The NCAA continues to be a quality source of promising prospects for the Calgary Flames with six currently represented in the system. Leading the way is a trio of Providence Friars which includes Jon Gillies, Mark Jankowski, and John Gilmour. Matt Deblouw and Tim Harrison have returned to their respective schools with stronger seasons, while freshman Brandon Hickey has stepped in and elevated his play as a defender for Boston University.
Although the Flames have only two prospects developing in Europe, Rushan Rafikov and Adam Ollas Mattsson have also taken the opportunity to further develop their games this season.
Jon Gillies, G, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2012
With his third regular season in the books, Jon Gillies has once again turned in a solid performance with a 20-13-2 record in 35 games. Gillies can be credited for much of the success the Friars have found this season and was recognized for his efforts by being named as Hockey East’s defensive player of the week three times during the year and twice as Hockey East’s Goaltender of the month.
The South Portland, Maine native posted a .931 save percentage for the third consecutive season and a sub-2.00 goals against average, while his 20 wins was a career best. In conference play, Gillies led the league with a 1.74 goals-against-average and .939 save-percentage. Despite a tightly contested three-game quarterfinal loss in the Hockey East Tournament against New Hampshire, the Friars are likely heading into the NCAA Tournament. Gillies will play a major role for Providence with his ability to steal and win games.
Tim Harrison, RW, Colgate University Raiders (ECAC)
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2013
After utilizing his freshman season to adjust to the collegiate level, Tim Harrison has produced a noteworthy sophomore season at Colgate University. Harrison more than doubled his point total from last year by recording 11 points in 35 games. The 21-year-old finished fourth among the Raiders in goals scored with seven, which included three on the power play. Harrison also tied the team lead for game-winning-goals with three and was the most accurate shooter for the Raiders with a 17.5% shooting percentage.
At 6’3 and 185 pounds, Harrison brings a mix of strong physical of play with the ability to generate and finish scoring opportunities, which could benefit the Raiders as they head into the ECAC hockey tournament semi-finals against St. Lawrence. If Harrison continues to develop at his current pace, he could provide Calgary with another strong right wing prospect in the pipeline.
Mark Jankowski, C, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2012
As the junior season progressed for Mark Jankowski, he continued to improve and increase his productivity. Since January, Jankowski has recorded eleven out of his 23 points, and fired more than half of his 61 shots on goal during the second half of the season.
The Dundas, Ontario native recorded a career best .73 points-per-game average this season compared to his sophomore and freshman years, where he posted a .64 and a .53 average respectively. Jankowski has demonstrated a gradual improvement over the course of three seasons at Providence, scoring 66 points in 106 regular season games. Jankowski has the skillset to be a game changer and based on the momentum he has created heading into tournament play, he could also play an important role for the Friars.
Matt Deblouw, C, Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th round, 186th overall, 2012
Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Matt Deblouw has responded with an impressive junior season for the Michigan State Spartans. Deblouw struggled in 23 games last year as he found himself in and out of the lineup and without a goal. However this season he has rediscovered and reinvented his game. Deblouw has made an impact playing on the first line, as well as on the top power play and penalty kill units.
Through 34 games, Deblouw has registered eight goals and five assists, but more importantly has returned to playing confident hockey again. Deblouw has illustrated great resiliency in the face of adversity and has the potential to elevate his game to an even higher level as the Spartans look to finish strong, with a game against either Michigan or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament to start.
John Gilmour, D, Providence Friars (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th round, 198th overall, 2013
John Gilmour entered his junior season as one of the main defensive components for the Friars this season. During his 100th collegiate game, he suffered an unfortunate broken finger which has sidelined Gilmour for the remainder of the season. Through 23 games, the 21-year-old recorded three goals and nine assists, and provided solid contributions at both ends of the ice. As one of the veteran blueliners for the Friars, Gilmour will be missed in the upcoming tournament play.
Brandon Hickey, D, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2014
It has been an eventful season for Brandon Hickey, who was selected by Calgary in last June’s draft and then entered his freshman season at Boston University. Hickey has made a smooth transition to the collegiate ranks and has taken advantage of the openings on the Terriers’ blue line.
The strength to Hickey’s game is his skating and the ability to cover all three zones effectively, which has helped him adjust to the different pace of play with ease. As a mobile defender, Hickey finished the regular season with 15 points in 35 games, which ranked him ninth in scoring on a high-offensive team. The 18-year-old defender recently won his first Beanpot Tournament with Boston University and will look to gain further experience as the Terriers head into the Hockey East Tournament semifinal, and eventually the NCAA Tournament.
Rushan Rafikov, D, HC Ryazan (VHL)
Drafted 7th round, 187th overall, 2013
Another year of development has increased the confidence and maturity of Rafikov as he suited up for his first season with HC Ryazan in the Supreme Hockey League. The 19-year-old led the defensive unit in scoring with 18 points in 35 games with his ability to set up plays through one-timers from the blue line or timely passes to teammates.
The only prospect to represent the Flames in the 2015 WJC, Rafikov finished as one of the top defenders for Team Russia with three points in seven games. Rafikov also participated in the Subway Super Series, where he also recorded three points in six games. The Russian defender was recognized for his leadership skills in both tournaments and was appointed as one of the captains for each team. Rafikov continues to develop into an all-around defender with the variety of attributes to his game.
Adam Ollas Mattsson, D, Djurgården (SHL)
Drafted 6th round, 175th overall, 2014
In his first season with Djurgården in the SHL, Ollas Mattsson effectively carried over his defensive game as he sized up to more experienced opponents. The 6’4 defender made a solid case for himself this season and demonstrated that he could manage defending and competing at a higher level of play. As a shutdown defender, Ollas Mattsson recorded only two points in 32 games, however he posted a respectable -8 rating for a rookie defender on a non-playoff squad.
Prospect of the Month
Tuner Elson has stepped up his game this season, especially over the past two months where he has scored ten out of his 14 goals. After splitting last season between the AHL and ECHL, Elson has established himself as a reliable AHL player this year. The 22-year-old center has increased his productivity at both ends of the ice and has benefited from his hard work as he sits in the top ten scorers for Adirondack with 24 points through 49 games. Last season in Abbotsford, Elson recorded just three points in 37 games.
Elson has also been appointed an alternate captain for his leadership skills, which were also recognized when he was captain of the Red Deer Rebels. The increased confidence and responsibility Elson has demonstrated over the course of the season are positive indicators of his development.
Follow Brian Jung on Twitter via @brianjung80