Baertschi again leads Top 20 for much-improved Calgary Flames prospect pool

By Brian Jung

Sven Baertschi - Calgary Flames

Photo: Winger Sven Baertschi, who skated in 20 games with the Flames last season, will lead a youth movement in Calgary during the 2013-14 season (courtesy of John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames utilized the 2013 NHL Draft to continue building up the new foundation in Calgary by stocking up on talented prospects. General Manager Jay Feaster made eight draft picks and selected a group of four versatile forwards and four solid defensemen.

Prior to the draft, Feaster acquired prospects Ken Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and Mark Cundari via trades of veterans. During this period, Feaster also traded a 2013 fourth round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for the highly touted forward Corban Knight. The change of direction in Calgary has opened up opportunities for the new prospects in the system to find their way into the Top 20 ranking. Fortunately for the Flames, the growing lineup of quality talent in the system has increased competition for these positions.

The returning prospects for the Flames have continued to make positive strides in their development from last season. Surprisingly though, most of the prospects saw a drop in their rankings from last year. The drop in rankings should not be of concern since it is mostly due to the injection of the new talent in the system and not a result of poor individual performances or a decline in development.

Leading the way as the Flames’ top prospect is Sven Baertschi. The highly skilled forward is the most NHL ready prospect in the system and will likely find himself on the Flames roster this upcoming season. Following Baertschi as the next best prospect would be Sean Monahan, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. The center will lead the next group of prospects and finds himself in the company of some impressive talent. The Flames’ prospects are starting to form a strong foundation with their combination of talented skills, physical attributes, and leadership backgrounds. 

1. (1) Sven Baertschi, LW, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2011

With 25 NHL games under his belt, Sven Baertschi is poised to earn a roster position with the Flames this season. Baertschi will benefit from a full schedule to showcase and develop his talent compared to the lockout-shortened season last year. The 21-year-old winger found success racking up points at all levels in his career and in two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, posted 179 points in 113 games. The Flames are hoping the Swiss winger can produce similar offensive numbers in the NHL. Baertschi will have an opportunity as a top-six forward this season to utilize his highly offensive skills. If the elite winger can find his scoring touch at the NHL level, the Flames will surely reap the benefits of the first round pick.

Baertschi can use his maturity level, experience, and understanding of the game to help make a seamless transition to the NHL. The only thing that could set back his progression would be an injury. Fortunately, Baertschi has successfully recovered from previous injuries and has increased his physical strength to help endure the rigors of playing in the NHL. Expect Baertschi to make an impact this upcoming season and contribute with much needed scoring in Calgary.

2. (NR) Sean Monahan, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 6th overall, 2013

Sean Monahan is the type of center that Calgary has not seen since fellow Ontario native and Hall of Fame member, Joe Nieuwendyk, was drafted by the Flames in 1985. Monahan finds himself in an ideal position to become a future cornerstone for Calgary given his experience and leadership skills. The 19-year-old center posted consecutive 78-point seasons with the Ottawa 67's, leading a team that was also in the midst of a rebuild. Monahan carried the team and was able to post decent point totals considering he did not have quality talent on his wings. Monahan finds himself in the opposite position with an opportunity to play alongside highly skilled talent as an invitee for Team Canada's WJC development camp. The center possesses the valuable skill of quickly creating chemistry with new teammates, which can greatly increase his ability to produce for Team Canada and with the Flames going forward. Representing Canada will be an invaluable experience that can enhance Monahan’s leadership skills while gaining experience in big game situations as a leader for Team Canada.

The powerful, two-way center has excellent potential to become a top line fixture with his 6’2, 187-pound frame. Monahan has already bulked up from last season, and continues to physically develop into a NHL-ready player. Given his versatility to play in all situations, Monahan is a valuable commodity in the Flames pipeline. The Brampton native has a strong defensive game, excels in the faceoff circle and has demonstrated that he is a leader that can carry a team. Monahan could open the season with the Flames and possibly stick for this season, but he could benefit from one more year of fine-tuning his game at the junior level before starting in Calgary.

3. (2) John Gaudreau, LW, 8.0D
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2011

Bigger, faster, stronger, Gaudreau looks poised to make an impact during his junior year at Boston College in the upcoming 2013-14 season. It is apparent that Gaudreau has put in the time during the off-season to physically get stronger, while tweaking finer details of his game. The winger posted 95 points in 79 games over the last two seasons and will look to continue with his point-per-game pace this season. The New Jersey native will once again be depended on for his scoring contribution and leadership for the team.

Despite his 5’7, 155-pound frame, Gaudreau has exceptional determination and character to improve his game, which can be used by other players as motivation to push their limits. If the speedy winger can transfer his scoring touch to the NHL, then the Flames will have a lethal sniper in their arsenal.

4. (3) Max Reinhart, C, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2010

Reinhart will have an opportunity this season to build upon the 11 games he already has in a Flames jersey. His development as a forward has progressed in Abbotsford over the past year, and he could be another prospect graduating in the near future to a position with the Flames. The 6’1, 200-pound center is ready to showcase his game at the next level playing any role required, whether it be a shutdown role, five-on-five, on the power play, or on the penalty kill.

With the influx of quality talent in the system, Reinhart will find more competition fighting for ice time. Reinhart is not a flashy forward but instead will go into corners or in front of the net to create scoring opportunities. He is the type of player that can lead by example through hard work and determination rather than showing a highlight reel of flash and dash youtube videos. The BC native is the type of leader who will roll up his sleeves, drop the gloves, and stand up for his team. If he can combine the experience from Abbotsford and the scoring touch from Kootenay, then Reinhart could turn into a key piece in the Flames foundation. Reinhart is showing signs of another Reinhart that Bob Johnson once described as a franchise cornerstone. 

5. (4) Mark Jankowski, C, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2012

The Jankowski project enters his second season of development and is eager to make positive strides in the upcoming year. The former first round pick in 2012 had high expectations placed upon his shoulders, and although he did not develop as expected in his first year, Jankowski continued to improve his game. The progress was noticed by Team Canada and the 6’2 175-pound center received an invitation from Hockey Canada to the 2014 WJC development camp. The nearly 19-year-old center can use this recognition from Hockey Canada as a boost his confidence and embrace this experience as a positive tool to build upon during his second year at Providence College.

Jankowski will most likely remain at Providence for a couple more years as he continues to work on his game. The center is a longer term project and is better suited with a slow and steady approach rather than being rushed along in development. Jankowski is a quality talent who is further down the Flames pipeline, which is actually a positive position, considering the backlog of all the talent upstream.

6. (5) Tyler Wotherspoon, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2011

Tyler Wotherspoon is developing into the classic mold of a Flames defenseman: big, tough, hard hitting, with a big shot. The 6’1, 203-pound defenseman also brings smart responsible playmaking that can lead to scoring opportunities. The stay-at-home defender plays excellent positional hockey and is hard to beat one on one. As a leader for the Portland Winterhawks, Wotherspoon was looked upon as a pillar of support during the regular season and playoffs.

The BC native ranks as one of the most complete prospects in the Flames’ system. Wotherspoon’s all-around game and impressive development has kept him in the top 10 rankings, dropping only one spot despite the addition of the new prospects in the system. The 20-year-old prospect is on track to become a top four defender for the Flames, and would benefit from some time in Abbotsford to hone his skills. However it will only be a matter of time before Wotherspoon is wearing a Flames jersey. 

7. (6) Patrick Sieloff, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round 42nd overall, 2012

Sieloff is another defender in the pipeline that is rounding out as a classic Flames defensemen. If they say, “defense wins championships” then Sieloff has the right defense for acquiring hardware early in his career. Sieloff was part of the gold medal winning 2013 Team USA WJC team, and will be defending the gold this year alongside fellow Flames’ prospect, Jon Gillies. Sieloff has improved his skating and playmaking ability, which has greatly increased his outlook with the Flames. He is a big time hitter that has an impressive maturity level and understanding of the game to gauge the timing for a big hit or play. These attributes have been recognized by Team USA and Sieloff will be looked upon as one of the leaders on the blue line for the team.

Sieloff, who was drafted a year after Wotherspoon, once again finds himself one spot behind his Canadian counterpart in the rankings. Both defenders have a similar play style and have also progressed similarly in their development. The Flames have a top quality tandem of defenders in Sieloff and Wotherspoon, leading the way for blueliners in the system.

8. (NR) Emile Poirier, LW/RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2013

Poirier continues to shine and impress those who were surprised with the Flames’ 22nd pick in the 2013 draft. Poirier was one of three Flames that were invited to Team Canada’s WJC development camp. The 19-year-old winger can take away positives from this experience for being recognized for his skills and talent. The forward can play in all situations and his versatility to play either wing, the penalty kill, or to set up and finish goals on the power play is a valuable asset that few players possess.

His point production in Gautineau almost doubled last season from the year before, as he posted 70 points in 65 games compared to 40 points in 67 games the previous year. Along with his impressive point totals, Poirier also chipped in 101 penalty minutes, showing he is not afraid of physical play. The Flames have added a quality prospect to build upon with Poirier, who brings excellent speed, versatility, and scoring talent.

9. (NR) Morgan Klimchuk, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 28th overall, 2013

Morgan Klimchuk is another highly skilled forward the Flames selected with one of their three first round picks in the 2013 draft. Klimchuk has the potential to become a lethal scorer and has the skill set to do so. Similarly to Poirier, Klimchuk was able to more than double his point total over the past two seasons with the Regina Pats. The Calgary native averaged more than a point per game during the 2012-13 season, posting 76 points in 72 games, compared to 36 points in 67 games the year before.  Klimchuk is a forward that has exceptional hockey sense, scoring touch, and playmaking ability. Unlike Poirier, Klimchuk was only penalized for 47 minutes over the last two seasons combined.

The forward plans to attend to some unfinished business before moving up in the Flames system. Klimchuk was disappointed with how last season ended for the Regina Pats, and with his winning attitude, would like to return and lead the Pats in a run for a championship. By demonstrating his commitment to his team and determination to win, Klimchuk is illustrating strong leadership skills that will only further develop with the Flames. 

10. (11) Jon Gillies, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 75th overall, 2012

Gillies continues to demonstrate impressive progress in his development. Heading into the 2014 WJC, Gillies will most likely be the starting goaltender for Team USA. The 19-year-old goaltender will look to add more hardware to his collection which includes a 2013 WJC gold medal and a 2012-13 Hockey East Rookie of the Year Award. If this trail of success continues to follow Gillies, then the Flames have quite the keeper in the works.

Gillies fills a big frame at 6’5 and 215 pounds and footwork tends to be an issue for goalies of this stature. However the New Hampshire native has dedicated time to work on this area of his game, along with his five hole coverage and lateral movements. Gillies effectively covers the angles and has solid rebound control. More importantly for Gillies is his excellent composure and ability to anticipate plays, which he has utilized to his advantage thus far in his career. As he continues to develop and mature as a goaltender, the mental aspect of the game will become even more important as he grows with the Flames.

11. (7) Laurent Brossoit, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 164th overall, 2011

Brossoit closely follows Gillies as the “1B” goalie prospect for the Flames. The BC native has been exceptional for the Edmonton Oil Kings the past two seasons and is poised to take his game to the next level. He is another goaltender who has found the midas touch of success and has the work ethic to back it up. Brossoit has been able to backstop and provide the goaltending required to make consecutive appearances in the WHL Finals against the Portland Winterhawks, with the Oil Kings winning the 2012 series. Big game experience is invaluable for prospects, especially goaltenders, as they can draw upon it as they pursue future championships in their careers.

At 6’3 and 200 pounds, Brossoit is a big frame butterfly goaltender that has a long reach and agility to cover all areas of the goal. He has seen a steady incline in the development of his game and his numbers impressively improved over three seasons with the Oil Kings. Brossoit improved his goals against average from 3.32 in his rookie season to 2.25 last year, his save percentage went from .887 to .917, and he recorded five shutouts last year compared to only two as a rookie. Being a member of the Flames quality core of goaltenders, Brossoit will have to play brilliantly at the next level in order to propel himself over the other talented tenders in the system. If Brossoit can continue with his positive development, he could find himself as part of a starting goaltender tandem for the Flames in the future.

12. (NR) Ken Agostino, LW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2013

Agostino is developing into a character player. He will be returning to Yale for his final year to complete his degree while defending the NCAA title. It is important for Agostino to graduate and it shows his maturity to maintain focus to achieve goals. The 6'1 200-pound forward has continued to get stronger physically and mentally and will use his final season in Yale to prep for the next stages of his career.

Agostino looks to build upon the 100 points he has accumulated in 101 games over three seasons with the Bulldogs. He has the ability to play a physical game despite his size and can find openings to score. Agostino was part of the package the Pittsburgh Penguins sent to the Flames in return for Jarome Iginla. Considering the Flames still have the talented New Jersey native and the Penguins lost the services of Iginla to Boston, it is apparent that the Flames were the winners of the trade. Agostino has a bright upside that can help contribute to the future of the Flames. 

13. (NR) Corban Knight, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade with the Florida Panthers, 2013

Leading up to the 2013 draft, Feaster acquired Alberta native Corban Knight from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2013 fourth round pick. The 6’1, 180-pound center is known for his tenacity and can generate scoring opportunities with his high energy play. Knight brings a much-needed skill set and scoring touch that the Flames can benefit from. Knight compiled 146 points in 161 games in his four years at the University of North Dakota.

Knight is one of the more NHL-ready players in the Flames’ system and will seek a roster position this season. The Flames have an opening in the lineup for a player like Knight and at very least could see time on the roster as an injury call-up from Abbotsford. Knight is an excellent skater, and he can create space and develop plays with his speed and vision of the ice. He has great hands that can handle the puck in tight quarters and a quick release to score from all areas. Knight can agitate and frustrate opponents with his physical play in both the offensive and defensive zones, an area where he developed while playing at UND. With this combination of skills, Knight will be a favorite to break into the Flames 2013 lineup.

14. (8) Bill Arnold, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2010

Arnold will join fellow Flames prospect, John Gaudreau, as they enter the 2013-14 campaign with Boston College. Arnold returns as a senior and will be depended on for his experience and leadership in the upcoming season. The Boston native demonstrated a strong work ethic and desire to improve, which is evident by the 91 points in 119 games he recorded in his first three seasons at BC.

Arnold has committed hard work into developing all areas of his game, particularly his skating and strength, and looks to benefit from the dedication he has put into his game. The two-way center will be an integral part of the team with his defensive awareness and scoring touch in big game moments. The 21-year-old Arnold is a consistent performer and his style of play has found continued success. Arnold will seek to end his college career by adding another NCAA Frozen Four Championship to his collection before moving onto the next stages of his career with Calgary. 

15. (10) Michael Ferland, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2010

Ferland enters the 2013-14 campaign dropping out of the top 10 rankings due to a new group of prospects and his lagging development. Despite being traded to the Saskatoon Blades and rekindling his scoring touch, Ferland had some struggles and distraction in his development while dealing with off ice issues. However, in 26 games with the Blades, the Manitoba native recorded 29 points.  

Ferland is a physical forward that will throw the body around and can change the momentum in a game. The 6’0, 208-pound winger has a raw talent to score, however he will have to overcome mental and physical obstacles if he wants to carry his play to the next level. An area for improvement would be skating, however the forward has made progress in this area of development. In order to continue his success and impress the organization, Ferland will have to be focused and dedicated in the upcoming season.  

16. (15) Markus Granlund, C, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2011

Granlund will be entering his third season in the Flames’ system and the 20-year-old center finds himself competing in a backlog of new forward talent. The Finnish center participated in Flames development camp this season and appeared to be stronger and more in-tune with the North American game. Granlund will have to continue working on his strength and conditioning in order to endure the physicality of playing pro in North America.

Signed to a contract with the Flames, Granlund is expected to make the adjustment to North America in 2013-14. It will be a pivotal year for the center, and his progress will be closely monitored to determine his future status with the Flames.

17. (NR) Mark Cundari, D, 6.5C (6.0C)
Acquired via trade with St. Louis Blues, 2013

The Flames acquired Cundari from the St. Louis Blues as part of the Jay Bouwmeester trade. Calgary hopes that Cundari will develop into a defenseman that can provide quality minutes in different roles when required. The 5’9, 196-pound defender does not replace the size that Bouwmeester brought to the team, however he can bring a similar puck-moving game to the table. As a prospect in the Blues’ organization, Cundari compiled 70 points in 173 games while playing for the Peoria Rivermen.

Cundari saw four games in a Flames jersey at the end of last season, and chipped in one goal and two assists in those games. The 2013-14 season will present an opportunity for Cundari to obtain a roster spot with the Flames if he can remain healthy and bring a high level of effort and production to the team.    

18. (9) John Ramage, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 103rd overall, 2010

Ramage is one of the prospects returning with a significant drop in his ranking, however the decline is solely due to the newcomers in the system. The 22-year-old defenseman continues to develop his sound defensive play and his physical strength in order to shut down opposing forwards. The 6’1, 190-pound defender has excellent leadership skills and steady composure, which will benefit the rearguard as he proceeds to the next stages in his career. Ramage was the captain of the Wisconsin Badgers the past two seasons and the captain of the bronze medal Team USA WJC team in 2011.

In four years at Wisconsin, Ramage compiled 53 points in 157 games. More importantly, the defender used the experience to mature as a player while dealing with adversity. Ramage was a consistent leader and face in the locker room as the Badgers dealt with coaching changes, player suspensions, and a record that did not reflect a team that was heading towards a championship. In spite of this, Ramage led the team in overcoming these hurdles and won the 2013 WCHA Championship. Ramage is developing into an all-around defender and leader that could be heading to the Flames’ blue line in the near future. 

19. (NR) Ben Hanowski, LW, 7.0D
Acquired via trade with Pittsburgh Penguins, 2013

Hanowski enters the 2013-14 campaign looking to build upon the five games he played last season for the Flames. He scored his first NHL goal in his first game as a Flame and will have an opportunity to gain more experience this season. The 22-year-old winger, who was acquired in the Iginla trade, is an offensively minded forward that has a knack for scoring, with his excellent on ice vision. In his four years at St. Cloud State, Hanowski posted 62 goals, 51 assists in 155 games.

The Minnesota native will have a full season in front of him to display his skills to the Flames organization. The solid winger brings a rare combination of grit and finesse to the table, and at 6’2 and 198 pounds, Hanowski has a solid frame to create turnovers and scoring opportunities. The Flames have a lot of quality talent on the wings and Hanowski adds another impressive body to the mix. However in order to separate himself from the rest of the wingers in the system, he will have to continue working on his conditioning and skating. Nevertheless, Hanowski will most likely see time developing between Calgary and Abbotsford this season. 

20. (14) Lance Bouma, LW, 6.0B
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2008

Lance Bouma rounds out the top 20 for the Flames, and finds himself dropping six spots from last year’s ranking. The 6’1 forward has fully recovered from a severe knee injury and heads into the 2013-14 season with optimism of staying healthy and finding success. Prior to getting sidelined by several injuries, Bouma was a physical player who brought grit and toughness to the ice, which suited the role of the bottom six forward.

Bouma will be part of the mix competing for ice time with the Flames, however the forward will most likely see time in Abbotsford, as he returns from a significant period of time on the sidelines. Re-establishing peak performance and endurance will be obstacles for the Alberta native to overcome. Yet despite being sidelined, Bouma dedicated time and hard work to improve and develop off ice. The 23-year-old forward will have an interesting 2013-14 season in front of him as he finds himself competing with the new prospects, while dealing with his return to the ice from injury.