When overage 50-goal scorer Bryan Cameron was signed by the Flames last Spring, there was much excitement around these parts about the prospect of having a pure scorer in the system. Although there were some red flags raised by his strength and size (5'10"), the fact that he had a career year in his final season of junior on a pretty good Barrie team, and that he went unsigned by the team that drafted him, the mood around his addition was generally positive. Here's what the OHL Prospects blog's Brock Otten had to say about Cameron at the time (via Flamesnation):
...Cameron is a pretty complete player. He's excellent along the boards and on the forecheck. He may not be tall, but he has excellent lower body strength which allows him to cycle the effectively. He's also already a committed defensive player, although I wouldn't call him elite in the area.
...If Cameron can get strong enough to win battles down low, he has the skill and intelligence to score goals in the NHL. He could easily develop into a top six NHL winger, a complimentary scorer on a line where he's expected to do the dirty work. But he could also develop down a different path. He's got good speed and he's a solid all around player. There's the chance that if his goal scoring ability doesn't translate, he could still be a valuable depth player/energy guy who can chip in offensively.
...I could see him having trouble to start and he may even need some time at the ECHL level as he adjusts to the speed and strength of the professional game. Three years from now, when that contract runs out, things could definitely look better.
Otten's prediction for Cameron's transition to the AHL was dead on; the 21-year old struggled to carry his goal-scoring capabilities over to the minors, shooting at a rate of just 6.3%, scoring six times (3 EV, 3 PPG) and adding nine assists (5EV, 4PP) in 60 games with the Abbotsford Heat. He was also a minus player for the first time since 2006-07.
On February 25th, Cameron was one of three Heat players assigned to the ECHL after being continuously limited to fourth-line minutes in Abbotsford. He spent seven games with the Victoria Salmon Kings, where he collected three goals and six points before rejoining the Heat in early March. Here's what head coach Jim Playfair had to say about Cameron's demotion:
"I didn't have him in the proper position to develop his greatest strength, but the way our team is structured and the way it's set up, that's the position he was put into."
"I think this'll be a good experience for him, to go down there and get his offensive confidence back."
Cameron only collected two more assists in the eight games following his stint in the ECHL, but he also missed thirteen games this past season due to injuries and/or being a healthy scratch. Like Playfair said, Cameron wasn't always put in the best position to succeed in his rookie AHL season; he wasn't alloted prime ice time to prove his capabilities or slotted in alongside premier linemates, but it's also possible that he didn't necessarily earn those opportunities. I doubt that Cameron rediscovering his confidence as a goal-scorer began and ended with a trip to Victoria--he can skate and shoot, but he'll need to work hard in the off-season to become stronger and more physically competitive if he hopes to remain with the Heat full-time next season. He certainly appears to have an upside, so hopefully he will bounce back to a degree and the results will come. I will be paying close attention to him at Flames prospect camp in July.