old is entering an important year is his development, where it will be interesting to see if he can take the next step in order to lead the Stockton Heat and earn his first NHL action.

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

The pressure of being a first round pick hasn’t caught up with Morgan Klimchuk yet, and after spending the summer adding ten pounds of muscle, the 28th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft appears ready to finally graduate to the professional ranks. It’s clear that Klimchuk has little to learn at the junior level following a four-year, 267 point WHL career. Interestingly enough, his current claim to fame in the Flames system is being one of two pieces left from the Jarome Iginla trade (Kenny Agostino the other). Klimchuk represents part of the first wave of prospects to graduate following Calgary’s impressively fast rebuild, trying to keep pace with fellow 2013 first-rounders Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier.

7. (9) Jon Gillies, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2013

If Jon Gillies was looking for closure to his collegiate hockey career, he sure got it in the form of accolades and trophies. As a junior with Providence College, Gillies maintained a 2.01 goals against average and a .930 save percentage en route to winning the NCAA Championship. At the conclusion of the tournament, Gillies was named as tournament MVP, adding to his designation to numerous all-star teams and Hockey East Goaltender of the Year.

Looking ahead, Gillies’s position with the organization is in flux as the team waits to see what happens with Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, and Joni Ortio, who all have one-way contracts. In all likelihood, Gillies will be the go-to option in Stockton, but he could end up splitting time in the AHL or even in the ECHL depending on what happens with those three.  

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

Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio signed a three-year contract with the Calgary Flames in the fall of 2011, and since then, has been patiently awaiting his opportunity at the NHL level. That opportunity could very well come with the Flames, or perhaps another organization, depending on what happens with a logjam of quality goaltenders at the NHL level. Ortio played his way into the discussion with two stellar seasons in the AHL.

The athletic and incredibly mobile goaltender is the most likely to remain with the club, as the Flames could be inclined to shop Jonas Hiller, who is on an expiring contract and could potentially help another team with an injury concern or depth issue. All told, Ortio is a prized prospect that is ready to begin his NHL career in earnest this fall.  

5. (13) Micheal Ferland, LW, 6.5B
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2010

Opponents of the Calgary Flames may have slept with the lights on in fear of Micheal Ferland and his pugilistic tendencies. Ferland quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his abrasive style of play and three goal, two assist, 50 hit performance in nine playoff games. The journey to get to that point was filled with roadblocks, but Ferland’s perseverance and dedication to the game helped him earn a two-year contract shortly before the start of training camp.

From contemplating giving up the game for good two years ago to suiting up as a regular in the Calgary Flames lineup, Ferland is worth keeping an eye on as he attempts to get through his first full 82 game regular season.

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

The Calgary Flames have seven defensemen signed to one-way contracts for next season, but with Ladislav Smid out for the first month, there is an opportunity for Tyler Wotherspoon to cement his place ahead of his peers. From the looks of it, Wotherspoon has had about enough of the AHL, gaining notoriety as one of the Flames’ most consistent prospects on the blueline. This training camp will be a telling one for the Burnaby, BC native, as he is fully healthy after recovering from major shoulder surgery before last year’s training camp. Like many other 2011 draft picks around the league, the 2015-16 season represents one final opportunity to make it to the NHL before the waiver-eligibility clock starts.

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

Similar to the situation that the Flames faced with Max Reinhart (NSH), Markus Granlund faces the realization that he could again be on the outside looking in. With a number of players ahead of him on the depth chart, Granlund faces a tough road to make the Flames, especially in his natural position at center, which would put him behind Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, and other veteran options.

The team has shown a penchant to move talented prospects to wing, such as in the case of Joe Colborne and Sam Bennett, but unless an injury or trade occurs it’s hard to see where the 18-point scorer from one year ago fits in. Granlund has demonstrated an ability to score at the AHL level, as noted by his 63 points in 73 games over the last two years. The potential is there and he checks off a lot of categories teams look for, all he needs is the opportunity.

2. (7) Emile Poirier, RW, 7.0B
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2013

When the Calgary Flames called out the name of Emile Poirier at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, draft pundits immediately questioned the move as the team took him well ahead of where most scouts thought he would go. However, Poirier has been nothing short of impressive and has quickly ascended to near top prospect status. Poirier fought through minor injuries last year but finished with 19 goals and 23 assists in 51 games in Abbotsford, earning a pair of call-ups and six total games in the NHL. The experience was valuable, as he picked up good habits and learned what the organization expected from him. Following in the footsteps of Josh Jooris, Poirier hopes to earn a job in the NHL and will have every opportunity to battle for one at training camp.

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

The Flames’ top prospect showed a glimpse of what the future holds when he was added to Calgary’s playoff roster last year. The energetic and often frustrating to play against Bennett had a penchant for timely goals throughout his OHL career, and that trait carried over to the NHL playoffs where he added three memorable tallies. Perhaps because he had enough of hearing about not being able to do a pull-up during his NHL Draft combine testing, Bennett has reportedly added 15 pounds of muscle and is prepared for his first full season with Calgary.

Bennett nearly made the Flames roster last year, and if not for a nagging shoulder injury, he could have potentially been in the running for the Calder trophy. Despite the setback, Bennett took the experience as an opportunity to learn and put in extra work, something that could pay off in spades this year. While it may be early to say, Bennett appears to be developing chemistry with Jiri Hudler, which could be a deadly, if not an underrated combination of top prospect and cagey veteran.

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