We have heard a lot from our friends to the North about their development camp, how it got sold out because people wanted to see the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paarvi. You can't disagree the copper and blue have a fair amount of young talent coming up in their system but what about the Flames? It has been said the Flames cupboard is empty and that they have no prospects worthy of mention, an organization full of pluggers. The drafting has been suspect to be sure, keep in mind though that drafting is only one way of acquiring prospects, there is trades and free agency as well. Having said that here is why the Flames have more depth than the general consensus would think, here is what's in the proverbial cupboard:
Mikael Backlund- Backlund was the MVP at the Mac's tournament in Calgary, a premier tournament that involves teams from allover the world. He helped Sweden win Silver two years running at the world Junior championships, each time getting over a point a game. Over a point per game in his Junior career even after acclimatizing to the smaller ice surface. he has a knack for scoring in close and is universally recognized by scouts for his elite passing ability. He had 10 points in 23 games as a 20 year old in the NHL, , projecting over a full year he would have been ahead of Curtis Glencross with around 35 points if he played a full 82 games. At the end of the season he had also finished with a plus 5 rating, drawing praise from Brent Sutter for his tenacious back checking and solid play. In his draft year he was ranked the second highest rated European player in the draft. In the mold of Adam Oates, not a huge goals scorer but can still pot 20-30 with unlimited assist capability.
Greg Nemisz- I'm not sure if Greg's last name is pronounced "nee-miz" or "nem-ish" so we will henceforth call him simply Captain Nemo. There is a perception that Nemisz's great junior numbers came from playing with Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique however the reality is his job was to create room and play a power forwards game which he did to perfection. His Junior stats speak for themselves after registering two seasons at well above a point per game and getting 34 or more goals three years in a row. To put that into perspective the savior of the Oilers, Taylor Hall got 40 goals in 57 games, Nemisz got 34 in 51 just slightly off Hall's pace. Nemisz did get a laceration to his leg from a skate blade last season which meant he missed a significant amount of the post season but still managed to get 12 points in 15 games after recovering from that. A power forward I would liken to Jason Arnott, power forwards typically take longer to develop because they need the size and play a style that prematurely ends careers but the top end time is significant.
Ryan Howse- Unlike Nemisz there can be no mistaking what Howse did was all Howse, his Chilliwack Bruins lacked a lot of depth. What he did was score 47 goals which tied him for 3rd in the WHL, a pure sniper. In the 08/09 season he had 4, count them 4, hat tricks.
Bryan Cameron- Say what you will about his size, 5'10" 185lbs, he can score. Cameron lead not only the OHL but the entire CHL in goal scoring with 53, I think that's a pretty good prospect!
Mitch Wahl- Aside from this guy eerily resembling a ventriloquists dummy he is a super solid Center prospect. After putting up 96 points in Junior he goes to the Heat in Abbotsford and puts up 4 points in 4 games in the AHL playoffs. The playoffs. Not pre-season folks. Wahl has a great passing ability and scouts will all tell you he makes the players around him better, just ask Kyle Beach who more than doubled his goal total and added an addition 20 points to his previous season.
Bill Arnold- Arnold was considered a prospect that had a lot of upside in terms of ability, especially the skilled defensive kind. He can strip players of the puck and turn around and score with it. Arnold is considered the steal of the draft for the Flames after he fell a long way down to the 4th round and drafted 108th overall after being ranked by the hockey news at 60. It remains to be seen if he can Arnold can excel at an even level with kids who have the same skill level but we'll find out next week!
Honorable mentions at forward: Max Reinhart, Gealen Patterson.
T.J. Brodie- It's a name we keep hearing but maybe aren't familiar enough with...and should be. Brodie might be the offensive defenseman of the future for the Flames. In 65 games in the OHL Brodie tallied 56 points good for 5th in the league for defensemen. He has decent height but may need to fill out a bit before being NHL ready.
John Negrin- at 6'2' and 195 Negrin is probably ready for the NHL in terms of size, his scoring isn't going to blow you away but his skating might. Negrin has made a name for himself being a steady outlet passing defenseman and no team can have a enough of those. In his brief stint with the Flames he was not spectacular but making the jump from junior to the bigs can be a huge learning curve.
Matt Pelech-6'4 and 220ish. Mean. Reliable. Smart. Robyn Regehr's replacement if he's given the opportunity. Not much else to say except that he missed time last year with blood clot issues which have hopefully been resolved, he just signed a one year two way, contract.
Chris Breen- He's 6'7" tall so on skates that's like...giraffe. Breen is no bean pole either though at 220 lbs he does carry some weight, it will be interesting to see how he develops.
Keith Seabrook- When I saw the Flames traded for Seabrook I was blown away until I realized it was Brent's little brother...and then I was blown away again. We got to see Seabrook here in Calgary a lot and I was really happy they acquired him. He had a terrific season with the Heat with 10 goals and 18 assists, often looked to more and more for offence and defensive reliability. He's a right shot too which is always handy to have.
Tim Erixon- Last years 1st round Pick won't have stats that make you shout with glee for two reasons, he is more of a smart defensive player who passes well and he's 19 playing with men. Those two things make you think that he might have a future on the Flames, probably as a number 4 or 5 defenseman but one that you never really complain about having.
Ortio- He's Finnish and we can spell his name! What more do you want in a goalie? Well his great save percentage at the world juniors and the fact he carries them to a bronze is also something.
Irving- Took a step back last year but still has unbelievable ability.
Keetley- Right handed catchers are always difficult for shooters who are unaccustomed to it, Keetley should be the top guy in the AHL this year.
J.P. Lamoureaux- 14 and 12 last year in the AHL will push Keetley for the Heat's starting Job.
The cupboards are not bare!!