Large group of gritty players populate minor league system for Calgary Flames

By HF Staff
Photo: A former standout in the OHL, Greg Nemisz appears to have adjusted to the AHL level, posting 14 goals and 19 assists through 68 games, but will need to add more strength if he hopes to be an NHL regular. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The AHL affiliate for the Calgary Flames, the Abbotsford Heat ended their season with 86 points, fourth in the Northern Division, but failed to make the last playoff spot by five points. They struggled with about 400 man games lost to injuries for the year.

The Utah Grizzlies, an ECHL affiliate shared with the New York Islanders, finished the regular season with 73 points which was good for sixth place in the Western Conference. They beat the Stockton Thunder 3-1 in the first round but were swept by the Victoria Salmon Kings 4-0 in the conference semi-finals to end their season.


Forwards

John Armstrong, RW/C, 23

Armstrong proved that he could stay healthy after the previous two injury-filled seasons. He suffered with a knee problem and required two surgeries on his shoulder, limiting his playing time to just 14 games in the 2009-10 season for Abbottsford. The 23-year-old scored nine goals along with eight assists in 78 AHL games. The 6’2 205 pound played a physical style and accumulated 91 penalty minutes for the season, including three fights. Armstrong stood up for teammates against some heavy-weights in two of those fights showing no fear in dropping the gloves with anyone. The two-way center had a respectable minus six rating while playing for the lowest scoring team in the ECHL. Armstrong was a restricted free agent at the season’s end but will most likely be retained by the Flames.


Lance Bouma, LW/C, 21

Bouma had an excellent rookie year with Abbottsford as well as being called up to play for the Flames on two occasions late in the season. He received playing time as a fourth line checker with Calgary while providing only one assist and a minus one rating in 16 NHL games. The defensively reliable forward was returned to help the Heat in their fight for a post season berth after the Flames failed to clinch a playoff spot. The 21-year-old showed some offensive skill, scoring 12 goals with eight assists in 61 AHL games. The 6’1 210 pound forward played a physical role with the willingness to fight and having 53 penalty minutes for the season but can occasionally take the bad costly penalty at the wrong time.

Bouma has a good chance to steal a spot on Calgary’s roster next season as an agitating forward on their third or fourth line. The young forward is under contract for two more years and would be a cheap role player for the salary cap challenged Flames.


Bryan Cameron, RW/C, 22

Cameron had a difficult rookie year with Abbottsford playing fourth-line minutes after scoring 53 OHL goals last season. The 22-year-old scored only six goals along with 9 assists in 60 AHL games. In late February, the young forward was re-assigned to the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings, an affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose, to receive more playing time in order to regain his scoring confidence. He was quickly returned to the Heat after a seven game ECHL stint having scored three goals along with three assists. The offensively talented player was unable to help the team score more goals during the last eight games of the season. Cameron needs to add more muscle to his frame in order to play in the dirty areas required to score goals at the pro level.

The rookie is still under contract for two more years with Calgary. Next season, Cameron will need to play himself onto the first or second lines with Abbottsford to showcase his scoring talent to the Flames.


Hugo Carpentier, C, 23

Carpentier had an improved year with the Grizzlies scoring 16 goals with 21 assists in 51 ECHL games finishing second in points on the team. The 23-year-old was up and down with the AHL heat on two occasions during the season but only played in nine games as a fourth line center scoring one goal along with one assist. The 6’2 205 pound forward showed he can play a physical checking style while providing some scoring to the Grizzlies who were the lowest scoring team this season, in the ECHL. The young center played a much better two-way game, finishing with a minus-six rating for the season. Carpentier did not produce much offense only scoring two goals with three assists in eight ECHL playoff games for Utah.

Carpentier needs to continue improving his offensive play and stay with the AHL Heat for this coming season. The Flames will have to decide whether the 23-year-old has improved enough before re-signing the restricted free agent for the coming season.

Ryley Grantham, LW/C, 23

Grantham had a difficult sophomore season in the AHL suffering an ankle injury which limited him to just 22 games with the Heat. The 23-year-old was sent down to the ECHL Grizzlies for 14 games to finish his year. The 6’4 207-pounder plays the protector role for his teammates and is always willing to fight. The power forward needs to show that he can score some goals and play better positional defense to have a chance to make the Flames in the future.

Grantham is under contract for one more year and will have to stay healthy and play the entire coming season with Abbottsford.


Logan MacMillan, C/LW, 21

MacMillan had a tough rookie season with the AHL Heat, being a healthy scratch at times while playing only 55 games this year with Abbottsford. The 21-year-old was only able to score five goals along with six assists. The 6’1 205 pound forward plays a physical two-way game but struggled to show the coaches his defensive side, finishing the season with a minus-13 rating. The young winger showed a willingness to drop the gloves on three occasions but only accumulated 32 penalty minutes for the year. This number one draft pick needs to come back stronger next season while contributing more offensively and showing his two-way game. He needs to regain his confidence to play at this level for the entire season next year and prove that the change of scenery was the right move for him.

MacMillan has another year under contract with the Flames to showcase his talents that made him a top draft pick in 2007.


Greg Nemisz, RW, 20

Nemisz was fourth on the team scoring in his rookie season with the Heat. The 20-year-old had 14 goals and 19 assists in 68 AHL games. Nemisz also got his first chance at NHL action playing six late season games with the Flames and picking up an assist. The 20-year-old drives hard to the net showing his soft hands, good defensive instincts and decision-making skills. The rookie gained the confidence of his coaches, allowing him to receive playing time on the powerplay and penalty kill where he scored three shorthanded tallies along with five goals on the powerplay. He needs to increase his overall strength to help the physical side of his game in order to become a great power forward in the NHL.

Nemisz must continue to improve his consistency with Abbottsford early next season. There is a good chance he could see at least spot duties in the NHL next season.


Gaelan Patterson, C, 21

Patterson had a good rookie season with the Heat even though his offensive numbers were reduced by minor shoulder, knee injuries and a broken jaw along with a concussion. The 20-year-old was able to score seven goals with 14 assists in 61 AHL games. The 6′ 207-pounder showed a solid defensive side to his game finishing the year with a plus one rating on an offensively challenged Abbottsford team. The coaches gave the rookie quality time on the penalty killing unit where he was able to score two shorthanded goals for the season. Patterson needs to improve his offensive productivity and remain healthy for the entire coming season.

Mitch Wahl, C, 21

Wahl missed 11 games with broken bones around his eye along with a broken cheekbone, which was surgically repaired, and a concussion from a vicious headshot on November 27, 2010. He would miss the rest of season with a neck injury and symptoms from his earlier concussion. The 21-year-old scored only one goal along with four assists in 17 AHL games and was never able to show the Flames or Abbottsford his solid two-way play and offensive skill which he displayed last season with the WHL Spokane Chiefs.

Wahl needs to fully recover from the concussion and arrive at the Flames training camp for the coming season prepared to battle for a roster spot. The young center has two more years remaining on his entry level contract with Calgary.


Defensemen

Gord Baldwin, D, 24

Baldwin missed the first five games of the AHL season recovering from a training camp knee injury. The 24-year-old plays a very defensive style, likes to be physical in front of his net and the corners of the rink. The 6’5 199 pound blueliner needs to add about 20 to 30 pounds more of muscle to play in the NHL. The defenseman finished with a minus-13 rating this season for Abbottsford which was an offensively challenged team.

Baldwin needs to increase his body mass, aggressiveness and improve his defensive positioning for the late bloomer to make the Flames defense corp. The Flames will have to re-sign the restricted free agent for the coming season.

Christopher Breen, D, 21

Breen struggled adapting to the professional level for the first half of the AHL season. However, the rookie worked really hard on and off the ice with the coaching staff and improved so much that Coach Jim Playfair used the big defenseman as one of his go-to guys by the end of the season. The large rookie scored four goals with seven assists and a respectable minus-six rating in 73 AHL games. The 6’7 225 pound behemeth has a relaxed demeanor and will need to increase his aggressiveness, urgency, and competitiveness to continue improving into a NHL caliber defenseman.

T.J. Brodie, D, 20

Brodie was the lone Heat representative at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic in Hershey, PA this season. He also started the season playing for the Flames where he failed to register any points and had a minus three rating in three NHL games before being assigned to Abbottsford. The rookie finished the AHL season second in points with 34 and led the Heat with 29 assists and a plus-three rating in 68 games. The 6’1 defensemen is a good puck-mover with excellent skating skills and plenty of offensive upside to his game. The talented defenseman needs only to add more muscle and weight to his frame to play more physically at the NHL level.


Josh Meyers, D, 25

Meyers had a difficult sophomore year in which he suffered a neck injury that kept him out of the lineup. The defenseman was sent down to the ECHL Grizzlies where he collected one assist in two games before being recalled to Abbottsford. The 25-year-old scored three goals along with eight assists and a respectable minus two rating in 49 AHL games. The 6’2 190-pounder plays sound defensive hockey, moves the puck well and has a hard shot from the blue line. The American-born defenseman has not shown offensive upside or shutdown ability but he is reliable in his own end and will occasionally jump into the offense.

Meyers needs to add some more size to his frame while improving his skating speed and hopefully show the Flames that he can be a dependable asset on the blue line. He will become a restricted free agent on July 1st so Calgary will have to decide whether they want to re-sign the defenseman.

John Negrin, D, 22

Negrin finished last season with a broken kneecap which reduced his training over the summer but he was ready for the start of his sophomore season with Abbottsford. The injury plagued 22-year-old was sidelined for most of the season after having surgery October 10th, to remove a screw from the same injured knee. The 6’3 200 pound defenseman would return late in the season collecting six assists and a minus-two rating in 24 AHL games. He needs to show some consistency and must add more bulk to become a potential all-around player.


Matt Pelech, D, 23

Pelech failed to make the Flames out of training camp so he was placed on waivers and assigned to Abbottsford for his sophomore season. He suffered a shoulder injury late in October returning in December after missing 19 games and was suspended two games for a boarding major late in the season. The 23-year-old alternate captain collected three goals with two assists, a minus-nine rating and 198 penalty minutes (17 fighting majors) in 59 AHL games. The 6’4 220 pound defenseman has NHL size, aggressiveness, can both intimidate and shut down opposing forwards. The young defenseman needs to play with greater consistency and make better decisions with the puck on his blade.


Keith Seabrook, D, 22

Seabrook had a learning sophomore year with the Heat as he was at times a healthy scratch and sidelined with an upper body injury. He was loaned to the AHL Manitoba Moose in exchange for center MacGregor Sharp (VAN) on March 3rd, 2011. The 22-year-old scored four goals with 16 assists and a minus-six rating in 48 AHL games with the Heat. He also scored one goal with two assists and a minus two rating in 15 AHL games with the Moose. The young defender received more minutes and playoff experience with the Moose while quarterbacking their power play. He scored two important goals with one assist and a minus three rating in 10 AHL playoff games while missing four games with a lower body injury. The 6’2 200 pound defenseman can lead the powerplay, has potential offensive upside, and is a puck moving defender but thinks offense first so his defensive play suffers.

Seabrook will need to improve his defensive game along with being more physically aggressive in his own zone to succeed at the NHL level. The Flames have another year on his contract to watch the development of this potential NHL defenseman.


Goalies

Leland Irving, G, 23

Irving was arguably the Heat’s MVP this season setting a career high with 30 wins and eight shutouts in 61 AHL games. The goaltender’s 30 wins was second amongst all goaltenders and his eight shutouts was a AHL league-best. He posted a goals against average of 2.30 with a very good save percentage of .913 for Abbottsford. The 23-year-old netminder has a calm demeanor along with a quiet goaltending style that lets the shot hit him while not overplaying the shooters, which are all qualities needed to be a NHL goalie. He does not fill the net with his frame so he needs to play more at the top of his crease and be more aggressive with his stick when challenging the shooters.

Irving was a restricted free agent at the end of the season but will be re-signed by the Flames. The young goalie will probably be assigned to the Heat again for the coming year because the Flames intend to try and re-sign unrestricted free agent backup goalie Henrik Karlsson, who also wishes to return to Calgary.


Article was written by David Thicke.