With the entire Calgary Flames organization finished playing hockey for the 2016-17 season, the focus now shifts to what the team could look like heading into 2017-18.
While many questions are still swirling, I thought I’d take a look at five players who had strong seasons in Stockton and who may have a shot at making the big club next year.
C - Mark Jankowski: 69 GP, 28 G, 33 A, 61 PTS, +15
Jankowski had an outstanding first pro season after making the jump from college hockey. He finished second in voting for AHL rookie of the year, and even got to make his NHL debut this season against the Islanders.
While Jankowski may have benefited from an unusually high 16.8% shooting percentage, his ability to put the puck in the net was a big reason why the Heat managed to make the playoffs at all. The rookie put the team on his back for most of the season and it was an encouraging sign after a lot of doubts following a not so amazing senior season in Providence.
What does it mean for his chances of making NHL club next season? Well the Flames are backlogged at the centre position as is, so if he were to make the big club he may have to start on the wing. Another season of development in the AHL where he’ll be getting top line minutes may be the better way to go, but he should certainly be expected to hang around well towards the end of training camp.
D - Brett Kulak: AHL: 27 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 PTS, +11; NHL: 21 GP, 0 G, 3A, 3 PTS, -3
For two straight seasons, Kulak has made the Flames out of camp. In 2015-16, it was more to cover for the injury to TJ Brodie, but in 2016-17 he made it without injuries. However he often found himself as a healthy scratch and bounced up and down between Calgary and Stockton a few times this season.
The fact that he was a healthy scratch behind players like Jyrki Jokipakka and even Matt Bartkowski was kind of disappointing as it resulted in him playing in only a combined 48 games this season.
Kulak does have the potential to slot in very nicely to a bottom pairing role next season. With 30 games of experience under his belt, the sense is that his time is now to make a push for a permanent roster spot. He will also be a prime candidate for Vegas if they’re looking for youth and want to shy away from the older forwards and defensemen that the Flames will be exposing for the draft.
D - Rasmus Andersson: 59 GP, 3 G, 19 A, 22 PTS, +16
Andersson made a lot of strides in his first professional season which culminated in his NHL debut in the last game of the regular season against San Jose.
He did spend close to a month with the Flames prior to his debut which was kind of disappointing as he sat in the press box but the experience he likely gained through practicing and learning at the NHL level will really help his development.
He’s made a lot of strides this season especially since being called out for poor conditioning shortly after the 2016 summer development camp. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him take over the right side on the bottom pairing next season. Who knows, maybe he could even make a push for the 4th spot alongside Brodie.
Andersson has shown the ability to excel at the professional game, and he could very easily take the next step in 2017-18.
G - Jon Gillies: 39 GP, 18-14-5, 2.93 GAA, 0.910 SV%, 1 Shutout
After suffering a season ending hip injury early in the 2015-16 season, 2016-17 was essentially Gillies’ first professional season. He made his NHL debut in the second last game of the regular season and shined in a victory over Los Angeles.
That performance gave a lot of Flames fans high hopes for his future, and coupled with the train wreck that was the playoffs, there’s hope that he could be the solution in the very near future.
While Gillies does have the potential to be a #1 in the NHL, he would probably benefit from at least another season of AHL action as the #1. However with Tyler Parsons saying he’s hoping to be on the Heat next season, it may make even more sense for Gillies to make the push for a backup role with the Flames next year.
He probably isn’t quite ready to be the full time #1 goalie, but even if he can get 30+ games in next season, it’ll do a lot for his development.
G - David Rittich: 15-11-5, 2.27 GAA, 0.924 SV%, 5 Shutouts
When Rittich was signed last June, there wasn’t a lot expected of him, and as such the signing got swept under the rug with everything else that happened over the summer.
So he promptly went out and had an outstanding season with Stockton, posting some of the top numbers in the entire AHL. He finished with the sixth best GAA, seventh best SV%, and second most shutouts in the league.
In doing so, he thrust his name into the conversation for potentially being the Flames backup goalie next season. Rittich will only be 25 years old at the start of next season, so by no means is he a veteran goaltender, he still has potential.
However with the depth of goaltending prospects the Flames have on the way, and players on the market. he may get overlooked. The backup position could very possibly come down to a battle between Gillies and Rittich.
At the very least Rittich deserves another crack with the Heat next year.
Which of these prospects has the brightest future?
This poll is closed