Calgary Flames prospects played large part in WHL playoffs, Frozen Four

By David Thicke

Ken Agostino - Yale Bulldogs

Photo: Yale winger Ken Agostino hoists the trophy after helping the Bulldogs to the first National Championship in school history (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

The Calgary Flames prospects at the NHL level were unable to gain any post-season playing experience and the Abbotsford Heat failed to qualify for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. At the lower levels this spring, only the CHL prospects were experiencing playoff hockey as the European and NCAA prospects had already finished up their seasons.

The Flames will be fortunate enough to have Michael Ferland and Tyler Wotherspoon playing for the 2013 Memorial Cup, being hosted in Saskatoon this month.

ECHL

At the ECHL level, David Eddy, James Martin, and Gaelan Patterson with the Utah Grizzlies were swept in the first round, and Bryan Cameron, playing with the San Francisco Bulls, lost 4-1 in the first round as well.

QMJHL

Ryan Culkin and the Quebec Remparts won their first round series 4-2 over the pesky Chicoutimi Sagueneens but would fall 4-1 in the team's QMJHL quarter-finals series against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He played well in the first series but struggled defensively along with his team in their second series. The mobile defender potted two goals along with four assists and a minus-one rating in the 11 games, but five of his six points came against Chicoutimi in the first round.

WHL

Again this year, Laurent Brossoit and his Edmonton Oil Kings managed to reach the WHL playoff finals. The team breezed through their first two playoff series, winning 4-1 and 4-0 against the Kootenay Ice and the Medicine Hat Tigers, respectively. They won a hard fought seven game battle in the semi-finals against the Calgary Hitmen. The Oil Kings failed to defend their WHL crown in the finals, losing 4-2 in a tough series against the Portland Winterhawks. Brossoit played all but 27 minutes of his team's playoffs games and was their backbone through the playoffs. His play was stellar, posting a record of 14-5-3 with five shutouts, an excellent 1.82 goals against average and a remarkable .935 save percentage in 22 games.
 
Turner Elson and the Red Deer Rebels swept the Prince Albert Raiders in their tight-checking first round series but lost 4-1 in the WHL quarterfinals against the Calgary Hitmen. The versatile leader was his team's best player, scoring five goals along with four assists and a solid plus-three rating in the nine playoff games. He was assigned to the AHL level with the Heat on April 13th but saw action in only two games and was unable to put up any points.

Michael Ferland and the Saskatoon Blades were swept in their first round series against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Blades would score only four goals in the series and the big winger contributed no points in the short series. He struggled along with his teammates to play well in their defensive zone. Ferland and the Blades had 51 days to work hard and practice their overall games while waiting for the CHL playoffs to finish up. The Blades will be the WHL host team for the 2013 Memorial Cup and the team hopes to have a much better showing than their playoff series.
 
Coda Gordon and the Swift Current Broncos lost a hard fought first round series 4-1 against the Calgary Hitmen. Three of the games were decided in overtime and the other two were 3-1 affairs in favor of Calgary. The big winger scored two goals along with two assists and a minus-one rating in the five games.

Brett Kulak and his Vancouver Giants failed to make the playoffs but the mobile defender was signed to an AHL amateur try-out contract with the Abbotsford Heat on March 20th. He saw action in four games and was a respectable minus-one rating but collected no points. It was a good measuring stick of his development and would show him where to focus his off-season training in order to play at the pro level.

Tyler Wotherspoon and the Portland Winterhawks had a long run through the WHL playoffs and are the Ed Chynoweth Cup champions. The team beat a pesky Everett Silvertips 4-2 in their first round series. They swept the Spokane Chiefs in the quarterfinals before winning their semi-final series 4-1 against the high scoring Kamloops Blazers. In a rematch of last year's WHL championship finals, the Winterhawks prevailed 4-2 over the defending champions, Edmonton Oil Kings in a tough series. Wotherspoon was solid at both end of the rink for his team, contributing two goals along with eight assists and an excellent plus-11 rating in the 21 playoffs games. In his last season at the junior level, the shutdown defender will finally get the chance to compete for the Memorial Cup.

NCAA

In the NCAA, the Flames had their two newly acquired prospects, Ben Hanowski and Ken Agostino, make it to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh this April. Hanowski's team, St. Cloud State was knocked out in the semi-finals against Quinnipac, but Agostino would help Yale win their first NCAA National Championship. Agostino scored two goals and two assists in his team's four NCAA Tournament victories.

Europe

In Europe, all the Flames' prospects failed to reach the finals in their respective leagues. Joni Ortio has played for Team Finland at the IIHF 2013 World Championships in Sweden and Finland. Ortio split time with Antti Raanta during the team's preliminary round games, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.98 goals against average and a .897 save percentage in three games.

Notes and Signings

The Flames signed Tyler Wotherspoon (March 31), Laurent Brossoit (April 4), and Markus Granlund (April 19) to three year NHL entry-level contracts. Calgary also signed Ben Hanowski (April 12) and John Ramage (April 18) to two year NHL entry-level contracts after they finished their senior seasons in the NCAA.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Nicholas Larson signed an AHL ATO contract with the Peoria Rivermen and saw action in five games. He collected no points and was a minus-one rating in the five games. It is most likely that the Flames will not offer him an NHL entry-level contract before the summer deadline.

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