Mikael Backlund is quietly having an award-worthy season for the Calgary Flames. He is already Calgary’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey”. In addition, the Swedish forward is putting up numbers this year indicative of a possible Selke Trophy nomination.

The Selke Trophy is given each year to the National Hockey League’s best defensive forward, and it has been won by just six different players over the last eleven seasons: Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes; Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings; Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks; Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins; Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks; and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings. While both Brind’Amour and Datsyuk have retired from the NHL, the latter four players are all still active and in the conversation for this prestigious award.

However, this season seems to be the start of a period of transition for this award. While there have only been five different nominees for the Selke over the last four years (Datsyuk, Kesler, Bergeron, Toews, and Kopitar), a number of new faces have emerged in the conversation, including Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, and Backlund. These players’ emergences in the conversation have been partially enabled by the significant drop-off of many of the aforementioned Selke favourites of the past. While Kesler and Bergeron are still having terrific seasons, Kopitar’s production at both ends of the ice has dropped significantly, while Toews has been inconsistent at times for the Blackhawks this season.

With all of this having been said, let us take a look at the individual cases of the most promising candidates for the Selke Trophy.

This article will be somewhat statistic-heavy, so before all of the number-crunching begins, it is important to understand what all of these figures will mean.

GP/G/A/Points: These are just the player’s pure offensive statistics for the season*.

Points/60: This is a measurement of a player’s point-scoring production for every 60 minutes of ice-time he plays*.

Defensive Zone Starts: This is the percentage of defensive zone starts for the player. A defensive zone start is quantified by any faceoff that a player takes on the defensive side of the centre line. A percentage above 50% indicates that the player starts in his defensive zone more often than not.

Corsi Against: Corsi is a measurement of shot attempts, so Corsi Against is simply the percentage of shot attempts against a player’s team while he is on the ice.

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): This is how well a team does at stopping the puck while a certain player is on the ice at full strength, minus the team’s save percentage as a whole at full strength. This creates a relative statistic, one which determines a change between a goaltender’s save percentage with a certain player on the ice versus his save percentage in general. The higher the resultant figure, the better the player is relative to his team.

*By definition, the Selke trophy is not judged with offensive prowess in mind; however, in practice, recipients of the trophy are typically very solid offensively. As such, the Selke has developed somewhat of a reputation in recent years as the award for hockey’s best two-way player, and voters typically seem to consider production at both ends of the ice when determining who to cast their ballots for.

With this having been said, let us examine the individual cases of seven Selke candidates.

Statistics accurate as of March 26, 2017.

Ryan Kesler

GP/G/A/Points: 74/20/31/51

Points/60: 1.92

Defensive Zone Starts: 65.7%

Corsi Against: 48.1%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -0.9%

Mikko Koivu

GP/G/A/Points: 72/18/35/53

Points/60: 2.30

Defensive Zone Starts: 64.0%

Corsi Against: 50.5%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -0.1%

Patrice Bergeron

GP/G/A/Points: 72/17/32/49

Points/60: 2.14

Defensive Zone Starts: 44.3%

Corsi Against: 38.1%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -2.1%

Sidney Crosby

GP/G/A/Points: 68/42/40/82

Points/60: 3.62

Defensive Zone Starts: 38.2%

Corsi Against: 46.4%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -0.7%

Jonathan Toews

GP/G/A/Points: 65/20/35/55

Points/60: 2.70

Defensive Zone Starts: 43.4%

Corsi Against: 47.4%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -0.3%

Anze Kopitar

GP/G/A/Points: 67/11/35/46

Points/60: 1.97

Defensive Zone Starts: 47.0%

Corsi Against: 44.3%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -1.8%

Mikael Backlund

GP/G/A/Points: 74/21/29/50

Points/60: 2.32

Defensive Zone Starts: 64.0%

Corsi Against: 45.1%

On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (relative): -2.2%

Those are a lot of numbers. Let’s turn them into words.

For the purposes of this article, Mikael Backlund will be the reference point. We will go through the case of each player, and compare their qualifications to Backlund’s. This should give a good idea of the merits of each individual case.

First up is Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks. Kesler is having a monster season with Anaheim, putting up big offensive numbers while being the team’s go-to defensive specialist. He has been relied upon by far the most out of any of the above players, explaining why his Points/60 figure is so low at 1.92. Even still, he has already recorded 50+ points on the year, something which will please voters. Kesler’s Defensive Zone Starts (DSZ% from here on out) and Corsi Against (CA%) are both quite comparable to Backlund’s, with Kesler slightly ahead in the former category and Backlund the leader in the latter. However, Kesler is way ahead of Backlund in On-Ice 5v5 Save Percentage (5v5 rel SV%), as the Flames’ Swede brings up the rear in this category when compared to all of the other players being discussed.

Secondly is the Wild’s Mikko Koivu, whose stats are eerily similar to Backlund’s. One area of discrepancy between the two players comes in CA%, where Backlund has a significant advantage over Koivu; however, Koivu more than makes up for this in 5v5 rel SV%. It’s already been mentioned that Backlund is by far the worst player of the seven in this category, and it doesn’t help his case against Koivu when the Wild centreman is by far the best of the seven being discussed. While none of these players have positive relative save percentages (likely because they, as players on the ice for 17-20 minutes per game, are on the ice for a lot of goals being scored for either team), Koivu’s -0.1% relative percentage is the closest anyone in this article gets to being in the black, so to speak. Backlund is quite a comparable player to Koivu by any other metric, however.

Patrice Bergeron is not quite as good of a scorer as Backlund is, and doesn’t start very much in the defensive zone. However, he is a Corsi beast, putting up the lowest CA% of anyone on this list by far. This could be explained away through the fact that, as a player with a tendency to start more of the time in the offensive zone, he has more opportunities to put pucks towards the net. In addition, much like Backlund, Bergeron’s 5v5 rel SV% is quite poor for a so-called “defensive specialist”. Make no mistake, though, this is a terrific defensive player, especially when it comes to preventing Corsi attempts, but his overall game is lacking in multiple areas compared to Backlund’s.

While, at first glance, he may seem like a bit of an outlier on this list, Sidney Crosby is no stranger to receiving Selke votes. He finished seventh in voting last season, and is putting on a show at both ends of the ice this season. Crosby’s offensive prowess needs no explanation, but he is also quite capable at the other end of the ice. Yes, Crosby barely starts in the defensive zone at all, but even still, his Corsi against is quite good and his 5v5 rel SV% is decent, compared to the group. Truth be told, Crosby’s defensive stats aren’t terrific compared to the other six players listed here; however, he is still bound to receive Selke attention as the NHL’s best player (who also happens to have okay defensive numbers).

What exactly is Jonathan Toews? He could barely score to start the season, was named to the NHL’s list of the Top 100 Players of All Time (to much media derision), and ever since has been on fire offensively. One constant has remained throughout all of this, however: strong defensive play. Toews’ skill in his own end has never been in question, and now that he is putting up better numbers in the offensive zone, he is getting more attention in the Selke race. Truth be told, his defensive numbers are not terrific compared to others on this list. Toews, like Crosby, barely starts in the defensive zone, and has a high CA% compared to guys like Bergeron and, yes, Backlund. However, his relative 5v5 SV% is quite good, at -0.3%. Let us not discuss Backlund’s figure in that particular category.

Like Toews, reigning Selke winner Anze Kopitar struggled mightily offensively to start the season. Unlike Toews, however, this slump hasn’t really worn off. Kopitar has just 11 goals this season, and pro-rated to 82 games (a number which he will not hit, for he has missed time due to injury this season), Kopitar is on pace to lose nearly 20 points on his total of 74 last season. Voters will be turned off because of this. His other numbers are fairly unremarkable as well, with the exception of his impressively low CA%. He has a low DSZ% and, while it is not quite as low as Backlund’s, his 5v5 rel SV% is by far the second-lowest on this list, at -1.8%.

Now, for Mikael Backlund himself. Backlund is putting up the most points this season of anyone not named Crosby and Toews on this list, an impressive accomplishment considering that this list also features the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. However, his other statistics are also quite impressive. His CA% is quite low, at 45.1%, while his DSZ% is incredibly high, at 64.0%. As previously mentioned, though, Backlund’s 5v5 rel SV% is incredibly low, at -2.2%. It is by far the lowest such figure on the list, and the only real outlier on his statline.

Even so, Backlund’s case is as good as any for Selke Trophy consideration. He has an impressive combination of offensive prowess and solid defensive numbers comparative to his peers. It would not be a shock whatsoever to see Backlund a finalist for the Selke come later this Spring.

Until then, who do you think will win the Selke, and who will be the other two finalists? Sound off in the comments section below.

The veteran winger is the first player sent in a pure deadline style trade. He will enjoy his time in Florida where he will get to play with Czech legend Jaromir Jagr and will enjoy playing in the playoffs once again.

Best of luck Jiri, and thank you for everything that you have brought to the Flames over the last four seasons.

Jiri Hudler’s Statistics

This is a pivotal time for the Calgary Flames organization in their efforts to build this team into a club that will regularly compete for the Stanley Cup. Until this season, the rebuild was headed in a direct linear trajectory for the Flames. First they headed in a downward direction once they blew the team up in the spring of 2013. They traded off Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester, and saw long time starter Miikka Kiprusoff retire. Then, as expected, the team bottomed out in 2014 and had their worst finish in franchise history. It was the first time ever that the Flames had a selection in the top five in the entry draft. Then as fast as things fell apart, they rebounded and the Flames rocketed up the standings in 2015. It culminated in a visit to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in 25 years. Typically, the re-building process is not without random pitfalls, otherwise Edmonton would be atop the Pacific in competition with the Kings right now. Players regress, prospects fail to progress, injuries occur, and sometimes even puck luck can go against you. For everything that went right last season for the Flames, the opposite has occurred this season.

Lance Bouma scored sixteen goals a season ago and has missed almost the entire season with injury. Jiri Hudler put up a career high 76 points on the board last year and has only 22 through the Flames first 45 games. Dennis Wideman has only two goals after scoring 15 last season. He is now looking at a lengthy suspension after a collision with linesman Don Henderson in the final game before the All Star break. Josh Jooris had a dozen goals and assists in 60 games in 2014-15, and only has seven points in 29 contests this year. In addition to all of that, the Flames had one of the worst months of goaltending ever by any team in October. It was a combination of things that contributed to their poor start. Odd goals, strange bounces and average efforts by all three netminders culminated in a 3-8-1 start. Bad luck, regression and injuries have all worked together to put the Flames in a similar position in the standings that they were in back in 2014.

Now that the Flames have arrived at the All Star break, they find themselves in a precarious position in regards to their playoff aspirations. They currently trail the San Jose Sharks by 11 points and the Arizona Coyotes by 8 points for the last two playoff spots. Only 13 games remain for the Flames until the February 29th trade deadline. There is not a large amount of time for the Flames to make a change to their current situation before the clock ticks down to zero. In order for the Flames to reverse their decline, they will have to play at a high level consistently over the next month. This is something that they have not accomplished at any point this season. Even during the seven game winning streak at the beginning of December, the team lacked consistency in their efforts. If not for a couple of extraordinary comebacks and the offense rolling on all cylinders, it would not have happened. For the Flames to re-emerge as a team in the playoff hunt, they will likely need to win 10 of the 13 games between now and the deadline. Possible? Perhaps, but it will take an extraordinary turn of fate in February to play out that way.

Looking ahead to the games between now and the deadline, the Flames play only two games against teams that are in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes (Columbus and Toronto). The other eleven games are split between those that currently reside in a playoff spot and teams that are within three points of one. Four are against teams in a playoff spot, with the other seven against teams within three points of one. Teams that are that close to a playoff spot will naturally be more desperate for points than teams that are either comfortably in a playoff spot or are battling for the worst record in the NHL. It is possible that the Flames will be to make up ground, but it will not be the easiest of schedules to make the attempt.

So where does that leave this iteration of the Calgary Flames? Unfortunately, the likelihood of playoffs is more of an unrealistic hope than a likely possibility. So that leaves them in a situation where they can make some moves to take the next steps in the building process. Calgary has a lot of veteran players sprinkled through the lineup the past couple of seasons. This has eased the transition from the Iginla era to the Gaudreau era. The veterans have allowed the Flames to keep their prospects in the AHL instead of rushing them into positions that they may not have been ready for. By being patient with their prospects, they have taken a page out of the playbook of the Detroit Red Wings. Taking notes from how successful teams operate is a good idea to replicate their results. One area where the Flames have been successful is having players in the AHL at different stages of the development process. The Stockton Heat have a decent number of older prospects that could slot into the Flames NHL lineup without much difficulty if spots open up. Players like Derek Grant, Freddie Hamilton, Kenny Agostino, Emile Poirier, Drew Shore, Grant Hathaway, Jakub Nakladal, Tyler Wotherspoon, Brett Kulak, and Kevin Poulin could slot into the Flames lineup for the last month of the season if necessary. Of those players, only Poirier, Hathaway, and Kulak are on the younger side of their development curve. If the Flames move out several players at the deadline, they will have the added benefit of being able to determine if any of the older prospects can transition into full time NHL players.

The obvious players that are likely to be traded are the soon to be free agents. Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Kris Russell, Karri Ramo, and Jonas Hiller are all set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Brandon Bollig, Mason Raymond, Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, and Ladislav Smid all have only one year remaining on their contracts, which makes them possible trade targets as well. In total, ten players that are not likely going to be a part of the Flames future once their contracts are over. Karri Ramo might be the only one that could remain, but that depends on what happens with the rest of the free agent goalies between now and July 1st. Some of those players will be easy for the Flames to move before February 29th. Hudler, Jones and Russell will likely have multiple suitors. Hiller and Ramo could have some interest depending on the other team’s confidence in their backup. Brandon Bollig and Deryk Engelland could also draw some interest as they are quality depth players for the playoffs when the games start getting physical. We all remember Engelland’s fight with a pair of Canucks from Game 3 in Vancouver last spring. Dennis Wideman earns too much money despite being one of the better offensive defensemen in the league. Add in a likely long term suspension and it makes it difficult for the Flames to move him. Calgary would likely need to be willing to eat some of his contract to move it before the 2017 trade deadline.

Will the Flames trade all ten players away? Absolutely not. With the Flames current rank in the standings, they do stand as one of the few teams that will likely become a seller. They also have a few useful players that playoff teams covet, more so than any other seller. The most important asset for the Flames to acquire at the deadline is draft picks. They have only made 11 selections in the past two drafts, three fewer than the default. It is not a large problem for the Flames at the moment, but they will have difficulties soon with not having enough replacement players coming up to replace other players that graduate or move on. Going into full seller mode will allow them to reinforce their depleted prospect pool. Another issue has arisen with those 11 players selected in 2014 and 2015. Four of them have already graduated into professional hockey; Sam Bennett in the NHL with Hunter Smith, Austin Carroll, and Oliver Kylington all with Stockton in the AHL. For the Flames, only Mark Jankowski, Rasmus Andersson, Mason McDonald, Brandon Hickey remain as noteworthy prospects outside of professional leagues. The reason why this is important has to do with future contracts. Once quality depth players become unaffordable in the NHL, the Flames will need replacements on entry level contracts. It was the same problem Chicago faced when they were forced to move Niemi, Bolland, Brouwer, Ladd and Byfuglien, then Sharp and Saad in their attempts to remain a contender. That is why it is necessary that they add more picks to further flesh out the organizational depth. Another benefit of having extra picks is that it creates options at the draft. After moving Glencross and Baertschi a year ago, the Flames had six selections in the top 90 last draft. Having those excess draft picks allowed them to negotiate for and acquire Dougie Hamilton.

One of the main concerns with trading off too many veterans at once is that it may disrupt the team moving forward. That is a valid concern if the leadership is not subsequently replaced. The Flames management previously has shown the ability to identify and attack problems facing the club. They were able to address perceived corsi issues this past offseason with the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, both are high quality players in that metric. It is likely that the leadership lost would be replaced with targeted free agent signings or future trades before the start of next season. It would be a temporary problem that can be easily fixed before next season.

With the Flames struggling as much as they have, there is one consolation prize. The Flames are in a good position to acquire a top 10 draft pick in the 2016 draft. While it is never the ideal situation to be selecting in the first half of the draft, it is an opportunity for the Flames to add another player to their core group. Calgary currently has six core players that will be the backbone of the Flames lineup for a long time; TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Johnny Gaudreau. Adding another player to that list could be the tonic that helps push the Flames over the top when they begin to enter contender mode. Currently, the top ten players in my opinion are Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Pierre Luc Dubois, Jakob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikhail Sergachev (spelt Sergachyov as well), Alex Nylander, Olli Juolevi, and Michael McLeod. Of those in the top ten, there are three right wingers and three defensemen. Those are the two positions that the Flames need to address. Another positive aspect with those players is they are taller than 6′-1″, except Nylander. Unless the Flames are selecting first overall, it is likely they will be able to address an area of need while not drafting only for position. My own prediction for June is the Flames will draft a right wing with their first round pick. This is due to the lack of talent in that position that will be available in the second and third rounds.

The Calgary Flames as a whole are on the right path despite the results from the first half of the season. Johnny Gaudreau is ninth overall in the NHL scoring, Sam Bennett is sixth in rookie scoring, and TJ Brodie is emerging as one of the premier defensemen in the entire league. Patience is the most important thing for both the management and the fans. Teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks were not built in only a couple of seasons. The Kings did not make the playoffs from 2003 until 2010. They were on the upswing before having a terrible season in 2008 that resulted in their acquisition of Drew Doughty. They won the cup in 2012 and 2014. Chicago also stopped making the playoffs in 2003. They picked third overall in both 2004 and 2006, which resulted in Cam Barker and Jonathan Toews. With the emergence of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook along with several other later round picks like Byfuglien, Brouwer, Bolland and others, the Hawks too were on their way up and finished as the fifth worst team in 2007. Luck was on their side and they won the lottery and moved up to draft Patrick Kane. That finished off the building of their dynasty and they won the cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The difference between the Flames and those two teams is depth in the top half of their lineup. Calgary has a lot of quality players that will fit on their third and fourth lines, both currently and with players coming through the organization. They only have three legitimate top six forwards at the moment and they are all under the age of 22. They could add another one in the draft, but that will still leave them with two positions to fill. By trading off several veteran players, it will allow the Flames to reallocate their cap hits. This will allow them to spend money on a legitimate top end forward talent, which should be the main priority this offseason. They could also use acquired draft picks to add someone in the same manner that they acquired Hamilton last year.

The Flames are in a position to be successful for a long time. A series of moves will have to occur between now and then to capitalize on the talent in the organization. The most difficult thing for everyone will be the wait as it all unfolds. It is an exciting time to be a Flames fan.

Theo FleuryWe’re pleased to announce that we’re extending our Old Flames interview series where we talk with Flames alumni about their careers, Flames hockey, and what they’re up to now.  Previously we have featured Cale Hulse, Rico Fata and former Captain Todd Simpson interviews as part of this series.

On December 2, 2015 former Flames captain Theo Fleury will be sitting down with us for a special pre-taped interview to discuss his career as a Flame, his attempted comeback and his new country music album I Am Who I Am.  Theo always has a unique perspective and we’re very excited to have him join us.  The interview will be released on an episode of the podcast later in December.

If you have any burning questions you want to ask Theo Fleury, use the form below to send us your question and hopefully we can ask Theo.

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The Flames three headed monster in net has returned. Calgary will carry all three netminders for the next little while. Karri Ramo has played significantly better of late, so it will be his crease to lose. Derek Grant played well in his stint with the Flames, but he was closing in on needing to pass through waivers again to be sent down. He was the logical person to send down.

We are always working on making everything we do – our podcast, website, prospect profiles, editorial content – better.  We strive to be always try new things to make our product more enjoyable for our audience. We want your feedback!  We do what we do for the Flames fans who spend their time listening to us and reading our work and we want to make sure we’re delivering what you want.

This year we’re introducing our first annual audience survey.  The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and lets you have your say on topics ranging from the podcast to the website and more.  The feedback we get from this survey will be used in the off-season to make Fireside Chat better.

Take The 2015 Audience Survey

Want a cool prize pack?

If you take the survey and leave your name and email address at the end (totally optional), you will be entered to win a Fireside Chat prize pack.  We’ll draw one of our audience members who’s completed the survey at random just before the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in June.

  • Fireside Chat white logo t-shirt (Men’s Large or Xtra Large – other sizes available if we’ve got them)
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  • Calgary Flames bag
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Take The 2015 Audience Survey

Before last season, the term “Intellectual Honesty” was used by General Manager Jay Feaster to illustrate an impartial view of the makeup of the team and to take appropriate actions to address the needs of the organization. After the performances the last couple seasons, it became necessary to make changes from the top of the roster to the bottom. With the revitalization of the Calgary Flames already underway, being intellectually honest is as important now as it ever was.

As the Flames move forward in their rebuild, they are going to accumulate a lot of quality prospects and younger players. If you’ve watched anything Flames related during the summer, or since training camp started, you can see the beginnings of this. The Flames have many different styles of players filtering through their system, from beasts like Kanzig to small shifty guys like Gaudreau and everything in between.

This is where being intellectually honest comes into play. There are going to be quite a few players that will become quality NHL players from this current group. However, just because they are quality players does not necessarily mean that they will be the right players. To build a winning team, you need just the right amounts of leadership, skill, and attitude. Character and attitude are very underrated aspects to an NHL team, but are extremely important when it comes to the results. It’s one of the main reasons why the Flames have underperformed for the past few years despite having more than enough on paper talent to be a good team.

Looking back to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks had more skill and overall talent than the Boston Bruins. They finished the regular season with 14 more points and were the President’s Trophy winners. They should have defeated the Bruins easily. Yet, they turned in the worst 7 game series performance of any team in NHL history. The main difference between the two teams was the character of the two lineups. Boston played a hard nosed, in your face, determined game and they were relentless. Vancouver, well, it’s the Canucks. I don’t really need to go too deep with that.

As players graduate into the NHL, they will need to show that they can both play adeptly at the NHL level, but also that they have the right work ethic and attitude both on the ice and off. If any of them are not fitting those standards, they too should be moved elsewhere, just as Iginla and Bouwmeester were this past season. That doesn’t mean that anyone that isn’t fitting in will be given away though for spare parts. Looking back at Chicago before they won the first time, they had quite a few quality top 6 forwards. However, one of them wasn’t quite fitting what they needed as a team. So they sent Tuomo Ruutu to the Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd. Ladd wasn’t as skilled as Ruutu was at the time, but he played the game the right way and became one of the the key secondary players on their way to winning it all in 2010.

There will be growing pains over the next couple years. I’m looking forward to it though. It will be fun to see who emerges as the key players in the organization and who doesn’t quite make the cut. It makes for a more compelling and interesting story than will we maybe be good enough to finish in 7th or 8th if the stars align just the right way.

Tomorrow is the last morning of the prospects camp, but this is the last day that everyone will be on hand.

Being on hand for all 5 days of the camp was an interesting experience. I was impressed by the professionalism and great attitude shown by both the management and the players. It is a good thing to have such a positive atmosphere around this organization after years of frustration. I was also impressed by the amount of fans that were in attendance each day. Even during the practices, most of the 227 seats were filled, and there was closer to a thousand people during each of the scrimmages. If there were holding the scrimmages at the 3000 seat facility, I think all those seats would have been filled. With everything that happened this weekend, anyone that was reticent about having the team go through a rebuild should be relieved.

The thing that surprised me most about this weekend was the calibre of talent that was on the ice. There are at least a dozen players that look like they should be in the NHL at some point, and another group that couple very well join them if they progress well in the coming seasons. I’ll group all the players into categories based on both upside and my opinion on the likelihood of reaching it (percentage).

With a player, if I have them rated at 60% to be a first liner, they have a better chance at being a 2nd line center, and are virtually guaranteed to be NHLers.

Player (#) – Potential – Likelihood – Details

Potential Stars

82 Jonathan Gillies – Starter – 80% – He is a very large goalie who is also fairly quick with his legs, glove hand and blocker. The only weakness that I could see in his game is that he gets a little unsettled when he has to move laterally and that he is not overly quick while doing that. By in large the only times that anyone scored on him was when they got him moving. He is by far the best goalie prospect that we’ve had since Trevor Kidd.

53 Johnny Gaudreau – 1st line LW/RW – 50% – If he was 6-0, that percentage would be very close to 100%. He does everything at the highest level. There is nothing that I could say that hasn’t already been said about him. The only question mark is whether or not he will adapt well to the NHL and become the next Briere or St. Louis.

23 Sean Monahan – 1st line C – 70% – He does not look like your usual 18 year old prospect. He could easily slot in on the opening day roster without issue. He is excellent in the faceoff circle, with good on ice vision and a great shot. Had instant chemistry with Johnny Gaudreau, and really any other player that played with him. I would actually prefer that he went back to juniors so he can be a dominant force this year and get the experience of being a winner under his belt, especially after being on a bad Ottawa team. The only reason why I don’t think he’ll be a 1st line center is that we are trending towards a top 5 pick each of the next two seasons and there are a couple of exceptional ones in Reinhart and McDavid the next two years. There is no chance in my opinion outside of injury that he does not become an above average NHLer.

47 Sven Baertschi – 1st line LW – 60% – A tireless worker and very skilled. All Flames fans are familiar with Sven. I think that his floor is that of Jiri Hudler. A skilled winger that will put 50-60 points up. If he does develop, he could be a star.

Key Secondary Forwards and Defensemen

77 Mark Jankowski – 2nd line C – 70% – When I first saw highlights of Mark a few months prior to him being drafted by the Flames, I though of Gaudreau, but one that had a freakish growth spurt. A very cerebral player who is very quick for his size and has a deceptively good shot. He still has not quite adjusted to his new body and how he can be more physically imposing on players. He is getting better though. He could easily be a first line calibre player if he does develop. Having him and Monahan as a 1-2 punch down the middle will be very good for the Flames down the road. I don’t see how he does not become an NHLer with all of the secondary skills that he possesses.

67 Ryan Culkin – 2nd pairing D – 30% – With later round picks, I prefer prospect that have shown some offensive abilities, because you can’t teach skill. Ryan slipped to the 5th round because he was a mostly offensive defenseman that had some holes in his defensive game. He certainly didn’t have any glaring weaknesses in that regard from what I watched. On the one on one drills, he was matched up against the best forwards of Group A and shut them down. He is not currently an NHL calibre defenseman, but he is better defensively now than TJ Brodie was at the same time in his development.

61 Brett Kulak – 2nd pairing D – 40% – See Culkin with a better slap shot.

56 Tyler Wotherspoon – 2nd pairing D – 50% – See Culkin with a better all round game

50 Patrick Sieloff – 2nd pairing D – 75% – He will be an NHL D-man. Tough as nails. I don’t think he has much offense in his game, but he will be a bear to play against. One person said he looks like he could be another Adam Foote type guy, and I can totally see that. I can’t wait till he starts punishing the Oilers in a year or two.

52 Morgan Klimchuk – 2nd line Winger – 50% – With Morgan’s shot release, he will be an NHLer. He will likely be a 20+ goal scorer at that. To me, his floor is that of Lee Stempniak. A quality depth guy with a great shot. If the remainder of his game develops, he could even be a 30+ goal scoring first liner. It depends on the work he does from now moving forward.

60 Markus Granlund – 2nd line C – 25% (3rd line 40 %) – He has a very deadly shot and seems to know where to go to use it properly. Like his brother, his speed could derail him. He is somewhat inconsistent as well and that too could hold him back. He is the definition of a boom bust player. If he hits, he’ll be very good. If he doesn’t he’ll be a KHL star.

57 Emile Poirier – 2nd line RW – 25% (3rd line 75%) – In my opinion, at worst, he will be Matthew Lombardi/Andrew Cogliano #2. A speedster that puts up 30-40 points and can play the PK effectively due to their speed. If he can develop his offensive game, he could be a really good player. I don’t know what level his offensive abilities will carry him to.

Good Depth Players

10 Corban Knight – 3rd line C – 100% – He possesses all the skills necessary to be a top end 3rd line center in the NHL. He might get some time as a second liner as well. The only thing that I do not think is up to par with him is his shot. From what I witnessed, it is good but not 60+ point good. To me, I think he could be a 40 point 3rd liner that wins 55+% of the faceoffs and is great defensively.

94 Ken Agostino – 3rd line Wing – 70% – He is a very tenacious player that does give it his all. He also has NHL skills (Speed/Size/Shot). The only thing that could prevent him is that he’s a bit inconsistent. Also, some people might think I’m nuts for saying 3rd line winger, but I’m referring to being a 3rd line wing on a contending team, not the current iteration of the Flames.

21 Roman Horak – 3rd line – 50% (4th line 100%) – You would not know based off his play this week that he has 80 games under his belt. He is the definition of a jack of all trades master of none player. He makes those around him better and he is an NHLer, but I don’t think he has the offensive abilities to score more than 15 goals in a season. A good player to have regardless.

58 Ben Hanowski – 3rd line – 40% (90% 4th line) – It is fitting that he has David Moss’ old number. I could see him becoming that type of player down the road. Someone that has a nose for the net and can pick up some garbage goals, but is also feisty enough to be a good depth guy. His skating no longer looks wonky like it did in his first games last year. I could see him being one of the first injury recalls if he doesn’t make the team outright.

92 Bill Arnold – 3rd line – 40% (90% 4th line) – His overall skill level is very impressive and he does have enough skill that he could be a 40 or 50 point guy down the line if he continues progressing. With his package of tools, I would be surprised if he doesn’t make the NHL.

97 Tim Harrison – 4th line – 90% – I like Tim Harrison. He’s big. He’s fast. He hits everything that moves and he has decent hands. I would genuinely be shocked if he is not in the NHL in 3 years. He is a Matt Martin/Cal Clutterbuck type of guy that will get under everyone’s skin. Plus he exudes personality, almost like a young Craig Conroy in that aspect. I am sure that he will become a fan favourite down the road.

40 Reto Berra – Backup – 75% – He is very large, similar in size to Henrik Karlsson. Unlike the former Calgary Tower, Berra realizes that you need to move your body to make saves instead of hoping the shots just hit you. Seeing both players several times, Berra is better by a moderate margin. I don’t think he will be a starter in the NHL down the road, but he could be a quality backup as soon as this year. He should give you a chance to win, which is what you need from a backup.

79 Michael Ferland – 4th line – 50% – He is a tough player that has a decent shot and did look a lot better than he has in the past. With the quantity of quality lower line guys that we have, he may be lost in a numbers game despite having a lot of the requisite skills to be a quality 4th liner.

65 Turner Elson – 3rd line 20% 4th line 40% – He was very noticeable and at times was the best player on the ice during the second scrimmage. I don’t know if he has the kind of upside that would place him in the top nine, but if he progresses he could be a quality NHLer.

84 Eric Roy – 2nd/3rd pairing D – 25% – He has good offensive instincts and a good shot. Similar to Kulak and Culkin and Brodie, you can’t teach skill. With his size, he could possibly pull a Brent Burns and be converted to an offensive winger. There is a lot of time for him to learn.

90 Bryce Van Brabrant – 4th line Wing – 25% – He is quick and large and does a lot of things decently. He also is not overly consistent. In some of the practices he looked awesome, and in the games he wasn’t overly noticeable. He would definitely be a good AHL forward.

1 Laurent Brossoit – Backup – 50% – I’m saying backup, but with goalies you cannot really tell where they will be in 5 years. He is not in the same class currently that Gillies is in but he does have some skill.

73 Keegan Kanzig – NHL D-man – 35% – He is a very big man that is very strong and will destroy you if you bug him. He is also very very raw as a prospect. If you flashed forward 5 years and it showed him being a shorter Chara, I could believe it. If you flashed forward and it showed him being a physical AHL D-man that is just a little too slow to make the NHL, I could believe it. It all will depend on if he takes the next step.

49 John Ramage – 6th/7th D-man – 30% – He didn’t look bad out there in a general sense. I don’t know if he has NHL talent, but he could be.

59 Max Reinhart – 4th liner – 80% – He has all the qualities necessary to be a depth NHLer. He might be passed in the depth charts though as we really do have a number of guys with similar profiles.

The Rest

C 91 Noel Accardi – He did not show anything offensively to stand out and we have enough prospects that are better as defensive forwards.

RW 75 Austin Carroll – I liked his effort as he gave quite a good one this week. He would be a guy that would be a good guy to have on the 3rd/4th line on the Heat (if we had a spot available)

C 95 Matt Deblouw – With a rebuilding team, you need to stand out otherwise you’ll get passed quickly on the depth charts as there will be quality additions through the drafts following yours. Deblouw was mostly invisible this week and did not stand out at all.

D 83 John Gilmour – He is a good enough offensive defenseman. I am leery of defenders under six feet tall. If he was taller, he probably would’ve been put in the category above. The good thing is that we have a few years to see if he becomes a player like Torey Krug,

G 70 Brody Hoffman – He’s a big goalie that plays somewhat like Henrik Karlsson. His glove and blocker seemed a bit below par. Might be someone that could be given a minor league contract to play in the ECHL maybe.

RW 64 Ryan Howse – Seriously, how long till his contract is up. He might have been the worst player this week including the walk-ons.

D 98 Curtis Leonard – He has a lot of work to do to be a quality AHL Defenseman.

D 78 Trey Lewis – He is rather quick, but his decision making is not exceptional. He does most things at a calibre suited for the AHL that might eventually get a cup of coffee as an injury replacement.

D 68 James Martin – He can hit well, but the rest of his game is at an AHL level.

RW 74 Pavlo Padakin – He is fast, and has some offensive abilities. I don’t think he did enough though to earn a contract. He might eventually develop into an NHLer but he needs to make several steps of progression do so.

RW 45 David Eddy – He is a quality defensive oriented forward. I think he’ll suffer because of the numbers game though.

C 86 Josh Jooris – Jooris was actually fairly good this week. However, he is the type of player that is a top 6 or bust. I think he will fall in the same category of player as Kris Kolanos or Ben Street. An AHL All Star that might get the occasional cup of coffee if injuries pile up. He could also be the next PA Parenteau though. Basically, it depends on him.

D 63 Drew MacKenzie – He’s alright as a D-man, but his skills trend more to the AHL than otherwise.

C 96 Dan O’Donoghue – He’s a decent overall player, but he doesn’t possess any skill that would make him an NHLer

C 62 Coda Gordon – He’s an okay player at everything. I don’t think he is good enough offensively or defensively to fill either role effectively.

RW 93 Linden Penner – He performed terribly during the drills (looking lost most of the time), but was one of the better players during the games. I could see him being signed to see if there is anything there. I could see him being a possibility down the road, but the more likely thing is that he won’t develop into an NHLer.

G 37 Joni Ortio – I don’t see how he makes the NHL. He is getting in his own way. The effort that he gave in the drills and even the games was very minimal. With the whole goalie situation being up in the air, this would be the time for you to show that you are better than Joey Macdonald, and Reto Berra at the least, neither of which should be overly difficult (both are backups). Instead he pouted and hasn’t given any effort. With that kind of attitude, he should go away. No need for that type of person in the organization at all.

I think that’s everyone.

This is by far the deepest group of prospects I’ve seen donning Flames jerseys since I’ve been alive, and there very well could be upwards of 20 players that could be NHLers from the camp this week, although several of those would likely have to find spots on other teams down the road.

Any way you slice it, it is an exciting time to be a Flames fan.

The past two days, I have been at Winsport for the opening days of the development camp. I have seen old faces and new at the camp as the Flames begin to move forward into their new era. In addition to the flames own prospects, they invited 11 other players to try out. Over the two days, most of the players performed at a similar level, with some making an improvement after day one.

One thing that was readily apparent amongst the prospects was their height. A lot of the players and invitees were massive in size. John Gaudreau kind of stuck out like a sore thumb as there were not any other players close to him and size other than maybe Baertschi. Another thing that jumped out at me, was the overall skill level of each group. With more than a dozen players that look to be NHLers, this group of prospects might be the deepest that the flames of had in decades.

I will do a short summary of each player from each group in order of position.

Group A

Goaltender

Reto Berra – He fills up most of the net. Quick reflexes and a willingness to make a second effort, or even third effort made for some very nice saves. He is very composed with his limbs and will react to make saves instead of allowing the puck just to hit him. The only knock on him that I saw was that he over commits occasionally leaving himself out of position, which he does fight to get back into position to make the save. He will be competing and possibly winning a position on the Flames in the fall. One of the better potential backups I’ve seen in a long time.

John Gillies – Similar to Berra, he fills up most of the net. When he goes down to make a save there is very little room under the crossbar for a shooter to target. He possesses a quick glove and good reflexes. He was the most difficult goalie in the two days for the players to score on. In fact, most of the goals that were scored on him were caused by his movement laterally. In that aspect, he is a little bit slow. Despite that, even at 19, he would be an NHL goalie now. If he can become quicker on his feet, he could be a star goalie, not just a starter.

Brody Hoffman – The only invitee goalie at the camp. He, like Gillies and Berra, is a larger goalie. However, the flames forwards did not have a lot of trouble getting pucks by him. In today’s drills, things seem to snowball, he was allowing everything in practically.

Defensemen

Ryan Culkin – He is a fast skater, winning both the endurance skates at the end of the practice today. In the defensive drills he performed ably. As a primarily offensive defensemen, the fact that I could not pick out any weaknesses in his game either day is a good thing. He will be going to Abbotsford this season.

John Gilmour – Honestly, I did not notice him much of all. There were no obvious mistakes during the drills that I remember and no specific thing that stood out either.

Curtis Leonard – It was not a good showing at this camp. Of the defensemen in a group a, he was the one that I noticed was getting beat most often.

James Martin – He is a lanky defenseman, who is solid generally but not spectacular. He was undressed by Gaudreau on the first day. He is more likely an AHL defensemen will get a cup of coffee sometime.

Trey Lewis – on day one he was hit hard by Tim Harrison. At times he seemed a step behind the forwards in the drills and occasionally got beat by them. There is some skill there, I just don’t know if there is enough for him to go to the next level.

Eric Roy – A tall defender, I noticed him mostly for his shot and his overall offense of abilities rather than defense. Long-term if the flames cannot teach him the skills necessary for defense, he would make a decent forward.

Forward

Noel Accardi – The only thing I noticed was that he had decent speed and not much else.

Austin Carroll – Similar to Accardi, there was not enough shown to stand out.

Matt DeBlouw – Matt was invisible on day one but improved with day two. One of the second-tier forwards.

Michael Ferland – Michael possesses a good shot and decent enough wheels. Like DeBlouw, he needs to show more for me to consider him a possible NHL player.

John Gaudreau – There is only one if. If he adapts to the NHL, he will be a star player. Good hands, good awareness, good shot, good speed and shifty. He is everything that you hope for prospect. The only question is will he adapt.

Ben Hanowski – In his first games with Calgary, his awkward skating stride was noticeable. He has worked on that as well as his overall quickness. It is the same player otherwise, and will be competing heavily for spot in the fall.

Tim Harrison – For someone the NHL didn’t know about a couple weeks ago, he is one decent prospect. A little bit lanky and awkward, but very feisty on the ice with a decent shot. If he refines his game he could become a fan favorite down the road.

Roman Horak – it goes to show how good our prospects are when I didn’t even know if he was out there. He played his game just like he normally does, it just shows how much skill we have now.

Ryan Howse – How long till his contract is up?

Morgan Klimchuk – a quicker player than I was expecting, who plays like he is 6-2 despite being under six feet tall. He has a wicked shot, and that alone would make him an NHL player. Add in all those other skills and you wonder how he dropped to 28. I don’t see how he is not a top six forward in a couple years.

Corban Knight – he was better than a lot of NHLers if seen in practice before. He will be our third line center this year and I wouldn’t be shocked if he put up over 30 points despite being a rookie. In a face-off drill he bested one of the coaches by winning five straight draws. Definitely something that we have lacked for a long long time.

Sean Monahan – the best flames forward draft pick since Theo Fleury. He was very good in the first practice but moved into another tier entirely today. This is a forward that will score 75+ points a year and could be a star player in his own right.

Pavlo Padakin – he is a player that showed a lot of effort. With his speed and determination, he could easily be a fourth liner. Whether his other skills translator not is up to him.

Bryce Van Brabrandt – I would love for this player to make the NHL just to hear broadcasters get tongue-tied with his name. I did not know who this player was prior to yesterday. I hope he is a Flame shortly. If I can only sign one of the walk-ons, he is the one. He’s big, he’s physical, he is decent at face-offs, these quick, and he possesses a good shot. If he continues his development he will be an NHL player.

I will write up group B later

The Calgary Flames enter today’s draft with eight draft picks, and even more positions to fill. The first chapter of this rebuild has now been written. Four defensemen and four forwards were selected once all was said and done. Six Canadians, an American, and a Russian in total.

Selected sixth overall was Sean Monahan. He is a two way center who is exceptional in the face-off circle and led his team in points. If this were any other year, Monahan likely would’ve been taken in the top three, so we were fortunate that it was a deep draft. He is not the most flashy of players, but he is a very solid all-around player. Think of Scott Gomez when he was with the New Jersey Devils. That is as good of a place to start a rebuild as any. The 6-2 187 pound forward will likely start the season in Calgary. Whether or not he is returned to Ottawa is yet to be seen. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the ice in a couple months.

With our second pick at 22, the flames selected Emile Poirier. Like Monahan, he also led his team in scoring. He is a feisty winger that is very fast, something almost unheard of in Calgary since Matthew Lombardi was traded. With him, you are going to get someone like Andrew Cogliano at worst or a star player at best. Nothing to shake a stick at either way.

Rounding out our selections in the first round was left-winger Morgan Klimchuk. Morgan possesses one of the best releases of any player in the draft. With his shot, he will likely develop into a quality NHL player. Add in the fact that he is compared to Steve Larmer, in terms of how he plays the game, it seems we might have very good player on our hands.

Adding these three very skilled forwards into the prospect pool will help to round out a quality top nine that includes the likes of Sven Baertschi, Mark Jankowski, John Gaudreau, and Corban Knight.

The following two picks were defensemen Keegan Kanzig and Eric Roy. Keegan Kanzig is a 6-5 240 pound tough guy who is a good fighter and generally solid that also has a bad temper. There really isn’t much to say about him other than he did improve significantly from last year. If he takes a step forward again next year then he might become a decent prospect.

Eric Roy is an offense of defensemen that has a hard time playing defense. Once thought of as a possible first round pick, he slid all the way to the fifth round. He is 6-2, so if the whole defense thing does not work out perhaps he can be converted into a winger in order to utilize his offensive instincts.

In the sixth round, the Flames selected Tim Harrison. When the Flames selected him, there was no record of who he was anywhere. He is a high schooler from Dexter Prep apparently. He will be attending college next year. He did record 16 goals and 14 assists in 17 games last season. A bit of an unknown, so either it’ll be a great pick or a nice try I guess

With the 7th rounders, we selected Rushing Russian Rushan Rafikov. If it wasn’t for the KHL factor, he would not be there in the 7th round. Can’t complain about taking risks with 7th rounders. Lastly was defenseman John Gilmour. He is teammates with both John Gillies and Mark Jankowski. At least we’ll have his rights for 4 years before making up our mind to keep him or not.

This was a very big day in Calgary Flames history. Hopefully several of these players become NHLers over the coming seasons. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week will develop as free agency starts on Friday.