Once again the hockey season looms in front of us, creating an air of anticipation and excitement. Every year at this time, players are finishing their individual training and preparing for their team's pre-season camp, while fans are left sitting on their hands waiting for the season to start. We pointlessly discuss unimportant topics of where JS Aubin will sign and whether or not the jerseys' of the original six teams should be altered.
For Flames fans, the first pre-season game against the improved Florida Panthers is less than three weeks away; just 19 days until puck drop to be exact. The Flames won't ice all of their projected starters instead allowing the younger players to battle for spots while seeing some NHL action, allowing the coaches to evaluate their games.
Right now, no goaltending or defensive prospects stand a chance of making this team come October fourth against The Flyers. Perhaps a bold statement from afar, but when looking closely, it is apparently obvious. It should be Krahn backing up Kiprusoff, and no defensemen waiting in the wings should move ahead of Phaneuf, Regehr, Aucoin, Sarich, Warrener, Eriksson, Hale or Giordano on the depth chart. That leaves the forwards.
Since the flurry of activity after July 1 from other teams and the lack of offensive signings made by Sutter, it is quite obvious that some of the younger players in the organization are expected to step up and bring their game to the NHL level. Right? David Moss is projected to elevate his game from last year (41GP-18Pts), while Dustin Boyd (13GP-4Pts) and Brandon Prust (10GP-0Pts) should get more games with the big club this year. In addition, Andrei Taratukin is allegedly ready to step into the NHL, while other prospects Eric Nystrom, Carsen Germyn, Tomi Maki and Dan Ryder would all love to show the decision makers they are ready for the big time. However, just how much time can be allotted to these younger players?
There are currently 12 NHL forwards, including Eric Goddard (20GP last year) and Moss, on the Flames roster. Five of the 6 "top 6 forward" positions are filled, and many are penciling-in David Moss or Own Nolan for that sixth and final spot. Assuming Calgary is going to carry 13 forwards for the season, that leaves one spot open coming out of training camp for one of the youngsters. Now obviously, injuries will happen - when you have Stephen Yelle and Own Nolan on your roster it is inevitable. So perhaps there is some available time for these up and coming players, but there needs to be some holes opened up for their playing time.
So I think with that being said, for any of the younger forwards to get any sort of consistent playing time, injuries night be the only way. I don't see them getting into the lineup much more often than they did last year, unless of course Sutter unloads Huselius. But that is for another time.