As soon as the last crushing horn sounded on the Calgary Flames' season I immediately started looking, like many others, to next season and what we have coming down the pipe that could hopefully heal some wounds.
The Memorial Cup is usually a great place to check on prospects and to also check in on some of the guys you can look forward to seeing drafted in the following draft year (in this case 2010). I was excited to see Backlund and Nemisz, both first round draft picks, playing in this years Memorial Cup, playing against peers who are the best of their age group should give you a pretty good indication of how good they are.
Although the tourney is not over yet the performance by both players has to be labeled as disappointing. Backlund is currently sitting with three assists, while that is a point a game is it also well below the performance of other top prospects like Jamie Benn, who I believe was drafted by Dallas and Cody Almond another team mate that is also a point ahead of Backlund. The biggest concern is not that he isn't leading the tournament in scoring but is that he has been for the most part a non-threat. The concerns about his desire from Sweden do seem well founded after watching him through the first few games. This is a guy who put in a hat trick against the Hitmen who were ranked #1 in the CHL this year for a large portion of the year. He clearly has the talent but one has to wonder about his heart.
Nimitz is big, has good hands and good hockey sense, his skating is what I would classify as "adequate", but again has been a non factor with just two points! This guy gets #1 power play time and is on the top line so the concern from a fan's standpoint is where is the leg pumping drive that is the ear mark of a flames prospect. Hopefully we'll see both of these guy take it up a notch over the next couple games and finish strong.
Another issue is that with all of the good prospects having a shot at the Flames next year (Pelech, Negrin, Pardy, Peters, Van Der Gulik, will the cupboard be bare? The flames have a choice to give pheonix their first round pick this year or next year and given the talent at the draft you have to wonder what will play out.
Sutter has not traded up in the draft that I can remember, at least not in the first round, but if a player like Ryan Ellis (ranked #11 by css) is still available at 11 and he is picking 17-22 does he trade up? I would, if possible. I personally would like to know that the draft pick they get, considering next years pick will be in Pheonix (or hamilton..or wherever) will be a lock to make the NHL and not just another guy who we will see four years down the road who may or may not make it (see Kris Chucko).
So on one hand we have a crop of players that are pushing the envelope to be in the NHL and on the other hand there is not a lot following them, unless you consider Backlund and Nemisz to be those guys. (I am not forgetting Wahl either) If Backlund and Nemisz do make a push let's hope they learn sooner rather than later about desire.