A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
Sitting on one of the top prospects in the game, the Flames and their fans cannot be too upset with an overall ranking in the bottom third. Although only one other prospect made the Hockey Prospectus top 100 list (which is displayed in all of its glory in the upcoming Annual), there were three other prospects who were in the running for the big list. Their main problem is a lack of depth outside of their top ten. Then again, it could have been better, but they dealt their first round selection to Boston in exchange for Dougie Hamilton. On second thought, no, it could not have been better. There are not too many prospects right now who are safer bets for top end NHL production than Hamilton already is.
- Sam Bennett, C, Kingston (OHL) 6-0”, 178. 4th overall, 2014
- Emile Poirier, RW, Adirondack (AHL) 6-1”, 183. 22nd overall, 2013
- Morgan Klimchuk, LW, Brandon (WHL) 5-11”, 180. 28th overall, 2013
- Oliver Kylington, D, AIK (Allsvenskan) 6-0”, 181. 60th overall, 2015
- Brandon Hickey, D, Boston University (Hockey East) 6-2”, 177. 64th overall, 2014
- Jon Gillies, G, Providence (Hockey East) 6-5”, 216. 75th overall, 2012)
- Tyler Wotherspoon, D, Adirondack (AHL) 6-2”, 210. 57th overall, 2011
- Rasmus Andersson, D, Barrie (OHL) 6-0”, 212 53rd overall, 2015
- Andrew Mangiapane, LW, Barrie (OHL) 5-10”, 161. 166th overall, 2015
- Mark Jankowski, C, Providence (Hockey East) 6-3”, 168. 21st overall, 2012
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Michael Ferland, LW, Adirondack (AHL) 6-2”, 215. 133rd overall, 2010
- Kenny Agostino, LW, Adirondack (AHL) 6-1”, 200. Trade: Mar. 28, 2013. (Originally: 140th overall, 2010, Pittsburgh)
- Mason McDonald, G, Charlottetown (QMJHL) 6-4”, 178. 34th overall, 2014
- Rushan Rafikov, D, HK Ryazan (VHL) 6-2”, 181. 187th overall, 2013
There is a massive gap between the expected outcomes of the top player on this list and the number two man, and it is therefore only just that we begin at the top. Sam Bennett raised some eyebrows prior to his being drafted by failing to complete a single pushup at the NHL Draft Combine. As it turned out, he was dealing with a severe shoulder injury that shortly required surgery, causing him to miss most of last season. When he returned with Kingston, he was unstoppable, putting up 24 points in 11 games on a fairly mediocre team. As soon as the Frontenacs were eliminated from the OHL playoffs, Bennett joined the Flames in time for one final regular season game and their own playoff run. He showed postseason flashes of being an anchor player around whom the Flames can build for the remainder of the decade, if not beyond. He needs to fill out, but he plays a power game, and with enough finesse to keep defenses on their toes whenever he is on the ice. Bennett and Sean Monahan put the Flames in the enviable position of having a pair of high end young centers to build around.
After the top, the system is thin up the middle, with the only other notable center in the organization being Mark Jankowski, formerly the most surprising player selected out of the 2012 draft, as he was selected out of a Canadian high school. While Jankowski’s numbers with NCAA Providence have been average at best, he has shown enough glimpses of two-way upside to believe that a bottom six role is still a reasonable future outcome.
Things are a bit more interesting on the wings, particularly with the pair of former first rounders who still maintain top six upside in Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk. The right winger Poirier had a strong rookie professional season. His instincts are high end and he plays with a tenacious style that would fit on a prototypical third line if his scoring touch gets lost in the translation from AHL to NHL. He is likely to follow up his six game NHL cameo with far more big league action this year.
Klimchuk, a left winger, seems set to make his professional debut this year after a mildly disappointing graduating season in the WHL. There has never been any question about his offensive skills, most notable for his plus shot and supplemented by above average skating. But his failure to improve his production from age 19 to 20 is concerning. Also in question is his smallish frame. He has the ability to reintroduce himself to the national prospect consciousness, or to join Jankowski towards the tail end of the list in future iterations.
Further down the list by virtue of his relative distance from the NHL is a personal favorite in Andrew Mangiapane, one of the most fun players to watch in the OHL over the past two seasons. Very undersized, Mangiapane plays a highly skilled and creative game which is demonstrated by both his fantastic stickhandling and clever passing. He also has a great release on his wrist shot. He is not afraid to play a high energy style, but can be manhandled if he is not protected.
Virtually an opposite to Mangiapane is late season callup Michael Ferland who remains eligible for this list due to our different interpretation for eligibility than the Calder Trophy. Ferland is a crash and bang winger who may be an extreme agitator, but has very little offensive upside. He is already a fourth liner in the NHL and there he shall remain. Another winger worth mention is Kenny Agostino, part of the return from the infamous Jarome Iginla trade. The Yale grad had a solid first year in the AHL and displays average tools across the board. He should eventually be a bottom six contributor in the NHL.
In terms of depth, the strength of this organization is on the blueline. Two of their more prominent young defenders were drafted this past June and both carry Swedish passports. The second of the two to hear his name called is actually the more talented of the duo, and the top ranked blueliner in the system. Prior to his draft year, Oliver Kylington was thought by some to be a lock to be drafted in the top ten. He had been playing at a high level at age 17 and was acquitting himself well due to solid puck movement and elite skating speed. While the skating remains top of the scale, questions about his decision making emerged this year as he bounced between the junior ranks, and the top two tiers of Swedish senior hockey while missing out on Sweden’s WJC run due to injury.
The earlier draft pick was Rasmus Andersson, who spent the year in the OHL with Barrie and put up tremendous numbers for a defenseman, scoring nearly one point per game with the Colts. Although not tall, he is not undersized as he has a broad, mature frame. He also has a strong, though inaccurate, shot and is a capable defender, although he is not known for foot speed.
Another intriguing defensemen is BU’s Brandon Hickey, who shone as a freshman in Jack Eichel’s shadow. While he does not project as a high end point man due to a weak shot, Hickey excels at puck transitions as he is a frequent puck carrier. Furthermore, his defensive game was above average playing against players often three or more years older and both of those facets should only improve. While his upside does not reach the heights of Kylington’s his risk factor is also a lot lower.
Further along the development path is Tyler Wotherspoon, who took a big step forward as a two-way defender in his second season in the AHL with Adirondack. While his numbers were solid, the projection calls for more of a safe, third pairing type, who can be trusted in his own zone against all levels of competition. His game is quiet, but very effective.
Finally, a quick word about Russian defenseman Rushan Rafikov. A strong defender with a plus point shot, Rafikov would have been drafted far higher than the seventh round were it not for the Russian Factor. He is expected to spend this coming season in the KHL.
The Flames have two goaltenders of note in the system. Most prominent among them is recent NCAA champion, Jon Gillies. Gillies has topped a .930 save percentage in each of his three seasons with the Friars and fits the mould for modern day, massive netminders. It is never easy to scout goalies, but Gillies does have high end starter upside. For now, he will get his feet wet in the AHL as he gets used to longer seasons with more frequent games.
Also of note between the pipes is Mason McDonald, the first goalie selected in the 2014 draft. While his .906 save percentage does not leap from the page, only one other netminder who played in even 25 games was more efficient. Like Gillies, McDonald tall and he is also known for a good glove hand.
The Calgary system has a good mix of prospects including sure fire studs, long term projects and safe and close-to-ready depth players. While the team’s NHL success had some measure of smoke and mirrors behind it, as seen in their poor possession numbers, the young nature of the team and the expected prospect graduations and improvements from young roster regulars give them a good chance of not becoming the next Colorado Avalanche or Toronto Maple Leafs and avoiding the expected statistical regression.