Net gains for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

The Calgary Flames goaltending picture focuses mainly on Miikka Kiprusoff.

For good reason, too, seeing as Kiprusoff is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and coming off back-to-back standout seasons.

In the background, but very much part of the portrait, is veteran Jamie McLennan to serve as backup.

It's certainly a good combination for the squad that figures to be prominent in the Stanley Cup chase during the coming season.

As happy as GM Darryl Sutter appears to be with that duo, you can't blame him for being being high on what's waiting in the wings.

From Brent Krahn all the way through the depth chart, the Flames have an overflowing cup of young netminders who'll be pushing to open the doorway to the bigs over the coming years.

Over the past seven drafts, the Flames have made goaltending something of a priority, claiming eight netminders in that span. That is why they have a half-dozen youngsters in the stable, and really only one bust -- the hefty Andrei Medvedev -- with another, Levente Szuper, out of the organization.

Here's a peek of the six remaining, five of whom are here in Calgary for rookie camp.

BRENT KRAHN

Drafted 9th overall 2000

2005-06: Omaha Knights (AHL)

57 GP 2.50 GAA .912 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: A pivotal campaign of his career, with the chance and necessity to prove he can be a standout in the minors and graduate to the NHL, Krahn must become a more consistent netminder in the No. 1 role for Omaha. Now 24, Krahn's development may seem slow but even at the 2000 draft, Craig Button compared him to Washington star Olaf Kolzig, who was 24 before claiming the backup job with the Capitals and 27 before becoming the bonafide starter.

CURTIS McELHINNEY

Drafted 176th overall 2002

2005-06: Omaha Knights (AHL) 33 GP 2.52 GAA .912 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: Pencilled as the backup to Brent Krahn in Omaha, the Calgary kid is slowly working his way up the ladder. Drafted after playing only nine games for Colorado College in his NCAA freshman season, McElhinney had a solid season as a first-year pro in 2005-06. His goals-against average with the Knights was fifth best in the AHL and tops among rookies. The sixth-round draft choice may be a longshot to make the NHL but he has a good work ethic.

JAMES SPRATT

Drafted 213th overall 2004

2005-06: Bowling Green (NCAA) 16 GP 4.35 GAA .855 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: Someone on the back-burner for Flames brass because he has three more years of NCAA eligibility, Spratt will be looking to rebound from a difficult freshman season at Bowling Green. After three solid seasons in the American-based USHL, Spratt was blitzed early in the year. In his final five starts of the season, the netminder posted a 2.75 average, .918 save percentage and had four 30-plus save performances. He'll be looking to claim the No. 1 job this season.

MATT KEETLEY

Drafted 158th overall 2005

2005-06: Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) 62 GP 2.09 GAA .916 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: Having already turned 20, Keetley could go to the minors but will likely end up back with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers for his overage year. A general rule NHL franchises like to use before turning a goaltender pro is 150 games. Keetley, who assumed the starter's job last year, has 97, plus another 15 post-season encounters. Another year as the main man in The Hat wouldn't hurt.

KEVIN LALANDE

Drafted 128th overall 2005

2005-06: Belleville Bulls (OHL) 50 GP 3.08 GAA .916 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: To build off a good season as Belleville's starter last year, which concluded by being named to the OHL's third all-star team -- behind a pair of overagers, and that was while splitting the netminding duties. Lalande should receive some consideration for Canada's world juniors squad becoming the starter for a Bulls team that is an early favourite for the league title.

LELAND IRVING

Drafted 26th overall 2006

2005-06: Everett Silvertips (WHL) 67 GP 1.92 GAA .925 SV%

Expectations for 2006-07: Everett made it to Western Conference final last season and -- with a handful of high draft picks this summer -- will be looking for bigger and better things. Irving, who will be put to the test a little more with the WHL clamping down on obstruction, must continue to improve on his performance a year ago as the No. 1 goalie.


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