Flames kicked off their training camp today at Winsport, which is just another sign that hockey is around the corner. The team is taking 64 players to camp, comprising of seven goalies, 21 defencemen, and 36 forwards. Here's how they'll be divided at the camp:
Most of these names, you already know, as they have been playing with the Flames for a while. Let's look at the invitees and other names you might not be so familiar with:
Aaron Johnson: A former Flame way back when, and also one of the pieces in the infamous Steve Staois trade, the first between the Oilers and the Flames. He hasn't played in the NHL since 2012-13, but has been putting up a significant number of points in the AHL.
Douglas Murray: We've already discussed his invitation before, so there's really not much else to be said. He's a very old, very slow defender who couldn't really cut it in the German league last year. He's just here to be a warm body (hopefully).
Ryan Wilson: Another former Flame, who was dealt to the Avalanche for Jordan Leopold. Wilson is a defender that has looked pretty serviceable when he isn't injured. He could be this season's Raphael Diaz and earn a contract before the season starts. Here's our write up on him.
Of all invited to rookie camp, only four remain. Jason Bell, Jason Fram, Julien Proulx, and Tomas Soustal were reassigned to junior, and Eric Roy was cut loose. The survivors are:
Tyson Baillie: Impressive as always during rookie camp, Baillie is pushing to leave a permanent impression on the Flames, and maybe get a contract next year.
Taylor Burke: Can't say I know why he's coming back. Burke wasn't that impressive in Penticton, and the Flames are maybe just using him as a warm body/potential AHL contract.
Mason Marchment: He was a spark plug for the team, and his huge size is most likely the reason he's coming back.
Nick Schneider: A pleasant rookie camp surprise for the team, Schneider will be here just to take up space until the WHL season starts again.
None of these guys can make the roster straight out of camp except Burke, owing to remaining draft eligibility.
All of these players will be attending until Stockton's training camp opens. If the Flames want their hands on these players, they're going to have to sign them to a proper NHL deal. All players below are on ECHL/AHL deals until then.
Mitchell Heard: Former Avalanche second round pick who has struggled to find his way in the AHL. He's still only 23, so a potential late bloomer.
Ryan Lomberg: Another rookie camp standout hoping to crack the big roster, Lomberg looked like a seasoned pro at the Young Stars tournament. He's certainly going to be worth following down in Stockton.
Louick Marcotte: A standout QMJHL player signed at the end of last season by Stockton. Gritty, with a scoring touch.
Blair Riley: Career AHLer. That's pretty much that.
Kent Simpson: Despite being a former Team Canada goaltender and Blackhawks second round pick, Simpson has struggled through the AHL. Still a young guy at 23, he adds depth to a team with (presumably) Joni Ortio and Jon Gilles on the roster.
Dustin Stevenson: Pugilist
All of the Flames' NCAA prospects - Mark Jankowski, Matt DeBlouw, Tim Harrison, John Gilmour, and Brandon Hickey - cannot attend to due NCAA amateur-eligibility rules. Shame, Janko was probably going to be the best player for all of camp.
Rushan Rafikov and Adam Ollas Mattsson are also not attending, no specific reason stated.
Paul Byron, Ryan Culkin, and Ladislav Smid will not be participating during camp. Culkin injured his shoulder during the Young Starts tournament, while Byron is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery. Smid gave an update on his neck injury today, expecting to be cleared for contact by mid October.
- Joe Colborne got bigger and healthier
- Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Hiller both got the flu bug, just like last year.
- Johnny Gaudreau gained 28% body weight. So, 5 pounds.
- TJ Brodie is willing to go righty this year.
Players to watch out for:
- All eyes are on the defence situation. Throughout early practices, Bob Hartley has used... interesting deployments. He's had Dougie Hamilton with Smid, TJ Brodie with Deryk Engelland, and Hamilton with Mark Giordano. We'll have to see how this shakes out come preseason.
- Tyler Wotherspoon will be the focus of the camp. Having failed to crack the roster since joining the pros, this is his do-or-die year, considering he's in the last year of his ELC. It's easy to think that he'll be able to break away from Smid or Engelland, but he still didn't look like the final product at the end of last year.
- Joni Ortio's future as a Flames goaltender was thrown into jeopardy when the team re-signed Karri Ramo to a contract in July. Now he runs the risk of being claimed on waivers should the team decide to stick with Hiller and Ramo. He could certainly play well enough to force the Flames' hand into trying to trade one of their keepers.
- We were thoroughly impressed with Pavel Karnaukhov and Andrew Mangiapane during rookie camp. They're longshots to crack the roster, but they'll be fun to watch along the way.
- It goes without saying that Emile Poirier is much better than Brandon Bollig, but one has a full time NHL job (somehow). Poirier has been an intriguing prospect not just for the team, but around the whole league, as he was invited to the NHL rookie showcase. He had his number dropped from 57 to 28, so good things might be on the horizon.
- The Young Stars tournament offered no resolution to the Oliver Kylington question. We didn't see enough of him to make a full judgement, so hopefully the preseason will help.
- It's also a camp for fringe players like Kenny Agostino, Markus Granlund, Patrick Sieloff, Drew Shore, Jakub Nakadal, and Derek Grant. I have a feeling one of these guys won't be in Stockton to start the year.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!