Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old is the cut-off for prospects. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Calgary Flames Prospects
The Calgary Flames had a slow start, and things seemed bleak following a January 24th loss to the Montreal Canadiens. That loss actually became a turning point for the Flames season. Led by Brian Elliott, the Flames went on a furious second half run and made the playoffs. Unfortunately that meant a match-up with a team that has owned Calgary in recent years. Elliot’s play would plummet, and the Anaheim Ducks would continue their mastery of the Flames, defeating them in four straight.
The off-season has brought change. Elliott and goaltending partner Chad Johnson are out. The team traded for a new tandem of Mike Smith and Eddie Lack. The Flames also bolstered an already strong defence with the addition of Travis Hamonic. They also locked up college free agent Spencer Foo.
Top Prospect: Mark Jankowski
Center — shoots Left
Born September 13th, 1994 — Hamilton, Ontario
Height 6’4″ — Weight 202 lbs [193 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1st round, #21 overall at the 2012 NHL Draft
The Flames have waited a long time for former first round pick Mark Jankowski, and he might just be worth the wait. After finishing college, Jankowski was great in his first full pro season. He put up 27 goals and 56 points in 64 points for Stockton in the regular season, and added a further five points in five playoff games.
Jankowski is a tall and lanky centre, who has a long, smooth skating stride. He has very good top speed and reaches it quickly with good acceleration. Jankowski has the power to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He improved his strength over the years and this helps his balance, as well his ability to win board battles. Jankowski also has good agility and edge work.
Jankowski has a long reach. He pairs that with the soft hands that allow him to be a talented stick handler. He also uses his body effectively to shield off defenders. This all leads to the ability to play a puck possession game and protect the puck well in the cycle. Jankowski has also shown good vision and makes tape-to-tape passes to teammates when they get open. His wrist shot continues to improve. It features a quick release. He also has the size and strength to stand in front of the net, and the hands to score goals in tight.
Jankowski plays a solid two-way game. He supports the defence down low and uses his size to his advantage. He contains the cycle, and can win battles along the boards. Jankowski is also good in the face-off circle. His positioning, anticipation, and long stick to cut down passing lanes are all effective on the penalty kill.
After all that waiting, Jankowski’s time is now. Expect him to make the Flames out of training camp this year and begin contributing to the club. He can be an effective two-way centre once he gets experience. He looks like the Flames future third line centre, with some possibility he could take a second line role.
#2 Prospect: Juuso Valimaki
The Flames drafted Valimaki with the 16th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Valimaki. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Rasmus Andersson
Defense — shoots Right
Born October 27th, 1996 — Malmo, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 210 lbs [183 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #53 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Andersson moved up to the pro game, putting up three goals and 19 assists for 22 points for the Heat this year. He played a top four role, despite being an AHL rookie. Andersson even got the opportunity to play his first NHL game this season.
Rasmus Andersson has good mobility due to very good skating ability. He has very good top end speed in both directions. Andersson also improved his first few strides and acceleration. He can continue to work on these areas. Andersson’s agility and edge work are top notch which gives him the ability cover a lot of ice in both his offensive and defensive game. Adding lower body strength would would help him in his balance, and winning more board battles.
Andersson is a tremendous offensive talent. He is able to move the puck with a good first pass, as well as through skating it himself. He also has good stick handling ability. His slap shot is hard and extremely accurate, and his wrist shot features a quick release. Andersson uses his agility, and ability to walk the line to open up shooting lanes. He has a remarkable ability to get his shot through traffic. Even with his good shot, the bread and butter of his game is his play making ability. He has very good poise at the line, taking the time to let plays develop. He also has the vision and passing ability to thread the needle and set up teammates in the offensive zone.
Rasmus Andersson shows decent positioning in his own zone. He is able to create turnovers with his fast stick. He is also able to quickly transition those turnovers into offensive opportunities. Red flags include hockey sense and positioning. He does not always read the play well, though this has gotten better as the year went on.
He also could use more work on his defensive intensity. There are shifts where Andersson seems a bit nonchalant out on the ice. If he can solve those defensive issues, the offense is there to be an excellent puck moving defenceman. He also needs to add more muscle. Andersson can be outmuscled in the corners or in front of the net.
The acquition of Hamonic, and the re-signing of Michael Stone gives the Flames one of the top defence corps in the NHL. They can afford to be patient with the 21-year-old defenceman, and continue to let him get plenty of ice-time at the AHL level this year. He may get a call-up if injuries arise.
#4 Prospect: Tyler Parsons
Goalie — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born September 18th, 1997 — Chesterfield, Michigan
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd Round, #54 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
After a dream season, going on a huge playoff winning streak and taking home the Memorial Cup in 2016, many asked what Parsons would do for an encore. He led Team USA to the World Junior gold medal, starring in two straight shootouts. He also put up a .925 save percentage in London, and helped to take the heavily favored Erie Otters to seven games in the second round of the OHL Playoffs.
At 6’1″, Parsons is a little bit smaller than what teams are typically looking for in goaltenders in recent years; however he overcomes this with outstanding athleticism and quick reflexes. He has a lightning quick glove hand that takes away the top of the net, as well as a good blocker. Parsons legs are extremely quick, and he gets up and down and in and out of his butterfly quickly and without opening up too many holes. He can stand to work on his rebound control, though this is something that a lot of young goaltenders struggle with. It is something that can be improved with refined technique.
Parsons moves very well in his crease. He is a very good skater, allowing him to come out to challenge shooters and take away the angle. He is able recover quickly with his backwards skating, in case a forward tries to beat him with a deke. Parsons has excellent lateral movement, as his side-to-side push moves him across the net quickly. He does sometimes have a tendency to over commit and slide too far though, and must improve on this before he is ready to move to the next level.
Playing the Puck
The strong skating allows Parsons to move outside his crease and collect pucks behind the net. Good stick handling and passing skills allow Parsons to act like a third defenceman, and initiate the breakout game. He is particularly adept at making the long breakaway pass and catching the other team making a line change, or creating quick transition on the power play.
Parsons is ready to make the jump to pro hockey. The only question is if he goes to the AHL to battle with Jon Gillies for starts, or if he should be sent to the ECHL, where he can be the number one goalie and get plenty of ice time.
#5 Prospect: Oliver Kylington
Defense — shoots Left
Born May 19th, 1997 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6’0 — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #60 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Still junior aged, Kylington finished his second season in the AHL, putting up six goals and 27 points in 60 games. It is impressive for a player who is one of the youngest defencemen in the league. He also played for Sweden at the World Juniors, putting up four assists in seven games.
An outstanding skater, Kylington can rush the puck and get back into position defensively. He has an excellent stride, which gives him great speed and acceleration in both directions. Excellent agility, edge work, and pivots give him the mobility to cover all areas of the ice. He walks the line on the power play in order to open up passing and shooting lanes. Kylington must add lower body strength and improve his balance. He is knocked around in battles for the puck. He also has trouble while fighting for position in front of the net.
Kylington shows good passing skills and excellent vision. He has an outstanding first pass. Kylington is capable of making the long seam pass to spring forwards for breakaways. He has the puck handling skill and shows the poise to skate the puck out of danger in his own zone; to lead the rush; and to quarterback plays from the point on the power play. Adding muscle can improve his shot. However, he has the ability to get his shot through to the net. He avoids shot blocks, and keeps things low in order to give teammates opportunities for deflections and rebounds. He is very good at the “slap pass”. Kylington also has a very good wrist shot and a lightning quick release.
Defensively Oliver Kylington’s game relies on strong positioning. He also uses a quick stick to take the puck off opponents and start the transition game. Kylington maintains excellent gap control and is tough to beat one on one. He is able to intercept passes, break up plays, and quickly start the transition game. The big concern here again goes back to his strength and balance. He is often overwhelmed by bigger, more physical forwards in the corners and in front of the net. He also has some problems with containment in the cycle game. Kylington does not throw a lot of big hits either. While Kylington has a ton of natural skill, there are also some big question marks surrounding his ability to succeed defensively against bigger forwards.
Kylington is in a similar position to Andersson at this point in his career. He is young and still needs a bit more development at the AHL level. At the same time, the Flames defence is extremely strong. There is no need to rush him. Kylington will spend another season developing in the AHL; though he may get the occasional call-up if injuries hit.
#6 Prospect: Jon Gillies
Goalie — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born January 22nd, 1994 — Concord, New Hampshire
Height 6’6″ — Weight 225 lbs [198 cm / 102 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 3rd round, #75 overall at the 2012 NHL Draft
Coming off an injury plagued 2015-16, Gillies had a solid first full season as a pro with Stockton. He played in 39 games with a 2.93 goals against average and .910 save percentage. A young defence made some mistakes, which didn’t make Gillies job any easier.
Gillies is a big goalie (6’5″) who plays a butterfly style. He comes out of his net to cut down angles and takes advantage of his frame giving the shooter very little net to see. Gillies has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net effectively. He also has a decent glove and blocker, taking away the top of the net. Gillies has outstanding side-to-side movement. He gets from post-to-post quickly and efficiently. He tracks the puck extremely well and keeps himself square to the shooter, even through cross ice passes or rebounds. Gillies has a very good demeanor. He is able to shake off bad goals and move forward to make the next save.
Inconsistent rebound control is his biggest weakness, but one he has improved greatly. There is still work to be done, but it is much better than it was. Gillies matured and learned to control things in front of him, or direct pucks to the corners. He’s also decent at playing the puck and acts as an extra defenceman in starting the breakout.
Gillies will spend another season in Stockton. With a good year, he could be ready to make the jump to the NHL in the 2018-19 season. If he can stay healthy, he is a potential starter down the road.
#7 Prospect: Adam Fox
Defense — shoots Right
Born February 17th, 1998 — Jericho, New York
Height 5’10” — Weight 185 lbs [178 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 3rd round, #66 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Fox had an excellent freshman season with Harvard. He put up six goals and 40 points in just 35 games. Any defenceman who puts up a point-per-game in college had a great season, but it is even more impressive coming from a freshman.
Adam Fox is an undersized defenceman, but an elite offensive producer. He has elite skating ability, moving around the ice with very good speed and acceleration. He can lead or join the rush; or pinch at the blue line and still get back to defend his own zone as well. Fox has very good agility, and edge work. He can weave in and out of traffic while rushing the puck up the ice, and use quick cuts to avoid opponents, be they fore checkers trying to pin him in his own end, or defenders against the rush. Fox could stand to add muscle as he needs to improve his balance and get stronger on the puck.
Fox has extremely good stick handling ability. He shows poise with the puck at the blue line, being patient, and willing to use his agility to walk the line to open up shooting and passing lanes. Fox has outstanding vision and the ability to feather a pass through the tightest of openings. He can use this ability while quarterbacking the power play, carrying the puck on the rush, or in making a first pass to start the rush. He is especially adept at making long breakaway passes.
Fox’s wrist shot is accurate and features a quick release, but could use a bit more power. He has a knack for getting his slap shot through traffic and keeping it low and on net; allowing teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds. Fox could improve both shots with more upper body strength.
Fox uses his quick feet to keep attackers in front of him off the rush. He has good backwards skating and a quick stick and is tough to beat one-on-one. Fox’s size and strength become an issue in the defensive zone though. He can be overpowered in puck battles and has issues clearing the front of the net. This is the biggest flaw in his game, and the main question mark surrounding Fox.
Fox heads back to Harvard for his sophomore season. With the light college schedule, he will get plenty of time to bulk up. There is real offensive talent here, but he must round out his game before reaching the pro level.
Sleeper Prospect: Spencer Foo
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 19th, 1994 — Edmonton, Alberta
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Signed by the Calgary Flames in June 2017
After an outstanding junior season where he put up 26 goals and 62 points in just 38 games, Spencer Foo opted to go pro. One of the most sought after college free agents this year, he took his time in choosing a club. Foo signed with the Flames in late June.
Foo is a solid skater. He has good speed and acceleration. His first step is especially quick, helping him to win races to loose pucks, and to beat defenders one-on-one. Foo also has very good agility and edge work. He can make quick cuts and change directions on a dime. A low centre of gravity gives him good balance. He could be even stronger on the puck with more muscle.
Foo has good vision and play making skill off the wing. He can thread the needle on passes through tight areas. He has high hockey IQ and spots the openings in the defence. Foo is very good at playing a give-and-go style game. Once the puck is off his stick, he heads towards the net and finds open areas of the ice. Foo has an accurate shot and a quick release. He is also very adept at firing a one-time snap shot at the net. Despite his size, Foo is not afraid to battle in the corners or in front of the net.
Foo plays an effective two-way game, and was often used as a key penalty killer in college. He sticks with his man, and is not afraid to sacrifice his body to block shots. He also anticipates plays, cutting down passing lanes and creating turnovers. Foo brings his willingness to battle for loose pucks to all three zones.
Foo will need some time in the AHL. Expect him to go to Stockton, where he will adapt to the faster speed of the pros. If he develops, he could become a second or third line winger.
After drafting Valimaki, the Flames looked to bolster their forwards; taking Adam Ruzicka, Zach Fischer, D’Artagnan Joly, and Filip Sveningsson on the second day of the draft. They join a group that also includes Hunter Shinkaruk, Dillon Dube, Emile Poirier, Andrew Mangiapane, Matthew Phillips and Morgan Klimchuk.
The Flames defence is very strong. Valimaki, Andersson, Kylington and Fox are joined in the ranks by Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak further down the depth chart. The reports on Valimaki, Andersson, Kylington and Fox show that the Flames scouts have put big value on puck moving skill in recent drafts.
David Rittich and Mason McDonald join Parsons and Gillies between the pipes. The Flames have excellent depth in goal. Overall the system is improving.
The priority would be to add another high end winger going forward. While there is depth here, the criticism is the lack of a true blue-chip talent in the system. This isn’t a huge issue as there are blue chipper in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett already making an impact at the NHL level.
Main Photo: NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 28: Mark Jankowski #77 of the Calgary Flames skates in his first NHL game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 28, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)