By: George Potter
With the departure of Johnny Gaudreau and potentially, Matthew Tkachuk, The Calgary Flames could find themselves in a difficult position. However, the Flames have a number of exciting prospects that could potentially be the future of the franchise. Here are some of the top prospects that Flames fans should keep an eye on in the coming years.
Goaltender, Dustin Wolf (Stockton Heat, AHL)
Dustin Wolf has shown a lot of potential and should be an enticing goaltender to watch out for this season in the American Hockey League . This past season, a record of 33-9-5 and a save percentage of .924, paired with being awarded goaltender of the year and named to the Rookie and first All star team, showed that the California-born puck-stopper is ready for the pros.
His playoff performance was also extremely impressive as he had recorded three shutouts and led the team to the Western Conference Finals. From what was seen in his first full professional season, Dustin Wolf could be a key player for the Flames in the future.
Forward, Rory Kerins (Soo Greyhounds, OHL)
The Flames’ sixth round selection from the 2020 NHL Draft Rory Kerins has put up some big numbers in junior, leading a struggling Greyhounds team with 118 points this season. For being an alternate captain for the team, the Calgary Sun has described him as a ‘Difference-Maker’ for the Greyhounds.
The 5’11’ 180lbs forward has also shown a lot of confidence in playing in a leadership role on his current team.
“I’m a leader of this team. If I have to step up, I have to step up” said Kerins quoted in the Calgary Sun.
With dynamic offense and strong character, this player could be extremely exciting to watch while wearing the flaming C uniform.
Forward, Ilya Nikolayev (Tri-City Storm, USHL)
From playing in the junior leagues in Russia and North America, Ilya Nikolayev has shown some great impressions, earning him an entry level contract with the Calgary Flames. The Russian two-way forward who was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft has shown a lot in his first year playing in North America, scoring 23 goals and 72 points in the United States Hockey League. Nikolayev has also shown a lot of great skills during rookie camp when it came to scoring and on the penalty kill.
Defenseman, Jeremie Poirier (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL)
Jeremie Poirier had a great season in 2021-22, leading the defense on the Sea Dogs with 57 points this season. This year was very important because the Sea Dogs would be competing in the Memorial Cup. He was able to show off his potential at the tournament, as he was able to score the go-ahead goal against the Shawinigan Cataractes in their round robin matchup and played a key role in their Memorial Cup victory alongside another Flames defensive prospect Yan Kuznetzov.
During rookie camp Poirire was described as being an impressive two way defenseman that has grown a lot in his game which had made him a standout player during that time.
Matt Coronato (Harvard University, NCAA)
The College freshman at Harvard University has been phenomenal; his 36 points in 34 games this season. However, it is still yet to be determined if he will sign an entry level contract as he is possibly planning to stay for his sophomore season at Harvard. This could be a concern for Flames fans, but it is too early to tell if he will sign by next year.
This player has shown high skills at rookie camp with a lot of potential to be a key player for the Flames in the future, though he has also been criticized for over achieving.
Forward, Matthew Phillips (Stockton Heat, AHL)
A 2016 6th round pick, Phillips is a unique case as the only player on this list to have played just one game with the Flames. He showed a lot of improvement this past season with the Stockton Heat, leading the team with 68 points this season. He also helped contribute to the Heat’s playoff run by scoring 8 points in 13 games. This player has shown some great potential this season and would be exciting to see him perform full time with the Flames in the near future.
Forward Jakob Pelletier (Stockton Heat, AHL)
The first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft has shown a lot of great potential as a scorer in his first ever professional season with the Heat, potting 62 points in 66 games. The shifty forward also scored 7 points in 13 games during the Heat’s run in the Calder Cup playoffs. It would be interesting to see what he will be able to do during his development.
“My goal was to take away some experience playing at the pro level and develop on the ice and off the ice,” said Pelletier in the Calgary Sun.
Pelletier brings a dynamic option to the Flames up-and coming forward depth and will be another player to keep an eye on.
Forward, Adam Ruzicka (Stockton Heat, AHL)
Ruzika has shown a lot in his performance this year despite having a part time between the AHL and NHL. Ruzika scored 20 points in 16 games in the minors while scoring 10 points in 28 games this year with the Flames. With his size and skill set It is possible that he could be able to help out in a full time position with the flames very soon.
Defense, Yan Kuznetsov (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL)
Kuznetsov moved from the NCAA’s University of Connecticut Huskies to the Saint John Sea Dogs to team up with fellow prospect Poirier and did not miss a step. In addition to winning this year’s Memorial Cup, the second round pick from the 2020 draft has shown a lot of potential. He is described as being a defense first type of player that is unnoticeable in an impressive way.
Forward, Adam Klapka (Bili Tygri Liberec, Czechia)
Despite not being much of a scorer with only 6 goals and 18 points in 44 games, the 6’7” 245lbs forward is bigger than most players on the Flames and has shown some great potential as a player. This year the undrafted Klapka signed an NHL Entry level contract for two years and has shown an incredible performance at 5v5. This player's size - and his ability to use it - could be crucial for the Flames in the long term.
Forward, Connor Zary (Stockton Heat, AHL)
Zary has been transitioning from the Western Hockey League to the professional American Hockey League. It has been a bit of a struggle for Zary due to injury. However, his development is in the progress but has shown some praise from Heat head coach Mitch Love.
“[He’s] very intelligent with the puck in terms of making plays, making people around him better. He’s gotten a lot better with his play away from the puck as well,” said Love.
Forward, Jack Beck (Ottawa 67’s, OHL)
Despite getting very little playing time in the 2020-21 OHL because of the league's shutdown,. Beck was able to record 22 goals and 44 points in 36 games, showing he might be a pretty good scorer. Unfortunately, due to injuries, his in 2021-22 was cut short. However, during rookie camp he had a standout performance because of his forechecking and his ability to turn a breakout into offensive chances.
Defense, Connor Mackey (Stockton Heat)
The undrafted defenseman has been spoken highly of by many players. Mackey was able to record 36 points in 53 games with the Stockton Heat last season. Hopefully there would be a good spot for him on the blueline for the Flames, whether that be in 2022-23 or in the future.
Someof these players have shown a lot of potential for the future of the Calgary Flames. However, there is still a lot of development to come for some of these players. Still, fans can only hope at least some of these players will wear the flaming C eventually.