Flames junior prospects update

By Glen Erickson

WHL

Gord Baldwin, D
6’5, 195 lbs. DOB: March 1, 1987
Acquired: 69th Overall, 2005

Gord Baldwin has had the benefit of playing with some high-end talent in Medicine Hat, namely Cam Barker (CHI) and Kris Russell (CBJ). The Tigers have a history of perennially being one of the top teams in the WHL, which annually makes for high expectations.

“Gord got off to kind of a slow start this year,” said head coach and general manager, Willi Desjardins. “I’m not sure his conditioning was that great. Then he hurt his shoulder, he just fell awkwardly with his arm extended above his head. He’s a good hockey player, a pretty elite guy. He’ll play in all situations here, he knows what he has to do. I think his best hockey is yet to come.”

Baldwin is often paired with defenseman Dave Schlemko. Through 20 games, he has scored two goals and 10 assists. Last season, he played in 71 games, scoring four goals and 20 assists.

Matt Keetley, G
6’2, 215 lbs. DOB: April 27, 1986
Acquired: 179th Overall, 2005

There was some surprise around the WHL when goaltender Matt Keetley was returned to Medicine Hat from pro camp this season. It’s a move that pretty much guarantees the Tigers will again be considered the team to beat in the tough Central Division.

“Calgary felt he needed a year where they knew he would play a lot and likely play under some pressure,” explained Desjardins. “He played a lot for us last year and will again this season. He’s a guy who likes to play a lot.”

Last season, Keetley played in 62 games for the Tigers, posting a league high 42 wins and a 2.09 goals against average. This year, he injured his leg in mid-October and returned to the lineup in mid-November. Through 17 games, he has compiled a 2.03 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.

J.D. Watt, RW
6’1, 198 lbs. DOB: May 25, 1987
Acquired: 4th round, 111th Overall, 2005

Watt is a grinding forward, a player with attributes reminiscent of the Sutter style of hockey. He has also shown an ability to deliver offensively at key times for the Giants. In Vancouver’s playoff run to the WHL championship last season, Watt scored four goals, three of them on the road in the final series against Moose Jaw. In game three of the four-game sweep, Watt scored both goals in the Giants 2-1 victory.

Through 23 games, he has scored 16 goals and added eight assists. Over the past three seasons, he has played a total of 161 games, collecting 62 points and 480 penalty minutes.

Watt, whose play fits the mold of a power forward, is a veteran in Vancouver who will continue to develop in high-pressure games as the organization is guaranteed a spot as the host team for the 2007 Memorial Cup tournament. He will play for Team WHL in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge games in Chilliwack and Kamloops.

Leland Irving, G
6’, 177 lbs. DOB: April 11, 1988
Acquired: 1st round, 26th Overall, 2006

The Flames can afford to be patient with Leland Irving, who earned the starting job with the Everett Silvertips as a 17-year-old. Returning to a veteran team in Everett this season, Irving provides stability in goal for a club expected to challenge for the WHL Championship.

A workhorse for the ‘Tips last season, Irving played in 67 games, posting a sparkling 1.91 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. Through 17 games this year, he has posted 1.41 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.

The primary knock on Irving has been his puckhandling, which suggests the critics have had to search long and hard for a weakness. Irving brings tremendous balance to the position and has earned the confidence of his teammates in Everett. He has the capability to jump into a backup role in Calgary very soon, although there is no reason to rush a prospect who will likely play in some high-pressure playoff games or World Junior Championships in coming years.

He will play for Team WHL in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge games in Chilliwack and Kamloops.

Myles Rumsey, D
6’1, 203 lbs. DOB: Nov. 5, 1986
Acquired: 7th round, 221st Overall, 2005

Myles Rumsey may be a “project” for the Flames, although he could bring a defensive upside to the mix of prospects. He added over 10 pounds to his frame during the offseason, making him more capable of being physically dominant on the Swift Current Broncos’ backend.

Rumsey does not bring daunting offensive prowess to the rink. Rather, his role is to keep the puck out of his team’s net. Through 26 games, Rumsey has chipped in with four assists and 46 penalty minutes. Over the course of his four-year career in the WHL, he has scored only two goals. However, hard work and determination have resulted in a look from the Flames.

If Rumsey can continue to grow, while increasing his foot speed in response to the new standard of rules enforcement, he stands a good chance of impressing the defensive-minded Flames brass. Not likely a top four defenseman in the NHL, Rumsey’s future as a professional is dependent upon a pair of inherent attributes: heart and desire.

Jusso Puustinen, RW
6’1, 185 lbs. DOB: April 5, 1988
Acquired: 5th round, 149th Overall, 2006

Pundits across the CHL have quietly opined that the annual import draft can be likened to a crapshoot of sorts. In all likelihood, someone most certainly did their homework because the Flames now possess a skilled junior they can watch more closely this season in the WHL. The organization has to be pleased the former Finnish junior league forward is developing on and off the ice through the rigors of the WHL.

Last season with Kalpa of the Finnish Junior League, Puustinen scored nine goals and five assists in 29 games. Through 25 WHL games, he has scored 10 goals and 17 assists, along with a plus-10 ranking.

Puustinen displays good foot speed and acceleration and a knack for anticipating offensive opportunities. He will endear himself to Flames brass if he can prove to be a durable and consistent performer over the course of a 72-game WHL season.

Brett Sutter, C
5’11, 192 lbs. DOB: June 2, 1987
Acquired: 6th round, 179th Overall, 2005

While his name alone will open some doors, Brett Sutter will ultimately have to demonstrate that he possesses the skills and determination to earn a job in professional hockey. Based on his play so far this season with the Red Deer Rebels, he is showing signs that his skill set is worthy of the attention afforded an NHL draft choice.

Last season, Sutter played a total of 73 regular-season games in the WHL. He scored 15 points in 16 games with the Kootenay Ice before being traded to the Rebels, He played in 57 games for Red Deer, scoring nine goals and 26 assists. Through 26 games this season, he has scored nine goals and 15 assists.

A typically durable, hard-nosed Sutter, Brett is a veteran on a Rebels squad that has surprised WHL pundits with its quick start in the tough Central Division this year. Sutter will have to be a major contributor to the club’s long-term success this season, primarily through leadership and work ethic.

QMJHL

Hugo Carpentier, C
6’1. 200 lbs. DOB: March 17, 1988
Acquired: 5th round, 118th Overall, 2006

The Flames have taken a chance that Hugo Carpentier can continue to provide consistent offensive production through his remaining years in major junior hockey. A concerted effort to utilize his size to move through traffic should convince the Flames to give the Hull, Quebec a serious look.

Last season, he contributed a point per game, scoring 31 goals and 39 assists in 70 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Through 27 games this season, Carpentier has scored seven goals and added 11 assists.

Carpentier can look forward to at least a couple of more seasons in the QMJHL, where the Flames expect him to become a more efficient skater. It is no secret within Calgary’s entire prospect pool that the organization demands a commitment to work ethic. If Carpentier responds favorably to expectations, he could become an efficient third or fourth liner, a player who could potentially add some valuable secondary scoring.

OHL

Daniel Ryder, C
5’11, 193 lbs. DOB: Jan. 12, 1987
Acquired: 3rd round, 74th Overall, 2005

Daniel Ryder has burst out of the gate in the OHL this season, providing consistent offensive production for the Peterborough Petes. A veteran of more than 250 OHL games, Ryder has lived up to preseason expectations. Through 21 games this season, he has scored 18 goals and added 26 assists.

He has proven that he is comfortable and capable moving in and out of traffic to create offense and plays without fear in tough games. He plays in all situations for the Petes. He played in the 2005 and 2006 ADT Canada/Russia Challenge and will get a serious look from Hockey Canada for the WJC team. He was named the OHL Playoff MVP and played in the Memorial Cup championship last season. His brother, Michael, plays for the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Pelech, D
6’4, 220 lbs. DOB: Sept. 4, 1987
Acquired: 1st round, 26th Overall, 2005

Matt Pelech split the 2005-06 season between the Sarnia Sting and the London Knights. Known across the OHL for his physical presence, Pelech provided some on-ice security for the Knights high-end talent. This season, his fourth in the OHL, Pelech is a member of the Belleville Bulls.

Pelech collected two assists in 18 games with Sarnia. In 34 games with London, he scored once and added seven assists. So far this season, through 23 games, the Toronto native has scored two goals and 15 assists.

Pelech will continue to work hard on his skating, as the new standard of enforcement will require NHL defensemen to lay off the use of their free hand in slowing opponents. Pelech is a willing enforcer who has suffered a pair of broken jaws during his junior career. The Flames would like to see Pelech remain healthy and continue to develop his offensive skills.

John Armstrong, C
6’2, 188 lbs. DOB: Feb. 26, 1988
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th Overall, 2006

Entering his third full season with the Plymouth Whalers, John Armstrong continues to develop in the OHL. He was one of two Whalers chosen in the 2006 Entry Draft along with Tom Sestito (CBJ).

Last season, Armstrong played in 65 games, scoring 14 goals and 23 assists. He played some of the best hockey of his junior career in the playoffs, scoring four goals and adding seven assists in 13 games. Through 17 games this season, he has scored six goals and added four assists.

Armstrong played in the 2006 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and has experience in Hockey Canada programs. He played for Team Ontario at the 2005 World U17 Hockey Challenge and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2005 U18 Junior World Cup. He joined Ryder on Team OHL during the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge games in Oshawa and Sarnia. He’s a tall, rangy forward, a good skater with a heavy shot who is expected to elevate his offensive production this season.

Devin Didiomete, LW
5’11, 200 lbs. DOB: May 9, 1988
Acquired: 7th round, 187th Overall, 2006

Another of the Flames skilled prospects in the OHL, Devin Didiomete is playing in his third season with the Sudbury Wolves, where he brings an added dimension to the mix: intimidation. He is also gaining playoff experience in Sudbury, although the Wolves have not advanced past the second round during the past two seasons.

Last season, Didiomete played in 60 games, scoring 15 goals and 21 assists while collecting 202 penalty minutes. Through 25 games this season, he has scored 12 goals and eight assists.

An aggressive, grinding forward, Didomete provides the Flames talent pool with an offensive upside and the ability to play well in tough games. His numbers have risen consistently throughout his OHL career, suggesting he is becoming a reliable veteran in Sudbury. Didiomete is a tough opponent and uses his edge to create space for teammates. Although he was a late pick, he’s potentially a third or fourth line prospect, capable of doing what it takes to provide secondary scoring as a professional.

Kevin Lalande, G
5’11, 175 lbs. DOB: Feb. 19, 1987
Acquired: 5th round, 128th Overall, 2005

Chosen in the same round as Matt Keetley of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Kevin Lalande adds valuable depth in goal in the Flames prospect pool. Lalande will handle the bulk of work for the Belleville Bulls this season.

In his fourth season with Belleville, Lalande has already appeared in 20 games, posting 12 wins and a 2.84 goals against average. Last season, the native of Clarence Creek, Ontario collected 24 wins while posting a 3.08 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

He played in the 2005-06 OHL All-Star Classic, where he split time Dan LaCosta (CBJ). He was injured during late last season, yet still earned the nod as the OHL Third All-Star team goaltender. He was also nominated for the OHL Goaltender of the Year award. A key for Lalande is to demonstrate he is suffering no ill effects from the injury. Another consistent performance this season could land Lalande a pro job in the Flames system next season.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.