We’ve got another one of our Ask Us Anything pieces coming out this week! Feel free to answer these questions in our various comments sections and stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter pages for the next time we’ll be asking for questions.
MarkParkinson14: I think it’s a case of let it play out and see what happens. Gillies has had his ups and and downs, but with the draft investment in him, you’d think Calgary would secretly pulling for him behind the scenes. David Rittich had an amazing season last year, better than Gillies, so he’s been a great surprise for Calgary. As for Mason McDonald, I feel like he’s the third wheel, potential odd man out. He hasn’t done much to inspire confidence and with Gillies and Rittich ahead of him AND Tyler Parsons steamrolling his way to the AHL and NHL, McDonald could end up being a non factor. With all of that said, having 3 goalies with potential, considering the Flames NHL roster, isn’t a bad problem to have. Personally, I’m a Gillies guy (watched him in college) and I hope he turns out to be “the guy.”
FlamesMM: I think it goes without saying that while David Rittich had a good year in Stockton, Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons are the goalies of the future in Calgary. Ultimately I think Calgary should have Parsons and Gillies as their tandem in Stockton, and loan Rittich to another AHL team, similar to what the Flames did with Tom McCollum last year. This would ensure that all three see playing time, but give the Flames the chance to develop Parsons and Gillies any way they choose. However if the Flames were to need a backup next year in case of injury, I think I would give the first call to Rittich, but it will all come down to how training camp goes.
Samwell9: I really would not discount how impressive Rittich's first season in the AHL was. He was significantly better than Gillies and was who the Heat relied upon when the games mattered most. Obviously Gillies is the high profile prospect and they should continue to invest a lot of time into him, but Rittich is only 24 right now and is definitely worth having a longer look at to see what he can offer in year two of his time in the AHL. Gillies and Rittich should share the Stockton workload, while Parsons should go to the ECHL and get a lot of games in at the pro ranks. That solves this season and then there should be space for one of Rittich or Gillies to move up with the Flames the following season.
As for Mason McDonald... I really do not know what they can do with him at this point.
MarkParkinson14: I think they both will continue to trend upwards. Yeah, that’s the homer answer, but it isn’t out of the question. Gaudreau had a rude awakening last season as the league seemed to “figure him out” (#fivehole), but he’s a smart and motivated player. Same with Monahan. Monahan has a little more grit to his game and will sit out front in the tough areas to get goals. Gaudreau will probably end up being a facilitator who scores, whereas Mony will be a goal scorer first. Gaudreau’s 61 point season was a “down year,” with 2015-16 being his water mark with 78 points. I could see him top 80 and that be his point ceiling. As for Monahan, he had 58 points last year, with his career high being 63. I could see him pushing 70, but it depends on how he and Gaudreau play together. So I guess I’m saying Gaudreau could push 80 and Monahan 70, but it may take a perfect storm to make that happen.
FlamesMM: A big part of this question is whether or not these two find a linemate that can complement their games. Both players are still young with at least 2-3 years of guaranteed development left. Johnny only had 18 goals last season, and I expect that to increase to around 30 this season. So for next year I’d say we could see Johnny hitting at least a point-per-game, while I think Monahan has a shot at hitting 70. As for their career high, I think Johnny may even be able to hit 90 but a conservative estimate would him continuing to hang around a point-per-game. Of course Johnny is only one year removed from finishing seventh in league scoring. Monahan could also make that push towards 75 points, but again it’s all about finding the right linemate.
Samwell9: Gaudreau was a top-10 scorer as a sophomore and still produced at over a 70 point pace last year, despite often looking off his game. That speaks a lot about how talented the guy is. I'm with FlamesMM, I think his ceiling would be around the 90 point mark, but it ultimately depends more on how players around him play than Johnny himself.
I am not really sure how much higher Monahan can go than he already has, but I could see him topping out at about 30-35 goals, 60-70 points a season.
Kidding, but not really. I think breaking up that line would be detrimental to the Flames. Backlund and Frolik are seasoned vets and leaders. Tkachuk took the league by storm and looked like a vet. When the “top line” was struggling the 3M Line carried the Flames. That threesome has speed, offense, defence and grit. It’s the perfect mix. I wouldn’t drop Tkachuk down to the third line or move him up top. Micheal Ferland should settle in fine with Gaudreau and Monahan. Who would you move up? Sam Bennett? I don’t think his play has warranted that kind of promotion at all. I say keep it as is and if things get wonky, then maybe you adjust. For now? If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.’
FlamesMM: The only scenario I could see making some sense is putting Mark Jankowski on the left wing alongside Backlund and Frolik if he earns a spot out of camp. This would help Jankowski adjust to the NHL game as the Flames did with Tkachuk and Sam Bennett in recent years. Then the Flames could operate a third line of Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, and Kris Versteeg which I think has a lot of potential. Should Jankowski not make the team, then I see no reason to break up the line.
Samwell9: The only real pro to breaking them up is the notion of spreading the wealth. Backlund and Frolik have both shown over their careers to be excellent 2-way players that can boost players around them despite tough minutes, while Tkachuk had an excellent rookie campaign and looks like he could probably boost the play of others around him. Putting a younger player with Backlund and Frolik on the wing like Jankowski, Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier or Morgan Klimchuk is a good way to bring those players into the NHL, while Tkachuk could then play with Sam Bennett, giving Bennett a highly talented linemate.
However, the 3M line was one of the absolute best lines in the NHL at controlling play last season. That has tremendous value. I think at this point, you bring that line back together to start the season and make adjustments later if need be.
MarkParkinson14: Good question. If I were to guess, probably Kylington or Andersson. Valimaki was named captain of Finland’s U20 Summer Showcase team and is playing extremely well. The Flames have time to let him grow and be NHL ready, so there’s no need to rush him to Calgary. Andersson got some time with Calgary last season, all of 1 game, but they thought enough of him to bring him up. As for Kylington, he had a 27 point season on the blueline for Stockton, so he could very well make the jump as well. If I were a betting man, I’d say Andersson, then Kylington. Valimaki won’t lose anything by getting a year in the AHL under his belt.
FlamesMM: I too would lean towards Andersson getting the next call to the NHL, but I’m getting a gut feeling that the Flames may start looking at using some of these young defenders as trade chips (not Valimaki of course). Kylington could push for that final spot in the top six in camp, but if either aren’t going to lineup regulars, they might as well be getting the top ice time in Stockton this season. Give Valimaki as much time as he needs though, he could be amazing.
Samwell9: The fun part to this question is that all 3 prospects legitimately look like they will be NHLers, possibly even pretty good ones. That's not including Adam Fox, probably the most exciting out of all of them.
Between Valimaki, Kylington and Andersson, Andersson looks to be the most ready. Unfortunately, by signing Michael Stone for 3 more years, the Flames are completely full on the right-side. In the event of injury to any of Dougie Hamilton, Travis Hamonic or Stone, expect Andersson to be the first man up.
Here are the top U22 D from the AHL last year based upon higher QoC than QoT, eP160, GF%, eTOI - all data is 5v5 via https://t.co/dCeKR9mptj pic.twitter.com/ULGBqYJZEm— Stephen Burtch (@SteveBurtch) June 30, 2017