Calgary Flames own a hard-nosed, WHL-heavy group of junior prospects

By David Thicke
Patrick Sieloff - Windsor Spitfires

Photo: Defenseman Patrick Sieloff has delivered highlight reel hits and provided a crease-clearing presence in his first junior season with the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 
The Calgary Flames have eight prospects at the junior level this year: one in the OHL, one in the QMJHL, and six in the WHL. The three forwards are an offensively skilled mix of size, speed, scoring, and playmaking abilities that all bring very different attributes to the table. The four defensemen are a blend of size, grit, and physicality along with good offensive skills led by second round picks Tyler Wotherspoon and Patrick Sieloff. The goalie is a raw talent that has been his team's starter for two years and has given the Flames organization more depth at the goaltending position.

OHL

Patrick Sieloff, D, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 2nd round, 42nd overall in 2012

Sieloff has adjusted nicely to the style of the OHL and is one of his team's better defensemen, but the Spitfires are struggling to score goals while finding themselves in the bottom of the league. The physical defender has been very difficult to play against in his end of the rink, which helped get him selected to the 2013 World Junior Championships with Team USA. He finally received word of his addition to the team after the first game of the round robin when coach Phil Housley decided to use the hard-hitting Sieloff to help defend his net. The second round pick played a big role on the penalty kill and shut down the speedy, physical Russian and Canadian teams in the tournament, helping Team USA win the gold medal.

After missing almost a month for the 2013 WJC tournament, Sieloff returned back to find Windsor in the midst of a seven game losing streak. The team has righted the ship in the last five games with the return of their defensive stalwart and he continues to punish players for trying to cross his blue line. Through 43 games, his offensive numbers are not spectacular having scored three goals along with eight assists, but his 83 penalty minutes (5 fighting majors) tell the real story of his play. Sieloff is the punishing, physical defender that Calgary has been lacking in their line-up since the Dion Phaneuf trade but he is still a few years away from helping the Flames.

QMJHL

Ryan Culkin, D, Quebec Remparts
Acquired: 5th round, 124th overall in 2012

Culkin has been one of the more consistent defensemen for his Remparts this season. He has played on the team's number one power play and penalty kill units while playing on the shutdown pairing on most nights. After 47 games, the offensive defender has already surpassed his total numbers for all last season despite the team's recent losing slide. The Remparts are struggling with a 6-9-2 record since the departure of star forward, Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF) to the 2013 WJC tournament and then to his NHL team.

Culkin leads his team's blueliners for points and sits eighth in the QMJHL amongst defensemen. He has scored three goals (one on the power play) along with 28 assists and a solid plus 11 rating, which are the best on his defense corps. The third year player is one of the bright spots on his team and will be heavily relied on to help pull the Remparts out of their present funk.

WHL

Laurent Brossoit, G, Edmonton Oil Kings
Acquired: 6th round, 164th overall in 2011

Brossoit has slowly improved his game as the 2012-13 season has moved along but he has been a man on a mission since being surprisingly cut from Canada's 2013 WJC team in December. The big netminder has turned his lost opportunity into motivation, going 8-2 with two shutouts in his last 10 starts and posting a miniscule 1.26 goals against average and an excellent .959 save percentage so far in January. He presently sits third amongst all the goaltenders in the WHL in goals against average (2.20) and fourth in save percentage (.921).

Thanks to the stellar play of his rookie back-up Tristan Jarry, Brossoit has not been forced to play as many games as last season which will allow him to be fresher come time for the WHL playoffs. It looks like the Flames' prospect has corrected some of his early issues and is getting primed for another long run in the WHL post-season and a possible return to the 2013 Memorial Cup.

Turner Elson, LW/C, Red Deer Rebels
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, September 22nd, 2011

Elson has been the heart and soul of the Rebels this season. The captain plays shutdown minutes against the opposition's best forwards, has roles on both specialty team units, and is Red Deer's top scorer. He has been his team's defensive and offensive engine this season while trying to drag the Rebels to a WHL playoff berth.

Elson has really increased his overall speed and smartly decides when to drop the gloves to stand up for his teammates. His maturity is starting to pay dividends to his complete game. Through 45 games, he leads the team with 16 goals (three on the power play) along with 20 assists and a plus eight rating while taking 52 penalty minutes (four fighting majors). The undrafted forward is showing why Brent Sutter pushed the Flames' management so hard to sign him in 2011.

Michael Ferland, LW, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 5th round, 133rd overall in 2010

Ferland started the year at the AHL level in Abbotsford but only saw limited action in seven games before being assigned to the ECHL Utah Grizzlies for three games. He collected only one assist in those ten pro games before the Flames decided it would be best for his overall development to return the 20-year-old to his junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings on December 28th, 2012.

Ferland played only four games before the Wheat Kings traded him to the Saskatoon Blades for a first round pick in the 2013 WHL draft. The physical winger has scored one goal along with three assists and a plus four rating in eight games with the Blades. He is starting to adjust to his new teammates and will get the opportunity to play for the 2013 Memorial Cup that is being hosted by Saskatoon in May. This was the smartest move for his long term growth and Ferland is still in the Flames' organizational plans for the future.

Coda Gordon, LW, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 6th round, 165th overall in 2012

Gordon has become more of the playmaker for his linemate, Adam Lowry (WPG) this season as Lowry went on a 21 game point streak. It has been Gordon that has used his hockey sense, patience, and ability to dig for the puck in the corners to get it into the hands of the hot player. His defensive play is still very suspect and his skating needs lots of work but his desire and strength to drive the net are way above average.

Gordon has shown flashes of his soft hands in tight, having scored 14 goals (five on the power play) along with 30 assists and a minus four rating in 48 games. He is the Broncos second leading scorer and is on pace to surpass last season's point totals. The 18-year-old has plenty of time to develop into a more physical scorer that the Flames were hoping for when they drafted him this past year.

Brett Kulak, D, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 4th round, 105th overall in 2012

It has been a bittersweet season for Kulak this year. The Giants are the last place team of the WHL by a wide margin, but the offensive blueliner has surpassed his point totals of last season through 50 games and is the leading point-getter for the team's defense corps. He has controlled Vancouver's power play all year, and after the departure of David Musil (EDM), he has played more important minutes as well on the penalty kill.

There is no denying that Kulak has the vision, puck moving abilities, and good offensive skills. He has scored nine goals along with 22 assists, but he has struggled defensively with a minus 24 rating on the weak Giants' team. His positioning, physicality, and urgency to retrieve the puck in the corners are major concerns going forward in his overall development. In the 18-year-old's defense, it appears that his coaches are asking him to push up the ice for more offense as his team has a tendency to get behind early in most of their games. The good thing for the Flames organization is that he has plenty of time to improve his defensive game and his offensive skills are not easily taught.

Tyler Wotherspoon, D, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 2nd round, 57th overall in 2011

Wotherspoon has really matured into a solid two-way defenseman as his confidence has grown this season. He leads all WHL defensemen with an incredible plus 41 rating on the high-scoring Winterhawks' team. The big defender has stepped up his offensive game, scoring six goals along with 23 assists in 39 games and already surpassing last season's point totals. The second round pick is playing in all important game situations and on both of the specialty team units this year.

Wotherspoon's stellar play finally caught the attention of Team Canada's coaches and he was selected to play at the 2013 WJC tournament in Ufa, Russia. At the start of the tournament, it was thought that the big blueliner would be the team's seventh defenseman but his solid defensive game, shot blocking abilities, and penalty killing elevated him into a bigger role on Team Canada. It showed that he could play with the high profile defensemen of his age group and really pushed him farther along in his overall development. The Flames have an excellent prospect that could be patrolling their blue line in the very near future.

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