Once upon a time, the Calgary Flames had next to no prospects to speak of. But when you undergo a rebuild, that has to change, and now, the Flames' cupboards are looking pretty good. That's why they've got two players going to the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic: first time representatives Joni Ortio, in his second AHL season, and Emile Poirier, who just turned pro this season.
The Adirondack Flames, having replaced the Abbotsford Heat as the Flames' farm team, is currently sitting second in the AHL's North Division with 44 points and a .595 winning percentage, behind only Vancouver Canucks affiliate Utica Comets (boooo). This puts them fourth in the Western Conference based on points, but they've also played more games than everyone else; based on winning percentage, they're fifth. No matter how you slice it, they've put together a good first half of the season: and it's on the backs of the prospects.
Poirier leads the AHL Flames in scoring, with 10 goals and 20 points over 28 games. He missed the start of the season due to off-season shoulder surgery, but that doesn't seem to have hindered him at all. Poirier currently plays on the AHL Flames' top line, alongside Bill Arnold, who also has 20 points, but over 37 games; and Sven Baertschi, whose offence has picked up as of late, as he now sits at 14 points over 22 games, no doubt in part due to Poirier's help. There are no AHL veterans sitting at the top of Adirondack's scoring charts: it's all prospects, and right now, Poirier leads the way. He's tied for 73rd in overall AHL scoring.
As for Ortio, he has a 16-8-1 record, and leads the AHL's Western Conference in wins. His 26 games played has him tied for second in the AHL, so he's one of most relied upon goaltenders in the minors. Ortio's .915 save percentage is down from his rookie season, where he initially posted a .926 effort over 37 games; his increased workload may just have something to do with that, though. Ortio is currently tied for 28th in overall AHL save percentage.
Both Poirier and Ortio could be having a regular impact in the NHL as soon as next season. Ortio has already faced NHL action, as goaltending injuries last season resulted in a necessary call-up: he played nine games, and finished with a .891 save percentage before being sent back down. Unless one of Jonas Hiller or Karri Ramo is injured or traded, he's unlikely to see NHL action this season.
Poirier, meanwhile, is just a forward injury away from being recalled. He was still recuperating from surgery when the Flames' initial rash of injuries began, so he wasn't one of the call-ups. However, now that he's leading all Flames prospects in scoring, one has to think that the second the NHL Flames lose a winger, Poirier will be on a plane to his major league debut.
As for next season: Poirier should have the chance to make the team out of camp, and depending on how the Flames decide to handle Ramo's contract status (he's an unrestricted free agent after this season; Hiller still has another year on his contract), Ortio could very well be the Calgary Flames' backup. Poirier won't require waivers, so he can freely pass between AHL and NHL should he be ready (or not), while Ortio will be subject to waivers, so this very well could be his last season n the AHL.
But right now, the Flames are sending two excellent prospects as Western Conference representatives to this year's AHL All-Star Classic: two prospects who may be NHLers this time next season.