There are champions in the Flames' midst. The ECHL doesn't house a team's highest quality prospects, but it houses some. This year, some Flames prospects are at the top of their league.
The Alaska Aces defeated the Cincinnati Cyclones 4-0 in game 6 to defeat the Cyclones 4-2 for the rights to hold the ECHL's top trophy, the Kelly Cup.
The Aces roster holds a few familiar names: Turner Elson, James Martin, John Ramage, and Olivier Roy all have contracts with the Flames, while Kane Lafranchise (Matt Stajan's French cousin? Maybe) became a key player for the Heat, dressing in 38 games, including four playoff games.
Through excellent play, Lafranchise may have earned himself a longer look in the AHL with the Flames next season. For a team without many defence prospects, he provided a steady backend presence, and at nearly 27 years old, would likely become one of the AHL Flames' more experienced blueliners.
As for the prospects under contract with the Flames, Martin and Roy are set to become RFAs. Martin was undrafted, and hasn't shown much in his time with the Flames. He played just two games for the Heat last season before being sent down to the Aces, where he spent most of his year, scoring two goals and 17 points over 51 games, and going pointless in 11 playoff games for the Aces. He did not play in the Aces' 4-0 victory.
Roy, meanwhile, was just acquired from the Edmonton Oilers as part of the Laurent Brossoit/Ladislav Smid trade. He was injured partway through the Aces' playoff run, and thus, did not get the shutout tonight; however, he had a good AHL season overall, posting a .922 SV% with the Aces over 20 games.
The 22-year-old's record did not translate so well to the AHL, where he only had a .902 SV% over 12 games, but the Flames had a crowded goalie crease this season. He's only a few months younger than Joni Ortio, and depending on what happens with the Flames' goalie situation next season, he may get the chance to prove himself at a higher level. For now, though, he backstopped the ECHL champions partway through their season and playoff run, which is still pretty good.
As for Elson and Ramage, both have a year remaining on their contracts. Elson spent 37 games with the Heat last season, scoring two goals and three points before being sent down to the Aces. There, he scored five goals and 15 points over 18 games, and added another seven goals and 11 points over 22 playoff games, including Alaska's empty netter in the championship-clinching game.
This was Ramage's first professional season, and after playing 50 games with the Heat and only scoring one assist, he was sent down to the ECHL. There, he flourished, scoring four goals and 13 points over 20 games during the Aces' playoff run. He's only 23 years old, so he isn't done yet, but his sophomore season will have to be a big one to work himself back as an AHL regular.
These guys probably aren't likely to turn into impact players for the Flames, but there's never anything bad about winning a championship, and you never know what surprises may wait for you in sports. So all in all? Congrats to the Aces, and may we see some of their players join the Adirondack Flames next season, where hopefully they, too, will be able to compete for a championship.