Optimism about prospects

By pbadmin

Although it has been preached at nausea, the Flames do have a tremendous core of young players of which to build around. Today’s crop of prospects is very encouraging; the blueline is stacked. Calgary has one of the best young groups of D-men in the NHL. The only problem is inexperience. Robyn Regehr and Denis Gauthier are similar players who are on top of their respective games when they have a chip on their shoulder, and are playing mean, assertive hockey. They let up, however, when, their play becomes apathetic. However, with time comes experience, which will see these two blossom. Toni Lydman had a promising rookie year.

Although he was a little shaky to being the campaign, he improved greatly towards the end of the season. He played as well as could be expect from a rookie at the beginning of the year, but his defensive game really improved toward the final games when he began initiating physical contact. Also, his offensive game improved dramatically towards the end of the year. For a team that had only about 12 or so goals from the point, Lydman is god-sent. Like Gauthier and Regehr, he will only improve with time.

With these three under the tutelage of Brad ‘Sarge’ MacRimmon, they will improve. Derek Morris is the key to this group. This young man is outstanding in nearly all facets of the game. He’s responsible defensively, initiates offense, works the power play, plays physically, logs mammoth ice time, and has character. He will emerge as an all-star soon enough. However, he would have been even better had he started the year in good physical condition, and had avoided the holdout. His horrible plus/minus rating were indicative of these factors.

However, with dedication to physical conditioning this off season, Morris could vastly improve on, in my opinion, was a pretty good season. Also, prospects like Dmitri Kokorev, Wade Davis show some promise. Jordan Leopold was an astute pickup by Craig Button. This Housley-esque defenseman has wonderful, natural ability, and, alongside Morris, will give the flames an excellent powerplay tandem for years. All in all, defense is Calgary’s strength.

Although not quite as promising, the goalie situation is similar to that of the defense. Calgary used to have a plethora of goalie prospects. With Jason Muzzati, Andre Trefilov, Trevor Kidd, and others, it was certain that at least one would emerge as a true number one. However, it could be argued that most, if not all, never panned out. But, at the propsect level, the Flames are solid.

Matt Underhill, Craig Anderson, who has the OHL goalie of the year show promise. Levente Zsuper is also an outstanding prospect, but these three are all overshadowed by Calgary’s last first round pick, Brent Krahn. Krahn is projected to be an excellent number one goal, and is highly regarded around the league. They all are, or are becoming more highly regarded. Currently, Freddie Brathwaite is adored in Calgary. The diminutive goalie plays solidly for about 50-60 games a season at most, at which point, he begins to struggle. A goalie that could push Freddie for his number one spot, or at least keep him on his toes would be appropriate. Freddie is at his best when his competition is. Mike Vernon is another story for another time.

Up front is where Calgary’s problems lie. However, although not quite as promising, some forwards show some potential as well. Daniel Tkaczuk had an excellent showing in his 15 or so games with the big club this year. He showed maturity, grit, determination, and most importantly, that he can play and contribute at this level. The concussion spoiled everything for him, and he was demoted. Although it didn’t seem so at the time, being sent to New Brunswick was a smart move.

The seasoning and the profound experience he has gained from a run at the Calder Cup will only have him much more prepared for a season in Alberta where he will surely stick. Oleg Saprykin had a good showing when he was healthy, and was actually given quality ice time. The youngster can flat-out play, but Hay showed a lack of confidence in him. Given powerplay time, and a regular shift with the likes of Iginla and Savard could mean he will finally get rolling. It was a mystery as to why Sergi Varlamov wasn’t called up for the season at all with the big club, after the good showing he had had with Calgary the previous year.

Varlamov has had a tremendous AHL playoff run, and is leading the playoff scoring race. He is showing the great skill he does indeed possess; he will surely contribute to the big club next year. Rico Fata is an enigma. His amazing skating skills and work ethic are what is keeping his head just a little above water. It just seems like Rico may not have it, but he could surprise. After all, he was a 6th overall pick for some reason. These young forward paired with Iginla, Savard, and possible Bure could give this team the scoring punch that is desperately needed.