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Prospect Pool Overview: Calgary Flames

Tony Ferrari breaks down the Calgary Flames' prospect pool, which includes one of the best young goalies in the AHL right now and some other intriguing pieces in the system.
Dustin Wolf

The Calgary Flames have had quite the off-season this far.

 The departure of Johnny Gaudreau was gut-wrenching but if you read his Players Tribune letter to the Calgary faithful, you can understand his decision a bit better. The real gut punch though was when Matthew Tkachuk followed up and decided that he was not going to be signing long term in the market. With that said, Flames general manager Brad Treliving got a solid return in Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar.

They were also able to acquire a 2025 first-round pick and forward prospect Cole Schwindt who had a solid year in the AHL last year and earned a call-up to the Panthers for a handful of games last year. Both of those assets will help boost the Flames prospect pool that is sorely in need of it while the additions of Huberdeau and Weegar will allow them to continue to try and build around the current window of competitiveness, especially with Huberdeau and Weegar’s openness to signing an extension in Calgary.

The Flames prospect pool has some nice pieces in it, with Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary up front and Dustin Wolf in the crease. But they still have more question marks than most prospect pools. 

It could be a long and tenuous process when Calgary decides to flip the switch and go down the road of a rebuild as their prospect pool isn’t exactly near the top. They lack depth and top-end talent, both things that could be rectified should trade Tkachuk and other players from their NHL roster if they decide now is the time to turn the roster over. Whatever path they choose to take, they will need to infuse some more talent into their prospect system.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 2 (59 Overall) - Topi Ronni, C, Tappara (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 5 (155 Overall) - Parker Bell, L, Tri-City Americans [WHL]
Round 7 (219 Overall) - Cade Littler, C, Wenatchee Wild [BCHL]

There isn’t much to say about the Flames’ 2022 NHL draft haul. They made three selections with just one being inside the top 150 picks. At 59th overall, they selected Finnish center Topi Ronni. The young Finn is a smart support player who is an excellent outlet in transition and can make passes in the offensive zone to set up teammates but he lacks the dynamism of a top-six center. Ronni plays with good habits and projectable traits, fitting in nicely as a third-line center or possible second-line winger.

Parker Bell plays with a high effort and some pro-tendencies on the forecheck in dump and chase scenarios. At 6-foot-4, he has a solid frame to build some muscle on and could use his underrated playmaking ability to find a niche in the NHL as an energy winger in the bottom six. Cade Littler is a big center who was just under a point-per-game at the BCHL level, but he was on the U.S. National Team Development Program’s radar, finding his way into three games with the program in his U-17 season. A gamble worth taking in the seventh round.

Strengths

The Flames have some good forwards who might not be elite, but should be solid prospects. Their biggest strength now could be in goaltender Dustin Wolf, one of the best goalie prospects in the game. The seventh-round pick from the 2019 NHL draft has put up stellar numbers at every level he has played at, from a .940 save percentage in his final year of junior to a .924 in his first full season in the AHL over 47 games. The 6-foot-0 netminder was knocked for his size coming out of junior, but his athleticism and position play are outstanding.

The Flames also have Russian netminders Daniil Chechelev and Arseni Sergeyev in the fold. Chechelev was a fourth-round draft choice in 2020 who had an up and down first season in North America last year, spending most of the season in the ECHL. Sergeyev put together a strong season in the USHL and will join the University of Connecticut to continue his development at the NCAA level.

Weaknesses

The Flames prospect pool is pretty barren once you get by the top few names. That is especially true when you look at the defensive cupboard. They have a few intriguing names on the left side, such as Jérémie Poirier or Yan Kuznetsov, but they're quite limited in their skill set. Poirier is an offense-first (and only) defenseman who can make some fun things happen but is a liability in his own end. Kuznetsov is the polar opposite in that he is a solid defender but his puck skills and offensive upside are limited. The right side of the prospect pool on the blueliner? Virtually nonexistent with Jake Boltmann being the only right-shot rear guard in their system.

Next Man Up: LW Jakob Pelletier

The Flames' next steps as a franchise are up in the air at the moment but that leaves some room for a player like Jakob Pelletier to come into the lineup after a very solid season at the AHL level last year where he flirted with a point per game. His goal-scoring touch has developed over the last couple of seasons as he added some strength to his diminutive frame. Pelletier uses his speed and agility to hunt the puck and create offensive havoc. The Flames should have ample space to allow Pelletier - and possibly other young players - to grab hold of a spot on the roster.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Jakob Pelletier, Matthew Coronato
C: Connor Zary, Rory Kerins, Topi Ronni
RW: Matthew Phillips, Cole Schwindt
LD: Jérémie Poirier, Yan Kuznetsov, Ilya Solovyov, Cole Jordan
RD: Jake Boltmann
G: Dustin Wolf, Arseni Sergeyev, Daniil Chechelev

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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