Flames Top 20 prospects

By Jon Hagan

Each player on the Calgary Flames Top 20 has something to contribute, but they are going to have to work hard for everything that they get. This should not be a barrier though because if one sees any unifying trend between all of these players, it’s their work ethic.

Top 20 at a glance

1. (4) Dustin Boyd, C
2. (2) Kris Chucko, LW
3. (5) Brent Krahn, G
4. (3) Eric Nystrom, LW
5. (12) Aki Seitsonen, C
6. (9) Daniel Ryder, C
7. (14) Andrei Taratukhin, C
8. (7) Tim Ramholt, D
9. (8) Brandon Prust, LW
10. (13) Curtis McElhinney, G
11. (NR) Mark Giordano, D
12. (6) Matt Pelech, D
13. (NR) Adam Cracknell, RW
14. (10) Matt Keetley, G
15. (15) Richie Regehr, D
16. (16) Gord Baldwin, D
17. (NR), Brett Sutter, C
18. (19) Kris Hogg, LW
19. (20) Tomi Maki, RW
20. (17) David Van der Gulik, LW

1. (4) Dustin Boyd, C – Moose Jaw (WHL)
Rating: 7C, Projection: 2nd line center

Recently signed by the Flames, this 19-year-old center, drafted 98th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has really staked a claim for taking over the No. 1 position. While Boyd is no longer the phenomenon that he was during his tenure in the Manitoba Junior League, he is managing to regain his scoring form. In his fourth season with the Warriors, Boyd has managed to post 90 points (48 goals, 42 assists) after 64 games, eight fewer than the league’s leading scorer and fellow Warrior, Chicago prospect Troy Brouwer.

Boyd’s production has increased markedly every season. In his first year he averaged roughly a half a point a game to almost a point and a half a game this year. Most impressive has been his plus/minus differential between last year and this year — after roughly the same number of games it stands at an amazing +55. Ironically, after six postseason games, Boyd is one of only two players on the Warriors to be in the red for plus/minus, but he is tied for third on the team for points.

2. (2) Kris Chucko, LW – University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Rating: 6.5B, Projection: 3rd line winger

Chucko, a first round choice (24th overall) of the Calgary Flames in the 2004 draft, is currently playing in his second season with the Golden Gophers. The sophomore’s production has been down somewhat compared to his first season, but this could be due in part to a shoulder injury he sustained at the end of January, which kept him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks. It could also be due in part to the fact that notable prospects Ryan Potulny (PHI), Danny Irmen (MIN), and the young phenomenon Phil Kessel are the Minnesota lineup, effectively relegating Chucko to a checking role.

He has spent part of the year on a line with Gino Guyer (DAL) and Andy Sertich (PIT), as well as with fellow sophomores Evan Kaufmann and Tom Pohl.

3. (5) Brent Krahn, G – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 7.0B, Projection: Starting goaltender

The Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights are backstopped by the tandem of third-year pro Brent Krahn and rookie Curtis McElhinney.

Krahn was drafted ninth overall by Calgary in 2000. Last season he was part of a tandem in Lowell that included current Carolina starter Cam Ward. In 35 games with the Lock Monsters, Krahn helped contribute to a team record in shutouts by posting six himself. This year he is tied for fifth overall in the AHL with 25 wins. It would only a matter of time before we see Krahn in the big leagues, but will it be with Calgary?

4. (3) Eric Nystrom, LW – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6.5A, Projection: 3rd line winger

While he may never have his number retired, Eric Nystrom is starting to play to the potential that made him a first round pick. After playing three seasons with Michigan of the CCHA and putting up successively declining numbers each year, Nystrom made the transition to professional hockey. In his first season with the Ak-Sar Ben Knights, he has scored 15 goals and assisted with 15 others in 71 games. He has also played two games for the Flames registering a –1 with no points and no penalty minutes. He seems to be adjusting well enough to the game.

Drafted tenth overall in the 2002 Entry Draft, Nystrom is an aggressive two-way player best suited for the type of games played in the Western Conference. He is the consumate hard-working Sutter type player, and he has the potential to be a reliable power forward.

5. (12) Aki Seitsonen, C – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: 2nd line center

After the Prince Albert Raiders failed to make the WHL postseason, the Flames decided that it would be best to move their young Finnish prospect to the professional ranks. Drafted in the fourth round, 118th overall in 2004, Seitsonen is getting a taste of the pros after a modest junior career. He had 20 goals in 66 games with Prince Albert, and has played four scoreless games with Omaha.

Seitsonen is a fast-skating, hard-working two-way player who fared very well at this year’s junior World Hockey Championships by being the leading point getter for the Finns.

6. (9) Daniel Ryder, C – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Rating: 7D, Projection: 2nd line center

On a team that includes highly ranked prospect for the upcoming draft, Jordan Staal, as well as Trevor Hendrikx (CLB), Patrick Kaleta (BUF), Steve Downie (PHI), Bryan Young (EDM), and David Shantz (FLA), Dan Ryder is hoping to make an impact.

Drafted 74th overall in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Flames are hoping that the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Ryder, is going to follow in his brother’s footsteps – and he seems to be doing just that. In almost the same number of junior games both players have posted similar numbers: 257 points in 201 games for the elder Ryder, and 216 points in 196 games for the younger, and each player sat atop their respective teams on the statistics page in their second and third years.

It would seem that given Michael’s success with the Canadiens, his position in the 1998 draft (middle of the eighth round) and the fact that both players have posted similar junior numbers, the Calgary Flames did not want to take a chance on letting a player of that caliber slip by. If Dan can post numbers similar to his brother’s at the NHL level he will prove to be quite a steal.

7. (14) Andrei Taratukhin, C – Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (RSL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: 2nd line center

A teammate of Edmonton prospect Alexei Mikhnov, Taratukhin posted 24 points playing in 40 games this season with Locomotiv of the Russian Super League. He is an average size player with an excellent hockey sense. He sees the ice well, and is an excellent passer. When all of the intangibles are taken into account, he makes players around him better. The knocks on him are his skating and his shooting. In order to compete at the NHL level he must develop both of these areas. If he can improve his play away from the puck, he will be an excellent addition to the Flames organization.

8. (7) Tim Ramholt, D – Kloten Flyers (SEL)
Rating: 7D, Projection: fifth or sixth defenseman

Drafted by the Flames in the second round, 39th overall, of the 2003 draft, North American fans are still waiting to see more of Ramholt. A bruising hitter in the mold of Darius Kasparitus, Ramholt spent the 2003-04 season with Cape Breton of the QMJHL, and managed to put up fantastic numbers. His stats included 36 points, an amazing +37, and a meager 26 minutes in penalty minutes. After his draft year he decided he would return to Switzerland.

He played this year with the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss Elite League. One of the concerns regarding Ramholt is that his frame might not be able to sustain the rugged abuse his body takes when dishing bone-jarring hits.

9. (8) Brandon Prust, LW – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6B, Projection: agitator

Getting drafted 70th overall by an NHL team is not bad for someone who was overlooked in the junior draft, as Prust was. Drafted by the Flames in the third round in 2004, Prust made the jump to the Flames main farm club in Omaha this season.

He is the quintessential hard-working player, and a vital component to a team’s energy line. He is averaging almost three and half minutes a game in penalties. He will hit anything, fight anyone and, generally, set an example by outworking most players.

10. (13) Curtis McElhinney, G – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: backup goaltender

After garnering all-star accolades, which saw him put up a 2.32 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in three years with Colorado College, McElhinney sought to continue the trend. Drafted in the sixth round, 176th overall of the 2002 draft, McElhinney is playing in his first season of professional hockey, and he’s doing it in style. Splitting the duties with Krahn, this young native Calgarian is in the top ten — not just for rookies, but the entire league – for save percentage, goals against average and shutouts.

He doesn’t conform to any one particular style of play – he flips and flops, stands and squats as needed. It doesn’t matter how he does it as long as he keeps stopping pucks.

11. (NR) Mark Giordano, D – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: fifth or sixth defenseman

Signed by the Flames as a free agent July 6, 2004, this mobile defenseman is leading the Knights in scoring with 58 points in 73 games (second in power-play goals), and is fourth overall in league scoring by a defenseman. His 141 minutes place him third overall on the team for most penalty minutes. A second-year pro, at 23 he really improved his totals over last season in Lowell, when he had 16 points in 66 games.

12. (6) Matt Pelech, D – London Knights (OHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: sixth defenseman

Drafted by Calgary in the first round of the 2005 draft, Pelech is a big, strong, stay at home defenseman. He is a capable skater who can clear the net with relative ease. This past season saw him traded from the Sarnia Sting to the high-flying London Knights where he is +2 in three postseason games. Unfortunately, he sustained a leg injury in the Knights overtime win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in game three. While not regarded as a serious injury, Pelech is 18 and he has broken his jaw twice, and now injured his leg. Concerns of being injury-prone are surfacing.

13. (NR) Adam Cracknell, RW – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: third line power forward

Cracknell, the Husky WHL player of the month for March, is, like fellow prospect Dustin Boyd, starting to make a strong case for himself as a legitimate Flames prospect. In 72 games this year with the WHL’s fifth most defensively sound team, the 20-year-old prospect has posted a healthy +29, and a bountiful 93 points, good for second overall in league scoring. Unfortunately for Kootenay they were bounced out of WHL playoff contention, fortunately, for Cracknell it should translate into a late season visit to Omaha.

He is a bit older (he’ll be 21 this year), but, at 6’2, 215 lbs, he’s a big man who can score, and with his numbers up right across the board, Calgary is hoping that he is a late bloomer.

14. (10) Matt Keetley, G – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: backup goaltender

Keetley, almost 20, was drafted in the fifth round, 158th overall by Calgary in the 2005 draft. At 6’0 tall and 200 lbs he is filling out, and therefore takes up a lot of room in the net. He is also very agile and quick.

With 42 wins and only 13 losses, Keetley led the WHL in wins for goaltenders this year. His six shutouts, and .916 save percentage place him fifth overall, while his goals against average of 2.09 was good for fourth place. His play garnered him the notoriety of being the second Flames prospect, and first of 2006, to be awarded the Husky WHL player of the month for January.

Throughout 2006 he continued to play at an exceptional and his contributions have helped propel Medicine Hat into the postseason, and he doesn’t seem to be letting up. After four games, he has four wins, a goals against average of 1.44, and a save percentage of .938.

15. (15) Richie Regehr, D – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: fifth or sixth defenseman

When you come from a family that has produced another NHL player you sometimes cannot help but be compared, and in the case of the Regehr brothers it’s like comparing two peas in a pod. Robyn has a bit more size: two inches and a few pounds on his “little” brother, but the 6’0, 200 lbs Richie Regehr is no slouch.

Signed as free agent by the organization prior to the 2004-05 season, the 23-year-old is playing in his second season of professional hockey with the Flames farm club. In 48 games with Omaha he has posted 7 goals and 23 assists for 30 points. He is a fluid skater with a wicked shot. Regehr has played 14 games with the big club this year accumulating two points in that time. With older defensemen like Bryan Marchment winding down their careers, the younger Regehr should be in a great position to establish himself on a more regular basis with the parent club.

16. (16) Gord Baldwin, D – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: fifth or sixth defenseman

Gord Baldwin, a 6’5 giant who turned 19 recently, was drafted in the third round, 69th overall, in the 2005 draft. This season, his second with the Tigers, has seen him improve his numbers somewhat over his rookie campaign, and he is becoming a more reliable player defensively.

His main strength is his ability to clear the front of the net, and he is no doubt a big reason why the Tigers penalty kill was ranked third overall in the dub this past season.

A knock on him has been his foot speed, but if he can improve on this while packing more pounds onto his frame the Flames will have a pretty decent defenseman for years to come.

17. (NR) Brett Sutter, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: fourth line center

So far, it would seem that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The young Sutter, son of Calgary GM Darryl Sutter, is proving himself to be a workhorse. In 73 WHL games this year (57 with the Rebels and 16 with the Ice) Sutter has scored 17 times, and helped with 33 others. He has increased his penalty minutes by 31 over his previous 2004-05 totals of 70 minutes in 70 games with the Kootenay Ice, and he has tightened up his defensive game, but only time will tell if Brett Sutter can walk in the big shoes people implicitly expect him to fill.

18. (19) Kris Hogg, LW – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Rating: 5.5B, Projection: fourth line penalty killer

In his fourth season in the WHL, Hogg is not yet 20 years old. He was practically an infant when he played his first season with the Kamloops Blazers, so he is not yet an overage junior. The advantage here is that he has garnered an abundance of experience at such a young age, and is now ready to make the transition to the professional game.

Drafted by the Flames in the fourth round in 2004, Hogg is a small, but speedy player. His penalty minutes (142 in 71 games) indicate that he doesn’t shy away from confrontation and his 40 points (20 goals and 20 assists) in the same number of games indicates that he does have some ability to contribute offensively.

His speed, grit, and ability make him an ideal candidate for a special teams player, and one can easily envision him as being a top ranked penalty killer.

19. (20) Tomi Maki, RW – Omaha Ak-Sar Ben Knights (AHL)
Rating: 6C, Projection: third line role player

At 22, Maki made the move over from Finland to North America. He started the year strongly with Omaha, but tailed off towards the end. In 73 games, he has 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists), but he sits in last place on the team for plus/minus with a –15 rating.

20. (17) David Van der Gulik, LW – Boston University Terriers (HE)
Rating: 6C, Projection: skilled agitator

A senior with the Terriers, Van der Gulik struggled through the beginning of the season with an injury to his pubic bone. He did not return until Dec. 30 in a game against Merrimack, and when he finally hit his stride he did so in style.

He helped the Terriers to their first Hockey East Championship since 1997, and was named to the All-Tournament team. He was the first ever hockey player in Hockey East history to tally two three-goal outings, and, for that, he was awarded the Pure Hockey/Bill Flynn Tournament MVP.

His dominance in the tournament also earned him the Hockey East player of the month for March award. He ended with 22 points in 25 games. Van der Gulik should be challenging for a spot, most likely with Omaha, next year.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.