by David Elisio
A lot has been made over the last few years of the Calgary Flames drafting.
It seemed for awhile they were just drafting skilled forwards inlcuding Johnny Gaudreau (2011), Sean Monahan (2013), Sam Bennett (2014), and Matthew Tkachuk (2016). These four players give Calgary a young and skilled core. The best part of this for Calgary is that all four players are still under the age of 25 and are entering the primes of their careers.
The Calgary Flames Future
While that is all well and good, the problems for Calgary, at least in the Salary Cap era, have been with the defencemen and goaltenders. Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton have been good on the backend but they need some youth on the blueline to complete the team around them, especially as Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland reach the end of their time with Calgary. Despite a slow start to his Flames tenure Brian Elliott has provided solid goaltending. That said both Elliott and his back-up Chad Johnson are 30 +.
To succeed in today’s NHL you need to establish your core and the compliment those players by drafting well. With that in mind lets take a look at the next wave of players the Flames are counting on.
In The Pipeline
1. Tyler Parsons – Goalie; London, OHL, 19 (Draft: 2016, 54th overall)
In an era where many of the top goalies are well over 6-feet tall, Tyler Parsons is considered on the short side, standing at 6’1″. His style of play can be described as unorthodox and is a goaltender that scrambles around in the crease. Reminiscent of the way Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick play. He does have big game experience, having led the London Knights to Memorial Cup championship and more recently winning the gold medal with the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championship. In the final game he stopped all five Canadian shooters.
NHL Ready: 2019-2020. He’s still Junior eligible and then should continue to develop in the AHL with the Stockton Heat.
2. Jon Gillies – Goalie; Stockton, AHL, 23 (Draft: 2012, 75th overall)
After hip surgery last season limited him to only seven games, Jon Gillies has rebounded nicely and is having a steady first full season as a pro. While his numbers aren’t stellar (14-14-1; 2.97 goals against average; and .909 save percentage in 34 games played with Stockton in the AHL), but Flames management are really happy with his development. Unlike like the aforementioned Tyler Parsons, Gillies is huge, standing at 6’6″ and 225 pounds. Despite being so tall, he’s a very athletic goaltender.
NHL Ready: 2018-2019. Still needs some time developing as a starter, but could see some NHL duty next season.
3. Mark Jankowski – Centre; Stockton, AHL, 22 (Draft: 2012, 21st overall)
Since hearing his name called 21st overall in 2012, Mark Jankowski continues to take the backroads to the NHL. He spent four years at Providence College in the NCAA (2012-2016) and has spent the better parts of the last two seasons in the minors. This year he was named to his first AHL All-Star game. The tall pivot continues to develop his offensive skills as evidence by his 43 points in 52 games. His play in the defensive zone and intelligence put him one step closer to the NHL. However if he wants to lock down a permanent spot, he’ll need to get stronger in order to win puck battles in the NHL.
NHL Ready: 2017-2018. Should challenge for a spot on the roster next year. Can slide anywhere in the Bottom 6.
4. Oliver Kylington – Defence; Stockton, AHL, 19 (Draft: 2015, 60th)
Based on the way he plays and looks on the ice, its pretty easy to forget that Oliver Kylington only turns 20 in May. The Swede is a slick and smooth skater with high offensive upside, which he showed while playing for Sweden at the 2017 World Junior Championships. The problem is his youth. With prospects like Kylington much patience is needed while they get accustomed to the North American game. He can be very creative but he needs to work on the defensive side of the puck in order to play at the next level.
NHL Ready: 2018-19. He needs to continue to be given time at the AHL level.
5. Rasmus Andersson – Defence; Stockton, AHL, 20 (Draft: 2015, 53rd)
As of right now, Calgary has a hole on the send pair alongside Brodie. While Anderson is not quite ready just yet, his skill set is extremely intriguing. He’s a strong skater, and possesses good to very good vision and puck sense. He also knows when the time is right to pinch and move up ice. One are that is holding him back is his conditioning. According to Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy, Andersson “Needs to get in NHL shape.” Conroy also noted that Andersson needs to learn how to pace himself in back to back games.
NHL Ready: 2018-2019. Conditioning and seasoning in the AHL for a couple of seasons will only benefit Andersson.
And the verdict is?
For a while the cupboard was very thin. But after some smart drafting, Calgary has a lot to look forward to. Given the time that they need the above mentioned prospects should slide in nicely. When they are ready, the Flames could have themselves a winner sooner rather than later.