With two preseason games left on the schedule (tonight in Winnipeg, Friday vs Winnipeg) we are finally getting towards the end of training camp. The Flames have already began cutting back their roster as they are now down to 31 players included those who are injured. They currently have 18 forwards, 10 defencemen, and 3 goaltenders at main camp, while many others have already been jettisoned to either Stockton or their junior clubs.
As we head into these final two games, let’s take a quick look at each positional group and who is on the bubble for each. From that I will take my best guess at the final handful of cuts, likely to come after Friday’s game. I am going to do my best to try and put myself in the same thought process that the Flames management and coaches have been in while constructing their roster, rather than using my own beliefs of doing things like keeping the best players in the NHL (not Erik Gudbranson).
Locks (9): Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Milan Lucic, Matthew Tkachuk, Blake Coleman, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm, Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane
Bubble (7): Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Brett Ritchie, Byron Froese, Glenn Gawdin, Justin Kirkland, Walker Duehr
Injured (2): Tyler Pitlick, Connor Zary
I’ll quickly discuss the injured players first. Pitlick is very likely to make the NHL team, but we haven’t heard much regarding an injury timeline since he went down early in camp. Zary on the other hand will likely head to Stockton after missing the entire preseason after getting injured in the prospect games.
The Flames will likely carry 14 forwards into the start of the season, leaving five jobs up for grabs as of now, with it possibly falling to four if Pitlick is ready by opening day. That would mean just two of the bubble players would head to Stockton, and it most likely has to be Justin Kirkland and Byron Froese who have been good, but probably not good enough to win a job yet. This would also mean that Walker Duehr would have come into his first NHL training camp and earned an NHL job, at least to start the season. Very impressive stuff from the NCAA signing in the spring. My guess is he sticks for a few games or until Pitlick returns, then ends up in Stockton for some more seasoning with larger minutes but could be up and down a few times this year.
Locks (5): Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Noah Hanifin, Juuso Valimaki
Bubble (4): Connor Mackey, Michael Stone, Erik Gudbranson, Oliver Kylington
Injured (1): Johannes Kinnvall
With the Flames likely to roll with seven defencemen into the season, they will need to make two cuts from their bubble list. Kinnvall will also be headed to Stockton once his injury has healed.
In my opinion Oliver Kylington has played more than well enough this preseason to earn a regular NHL spot as he has really taken a step at both ends of the ice. Connor Mackey has also performed quite well during his game action. One player who has struggled for the most part has been Erik Gudbranson, but given that he plays a physical game and was just paid nearly $2M (I also do not understand) he probably sticks around.
It seems that Michael Stone could be a candidate for Stockton, but it is possible that they may just keep in Calgary rather than making him actually go to Stockton on some sort of informal taxi squad. I do find it hard to believe that the Flames would make him pack up and move away from his family, and they are already paying him a one-way deal regardless of where he plays.
Mackey is probably the other player to go Stockton, not due to performance but because he won’t require waivers to be sent down. If he isn’t a full-time NHLer, then it will make sense to get him a top pairing role in Stockton until a spot opens up.
Locks (2): Jacob Markstrom, Dan Vladar
Bubble (1): Adam Werner
This isn’t even a discussion at this point. Markstrom looked strong against the Oilers the other night while Vladar has put together a very impressive pre-season thus far. He has clearly won the backup job and it looks that he will give the Flames a steady #2 this season. Werner will head to Stockton closer to the final cutdown days.
Forward: Justin Kirkland, Byron Froese, Connor Zary (when healthy), Walker Duehr (when Pitlick returns)
Defence: Connor Mackey, Michael Stone, Johannes Kinnvall (when healthy)
Goalie: Adam Werner
This roster would give the Flames $1.05M of cap space heading into the season. We will see if things stay this way, or if anyone can cause changes in the final two games of the preseason.