SUN Hockey Pool

Plenty of future considerations for Flames

In the lineup on an emergency call-up basis, Sven Baertschi mixed it up in his NHL debut

In the lineup on an emergency call-up basis, Sven Baertschi mixed it up in his NHL debut

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

Considering the approach the Calgary Flames have taken since the lockout, the cupboards are surprisingly stocked.

A couple of prospects pushed their way onto the team this season, more have proven worthy of a serious look come fall, and others have flashed promise of a future that could include a legitimate NHL career.

Taking into account how the Flames approach has been putting together a high-payroll, veteran-laden team at the top pro level year after year — and continuously draft in the latter half of the order come spring — it’s not a bad group of hopefuls filling the prospect pages of the Flames flow-chart.

Just don’t go comparing it to the Edmonton Oilers supply pantry — it’s apples and oranges when you look at how high the provincial neighbours to the north have had the luxury (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of selecting over the past few years.

Of course, the Oilers’ best prospects from the last few years — Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle — are actually their biggest stars.

It looks like the Flames’ man-in-waiting is Sven Baertschi, who enamoured the fans with his brief stint in the NHL as a late-season emergency call-up, scoring three goals in five games before returning to junior.

Behind him, though, are not just a collection of grinders and bashers.

Skill is on the rise down the ranks.

“You can’t have all the same player. We’re starting to have a good mix of skill, some rugged guys, some guys that are gonna kill penalties for you, guys on the powerplay with vision,” said Craig Conroy, the Flames’ special assistant to the GM.

When it comes to vision, Johnny Gaudreau leads the pack. The Boston College freshman helped his team to the Frozen Four final this weekend. Despite constantly suiting up against guys nearly twice his size, the tiny winger continues to impress.

“He’s playing against 23-, 24-year-old men. He’s a young guy. Most college kids that are freshmen are 21 years old. He’s a true freshman,” Conroy said.

“How well he’s doing, game-in and game-out, he had a little bit of a lull in the middle of the season. The beginning he was great, a little lull, but now he’s really ramped it up.”

The Hockey East playoff MVP and his teammate, Bill Arnold (another Flames draft pick), provide the kind of mix the Flames are looking to put together for the future.

“That’s the one nice thing moving forward — we have options,” Conroy said, pointing to T.J. Brodie, Lance Bouma and Roman Horak spending most of the year with the Flames as a great injection of youth.

More will be coming. It’s just a matter of time before guys like Max Reinhart, Michael Ferland or Ryan Howse are getting spot starts at the NHL level to see what they can do.

Howse has been one of the biggest stories this season with the Abbotsford Heat, struggling early on but turning a corner with his professionalism under head coach Troy Ward.

“It’s amazing how much he’s come along. Those are the things that are exciting for me,” Conroy said. “At the beginning of the year, it was hard. It’s different than junior. (Howse) had some struggles, and he’s becoming a pro. It was impressive how much he’s stepped it up.

“If he made this big a jump, he’s gonna be able to keep going. He’s starting to figure it out. It’s only gonna help him in the future. It’s gonna get him that much closer to the NHL.

“It says a lot about Troy and what they’re doing down there.”

If all goes well, others like Akim Aliu, Howse and Greg Nemisz will be pushing for regular roles along with Brodie, Bouma and Horak.

And there’s Baertschi, of course, who has the kind of skill and star power that could make the locals forget the team has missed the playoffs in three straight seasons.

“Overall, there’s so many promising things,” Conroy said. “We have some promising guys — guys that can really make a push to make this team.”

AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE

Leland Irving

Position: Goal

Height/Weight: 6-foot/177 lb.

Born: Barrhead, Alta.

Age: 23

Selected: 1st round, 26th overall, 2006

Stats

Quad City Flames (AHL)

GP W L OT GAA SV%

2008-09 47 24 18 2 2.23 .912

Victoria Salmon Kings (ECHL)

2009-10 8 2 4 2 3.06 .908

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP W L OT GAA SV%

2009-10 35 14 17 2 2.76 .905

2010-11 61 30 24 2 2.30 .913

2011-12 38 21 13 2 2.64 .904

Calgary Flames

GP W L OT GAA SV%

2011-12 7 1 3 3 3.19 .912

The skinny: Irving got more accomplished as a fly-in, fly-out backup behind Miikka Kiprusoff than any of the star Finn’s understudies have in years. He may be a legitimate NHL starters in the coming years.

Akim Aliu

Position: Right wing

Height/Weight: 6-foot-4/225 lb.

Born: Okene, Nigeria

Age: 22

Selected: 2nd round, 56th overall, 2007 (Chicago)

Stats

Rockford Icehogs (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2008-09 5 2 0 2 14

2009-10 48 11 6 17 69

Toledo Walleye (ECHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 13 5 9 14 18

Chicago Wolves (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 43 4 5 9 53

Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 16 12 8 20 22

Peoria Rivermen (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 16 5 4 9 20

Calgary Flames (NHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 1 0 1 1 2

The skinny: Aliu showed some promise in his first NHL game, and if he’s really got the maturity level to go with his skills, he could be a risk that pans out.

Paul Byron

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 5-foot-7/153 lb.

Born: Ottawa, Ont.

Age: 22

Selected: 6th round, 179th overall, 2007 (Buffalo)

Stats

Portland Pirates (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 57 14 19 33 59

2010-11 67 26 27 53 52

Buffalo Sabres (NHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 8 1 1 2 2

Calgary Flames (NHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 22 3 2 5 2

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 36 5 12 17 38

The skinny: Undersized, speedy and skilled, Byron was inconsistent at the NHL level this year but flashed serious potential offensively. A little more time in the gym could pay off.

Ryan Howse

Position: Left wing

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11/195 lb.

Born: Prince George, B.C.

Age: 20

Selected: 3rd round, 74th overall, 2009

Stats

Chilliwack Bruins (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2007-08 54 10 7 17 12

2008-09 61 31 13 44 12

2009-10 72 47 25 72 27

2010-11 70 51 32 83 40

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 39 6 3 9 10

The skinny: Howse struggled in his first season as a pro but really seemed to turn a corner on the lifestyle front late in the year and has been a source of pride for Heat coach Troy Ward.

Greg Nemisz

Position: Right wing

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3/197 lb.

Born: Courtice, Ont.

Age: 21

Selected: 1st round, 25th overall, 2008

Stats

Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2006-07 62 11 23 34 23

2007-08 68 34 33 67 52

2008-09 65 36 41 77 48

2009-10 51 34 36 70 50

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 68 14 19 33 28

2011-12 47 13 15 28 29

Calgary Flames (NHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 6 0 1 1 0

2011-12 9 0 0 0 0

The skinny: No longer expected to be a top forward, the former first round pick is searching to find a new role as a professional.

David Eddy

Position: Right wing

Height/Weight: 6-foot, 187 lb.

Born: Woodbury, Minn.

Age: 22

Signed: As a free agent March 20, 2012

Stats

Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2008-09 60 21 35 56 52

St. Cloud State (NCAA)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 35 12 11 23 12

2010-11 18 9 8 17 17

2011-12 39 9 16 25 52

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 2 0 0 0 0

The skinny: The undrafted free agent signee could either be a simply serviceable pro or a steal in the fashion of Mark Giordano. Either way, he’s going to be scrutinized now that he’s aboard.

Chris Breen

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 6-foot-7/224 lb.

Born: Uxbridge, Ont.

Age: 22

Signed: May 31, 2010

Stats

Erie Otters (OHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2008-09 59 0 12 12 31

2009-10 12 0 2 2 11

Peterborough Petes (OHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 53 4 8 12 36

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 1 0 1 1 4

2010-11 73 4 7 11 47

2011-12 66 1 5 6 35

The skinny: Breen was one of the kids to watch this season but still has some improvements to make before he’s considered for a chance to jump up to the NHL level for a look.

MAJOR JUNIOR

Sven Baertschi

Position: Left wing

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10/181 lb.

Born: Bern, Switzerland

Age: 19

Selected: 1st round, 13th overall, 2011

Stats

Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 66 34 51 85 74

2011-12 47 33 61 94 36

Calgary Flames (NHL)

2011-12 GP G A Pts PIM

5 3 0 3 4

The skinny: The kid looks like a game-changer, and his five-game stint with the Flames mid-season got fans and management alike excited about his potential to be a future face of the franchise.

Maxwell Reinhart

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/180 lb.

Born: West Vancouver, B.C.

Age: 20

Selected: 3rd round, 64th overall, 2010

Stats

Kootenay Ice (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2008-09 62 11 16 27 21

2009-10 72 21 30 51 38

2010-11 71 34 45 79 41

2011-12 61 28 50 78 40

The skinny: Reinhart is a cerebral centre with lots of offensive upside that doesn’t come at the risk of defensive liability. He’ll turn pro this year and be a guy to watch in training camp even though it’s likely some AHL seasoning will make him a better pro.

Michael Ferland

Position: Left wing

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2/208 lb.

Born: Swan River, Man.

Age: 19

Selected: 5th round, 133rd overall, 2010

Stats

Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 61 9 19 28 85

2010-11 56 23 33 56 110

2011-12 68 47 49 96 84

The skinny: Perhaps no Flames prospect has made such steep climbs in just a few years of major junior hockey. He’s become a premier power forward and will make the jump to pro next fall.

Tyler Wotherspoon

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/196 lb.

Born: Burnaby, B.C.

Age: 19

Selected: 2nd round, 57th overall, 2011

Stats

Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 43 1 4 5 21

2010-11 64 2 10 12 73

2011-12 67 7 21 28 42

The skinny: The solid stay-at-home defender made big strides offensively this season but has plenty of time to develop as a pro thanks to the strong stable of prospects the Flames have acquired on the back end.

Joey Leach

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 6-foot-3/187 lb.

Born: Wadena, Sask.

Age: 20

Selected: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2010

Stats

Kootenay Ice (WHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2008-09 12 1 0 1 4

2009-10 70 3 23 27 77

2010-11 56 5 25 30 78

2011-12 72 12 31 43 88

The skinny: Leach has taken his game to the next level this season with the Ice. The blueline leader earned a call-up to the Heat for the playoff run as a result.

COLLEGE

Bill Arnold

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 6-foot/218 lb.

Born: Boston, Mass.

Age: 19

Selected: 4th round, 108th overall, 2010

Stats

U.S. National U-18 Team (USHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 26 8 15 23 20

Boston College (NCAA)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 39 10 10 20 38

2011-12 41 17 18 35 44

The skinny: Arnold made the U.S. world junior championship team this winter, and the Eagles sophomore helped his squad become the No. 1 seed for this weekend’s Frozen Four tournament.

 

John Gaudreau

Position: Left wing

Height/Weight: 5-foot-7/155 lb.

Born: Salem, N.J.

Age: 18

Selected: 4th round, 104th overall, 2011

Stats

Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 60 36 36 72 36

Boston College (NCAA)

GP G A Pts PIM

2011-12 43 20 23 43 10

The skinny: Skinny says it all when it comes to this kid. Well, physically, anyway. But his heart and skill has made up for his lack of size at every level, and he’s been a knockout freshman with the Eagles, winning the tournament MVP award in the conference championships.

John Ramage

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/184 lb.

Born: Missisauga, Ont.

Age: 21

Selected: 4th round, 103rd overall, 2010

Stats

U.S. National U-18 Team

2008-09 GP G A Pts PIM

54 2 8 10 44

University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 41 2 10 12 51

2010-11 37 1 10 11 59

2011-12 37 3 7 10 62

The skinny: The Badgers captain is an unquestioned leader who is on the cusp of turning professional. With a few things to work on, he may return to school for his senior year but has potential as a solid defender as a pro.

Nicholas Larson

Position: Left wing

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/182 lb.

Born: St. Paul, Minn.

Age: 22

Selected: 4th round, 108th overall, 2008

Stats

Notre Dame (NCAA)

GP G A Pts PIM

2009-10 35 6 5 11 47

2010-11 43 10 9 19 42

2011-12 34 5 3 8 73

The skinny: Larson is an unknown commodity at this point. He’ll be a senior next season but so far hasn’t put up the kind of numbers to garner attention as a potential top-leaguer.

EUROPE

Markus Granlund

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 5-foot-11/166 lb.

Born: Oulu, Finland

Age: 18

Selected: 2nd round, 45th overall, 2011

Stats

HIFK Helsinki (SM Liga)

GP G A Pts PIM

2010-11 2 0 0 0 0

2011-12 47 15 19 34 18

The skinny: A solid prospect with loads of talent. But there are questions as to his ability to overcome a lack of size on a smaller ice surface. Time to develop and grow could pay off for the youngster.

Joni Ortio

Position: Goal

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1/181 lb.

Born: Turku, Finland

Age: 20

Selected: 6th round, 171st overall, 2009

Stats

Abbotsford Heat (AHL)

GP W L OT GAA SV%

2011-12 9 1 4 0 2.94 .890

The skinny: Ortio struggled adapting to life in North America but, by all accounts, thrived when returned to Europe to continue his development.

 


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