Flames 2008-09 rookie review

By Andrew SR Cowie

Going into the 2008-09 season, the Calgary Flames had a veteran-packed crew. This gave little chance to rookies looking for some call-up time.

The Flames rookies who saw time this year can be broken down into two categories — defenseman Adam Pardy, who saw 60 games with the big club, and the rest, a collection of seven players who amassed a total of 23 games.

Adam Pardy, D 
(6th round, 173rd overall, 2004)

When a sixth rounder plays at all in the NHL, it should be considered a success. Pardy has spent the past three seasons working his game in the minors.

Over 60 games, the 25-year-old had one goal and nine assists, and while Pardy didn’t have to worry about the heavy lifting in terms of the opposition he faced, he played almost 15 minutes a game.

At 6’4 and around 210, Pardy is a big man, and while he did rack up 77 hits over the year, he could throw his imposing frame around more.

After a slower start in the playoffs, Pardy really played a positionally sound series against the unrelenting Chicago attack and proved his regular season stats were what can be expected.

He is a potential No. 3-4 guy for Calgary.

John Negrin, D 
(3rd round, 70th overall, 2007)

One of three rookie defensemen to see call-up time, this 2007 draft pick saw three games while called up out of junior hockey at Swift Current.

Negrin has an incredibly smooth stride. His skating is a thing to be seen, akin to a young Jordan Leopold. Visually, Negrin will never look out of place on the ice as he’s able to slide back into position quickly and back up ice with ease.

But Negrin, 20, at times looked a little lost in his own end. Considering he was playing against teenagers in the WHL only a few weeks before, it’s understandable. The change of pace between the two leagues can not be understated.

Negrin will spent most of his time next year in the AHL, where he can adjust to the elevation of speed and talent. The tools are there for Negrin; now starts the process of putting them together.

Mikael Backlund, C 
(1st round, 24th overall, 2007)

This year was one of many transitions for Backlund, who went from Västerås HK to the Swedish WJC team to Calgary then down to Kelowna in the WHL. While he only suited up for one game with Calgary, in that game he made a quick impression, nearly scoring early in the game on a line with Curtis Glencross and David Moss. He had just under 11 minutes in the game and even a couple minutes of  power-play time.

While his cup of coffee was a brief one, Backlund will back at training camp in September with a shot at a roster spot. If he doesn’t make it, Backlund will be looking at prime time minutes in the minors.

Matt Pelech, D 
(1st round, 26th overall, 2005)

The massive 6’4 220 lb first-round pick from the 2005 draft saw his first taste of the big leagues with an unusaul burst of offense.

Better known for his bruising style, the young defenseman racked up three assists in five games along with nine minutes in the box and five hits.

His peak play came against Edmonton in what could have been considered a meaningless game considering Calgary’s playoff spot was locked and the Oilers weren’t in the playoffs. Pelech played just under 18 minutes, tallying an assist and coming out with a +3.

Contrast that with his first start where he looked slow and out of sync with the action, and looked overmatched in a game against the Wild. He showed growth, but he needs to be consistent if wants to find himself on the roster long term.

Pelech won’t be called on for his offense, but will be asked to throw that big frame and play an aggressive game in a No. 5-6 defenseman role going to the future. His 130 penalty minutes down in Quad City shows he’s willing to do so.

Kyle Greentree, LW 
(trade with Philadelphia, 2008)

Originally property of the Flyers, Greentree was obtained from Philadelphia in 2008 and followed that up with a 76-point season in Quad City, placing him 10th in AHL scoring, and earning himself a quick call-up with the big club.

The Victoria native only saw time in two games, playing an ordinary if not forgettable game against the Oilers, and making a cameo appearance of eight shifts and five minutes in  his second game against Columbus. In his short time, Greentree showed that his skating could use some serious work, a problem countless AHL scorers find on the way up. A summer of work on his foot speed could help his chances.

Along with a handful of other teammates, Greentree was called up to Calgary for the playoff run but never saw any time on ice. With possible departures in the top nine going into next year, Greentree will have a chance to show the club if his impressive AHL stat line can be reproduced at the big league level.

Kris Chucko, RW
(1st round, 24th overall, 2004)

Taken 24th overall in the 2004 draft, Chucko has slowly mastered his game in the AHL. There were never any illusions about his game while down there, and his lack of offensive finish (57 goals in 234 games) demonstrate nicely his role with the team going into the future, a role the Flames have been aware of since they drafted him. This future third/fourth liner demonstrated his craft in a brief two-game display early in March, and never really got a lot of ice time to show anything, averaging about seven minutes a game between the two.

While Chucko didn’t look out of place with his brief minutes, he did house a curious habit of making fancier than needed plays when the mastery of Chucko’s game is the straight and narrow. In a competitive roster like Calgary, he has to keep his game simple if he wants to both improve his contributions and stay with the team. A couple aspects of his game he did highlight well were his willingness getting his body to the net and throwing his weight around well.

Chucko will once again fight for a fourth line spot next season.

David Van der Gulik, LW 
(7th round, 206th overall, 2002)

Out of all the rookie forwards on the Flames, this seventh-round pick from 2002 saw the most time. He got into six games late in the season, grabbing two assists over that time. While this right winger is  smaller at 5’11 and around 170 pounds, he’s a pesky two-way forward who plays a role unbecoming of his size.

While Van der Gulik is "just" another option for the third or fourth line, in his short time he tried his best to pile on the offense, getting 11 shots on net; in his first game against the Minnesota Wild he got six shots on net. 

Though he didn’t score, having a forward on the bottom six able to put the puck towards the net is a nice option for the Flames. Van der Gulik will see stiff competition going forward for a spot in the line-up.

Brett Sutter, LW 
(6th round, 179th overall, 2005)

Another sixth-round pick and the son of general manager Darryl Sutter, Brent made a splash of a debut, scoring a goal in his first game and garnering the third star of the game. While some cried foul that he was getting the call based on his name (after all, he only put up 25 points in 71 games in Quad City) he still contributed early to the team and didn’t look out of place in his four -game stay.

Another player with a simple, hard-working and smart game, Brett didn’t get a lot of time to show his game after his first one. He netted around three and five minutes respectively in his next two before being sent back to the farm.

Later in the season with Daymond Langkow out, Sutter got the call for another game, getting 12 minutes of ice time and a -1 for the game in a 5-2 loss to the Thrashers.