Photos: Goaltender Joni Ortio, a sixth round selection in 2009, represented Finland in the Euro Hockey Tour (pictured) and IIHF Men’s World Championships in 2013 (courtesy of RADEK MICA/AFP/Getty Images)
The summer of 2009 marked the beginning of the end to the Sutter era in Calgary. Then Flames GM Darryl Sutter had a veteran team that was running out of time to return to the Stanley Cup Finals as they did in 2004.
Photo: Boston College standout and WJC gold medalist Johnny Gaudreau continues to climb in the Calgary Flames' mid-season Top 20 ranking (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
The Calgary Flames' talent pool has good depth but will need a better development plan in order to have success getting their prospects to the NHL level. The Abbotsford Heat and the Calgary Flames need to use the same systems in order to make the transition between the levels more seamless for their young prospects. With the NHL team's playoff hopes fading as each week passes, the organization might have some very difficult decisions to make that could bring more high-end prospects and draft selections to Calgary.
Photo: T.J. Brodie was a leader on the Abbotsford Heat's defensive corps before he was called up to Calgary, where he has recently skated in the Flames' top-four. (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon SMI)
The Abbotsford Heat finished comfortably in fourth place in the AHL Western Conference for the 2011-12 regular season, playing in the Calder Cup Playoffs after missing them in the previous year. The Heat swept through the first round but was beaten in five games by the Toronto Marlies in the second round of the playoffs. The team lost to a Marlies team that would end up playing for the Calder Cup.
Photo: After spending most of his 2011-12 season with the Flames, center Roman Horak has opened his 2012-13 season with a goal-per-game pace for Abbotsford in the AHL. (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon SMI)
After years of poor draft selections, trading away draft picks to try to win now, and bad development of their prospects, the Calgary Flames have slowly improved their organizational depth and talent pool over the last few years. The Flames still have a lot of work to do in order for their farm system to be where a smaller market team, in today's NHL cap world, needs to be for success as a franchise.
Photo: T.J. Brodie turned in a strong debut with the Calgary Flames in 2011-12, but the lockout will keep the offensively-minded blueliner in the AHL for the 2012-13 season. (courtesy of Bob Frid/Icon SMI)
The Calgary Flames prospect pool appears to be on the upswing. A blue-chip prospect on the verge of NHL stardom like Sven Baertschi will do that for an organization, of course, but there are also a handful of prospects who earned NHL experience during the club's 2011-12 campaign. The organization boasts several high-upside prospects developing at lower levels of play as well, giving the Flames as strong a pipeline as they have had in recent years.