SUN Hockey Pool

Project: Prospects

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

The Calgary Flames' week-long prospect camp ended yesterday. For the past several days, the team's coaches, scouts and diehard fans have been watching and assessing possibly the next generation of Flames players.

GM Darryl Sutter has said his organization has some of the best prospects in the NHL -- so who are they? And when will they stick with the big club? If ever? Sun hockey writer Randy Sportak looks at the team's 10 best young players and their chances for an NHL career.

1. LW ERIC NYSTROM

ACQUIRED -- 1st round, 10th overall, in 2002 draft.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha (AHL) 78GP, 15G, 18A, 33Pts; 37PIM; Calgary (NHL) 2 0-0-0 0.

Strengths -- He has size, strength, can skate and is very responsible defensively. In fact, he was named top defensive forward his final year at the University of Michigan.

Weaknesses -- That defensive ability is sometimes to the detriment of his offensive skills. Nystrom won't win the Art Ross but can think too defensively rather than offensively.

ULTIMATELY ... -- It'd be nice to hope for second-line status but, right from draft day, he's been looked at as a third-liner.

Expectations for this year -- May be the forward with the best chance to crack the opening night roster -- when Matthew Lombardi signs, the club will have 13 forwards on one-way contracts. Nystrom will have to earn a spot, a good thing when you consider a few years ago, the likes of Oleg Saprykin and Rico Fata were on the team long before they were ready.

2. D mark giordano

Acquired -- Signed as a free agent July 6, 2004.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha (AHL) 73GP, 16G, 42A, 58Pts, 141PIM; Calgary (NHL) 7 0-1-1 8.

Strengths -- A good skater, he showed a great ability to recover when seemingly out of position. Led the Omaha Knights in points.

Weaknesses -- His ability to recover from mistakes is needed because, frankly, he makes them. At 6 ft., 200 lb., he has to play bigger than he is in front of the net.

ULTIMATELY ... -- He could be a fifth or sixth defenceman in the NHL.

Expectations for this year -- Unless the Flames acquire another veteran defenceman, Giordano and Richie Regehr will vie for the seventh spot on the roster.

3. D Richie Regehr

Acquired -- Signed as a free agent July 6, 2004.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha (AHL), 48GP, 7G, 23A, 30Pts, 56PIM

Strengths -- It's easy to say he and Giordano are one and the same but Regehr, also a good skater, is a safer player defensively and less prone to errors.

Weaknesses -- Offensively, he can provide more, likely a product of his defence-first thinking. A late season concussion prevented him from being a bigger piece of the puzzle.

ULTIMATELY ... -- He could be a fifth or sixth NHL defenceman.

Expectations for this year -- If he can't beat out Giordano for the No. 7 spot among defencemen in Calgary, will be counted on to be the leader in Omaha. It'll be an interesting battle in camp.

4. D Tim Ramholt

Acquired -- 2nd round, 39th overall, in 2003.

2005-06 stats -- Kloten (Switzerland), 42GP, 0G, 1A, 1Pt, 46 PIM.

Strengths -- A very good skater who is willing to handle the puck. He's adept at making that first pass, something the Flames sorely need.

Weaknesses -- The club isn't sure because they don't know how much his development stagnated during two seasons with limited ice time in Switzerland's top league. Won't likely be an offensive force like Dion Phaneuf.

ULTIMATELY ... -- A No. 3 or 4 defenceman.

Expectations for this year -- Having signed, he'll start the season in Omaha barring a fantastic camp. Ramholt needs to learn the North American pro game and will be given a year or two to do it.

5. G Brent Krahn

Acquired -- 1st round, 9th overall, in 2000.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha, 57GP, 2.50GAA, .912 save%, 26-20-9.

Strengths -- A big goalie at 6 ft. 4 in., Krahn has terrific flexibility and good foot speed.

Weaknesses -- Consistency. Too often his game goes from peak to valley.

ULTIMATELY ... -- He is unlikely to become a starter in the NHL but has the skills to be a backup.

Expectations for this year -- This is likely the biggest year for Krahn as a Flame. They've been extremely patient waiting for him to develop. To earn the backup job in the 2007-08 NHL campaign, he needs to prove himself among the best in the AHL this season. Or, he may be sent adrift.

6. C/LW David Moss

Acquired -- 7th round, 220th overall, in 2001.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha, 63GP, 21G, 27A, 48Pts, 28PIM.

Strengths -- A versatile forward able to play all three positions, he became Omaha's first-line centre and made the most of it with 21 goals. Has good size at 6 ft. 3 in.

Weaknesses -- Not a bad skater but still must improve for the NHL game.

ULTIMATELY ... -- Before last season, he was considered a fourth-line centre. Having scored so well in his rookie pro season, he may be a second-liner.

Expectations for this year -- He'd be hard-pressed to earn a roster spot out of camp and will have Dustin Boyd battling him for top-line duty in Omaha. May earn a stint in Calgary if injuries happen.

7. C Dustin Boyd

Acquired -- 3rd round, 98th overall, in 2004.

2005-06 stats -- Moose Jaw (WHL), 64GP 48G, 42A, 90Pts, 34PIM.

Strengths -- A speedy and shifty skater, he creates offence and has a finishing touch. A battler, he's willing to go to the hard spots on the ice to score.

Weaknesses -- Size is an issue. Listed as 190 lb., he must put on some weight while maintaining his speed and also needs more strength.

ULTIMATELY ... -- Seemingly a sure-fire second-line centre, he may be a 1B centre.

Expectations for this year -- His offensive skill may earn a few pre-season points but being a first-year pro, he'll likely receive a ticket to the minors for the year. It's a good sign for a team when players this good need to battle for top-line ice time in the minors.

8. LW BRANDON PRUST

Acquired -- 3rd round, 70th overall, in 2004

2005-06 stats -- Omaha, 79GP, 12G, 14A, 26Pts, 294PIM.

Strengths -- A true team player, he'll fill the water bottles if need be to make the NHL. Fearless, he has a good sense when momentum needs changing and is willing to do it.

Weaknesses -- His biggest strength can be his weakness. He believes he can do anything and sometimes fails to play within his limitations. When drafted the Flames scouts referred to him as a Scott Walker type. Prust said he hoped they'd compare him to Jarome Iginla.

ULTIMATELY ... -- A fourth liner, maybe third.

Expectations for this year --He wasn't drafted into the OHL and was a junior team walk-on, so we're talking about a player who'll do everything to work his way up. You'll notice him in the pre-season and may see him during the regular season if there are injuries.

9. RW/LW Tomi Maki

Acquired -- 4th round, 108th overall, in 2001.

2005-06 stats -- Omaha, 80GP, 12G, 17A, 29Pts, 33 PIM

Strengths -- Another versatile forward, Maki is a gritty, aggressive player who skates hard, hits hard and goes for the puck hard.

Weaknesses -- Not a big scorer. His 12 goals in his first year as a pro in North America compared to six in his last two seasons in Finland's top loop. Maki isn't great with the puck.

ULTIMATELY ... -- A third- or fourth-liner.

Expectations for this year -- His defensive skills may earn an injury recall for the Flames. Otherwise, he'll elevate his game in the minors.

10. C Andrei Taratukhin

Acquired -- 2nd round, 41st overall, in 2001

2005-06 stats -- Yaroslavl (Russia), 40GP, 9G, 15A, 24Pts, 85PIM.

Strengths -- A fine skater who plays a good two-way game, he's developed from a lanky kid when he was drafted and filled out. He's willing to hit and punish as well.

Weaknesses -- Lack of North American experience. Though he's not terrible offensively, he's not very dynamic.

ULTIMATELY ... -- Maybe a second-line centre but more likely a third liner.

Expectations for this year -- If the Russian Federation ever signs the agreement with the NHL, Taratukhin will likely come overseas this year.

If he comes to North America, he may push the other young centres for a roster spot.


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