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2019-20 Stockton Heat Primer

Young prospects will try to take next step this season

AHL: OCT 31 Bakersfield Condors at Stockton Heat Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Stockton Heat, the Calgary Flames AHL affiliate, playing their first game tonight, it’s time to take a look at the upcoming season. The Heat kick off their season tonight against the Colorado Eagles at 7pm.

2018-19 Record: 31-31-4-2, 6th Pacific, 13th West

Key departures: Kerby Rychel, Curtis Lazar, Tyler Graovac, Spencer Foo

Since relocating from Adirondack at the start of the 2015-16 season, the Stockton Heat have only managed a lone playoff appearance in 2016-17. Brad Treliving and Brad Pascall’s mantra when it comes to the farm team has always been player development first, and team success second. Unlike bigger market AHL teams, the Heat will once again be primarily formed of young pros in key positions, and a few depth veterans.

The Heat, who finished 4th in the AHL in 2018-19 in goals per game, have had no trouble scoring the past few seasons. The Achilles heel of this team, as will likely be the case again this season, has been defence and goaltending. Despite being in the Pacific division and playing 8 games less than the majority of AHL teams, the Heat finished 5th worst in goals against, and second worst in goals against per game.

A young group up front should once again bring the offence for the Heat. Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, and Matthew Phillips all enter their second pro season, and should consistently get top line minutes. With veteran scorers Graovac, Lazar, and Rychel all departed, the sophomores will have more than ample opportunities to take the next step in their development.

Ryan Lomberg, Alan Quine, and Buddy Robinson are all depth veterans. While Quine is the Flames first scoring call up option, all 3 players are in the last year of likely their last Flames contract.

The bottom six offers some solid veteran experience, with Byron Froese and Zac Rinaldo both having spent significant time in the NHL and likely biding their time until they are summoned to Calgary. Newcomer Justin Kirkland is young enough at 23 to offer some intrigue, but has been an average AHL scorer in his career.

The real interesting part of the Heat will be the youth of the bottom six.

Matin Pospisil exploded in his second USHL season with the Sioux City Musketeers, nearly doubling his production to 63 points in 44 games, while halving his 253 PIM from 2017-18 when the Flames drafted him in the fourth round. His skilled, heavy game should translate well to the pro ranks, and he showed some chemistry with Adam Ruzicka in the preseason.

Ruzicka, a pro rookie himself, has seen his stock in the Flames organization rise every year since the team took him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He put up 78 points in 65 games last season, including 24 goals in 30 games after a mid-season trade to the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. Both Ruzicka and Pospisil are Slovakian.

Eetu Tuulola has been a little bit of a project for the Flames, who took him in the sixth round way back in 2016. The 21 year old couldn’t find a lot of success in the WHL in 2016-17, and looked to be ending his time as a Flames prospect. However, after 2 successful season with HPK of Finland’s top league, he earned an entry level contract this past summer. The big winger is someone to keep an eye on.

Finally, Luke Philp is the uSports superstar from the University of Alberta, who will need to adjust quickly from the subpar Canadian university league, to the pros.

Mason Morelli is on an AHL contract after nearly hitting a point per game with the University of Nebraska-Omaha last season. He also managed 3 goals in 9 games with the Heat last season, and offers a little value. Garnet Hathaway and Ryan Lomberg both broke into the NHL this way. Alex Gallant is an AHL journeyman also on an AHL deal.

While essentially devoid of prospects, the Heat’s defence group is a little more veteran this season, and hope to keep the puck out of their net better than last. With Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington both full-time NHL players now, Juuso Valimaki will likely be the only prospect to suit up for the Heat this season, albeit just on the rehab stint he will undoubtedly be assigned on.

Brandon Davidson has spent significant time in the NHL during his career, and will be the first defence call-up due to injury. Alexander Yelesin has by far the most intrigue here, as the 23-year-old Russian will be playing in his first North American season since signing with the Flames out of the KHL this summer.

Rinat Valiev and Andrew Nielsen were both returns in a veteran-prospect swap with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs last season, in exchange for Brett Kulak and Morgan Klimchuk respectively.

Rob Hamilton is a guy who forced himself onto the AHL roster last season, including the top powerplay, after he blew away expectations scoring 7 goals and 29 points. He and AHL veteran Zac Leslie are both on AHL deals.

Corey Schueneman captained the team at Western Michigan University, before recording a goal in 6 games with the Heat.

Oof. No, what your’e seeing is not a typo. The Heat will begin their season with 4 goaltenders on the roster. Jon Gillies (day-to-day) and Tyler Parsons (week-to-week) both start the season on the injured reserve. For Gillies, who is on his last legs as a Flame already, it’s been a short pro career, yet has been devastated by recurring injuries. Parsons too, who has yet to even have a decent pro season, has been ruined by injuries to start his career. He’s also coming dangerously close to being ousted by the organization.

With the two returning starters out, it will be Artyom Zagidulin to start, and a solid beginning to his North American career could earn him the lions share of starts this season. Zagidulin, like Yelesin, is in his first North American season after being signed out of Russia.

Nick Schneider was recalled by the team with the injuries, and will likely spend the majority of this season with the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL.

Other Players not on Heat roster: Jeremy McKenna, Zach Osburn, Matthew Gaudreau


Will the Stockton Heat return to the playoffs?

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