The Flames training camp is officially a little lighter, as four junior players have been cut. Camp invites defenceman Jason Fram and centre Brandon Magee, along with second rounders Mason McDonald and Hunter Smith, have been returned to their junior teams.
None of those four was going to make the Flames this season, so these aren't surprising. None of the four played in either preseason game last night, either. In fact, Fram and Magee only appeared in one Penticton game each. McDonald and Smith played more in the Young Stars Tournament, but neither saw preseason action. McDonald was originally supposed to play the third period of last night's game in Edmonton, but Joni Ortio, who remains at camp, went the full distance instead.
Fram returns to the WHL's Spokane Chiefs, while Magee is with the Victoria Royals. The other two Royals at camp, Keegan Kanzig and Austin Carroll, still remain.
The most dangerous player in first #Flames scrimmage - Brandon Magee! He has a goal and could have three. Raphael Diaz just scored a beauty.— Derek Wills (@Fan960Wills) September 22, 2014
(Definitely good to hear on Diaz, though.)
McDonald returns to the QMJHL's Charlottetown Islanders, where he'll be looking to continue trending upward. The same goes for Smith in his return to the OHL's Oshawa Generals. Smith broke out offensively last season, and he'll need to do it again this year. It's best to be reunited with his junior team sooner rather than later, so as to ensure he gels with his team all the faster and has ample playing time.
58 players now remain in camp: 5 goalies, 20 defencemen, and 33 forwards. #Flames— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) September 22, 2014
Do you want the good news, or the bad news first? Let's start with the good news: Sam Bennett is skating!
Ok. There he is. Sam Bennett. Black jersey. pic.twitter.com/pTNi9q8upq— Kristen Odland (@KristenOdlandCH) September 22, 2014
It's Bennett's first time skating with the main group at main camp. He'll likely get some preseason action soon, although the Flames are being careful with him, so it may not be immediate.
Some middling news: Karri Ramo, who has yet to scrimmage, at least continues to skate. Paul Byron and Devin Setoguchi are both day-to-day after last night's games. Setoguchi, you may remember, suffered a knee on knee collision courtesy of Nail Yakupov, but was able to walk down the tunnel on his own.
Bad news: Mikael Backlund has yet to skate, and Bob Hartley is officially worried. Backlund has missed all of training camp thus far with an abdominal strain.
This isn't the first time Backlund has been injured right at the start of a season, and it's not a good sign. Backlund was the Flames' best centre last season, and is probably in the same position this season. Even if you don't have high expectations for the year, to potentially - probably - start without your number one centre is never a good thing, especially when your number one centre has finally turned the corner and was just starting to get the organization to believe in him.
Backlund is only 25, and as it stands now, he's one of the Flames' best possession players, and integral to the rebuild.
Should Backlund not be able to go at the start of the season, there are two key candidates who may fill his spot. There's the aforementioned Bennett, who may just yet get at least a nine-game tryout. Then there's Markus Granlund, who is one of the Flames' more NHL-ready prospects. Granlund already has NHL experience, and has played professionally and among adults for three seasons now.
Bennett may have been getting a nine-game tryout regardless, but Backlund's injury just makes Granlund's chances all the brighter. It's exciting from a prospect standpoint; however, the Flames are a significantly weaker team without Backlund.