The Calgary Hitmen square off against defending Memorial Cup Champions the Windsor Spitfires today in what will probably be the most meaningful match-up of the opening stages of the tournament for both Hitmen and Flames fans. For Hitmen fans, it's an opportunity to see how their team stacks up against last year's champs; both teams are 1-0 after winning their first games. Windsor cruised to a lopsided victory over the host Wheat Kings and the Hitmen overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Moncton Wildcats 5-4, scoring the winning goal with just over a minute remaining in the game. For Flames fans, it will be an opportunity to see prospect and 2008 first round draft pick Greg Nemisz in action. After missing the last month of the regular season and the first round of the OHL playoffs with a deep cut in his thigh that required 45 stitches to close, Nemisz's numbers took a tumble while he struggled to return to form in the playoffs (2G, 10A, 12P in 15 post-season games), but his coach Bob Boughner feels that he's back to 100% and, in time, will be fit for an NHL job:
"He needs another summer, but from where he came from a couple years ago to where he is now, he's a powerful skater. He could still use some strength in his legs but he'll be that guy once he gets that NHL speed. He's a pretty dominant player."
Since Nemisz's return from injury, Boughner has moved him from his natural position of right wing to centre on the Spitfires' first line with teammates Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique, a position which he feels the nineteen-year-old excels at:
"We talked to the Flames about him playing centre. He has come to a different role, more of a shutdown role, and a penalty killing role. He's still that guy that manages the ice and manages the puck so well. He's done a great job at centre for us in the playoffs."
Nemisz turns 20 on June fifth, and could potentially return to junior for a final season, but if his skating shows signs of improvement after the summer, it might be best for him to move on the the AHL to further develop his skills; his offensive abilities combined with his size and versatility would undoubtably prove valuable to the Heat. I look forward to seeing him at Flames prospect camp this summer.
Game Time: 6PM MT/8ET on Sportsnet
Links after the jump.
Speaking of Flames prospects, Hit the Post has another installment of "Backlund on Backlund" ready for our enjoyment
The Conference finals began yesterday with the Blackhawks squeaking out a closely contested victory over the Sharks and the Flyers cruising to a 6-0 rout of the Habs in Philadelphia [Second City Hockey] [Broad Street Hockey]
A recap of Canada's 3-1 loss to Sweden in the World Championsip yesterday [The Copper & Blue]
NHL COO John Collins confirms that there will be two outdoor games next season, and that one will be held in Canada [Puck The Media]
A case against trading Malkin [Hockey or Die]
Making a case for trading Kiprusoff [FlamesNation]
Kent also takes a look at the Flames' AHL and ECHL prospects for Hockey's Future
The five most lop-sided series by Fenwick, from 2005-2010 [Behind the Net]
The NHL and the city of Glendale have yet to reach a contract, according to Ice Edge's Daryl Jones [Winnipeg Free Press]
Enjoy the beautiful weather in Calgary while it lasts, and non-cheer for the Hitmen in the comments.