Flames Top 20 prospects

By Aaron Vickers

With the 2004-05 hockey schedule past its halfway point, it becomes more evident which Calgary Flames prospects have taken the next step in their development. It also becomes painfully clear which prospects have also frustrated Flames fans and management alike.

While there have been several prospects unable to make a significant step to the next level, the Flames organization as a whole appears to have enough confidence in its more mature prospects to bring back its own American Hockey League franchise, something it hasn’t had since the 2002-03 season.

“This year or last year we weren’t in a position to put 20 good prospects in a pro environment,” General Manager and Head Coach Darryl Sutter said in an interview with Hockey’s Future in December. “The organization had gotten to a point where their pro prospects weren’t NHL prospects, so it was in our best interest, business-wise and from a hockey standpoint not to have our own farm team, and hopefully go forward as we can.”

With an announcement expected in the coming days regarding resurrecting the Saint John franchise in in Omaha, Nebraska, the organization’s confidence in its prospects has clearly increased. That’s good news for fans of the Calgary Flames, as the NHL embarks on a new era.

Mid-Term Top 20 at a Glance

1. Dion Phaneuf, D – 19 – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
2. Kris Chucko, LW – 18 –U. Minnesota (WCHA)
3. Tim Ramholt, D – 20 – Zurich (Swiss)
4. Brent Krahn, G – 22 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
5. Dustin Boyd, C – 18 – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
6. Eric Nystrom, LW – 21 – U. Michigan (CCHA)
7. Jamie Tardif, C – 20 – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
8. Yuri Trubachev, C – 21 – Cherepovets (Russia)
9. Aki Seitsonen, C – 18 – Prince Albert Raiders (OHL)
10. Brandon Prust, RW – 20 – London Knights (OHL)
11. Andrei Taratukhin, C – 22 – Ufa Salavat Yulayev (Russia)
12. Andrei Medvedev, G – 22 – Spartak (Russia)
13. Richie Regehr, D – 22 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
14. David Van Der Gulik, RW – 21 – Boston U. (HE)
15. Brian McConnell, C – 21 – Boston U. (HE)
16. Curtis McElhinny, G – 21 – Colorado College (WCHA)
17. Ruslan Zainullin, RW – 22 – Spartak (Russia)
18. Brennan Evans, D– 23 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
19. Kris Hogg, LW – 18 – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
20. Tyler Johnson, C – 19 – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

View Calgary’s previous ranking here.

Key: Current rank, (previous rank), Name, position, age, team, (league)
Draft position, Grade, and Projection.

1. (1) Dion Phaneuf, D – 19 – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Draft: 1st round, 9th overall 2003 Grade: 9.0A Projection: Elite Defenseman

From the moment he was selected ninth overall in the 2003 National Hockey League Entry Draft, it was understood that the Calgary Flames would eventually become Dion Phaneuf’s to lead. Phaneuf is the highest profile prospect the Calgary Flames organization has ever seen. Certainly the hype machine has been in full force promoting the Edmonton, Alberta native, however, it is his on-ice performance that backs up the claim that he is currently the best defensive prospect in the world, a ranking given to him in Hockey’s Future’s most recent Top 50 Prospects release. A year wasted for some by lockout, Phaneuf has taken his encore in the Canadian Hockey League to an entirely new level. Despite playing only 30 games this season due to injury and his commitment to the gold medal winning Canadian Junior Team (a team he was named not only an assistant captain, but was also named the tournaments top defenseman), Phaneuf has sparkled, scoring 13 goals and totalling 30 points. His 30 points rank him among the top ten in the Western Hockey League and only two other defensemen, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Cam Barker and 2005 NHL Draft eligible Kris Russell, have been able to accomplish this feat.

2. (2) Kris Chucko, LW – 18 – U. Minnesota (WCHA)
Draft: 1st round, 24th overall 2004 Grade: 7.0B Projection: Second Line Forward

Former Salmon Arm Silverback Kris Chucko has adjusted well to his new surroundings at the University of Minnesota this year. Chucko, a freshman, started off the reason at a rather slow pace offensively as he acclimatized to a new environment. Through his first 11 games, Chucko recorded only four points, including two goals. In his following 16 games, the native of Burnaby, British Columbia has scored five goals and added another five assists, pushing his season totals to 14 points in 27 games.

3. (3) Tim Ramholt, D – 20 – Zurich (Swiss)
Draft: 2nd round, 39th overall 2003 Grade: 7.0B Projection: Second Pairing Defenseman

After spending a year with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Zurich, Switzerland native Tim Ramholt returned home to play with his native city’s team, an organization he spent two years in prior to his move to the QMJHL. Ramholt, 6’1, 198lbs, has registered 4 points in 36 games played this season, besting career marks set in assists and points while playing for Zurich in both 2001-02 and 2002-03. His 28 minutes in penalties also marks a career high, 12 of which occurred in a recent game against Zug.

4. (5) Brent Krahn, G – 22 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
Draft: 1st round, 9th overall 2000 Grade: 7.0B Projection: Journeyman No. 1 Goaltender

Despite sharing the goalkeeping duties with Carolina Hurricanes prospect Cam Ward for the Lowell Lock Monsters, former first round selection Brent Krahn is taking advantage of every opportunity when he steps out onto the ice. While Krahn has been outperformed statistically by Ward, Krahn’s 13-5-1 record is superior, as is his four shutouts. Krahn, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, also boasts an impressive 2.40 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.

Krahn split time between the Lock Monsters and the San Antonio Rampage last season, though next season it looks like he may have a crease to call his own. After months of anticipation, the Calgary Flames are expected to announce that a new American Hockey League affiliate in Omaha will open shop for the 2005-06 season, something that will benefit none more than the 6’4, 211lb keeper.

5. (6) Dustin Boyd, C – 18 – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Draft: 3rd round, 98th overall 2004 Grade: 6.5A Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

As difficult a season as the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League are having, 18-year-old forward Dustin Boyd should most certainly be enjoying himself. While the Warriors are having their worst season in recent memory, with just six wins in 47 games, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native is enjoying his breakout year, already surpassing last year’s point total, with 39 points in 43 games this season.

The highlight of Boyd’s season may have been when he was named Team WHL’s most valuable player in game six of the ADT CHL Canada/Russia Challenge. Boyd was also invited to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp in Winnipeg, but ultimately could not crack what would be the eventual gold medal winning roster.

6. (4) Eric Nystrom, LW – 21 – U. Michigan (CCHA)
Draft: 1st round, 10th overall 2000 Grade: 6.5A Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

Former first round selection and University of Michigan captain Eric Nystrom has struggled offensively for the Wolverines this season. Nystrom, who was named Calgary’s top selection in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, has just 17 points in 22 games this season, disappointing for a senior selected in the first round just four drafts ago. Nystrom’s 17 points places him eighth in scoring on the club, well behind the likes of Los Angeles Kings prospect Jeff Tambellini and T.J. Hensick, who is eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Nystrom, a native of Syosset, New York, may have finally turned around his season, however. After going nearly two months without a goal, the 6’1, 206lb winger managed to score goals in consecutive games against Michigan State last weekend.

7. (13) Jamie Tardif, C – 20 – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Draft: 4th round, 112th overall 2003 Grade: 6.5B Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

Peterborough Petes forward Jamie Tardif may be having the best season among his fellow Flames prospects. Tardif, a native of Welland, Ontario, leads all Flames prospects in scoring this season, with 49 points in 45 games. His point total places him in the top 20 in scoring for the Ontario Hockey League, and his 27 goals place him in a four-way tie with Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect Corey Perry and Stefan Ruzicka, property of the Philadelphia Flyers.
With his performance in the first half of the 2004-05 OHL season, the 6’0, 210lb Tardif has earned himself an appearance in the 2005 Bell OHL All-Star Classic, held in Owen Sound on February 2nd, 2005.

8. (9) Yuri Trubachev, C – 21 – Cherepovets (Russia)
Draft: 5th round, 164th overall 2001 Grade: 6.5C Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

The 2004-05 Russia Superleague season has been a coming out party for Yuri Trubachev. Playing on a weak Cherepovets squad, Trubachev has managed to climb the organizational depth chart to become the club’s No. 1 center, and finds himself among the league leaders in points, sixth among centers in the league with 22 points in 43 games this season. A former IIHF World Junior Championship captain and All-Star, Trubachev leads his team in points by a forward, and trails only defenseman Dmitri Yushkevich in points.

At 5’9, 183lbs, Trubachev’s ability to handle physical play will come into question, however. Calgary Flames fans know all too well what a little guy can do in the league with a little heart, something Trubachev is said to have plenty of.

9. (11) Aki Seitsonen, C – 19 – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Draft: 4th round, 118th overall 2004 Grade: 6.5C Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

After a relatively slow start to the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season, Prince Albert Raiders forward Aki Seitsonen is making an attempt to be noticed. After finishing the month of December with eight points in six games, Seitsonen resolved to keep his strong play on the ice going. Through 2005, Seitsonen has recorded a point in all but two games, scoring six times and adding four assists in nine games, pushing his season totals to 36 points in 44 games this season. His 19 goals are already a WHL career high for the Finnish import who represented his native country in the 2005 World Junior Championships.

Seitsonen’s streak has pushed his point totals up, as he continues to climb among the leading scorers of the Western Hockey League. Seitsonen, 6’3, 195lbs, ranks third among European imports in scoring, behind only Ottawa Senators prospect Roman Wick and Konstantin Pushkarev of the Los Angeles Kings.

10. (8) Brandon Prust, RW – 20 – London Knights (OHL)
Draft: 3rd round, 70th overall 2004 Grade: 6.0B Projection:Third Line Forward

While 6’0, 195lb forward Brandon Prust has enjoyed an absolutely amazing run with the CHL’s No. 1 ranked Knights, the hometown boy has struggled to contribute offensively to what could be a record-setting year for London. After scoring at nearly a point per game clip last season, Prust has managed only 23 points in 40 games this season. Buried behind the likes of Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect Corey Perry, Robbie Schremp of the Edmonton Oilers organization and Danny Fritsche of the Columbus Blue Jackets, ice time has been hard to come by for the Knights forward. That isn’t to say Prust isn’t making contributions in other forms, though. He leads all Knights in penalty minutes with 156, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise after doing the same last season with 269 minutes in the penalty box.

11. (7) Andrei Taratukhin, C – 22 – Ufa Salavat Yulayev (Russia)
Draft: 2nd round, 41st overall 2001 Grade: 6.5D Projection: Second/Third Line Forward

With the pending National Hockey League lockout and subsequent flooding of hockey talent into the Russian Superleague, Calgary Flames prospect Andrei Taratukhin has been having problems securing regular ice time and competing with elite opposition with his club team, Salavat Yulayev. The team, which sits 13th in the RSL, hasn’t flooded its roster with a lot of National Hockey League talent, but still boasts some impressive depth given their lack of spending. Taratukhin himself hasn’t performed up to expectations, struggling to find the scoresheet on a regular basis. With just 6 points in 37 games this season, the 6’0, 189lb center is finding himself being pushed further and further down the organization’s depth chart.

12. (10) Andrei Medvedev, G – 22 – Spartak (Russia)
Draft: 2nd round, 56th overall 2001 Grade: 6.0C Projection: Backup/Depth Goaltender

Russian goaltender Andrei Medvedev continues to be one of the organization’s most interesting prospects. Medvedev, who twice lead Russia to World Junior Championship gold in 2002 and 2003, has been consistently listed as 6’0, but it is in his weight that a wide range of numbers come in to play. Listed by IIHF as 216lbs in 2003, by RussianProspects.com as 242lbs, and by the Calgary Flames Official Website as 211lbs, Medvedev’s current weight is anyone’s guess. While it has been a factor in his conditioning, he’s still managed to find some success in the RSL despite being in poor physical condition, though it should be noted he’s never played more then 33 games in one season in his career. Between his inconsistency and poor conditioning, Medvedev has played in just 12 games this season, with a 2.77 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.

In the offseason, Andrei Medvedev signed a one-year deal to play for Spartak, making him a free agent in the RSL. With no contractual obligation to Spartak after this season, it is perceivable that the young netminder could play in North America.

13. (NR) Richie Regehr, D – 22 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
Free Agent 2004 Grade: 6.0C Projection: Utility/Spare Defenseman

Lowell Lock Monster rookie Richie Regehr may have some large skates to fill should Calgary Flames fans expect the same out of him as they do older brother Robyn. The 6’0, 202 lb native of Rosthen, Saskatchewan gives up over two inches and 25 pounds to his brother. The game each plays, however, is quite different, and Richie is proving that in the American Hockey League. With 15 points in 38 games, the rookie Regehr is second on Lowell in scoring among defensemen, behind only Mike Commodore, and his seven goals lead all defensemen in that category.

Even more impressive for the former Portland Winter Hawk is the fact that he is second in the league in goal scoring among rookie defensemen, trailing only Dennis Wideman, property of the St Louis Blues. In points, Regehr is sixth among rookie defensemen in scoring.

14. (NR) David Van Der Gulik, RW – 21 – Boston U. (HE)
Draft: 7th round, 206th overall 2002 Grade: 7.0D Projection Third/Fourth Line Forward

Junior David Van Der Gulik, a native of Abbotsford, British Columbia, has had an impressive first half of the year with Boston University. Already well on his way to establishing new career highs in every offensive category, Van Der Gulik has 17 points in 23 games this season. The 6’0, 190lb winger is both four goals and four points shy of setting new career totals in both offensive categories. Van Der Gulik has scored exactly 20 points in each of his first two seasons, though has improved his points per game each year he has played.

15. (17) Brian McConnell, C – 21 – Boston U. (HE)
Draft: 2nd round, 39th overall 2002 Grade: 6.0C Projection: Third/Fourth Line Forward

Although Brian McConnell hasn’t shown offensive growth over the course of the last two seasons with Boston University, there is still reason to be optimistic. While the 6’1, 204lb forward has only registered 10 points in 23 games this season, and recently snapped a pointless drought which dated back to his last game of 2004, there are other areas that the Norfolk, Massachusetts native is developing quite nicely in. McConnell, named captain of the Terriers for the 2004-05 season, has shown great leadership growth in the last season and half. While his offensive numbers may be discouraging, the Calgary Flames have to be impressed with the character of the young Boston University captain.

16. (18) Curtis McElhinny, G – 21 – Colorado College (WCHA)
Drafted: 6th round, 176th overall 2002 Grade: 5.5B Projection: Depth/Minor League Goaltender

The fact that Colorado College goaltender Curtis McElhinny has only played in two games that he hasn’t won should be exciting for not only fans of the Tigers, but also Calgary Flames fans as well. McElhinny, a senior, has split the majority of the season between the pipes with sophomore Matt Zaba. Zaba, who has made the most of his opportunities in 12 games this season, has spent more time watching McElhinny, who has ran himself a record of 13-1-1 with a goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .923, besting Zaba in each category. In fact, McElhinny’s goals against average total places him among the top 20 keepers in the country, placing him in a tie for the 18th spot with undrafted Ohio State University goaltender Dave Caruso. McElhinny’s save percentage of .923 ranks him ninth in the nation.

17. (12) Ruslan Zainullin, RW – 22 – Spartak (Russia)
Trade 2002 Grade: 6.0C Projection: Third/Fourth Line Forward

Forever remembered as the return former Calgary Flames General Manager Craig Button received in exchange for Marc Savard, Ruslan Zainullin’s light has all but flickered out within the organization. Now playing for Spartak, Zainullin has still yet to show the reason why the Tampa Bay Lightning considered selecting the Kazan native eighth overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. With just 6 points in 35 games this season with Spartak, one must seriously question whether 6’2, 207lb forward is a victim of the depth currently playing with Spartak, or whether or not he has the talent to survive in the RSL.

18. (NR) Brennan Evans, D – 23 – Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL)
Free Agent 2003 Grade: 5.5B Projection: Utility/Spare Defenseman

Brennan Evans was introduced to Calgary Flames fans during the improbable and memorable 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Brought up from Lowell after a series of injuries to Flames blueliners, Evans, who skated in two games during the run, was returned to the Lock Monsters soon after. This season, Evans has attempted to duplicate the play of a man he was asked to replace not eight months ago; Denis Gauthier. While offensively he hasn’t contributed much to the Lowell Lock Monsters, with just 2 points in 20 games, Evans is providing a presence. With Gauthier out of the organization, the 6’3, 200lb Evans may be given an opportunity sooner rather than later.

19. (14) Kris Hogg, LW – 18 – Kamloops Blazers (OHL)
Drafted: 4th round, 121st overall 2004 Grade: 5.5B Projection: Third/Fourth Line Forward

Kamloops Blazer Kris Hogg hasn’t lit the lamp as frequently as he did last season, but that isn’t necessarily a cause for concern amongst those that follow the young native of Sicamous, British Columbia. After scoring 24 goals last season, Hogg has just 24 points this season. The fact is, no one on Kamloops appears to be scoring. The Blazers, who have scored just 104 goals in 47 games (an average of 2.21 goals per game), are the WHL’s worst Western Conference team. Despite Hogg’s goal totals being down, he’s still calculated in roughly 25 percent of the club’s goals, a total that is up from the 19 percent he registered last season. At 5’11, 179bs, Hogg is proving to be feistier this season as well, already totalling 100 minutes in penalties through 43 games this season.

20. (NR) Tyler Johnson, C – 19 – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Drafted: 6th round, 173rd overall 2003 Grade: 5.0A Projection: Depth/Minor League Forward

The 2004-05 Western Hockey League season has already been a memorable one for Calgary Flames prospect and Red Deer Rebel Tyler Johnson. After only 46 games this season, Johnson has set new career highs in assists, points and penalty minutes. Johnson’s 28 points place him in a tie for sixth among his Rebel teammates, tied with fellow Calgary Flames prospect Dion Phaneuf.

Playing under head coach Brent Sutter after being traded from Moose Jaw last season, Johnson has seen his offensive numbers skyrocket, averaging 0.54 points per game after playing in 81 games, as opposed to 0.22 points per game Johnson averaged in 95 games with the Warriors.

Missing the Cut

Sebastien Centomo, G – 23 – Las Vegas Wrangers (ECHL)
Free Agent 2004. Grade: 5.0A Projection: Minor League Goaltender

Signed on September 7th, 2004, Sebastien Centomo was brought into the organization to add goaltending depth, as a means to push top goaltending prospect Brent Krahn. Centomo was assigned to the Las Vegas Wrangers of the ECHL after being unable to upend Krahn for his goaltending position on the Lowell Lock Monsters. Centomo has played stellar hockey with the Wranglers. His 10-6-2 record, 2.38 goals against average and .933 save percentage put him in the Top 20 in the league.

Centomo’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was named the ECHL’s Reebok Hockey Player of the Week for the week of January 3rd-10th after going 2-0-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and a .950 save percentage.

Ryan Donally, LW – 19 – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted: 3rd round, 97th overall 2003 Grade: 5.0A Projection: Minor League Forward

Former captain of the Windsor Spitfires, Ryan Donally was dealt to the Kitchener Rangers at the 2004 OHL trade deadline, after a disappointing showing with his former club. Through 29 games with the Spitfires, Donally posted only five points, two of which were goals. While a change of scenery may be in order for Donally, it hasn’t jump-started his offense. The 6’4, 227-pounder has just one assist in five games with Kitchener, pushing his season totals to 6 points in 34 games this season.

Adam Cracknell, RW – 19 – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Drafted: 9th round, 279th overall 2004 Grade: 5.0B Projection: Minor League Forward

After an extremely fast start to the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season, Kootenay Ice forward Adam Cracknell has struggled to produce offensively, something he did well enough last season for the Calgary Flames to select him as an overager. After 14 points in his first 14 games of the season, the Victoria, British Columbia native has scored just 18 points in 34 games this season, pushing his season totals to 32 points in 48 games this season.

David Moss, LW – 24 – U. Michigan (CCHA)
Drafted: 7th round, 220th overall 2001 Grade: 5.0B Projection: Minor League Forward

In his senior year with the University of Michigan, senior David Moss appears to be going out in style. A native of Livonia, Michigan, Moss is fourth on a talented Wolverines team with 24 points in 26 games. With previous career highs of 17 assists and 31 points established in his freshman year, there is no reason to expect that Moss will not set new career bests in his final season with the club.

Notes on Calgary’s Top 20

– A team that has a rich tradition of selecting from the Western Hockey League, 25 percent of the players on the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospect List are from the WHL, including three in the top ten.

– Also with a rich heritage of drafting players from the college ranks under General Manager Craig Button, 25 percent of the players on the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospect List are currently playing in the NCAA. It should be noted, however, that Kris Chucko of the University of Minnesota was drafted as a member of the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks, though he was committed to Minnesota at that time.

– Only two players from the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospect List represent the other two CHL leagues; the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League. Both are playing in the OHL.

– Five European prospects are included on the Calgary Flames Top 20 Rankings. Prince Albert Raider Aki Seitsonen is the only one currently playing in North America.

– Twelve Canadian-born players are listed among Calgary’s Top 20 Prospects. This includes four of the top five players on the list.

The Top 20 ranking is based on long-term impact on the hockey club and is not a reflection of who is closest to making the NHL. Players are assigned a grade per HF Criteria. Other factors that help determine ranking order to varying degrees include: player age, draft position, current league and team quality, location (North America or Europe) and foreseeable opportunity.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.

For questions or comments on the Calgary Flames Top 20 Prospects, visit HFBoard’s Calgary Flames Message Board.