An NHL team's main camp is a busy, busy place. With all of a team's veterans joining the rookies who were already present for their own camp and tournament, there are a ton of bodies to be found, and a lot of competition for what is, ultimately, just a few spots available - if any at all.
Preseason can also last a long, long time. Sometimes, too long. After all, who seriously needs eight preseason games to figure out who should and should not make the team? That amount is excessively high and rather pointless. It's an invitation for pointless injuries in meaningless games.
That said, certain players will inevitably stand out over eight games. A lot of the time, you already knew what you had - Mark Giordano is good at hockey? I'm shocked! - but it's a chance to see new faces in new uniforms in action, as well as see just how far prospects have truly come along.
Here's a brief overview of some of those who stood out the most:
- Micheal Ferland. Ferland was one of several members of a Flames forward group who would have to fight for a spot in the lineup. With too many bodies around and not enough space for all of them, the cult playoff hero would really have to prove himself deserving of a spot.
And he did more than that. Ferland received a regular shift all throughout the preseason, and scored a goal and an assist over six games, as well as 10 shots on net. It wasn't just that, though: he received regular top six time. Ferland often found himself playing alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Jiri Hudler, and Frolik: some of the absolute top forwards on the Flames. What's more, he didn't necessarily look out of place.
It's one thing to perform well in preseason; it'll be another to carry over that success when the games actually mean something (and aren't against the Vancouver Canucks). That said, there's a glimmer of hope along the horizon for Ferland that wasn't there prior to the preseason.
- Michael Frolik. He might be one of the top signings of the offseason, and that isn't exaggeration. Already the Flames' most fit player, Frolik looked a step above even the more seasoned Flames vets. He was tied for the team's preseason scoring title with Sam Bennett, though he played two fewer games than the 19-year old.
The biggest praise is that he's an incredibly versatile player, showing scoring success with the offensively inclined young guns (Monahan and Gaudreau), and defensive awareness with the shutdown line (Mikael Backlund and random rotating winger). He could finish top five in points for the team this season.
- Brett Kulak. What more is there to say about a 21-year-old kid who spent most of the previous season in the ECHL, only to make an NHL team out of camp? True, he may not have made it had it not been for an injury to one of the Flames' top defencemen, thus freeing up a roster spot; at the same time, he beat out older players like Jakub Nakladal and Ryan Wilson who also would have loved to have that spot on the team.
Kulak's icetime went up as the preseason went on. He played in five of seven possible preseason games,and his ice time eclipsed 20 minutes in two of them (and he was just 15 seconds shy for a third game). He likely won't be playing 20 minutes a night in meaningful NHL games - not yet, anyway - but he earned his spot, and made himself a name to watch out for in the near future.
While some really stood out, some unfortunately disappointed, as well. Not everyone can make the team out of camp, but with some players - well, you just hope for more, and they were unable to deliver for whatever reasons.
The biggest disappointments of the Flames' preseason:
- Drew Shore. The Flames had way too many waiver-eligible forwards, and Shore just so happened to be one of them. When no spot is guaranteed and there are several guys you have to beat out just to make the NHL roster, let alone lineup, you're hoping for a big performance, and Shore just never seemed to have any of those in him. He was routinely unnoticeable throughout games, and eventually ended up clearing waivers. It was a disappointing performance from someone who still has to prove he deserves an NHL job.
- Tyler Wotherspoon. With all the defensive woes this team has on its third pairing, you would've thought Wotherspoon may have had a better camp. A RFA at this year's end, T-Spoon could see himself as this year's Sven Baertschi: sent away for not fulfilling expectations while being passed by others on the organization's chart.
- Emile Poirier. The guy who many thought could usurp Brandon Bollig on the fourth line, or at the very least get a shot as the 13th forward, came out very flat in the preseason. With heightened expectations after being an AHL All-Star selection, Poirier's preseason doomed him to another year with the Baby Flames - err, or rather, the Heat, now. He only registered one shot in his two appearances.
You could argue that he got the short end of the stick by playing with the prospect-filled 'B' squad, but even as one of the most experienced guys on that roster, he still didn't look great.