Ranking the Flames Prospects: Part 1

CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 6: Greg Nemisz #48 celebrates his first point in the NHL on an assist to the goal by Curtis Glencross #20 of the Calgary Flames against the Edmonton Oilers in third period NHL action on April 6, 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

With development camp at a close and and no new prospect acquisitions looming, it's time to look at the prospect pool as a whole and see how they stand up to each other. I'm going to put together the list in two parts: the first part will be the top 10 prospects ranked according to pure talent and upside and the top 10 prospects ranked by NHL-readiness and likeliness to make it. Note: I'm not addressing goaltending prospects as we only have like 3 in the system and goaltenders are far too unpredictable anyways.

The Raw Upside List 

1. Sven Baertschi

 SVEN is far and away the highest end NHL prospect in the Calgary system. He might not be the best all-around player in it right now, but with some players having several years on him, that's easily explained. With a high end finishing ability and a strong understanding of EV play, Baertschi is a player for Flames fans to get legitimately excited about.

The rest of the list after the jump

2. T.J. Brodie

TJ Brodie was a pleasant surprise last year in both training camp and pre-season where he showed flashes of legitimate offensive skill from the blueline- enough so that he made the team directly out of training camp. While he didn't spend too much time with the Flames that season, he managed to have a very successful AHL campaign, keeping pace with the "top" offensive players on the Heat, though to be fair, that doesn't say too much.

Unfortunately, while his skating, transistion game, and offensive hockey sense all border on the good-very good areas, his defensive game leaves something to be desired. I've heard it's improving, however, and if so, we could see Brodie as a 2nd pairing defenseman not too far down the road. Otherwise his long term potential is basically Anton Babchuk. This leaves him as better than everyone except for the very best of the Calgary system.

3. Maxwell Reinhart (The Maxwell Demon)

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Max Reinhart. The two-way play, the ability to elevate linemates, the consistent smart choices on the ice, the ability to read the play- all of those are abilities Reinhart posseses in droves. He might not have flash or extreme physical skills (though that's not to say any are a minus), but his real value is in his hockey sense.

At development camp Justin commented that he didn't see anything spectacular out of Reinhart in drills and such. I'd argue that you wouldn't since much of his value is going to be driving the play by consistently making great decisions on the ice, which will show up significantly more in game situations rather than drills.

Honestly, I have Reinhart as having the same overall upside as Brodie, but Brodie ranked a bit higher due to slightly higher end physical tools.

4. Paul Byron

Maybe my judgement is clouded by hoping something from the Regehr trade is of high value, but everything I read about Byron indicates that he has the potential to be a solid second line forward. Whether or not he'll achieve that potential is irrelevant to this particular list, as it is talent alone, but he's definitely a high skill player with plus offensive tools.

5. John Gaudreau

One of my new favorite prospects, Gaudreau is a raw skill sort of player. He sees the ice exceptionally well, has incredible puck control, and can create space for himself without being physical. There are certainly downsides to him though- his size being a major one. Still, if he does make the NHL- it'll be in a 1st line high end role. Only time will tell if that happens.

6. Greg Nemisz

I'll admit to not being a huge fan of Nemo, and while I do think he'll be an NHL player some day, his offensive potential is significantly lower than the players listed above. That being said, he does have redeeming qualities that could lead to prime ice time if he ends up in the right situations (line with less physical more skilled players). He's a physical player who can, at times, take over a game in a way not unlike David Moss. Given the aforementioned right situations, Nemisz could become a quality contributor on a 2PP or second line.

7. Mitch Wahl

 A player that was causing some excitement a year ago after a terrific final year in junior and a great cup of coffee in the Heat's playoff run, Wahl fell off the radar fast when he had a nasty head injury 17 games into his rookie AHL season. Still, Wahl has the potential to be a good two-way player someday, barring any concussion setbacks.

8. Ryan Howse

Howse is going to be an all or nothing player. He had one of the best shots in all of junior hockey last year, but unfortunately seems to need some work in pretty much every other area. The good news, though, is that the shot is one of the hardest abilities to improve, relative to skating, hitting, and passing. If everything works out and he can bring the rest of his game up to pro-level, Howse could easily be a second line goal scorer.

9. Bill Arnold

With probably the blandest name of anyone on this list, Arnold is frequently overlooked. Of course, being drafted in the 4th round likely didn't help that either, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Arnold is a "good but not great" type of player, who's particularly good on the backcheck. He'll never be an offensive superstar, but he is legitimately talented, just in the ways that most people often overlook.

10/??. Chris Breen

I had a hard time figuring out where to slot Breen on this list, as theoretically, he shouldn't have an upside. He was undrafted from junior, but he keeps improving despite any and all reasonable expectations. I'd say his upside is a 5/6 defenseman, but he could end up the next Chris Pronger and really it wouldn't shock me. Breen is...an enigma. But he's certainly in the Flames top ten prospects with upside.

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