Ryan Howse headlines CHL prospect pool for Calgary Flames

By HF Staff
Photo: Ryan Howse is one of the top skill players in Calgary’s prospect pool. (Photo courtesy of WHL)

The Calgary Flames have only six junior prospects playing in the CHL. Ryan Howse has already signed an entry-level contract with the Flames. Spencer Bennett has not yet signed with the Flames and must do so this off season or become a free agent.


Spencer Bennett, LW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 5th round 141 overall, 2009

Bennett, a 20-year-old in his second year with the Winterhawks had scored 12 goals, collected nine assists, for 21 points in 37 games with Portland. He was traded December 28th, 2010 to the Vancouver Giants with Teal Burns, a first round pick in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, and a second round pick in the 2012 WHL bantam draft from the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for Craig Cunningham (BOS) and a sixth round pick in the 2011 WHL bantam draft.

Bennett joined Brendan Gallagher, a Montreal Canadiens‘ prospect, on the team’s top offensive line where he produced excellent numbers. In 35 games with the Giants, he would score 25 goals with 24 assists for 49 points. He showed his worth on the Giants’ power play with 13 goals (tied for first on the team) and chipped in with two shorthanded goals. Bennett was playing a much bigger role with the Giants than he was given while playing for the powerful Winterhawks. His season totals of 37 goals, 33 assists, 70 points, a plus/minus ratio of plus-nine along with 58 penalty minutes were all excellent signs of improvement in his overall game. He was benefitting from playing more minutes per game, in a bigger offensive role and with the talented Gallagher. This change of scenery and roles showed that Bennett is a skilled scorer and a much quicker skater than many people have believed. At 6′ 4, 195 lbs, he appears to be moving slowly up the ice until he blows right by the opposition who look to be standing still. The only negative to Bennett’s game is that the big winger does not play as physical as his size but he can be difficult to handle down low on the power play.

The Giants were swept out of the playoffs in four games by the Tri-City Americans where Bennett was shut down with no points and was a minus-three with eight penalty minutes during the series.

After the playoff series had ended, Bennett was given a two game amateur tryout on April 4th, with the AHL Abbottsford Heat but he failed to register any points. Bennett should take the next step with the Calgary Flames signing him to an entry-level contract and starting next season with the AHL Heat.

Michael Ferland, LW, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 5th round, 133rd overall, 2010

Ferland, a 19-year-old, in his second season with the Wheat kings, started the season with some bad luck as he had to undergo knee surgery on October 7th, 2010. Ferland’s toughness is already well known, but after recovering from the knee injury, he put his skill on display more often in a solid sophomore season. In 56 regular season games this year, he scored 23 goals, with 33 assists for 56 points, a plus/minus ratio of plus-3 and 110 minutes in penalties.

When Ferland plays well he can dominate a game with his size and skill. He is not afraid to drop his gloves when necessary and doesn’t shy away from the physical play.

Ferland showed his value in the playoff series as he tied for the team’s lead with four goals. Despite the series-ending game six loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers, he managed to score a hat-trick. Ferland showed his ability to score the big goals during the season as well by scoring in overtime to clinch a playoff berth.

Ferland will definitely be on the Calgary Flames’ list of players to develop over the next couple of years because he’s a good fit for their present style of play under Coach Brent Sutter.

Patrick Holland, RW, Tri-City Americans
Acquired: 7th round, 193 overall, 2010

Holland, a 19-year-old, in his second season with the Americans was given a bigger role with the team which helped him to improve his all round play. In 71 regular season games this year, he scored 22 goals, with 40 assists for 62 points, a plus/minus ratio of plus-10 and 24 minutes in penalties.

Holland is one of those players who can sometimes go unnoticed but he can do it all. He sees the ice well, can set up teammates, will score the big goal and can shut-down the opposition’s best players. He played a big role in the teams’ penalty kill for the whole year and at times produced star games when the team needed it. Holland will have to continue gaining muscle to his thin frame for the next level.

In the 10 playoff games, he scored four goals, with four assists for eight points, an even plus/minus while only taking a single minor penalty. He was important in the Americans getting to the second round of the playoffs. His defensive play has greatly improved from last years’ playoffs.

Holland will definitely benefit with another year in the WHL junior level to help his development for a pro career. The Calgary Flames will be watching him closely next season before offering an entry-level contract.

Ryan Howse, LW, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: 3rd round, 74th overall, 2009

Howse, a 20-year-old in his last season with the Chilliwack Bruins, signed an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames on Dec. 21, 2010. He had a great regular season playing 70 games, scoring 51 goals, with 32 assists for 83 points, a plus/minus ratio of minus-19 and 40 minutes in penalties.

Howse was the main offensive threat for the Bruins this year and helped them make the playoffs. He is an outstanding skater with both speed and skill. Howse is a pure natural scorer and he isn’t afraid to go in the tough areas to find a way to score goals. His one negative is that his offensive talents have hurt the defensive side of his game. His plus/minus ratio of minus-19 is worse than last year but this year’s team was weak defensively. In the 4-1 playoff series loss to the Spokane Chiefs, Howse was easily shutdown, only scoring one goal as he was the focus of the Bruins’ offense. In his defense, the Chiefs were just a far superior team.

Howse will add some scoring punch to the Abbottsford Heat next year but he will have to continue to improve the defensive side of his game to make the next step up to the NHL. He is probably a couple of years away.

Joey Leach, D, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2010

Leach, a 19-year-old, in his second full season with the Ice was sidelined for 16 games after undergoing ankle surgery in early January 2011. He took time to regain his early season form. He had a better but shorter season this year playing 56 games, scoring five goals, with 25 assists for 30 points, a plus/minus ratio of plus-16 and 78 minutes in penalties. Similar numbers to last season while having played fewer games.

Leach was given an opportunity to play on both the power play and penalty killing units with captain Brayden McNabb (BUF) this season. He is a good skating defenseman who moves the puck up the ice quickly and can make that good outlet pass. He has shown he has the ability to play both ends of the ice and provides a good accurate shot from the point on the power play. Leach’s only negative is that he is too thin for his height and must continue to add muscle, which will enable him to play more physical.

In this year’s playoff run, Leach is being used primarily as a shut-down defenseman against the oppositions’ top offensive players. In the 12 playoff games, he has only two assists and a plus/minus ratio of zero. Leach can only gain valuable experience in the big games with the Ice having a possibility of getting to the WHL playoff finals or Memorial Cup this season.

The Calgary Flames will be watching Leach’s growth and development over the next season before deciding whether to offer him an entry-level contract.

Max Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice
Acquired: 3rd round, 64th overall, 2010

Reinhart, a 19-year-old, in his second full season with the Ice, had excellent numbers this year during the regular season. In 71 games, he scored 34 goals, with 45 assists for 79 points, a plus/minus ratio of plus-30 and 41 minutes in penalties. He was one of the offensive threats for this high powered team. Reinhart was second in goals behind Cody Eakin (WAS) and Matt Fraser (DAL), second on team with points behind Eakin and second in plus/minus ratio to Joe Antilla. He plays the power play, kills penalties and is an excellent two-way player. He is an excellent skater, a playmaker with a quick shot and the potential to be a top player in the WHL league next season.

Reinhart has contributed to the success of the Ice’s late WHL playoff run and presently sits ninth in the league in playoff scoring. In 12 games, he has scored eight goals, with eight assists for 16 points and a plus/minus ratio of plus-nine with only six minutes in penalties. He has scored important goals for his team in the big games. He will gain valuable experience if the Ice can progress to the WHL Playoff Final or the Memorial Cup this playoff year.

The Calgary Flames will be developing Reinhart as a potential star for their club and definitely signing him to an entry level contract next season.

Article was written by David Thicke.