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Calgary Flames Camp Battle: Sixth Defender

Let’s get back to hockey for a bit

NHL: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

So I had been planning to write this piece a few days ago but when all the stuff came out again about the arena deal, I wanted to follow that. That nonsense has been circling for a couple days now so like everyone else involved, I’m fed up and ready to get back to talking about hockey.

Specifically I wanted to look at the battle for the sixth defender spot heading into training camp. With the Flames already having their top five defenders set in stone (no pun intended), the sixth spot is the only open lineup spot. So here are some players that could push for it.

Brett Kulak

Buffalo Sabres v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Brett Kulak without a doubt is the player that makes the most sense to take this spot heading into camp. He’s young, he has 30 games NHL experience, he’s at a team-friendly contract, and giving him bottom-six ice time makes sense. The spot is really his to lose over the next three weeks.

He’s also played 126 games in the AHL during his career. He’s made the Flames roster in both of the last two seasons out of camp because of injury, but often found himself scratched and ending up back in Stockton. This could be the year he stays for good.

Matt Bartkowski

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames - Game Three Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

He joined the Flames in mid-February during the rash of injuries and final realization that Jyrki Jokipakka and Dennis Wideman weren’t NHLers. From there Bartkowski skated in 24 regular season and all four playoff games for the Flames, racking up a couple of points.

Bartkowski was brought on to be the defender that the Flames exposed in the expansion draft. He didn’t have great stats, but with good skating and a willingness to play physically, he could be a good player to have in the press box that sometimes finds his way into the lineup. Maybe not the 6th defender though.

Tyler Wotherspoon

NHL: New York Islanders at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Every year it seems to be said “This could be the year Wotherspoon finally makes it”, but it has yet to happen. With Wotherspoon continuing to get passed on the depth chart by younger, better players, this is really his last crack at it with the Flames organization. If he fails to make it, he’ll end up in the AHL once again and might just be a throw in for a trade or not resigned next year. This is his make or break camp.

Dylan Olsen

Buffalo Sabres v Florida Panthers

Olsen was signed as a PTO yesterday and frankly it doesn’t look like he’s anything more than a body for camp. That being said, you can’t totally write off a former first round pick with 125 games of NHL experience and over 200 games of AHL experience.

However, you can likely write off a player who played six games in the RHL (that’s Ranchland Hockey League) last season for the Nanton Palominos. He’s a Calgary kid but will be lucky to sniff an AHL spot this season.

Rasmus Andersson

NHL: Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

For the sake of completeness I’m including Andersson in this list mostly because he’s probably the closest prospect to being NHL level. With that being said, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to have him up in Calgary next season playing bottom line minutes, compared to giving him top line minutes and a big role in Stockton. Him being a right-handed shot doesn’t help either.

Oliver Kylington

NHL: Preseason-Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Kylington gets kind of lost in the glamour of the Flames organizational depth at defense. Between the strong top four at the NHL level, and big-name prospects like Fox, Valimaki, and Andersson, Kylington has kind of slipped through the cracks.

That’s only in notoriety though, as on the ice he already has over 100 games of AHL experience and only just turned 20 this offseason. Like Andersson, it may make sense to give another year of AHL development, but the opportunity will be there for Kylington this year if he can take it. Plus he’s left handed.

Juuso Valimaki

NHL: NHL Draft David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While the chances of him making the team this year are slim, don’t sleep on the young Finn. He mentioned last week that his goal was to be playing for the Calgary Flames this season, and it’s up to him to prove it. The Flames have been lucky with 1st round picks immediately becoming difference makers in recent years, but Valimaki isn’t worth rushing. Don’t be surprised though if he sticks around well into camp.

Josh Healey

While the chances of Healey making it are even slimmer than Valimaki’s, he does possess a lot of the necessary traits in a sixth defender. After being labelled as “hits too hard for college hockey”, he took his game to last week’s Young Stars Classic in Penticton and delivered some big hits.

What’s even better is that they were all clean and didn’t take him out of the play. While there are some aspects of his game that need work, it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing against NHLers in the preseason.

Dennis Wideman

NHL: Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Just kidding! I thought I’d give everyone a good scare haha

Poll

Who should be the Flames sixth defender?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Brett Kulak
    (301 votes)
  • 6%
    Matt Bartkowski
    (35 votes)
  • 6%
    Tyler Wotherspoon
    (35 votes)
  • 0%
    Dylan Olsen
    (2 votes)
  • 9%
    Rasmus Andersson
    (51 votes)
  • 5%
    Oliver Kylington
    (28 votes)
  • 10%
    Juuso Valimaki
    (54 votes)
  • 4%
    Josh Healey
    (25 votes)
  • 1%
    Other
    (7 votes)
538 votes total Vote Now