Going into the season, there were few roster openings up for grabs on the Calgary Flames. GM Darryl Sutter had assembled one of the deeper and talented Flames teams in recent memory so the chances of any rookie making an impact were marginal at best. However, injuries up front and on the blueline gave some of the Flames rookies a chance to play and by the end of the season, a couple of those rookies had made an impact.
The only position that was up for grabs during training camp and the preseason was the seventh defenseman job and it came down to a pair of rookies in Mark Giordano and Richie Regehr. Both offered contrasting styles of play and both had solid showings in the exhibition games. In the end, Giordano ending up winning the hotly-contested battle and ended up sticking with the big club for the majority of the season.
While mostly used in spot duty early on and towards the end of the season, Giordano had a stretch in mid-season where he was logging regular minutes on the Flames blueline. The mobile, offensive-minded rearguard saw plenty of power-play time and in 48 games, he scored seven goals and eight assists to go along with a solid +7 rating. Highlights for Giordano included scoring the first two goals in his hometown of Toronto in early October and scoring the game winner in an overtime victory over Florida in January.
Giordano gradually gained the trust of the Flames coaching staff as the season wore on, and though his defense is still not great at this stage in his career, he showed great improvement in that capacity each and every game. The acquisition of David Hale limited his action down the stretch, but he made a good account of himself when he was put in the line-up during the Flames brief playoff run. Giordano should see his role and minutes increase next season and quite likely will be given an opportunity to grab a regular spot in the line-up.
The runner-up to that training camp battle, Regehr was having an exceptional season in the AHL with Omaha and was recalled when the Flames ran into injury problems and managed to suit up in six games, scoring a goal an assist. Unfortunately, he sustained a concussion in late December and was never able to fully recover. His long-term future is up in the air at this point.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the season had to be that of right winger David Moss. The former University of Michigan grad and leading goal scorer in Omaha last season did not have the best training camp and was dispatched to the AHL’s Knights to start the season. Injuries opened up a spot for the industrious forward and once he was up, he stuck for good.
Showing a willingness to go to the net, battle for loose pucks and pick up the garbage type goals in front of the net, Moss quickly carved out a niche for himself and eventually found himself paired with two very talented players in Daymond Langkow and Kristian Huselius on the Flames second line. A late-season injury took some of the wind out of his sails, but in 41 games, Moss was able to score 10 goals and 8 assists. His highlight of the season was scoring a goal in his first three NHL games.
Though he may have been overachieving by playing on the second line for most of the season, Moss no doubt has earned himself a regular spot in the line-up and it looks like he is going to develop into an effective, grinding power winger who can chip in on the scoresheet.
Another rookie who made not as big a splash, but still made it known that he will be heard from in the future was Dustin Boyd. After an electric preseason, Boyd was dispatched to Omaha because the Flames did not have room for the offensively-gifted forward. Boyd was recalled multiple times from Omaha during the first half of the season, but made a fairly strong account of himself in limited minutes.
Boyd appeared to get more and more comfortable each passing game and began to use his blazing speed as a weapon off the rush. In 13 games, he scored two goals and two assists. Boyd returned to Omaha for the majority of the second half of the season and was one of the top rookies in the AHL.
Depending on what direction the Flames decide to go this offseason, Boyd could challenge for a roster spot as early as next season. His rapid development has been a boon for the Flames.
Brandon Prust saw action early on in the regular season in a checking line capacity, suiting up for 10 games and putting up 25 PIM’s. He provided the Flames with energy and did not hesitate to drop the gloves, racking up a handful of fighting majors in his limited time with the big club. With a lot of turnover expected on the Flames third and fourth lines, Prust should be in the running for a regular spot next year.
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