Flames All-Time Countdown Chapter XLII: 325-321

Derek Leung

Today's article will see us focus on right winger Ales Kotalik, left wingers Akim Aliu and Sergei Varlamov, Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr, and center Steve Christoff.

325. Ales Kotalik

Kotalik was a 61", 227 lb. right winger from Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic. Born on December 23rd, 1978, he scored nine goals with seven assists in 47 games in the 1997-98 season with Ceske Budejovice HC. The Buffalo Sabres selected him in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft with the 164th overall pick. He would stay with Ceske for the next three seasons, scoring another 34 goals with 54 assists in 136 contests.

2001-02 would see Kotalik make his first stateside appearance, playing in 68 games for the Rochester Americans (18 goals, 25 assists) and the Sabres (13 games, one goal, three assists). He reversed the pattern in 2002-03, making eight starts in Rochester (two assists) and 68 in Buffalo (21 goals, 14 assists).

Aside from spending the 2004-05 season with Liberec Bili Tygri HC (25 games, eight goals, eight assists) during the work stoppage, Kotalik played the next four and a half seasons with the Sabres (345 games, 92 goals, 109 assists). He also played for the Edmonton Oilers (19 games, seven goals, four assists) and the New York Rangers (45 games, eight goals, 14 assists). On Groundhog's Day, 2010, the Rangers sent him with Chris Higgins to the Flames for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.

Kotalik finished out the 2009-10 season with the Flames, appearing in 26 contests. He scored three times on 72 shots, along with two helpers, a plus-1 rating, and 29 penalty minutes. He scored goals in consecutive games on March 28th and 31st in Calgary wins, a 5-3 triumph over the Washington Capitals, and a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. He played 14:36 per game.

324. Akim Aliu

Aliu was a 5'10", 187 lb. left winger from Okene, Nigeria. Born on April 24th, 1989, he was the second Nigerian born hockey player to make it to the NHL. After two seasons in Juniors, the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft with the 56th overall pick.

Aliu totaled 76 goals and 91 assists with 407 penalty minutes in 205 OHL games between the Sudbury Wolves, the London Knights, and the Windsor Spitfires. He spent a total of four seasons at the Junior level, starting in 2005-06. During that time, he also scored two goals in seven games with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.

Over the next two seasons, Aliu appeared with the IceHogs (48 games, 11 goals, six assists, 69 PiM), the Toledo Walleye (13 games, five goals, nine assists, 19 PiM), the Chicago Wolves (43 games, four goals, five assists, 53 PiM), the Gwinnett Gladiators (16 games, 12 goals, eight assists, 22 PiM), and the Peoria Rivermen (16 games, five goals, four assists, 20 PiM).

Aliu played in 10 games for the Colorado Eagles in 2011-12, scoring twice with four assists and 28 penalty minutes. On January 29th, the Winnipeg Jets traded him to the Flames for John Negrin. After joining the organization, he was designated to the Abbotsford Heat, where he scored 10 times with four assists and 59 penalty minutes in 42 contests. The Flames called him up on April 5th. He earned an assist in his first NHL appearance, a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. He scored a goal and an assist in his second and final game of the season two nights later, as the Flames defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 5-2. He also earned 12 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating.

In 2012-13, Aliu played in 42 games for Abbotsford (four goals, seven assists, 111 PiM). In two call ups to Calgary, he played in five games, failing to score any points while taking two shots on goal. He earned 14 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating in 11 minutes per contest.

Last season, Aliu made appearances with the Hamilton Bulldogs (14 games, three goals, one assist, 18 PiM), the Hartford Wolf Pack (nine games, one goal, seven PiM), and AIK (Sweden, two games, one goal, six PiM).

All-Time Statline: Seven games, two goals, one assist, plus-1 rating, 26 penalty minutes, 0.55 point shares.

323. Сергі́й Володи́мирович Варла́мов, or Sergei Varlamov

Varlamov, a Ukrainian from Kiev, was born on July 21st, 1978. A 5'11", 203 lb. left winger, he first gained notoriety as a member of the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL in 1995-96, scoring 23 goals with 21 assists and 65 penalty minutes in 55 games. Calgary signed him as a free agent during the following offseason.

In 1996-97, Varlamov played in one game for the Saint John Flames, going scoreless. He also played in 72 contests with Swift Current, increasing his output to 46 goals with 39 assists and 94 penalty minutes. He again increased his production in 1997-98, playing in 72 games for the Broncos and averaging nearly two points per game, with 66 markers and 53 assists, along with 132 penalty minutes. He skated four shifts for Calgary in his NHL debut on April 17th, a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

1998-99 would see Varlamov score 24 goals with 33 assists for Saint John in 76 contests. After 20 goals and 21 assists in 68 games the following season, Calgary called him up on March 25th. He scored a goal that night to win the game in a 2-1 decision over the Nashville Predators. He tacked on two more goals over the rest of the season, totaling three markers on 11 shots. He finished with an even rating, averaging 11 minutes per game over seven appearances.

Starting in 2000-01, Varlamov has played with Saint John (55 games, 21 goals, 30 assists, 56 PiM), the St. Louis Blues (55 games, five goals, seven assists), the Worcester IceCats (115 games, 30 goals, 54 assists), the Manitoba Moose (12 games, four goals, two assists), Kazan Ak-Bars (Russia, two games), Novosibirsk Sibir (Russia, 173 games, 42 goals, 33 assists), Cherepovets Severstal (KHL, 20 games, three assists), St. Petersburg SKA (five games, one assist), Minsk Dynamo (KHL, 60 games, 15 goals, 12 assists), and Dombass HC (87 games, nine goals, 13 assists).

All-Time Statline: Eight games, three goals, zero assists, even rating, zero penalty minutes, 0.55 point shares.

322. Grant Fuhr

Fuhr is a Hall of Fame goaltender from Spruce Grove, Alberta. He was 5'10", 184 lbs., and born on September 28th, 1962. He played 102 games for the Victoria Cougars over the two seasons starting in 1979-80, racking up a 78-21-1 record with a 2.93 goals against average. The Edmonton Oilers selected him in the first round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, with the eighth overall pick.

Fuhr had a respectable career before he even left Edmonton, playing with the team for the greater part of the next 10 seasons. He went 226-117-54 with an .882 save percentage and a 3.69 goals against average. He later played with the Toronto Maple Leafs (38-42-9, .885, 3.50), the Buffalo Sabres (25-29-5, .886, 3.60), the Los Angeles Kings (1-7-3, .876, 4.04), and the St. Louis Blues (108-87-41, .900, 2.68). Just prior to the 1999-00 season, the Blues traded him to the Flames for a third round pick (Justin Papineau).

As Calgary's number two netminder, behind Fred Brathwaite, Fuhr appeared in 23 games. He went 5-13-2 and stopped 85.6% of shots faced, allowing 3.83 goals per 60 minutes. His best game of the season was probably on October 22nd, when he stopped 29-of-31 shots in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. The closest he came to a winning streak was a two-game point streak on October 11th and 13th, when he earned a 3-3 tie with the Carolina Hurricanes and a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks. He stopped 53-of-59 shots over the "streak." He announced his retirement following the season, and was elected to the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2003. Over the course of his career, he racked up a 92-50 postseason record and earned four Stanley Cups while with the Oilers.

All-Time Statline: 23 games, 5-13-2, 536 shots faced, 459 saves, 3.83 goals against average, .856 save percentage, 0.55 point shares.

321. Steve Christoff

Christoff was a 6'1", 180 lb. center from Richfield, Minnesota. Born on January 23rd, 1958, he scored 70 goals with 73 assists in 81 collegiate games with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Minnesota North Stars picked him in the second round of the 1978 NHL Entry Draft, 24th overall.

Christoff played in 145 games over three seasons for Minnesota, scoring 60 goals and 49 assists while with the club. He also had 16 goals and 12 helpers in 34 playoff contests. During the 1982 offseason, the North Stars traded him with Bill Nyrop and a second round pick (Dave Reierson) to the Flames for Willi Plett and a fourth round pick (Dusan Pasek).

In 45 contests for Calgary, Christoff totaled nine goals (including two game winners) on 52 shots along with eight assists. He had a minus-3 rating and was only called for two minor penalties all season, for four penalty minutes. After the season, the Flames traded him back to Minnesota with a second round pick (Frantisek Musil) for Mike Eaves and Keith Hanson.

Christoff was traded to the Los Angeles Kings before the next season started, and scored eight goals and seven assists in 58 contests. He is currently a commercial pilot for Endeavor Air.

All-Time Statline: 45 games, nine goals, eight assists, minus-3 rating, four penalty minutes, 0.56 point shares.

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