The Flames have had the most exciting offseason thus far, scoring Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik for bargains just so they could laugh in the face of expected regression. Picking up two young established players (if not, pretty damned good players) is a boost for the team that could toss them into the upper echelon of the NHL. We don't get to see them until September, but why let the excitement die now?
The hockey machine won't stop. After a hectic draft came a hectic free agency, and now comes a hectic prospect development camp? It doesn't sound like very much fun, but trust me, it is. The Flames are running their development camp from July 6th to 11th at Winsport Canada usually during the mornings. There will be fitness testing, skills development, and one scrimmage. It's always an intriguing time of year, and I highly recommend paying a visit during one of those dates.
So who's going to be there? There are strict rules about who can attend, limiting the options to:
- Players on ELCs that have played less than 120 games at the professional level, and less than 70 in the prior season.
- Unsigned draft picks
- Undrafted free agents
- Players undrafted, but still eligible for later drafts
That limits us to:
|Jon Gillies||Kenney Morrison||Sam Bennett|
||Jakub Nakadal||Markus Granlund|
|Patrick Sieloff||Emile Poirier|
|Brett Kulak||Morgan Klimchuk|
|Ryan Culkin||Austin Carroll|
|Keegan Kanzig||Mark Jankowski|
|Adam Ollas Mattsson||Tim Harrison|
|Brandon Hickey||Matt DeBlouw|
|John Gilmour||Garnet Hathaway|
|Rasmus Andersson||Hunter Smith|
|Oliver Kylington||Pavel Karnaukhov|
|Riley Bruce||Andrew Mangiapane|
"Limited" may not have been the right word to use in that context. The only absences are Ruslan Rusikov (visa issue, also caused him to miss last year's camp, definitely not for a lack of trying) and Tim Harrison (undisclosed). No word on why they're not here this year, but the benches will still be filled next week. There's a lot of guys in the Flames' system alone, but there are still more coming to camp.
Julien Proulx: Very big defender, might pair up with Kanzig or Bruce for drills.
Adam Clark: University of New Hampshire Goalie who was displaced by incoming USHL superstar Daniel Tirone. Will probably be seen in rotational duty with Gilles or McDonald.
Sam Studnicka: Ottawa 67's fourth line energy guy. Feels like Bob Hartley brought him in so that Studnicka could prove himself and work his way up to an NHL contract. I don't share his optimism.
Tyson Baillie: Consistent high scorer for the Kelowna Rockets who apparently never made an impression on scouts. Could be an interesting AHL pickup, maybe future bottom six NHLer, but will have to wait until the 2016 draft to play in the NHL.
Rylan Toth: Toth was the #14 NA goalie this year, but went undrafted. He had a solid first year on the Red Deer Rebels, and could be another potential depth goalie. Like Baillie, he will have to wait another year before an NHL team can consider taking him.
Jason Fram: Fram is a familiar face in the Flames preseason, having attended development camp, training camp, and preseason games last year for the team. Having passed through his third draft unclaimed (even though he is a high scoring defender), the Flames will look for signs and growth and maturity and potentially ink him to an AHL contract a la Turner Elson.
Jon Jutzi: A 24 year old NCAA defenceman. It's likely he's here to hold a spot and not to make the team, but anything is possible. The Stockton Heat are looking to reload defensively, and Jutzi is an ideal AHL player.
Philippe Myers: Another really big defender from the Q. Based on how scouts ranked him, it was either him or Riley Bruce with the 7th round pick, and the Flames may just be taking a look at what they could've picked.
Tomas Soustal: The big Czech Kelowna centre wasn't impressive in his draft eligible year, but there is definitely rumblings that he could grow into something else in the future. The Flames may be trying to get an inside track on what he's like, and what he could be for next year's draft.
Chris Dienes: Former teammate of Kenney Morrison, who might be here by either recommendation or merit. He put up similar numbers to Morrison, and is eligible to sign immediately.
Scott Dornbrook: Another college defender. The Flames must be big fans of these guys.
Carter Foguth: Could it possibly be another college defender? Yes, it is! Played with Jon Jutzi at Minnesota State Mantako.
Brandon Hawkins: A 21 year-old right winger who nearly put up a point per game for Bowling Green. Compared to Jooris, which isn't bad at all.
Ryan Lomberg: Dominant USHL player who is returning to the NCAA after losing his touch. Perhaps another Josh Jooris. After being rewarded once, the Flames are eagerly searching for the next hidden superstar.
Mason Marchment: Son of former Flame (for 37 games) Brad Marchment who finally got an OHL spot in his draft +1 year. Potential late bloomer who could eventually reach his father's level.
Josh Pitt: Another Western Michigan alum who has been a niche player for the Mustangs. Most likely a warm body occupying a camp spot.
Matt Wilkins: Former teammate of Josh Jooris (this camp will hereby be designated the Jooris Invitational) who posted similar numbers to #86.
Here's how they will be broken up:
- Group A is certainly the most stacked, with every player except for the goaltender in the Flames' system.
- Group B is a close second, with Bennett and Gillies on the squad. A & B will be working with each other for the most part, as the team will try to flesh out which are the most capable for the AHL and which are for the NHL.
- Group C strikes me as the group most likely to not be in the Flames' system come next year. Only Mason McDonald and Brett Kulak seem like they will be wearing red this time in 2016, with the others auditioning for potential bit roles.
- Group D is the smallest, and the weirdest (four defencemen and four forwards), but will still get be an intriguing group to watch. Kylington, Morrison, Culkin, and Gilmour could be in the big league in five years time. Groups C & D work primarily with each other, most likely because most of the players aren't expected to be in the NHL for a few years, if at all.
Storylines and things to look out for:
- Sam Bennett was amazing at last year's camp with a shoulder that was held together by chewing gum and loosely tied string. As a probable NHLer next year, a full development camp will work wonders for him, and we'll see more of a monster than we saw in the playoffs.
- Poirier and Klimchuk are pretty much all that's left of the Iginla and Bouwmeester trades (maybe not the right place to ponder this, but imagine Brad Treliving in control when those trades were made), so it's their time to shine. Poirier was an AHL all-star last year, and Klimchuk ran roughshod over the WHL on the Brandon Wheat Kings. Both could be fighting for NHL positions this year, so it will be their camp to step up.
- The two Swedish Steals, Kylington and Andersson, are my pick for most exciting players. While they probably won't be in the NHL this year, it will be awesome to see the fruits of Treliving's labour laid out in front of us.
- Kenney Morrison was another steal of a prospect that could be seeing the NHL sometime soon. He put up six points in ten AHL games on a ATO deal. Definitely the dark horse candidate coming into this camp.
- As previously mentioned, Jason Fram is fighting for his NHL future as this camp. He'll be the first on, and last off the ice every session. He needs to impress Hartley and Treliving to earn at least an AHL contract.
- The Friars of Providence will, once again, be well represented, and hopefully on the ice this time. Gillies and Jankowski were both out for last year's camp with injuries, disappointing all those who came to see them live up to their hype. Seven years away from fulfilling Jay Feaster's prophecy, Jankowski (Marky Franchise?) will need to fight for relevance this year. His college totals have been disappointing, and if he hasn't shown any growth, the new management won't waste a second casting him off after his senior season ends, national championship be damned.
- Jon Gillies however is still very good.
- Garnet Hathaway has been considered the next Josh Jooris. Not a superstar in the AHL, but a consistent hard worker who might be on the verge of a breakthrough season. He's a right winger too, which the Flames are in need of especially in the bottom six. Take note of him.
Only testing will be unavailable to the public, all other events will be on the Winsport ice. If you are going, I recommend to get there at least 15 minutes in advance, as these events do fill up quickly. Admission is free and so is parking. I cannot recommend how fun this event is despite the early start times (there is a concession where there is cheap coffee, so no excuses).
M&G will have a presence there during a few days, so we'll have more later next week about the events. Stay tuned!