Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the Calgary Flames Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking 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 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Calgary Flames Prospects
The Flames had an incredible season. Coming off a season where they missed the playoffs, the Flames were the best team in the Western Conference putting up 107 points. Moves made in the previous off-season, including the hiring of coach Bill Peters and a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes. Everything seemed to work for the Flames, at least during the regular season. However that all changed come playoff time. The Flames took the first game against the Colorado Avalanche but lost the last four as the strong year came to a disappointing end.
The Flames were obviously not pleased with the finish to the campaign and so the off-season has brought change. The biggest change may be in goal as Mike Smith leaves for Edmonton, only to be replaced by former Oilers goalie Cam Talbot. They also made a trade with their provincial rivals acquiring Milan Lucic while giving up James Neal in a swap of disappointing wingers. They also bought out defenceman Michael Stone. With the salary cap being a limiting factor in the number of moves the team could make, they now look to their prospects to take the next step.
Top Prospect: Juuso Valimaki
Defence — shoots Left
Born October 6th, 1998 — Nokia, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 204 lbs [188 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1st round, #16 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Valimaki split time between Calgary and Stockton in his first professional season. He put up a goal and three points for the Flames in 24 games. He also added an assist in two playoff games. The young Finnish defender was a strong offensive player in the AHL with four goals and 14 points in 20 games played.
Valimaki is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to join the rush and get back defensively. His edgework and pivots are also good, allowing him to play his two-way game and transition from offence to defence, and vice-versa, quickly. He also has the lateral agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes on the power play. Valimaki could be stronger on his skates, but this should come as he increases his lower body strength and muscle mass in the coming years.
Offensively, Valimaki’s game has really grown. He carries the puck and leads the rush more often than he did when he first came to North America. However, he is still more likely to start things with a good first pass and getting involved as a trailer. He has an excellent point shot that can be a real weapon on the power play. Valimaki’s slapshot is hard and accurate, and he gets it through to the net. He understands how to keep it low, in order to generate rebounds and tip in opportunities for teammates. Valimaki also has a good wrist shot. It features a quick release. He uses it effectively when pressured at the point, getting the shot off quickly before defenders can shut down shooting lanes.
Valimaki is not the flashiest player, but he does a lot of really good things out there. His hockey IQ is very high, and he almost always seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick. He has the poise to control the puck and quarterback the play from the line, as well as the passing skill and vision to find open teammates on the power play.
Valimaki plays a simple but effective game at both ends of the rink. Defensively, he is willing to play physical, taking out his man along the boards and clearing the front of the net. However, he does not go chasing big hits, which helps to keep him disciplined in his positioning. He maintains good gap control and has the agility to keep opponents in front of him. He is tough to beat one-on-one. The ability to read the play, and to anticipate attacks can be improved through continued coaching.
Most expected Valimaki to crack the Flames lineup and be a big part of the team this year. However, he suffered a torn ACL during his off-season training and will not be ready to start the campaign. Once he is healthy, the Flames could send him to Stockton for a sort of “training camp” and to work off the rust as he returns. As soon as the young defender is 100%, he is likely to find his way into the Flames lineup.
#2 Prospect: Oliver Kylington
Defence — 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
Kylington provided offence for the Stockton Heat last season, with seven goals and 14 points in just 18 games. The numbers were good enough to see him get the opportunity to start his NHL career, and he put up three goals and eight points in 38 games.
An extremely strong 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, edgework, 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. His stickhandling also helps Kylington to make a quick move with his wrists to change his angle and opening up passing lanes.
He has added muscle in recent years and this has really helped to improve his shot. Kylington has the ability to get his shot through to the net. He uses his agility to walk the line and open up shooting lanes. 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. He loves to slide down from the point and let that shot go at the top of the face-off circles.
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.
Valimaki’s injury is Kylington’s opportunity. He is now the favourite to grab a full-time spot on the Flames blueline out of training camp. The 22-year-old Swedish defender has played well at the AHL level and did not look out of place during his NHL cameos last year. He seems to be ready for this opportunity and ready to become a full-time NHLer at this point.
#3 Prospect: Dillon Dube
Center/Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 20th, 1998 — Golden, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #56 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Dube’s first pro season was split between Calgary and Stockton. As a 20-year-old, Dube struggled to bring offence in Calgary with one goal and five points in 25 games. However, he put up outstanding numbers for an AHL rookie during his time in Stockton. Dube scored 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 37 AHL games.
Dube is a quick skater with good acceleration. He is able to take defenders wide off the rush and change direction quickly to cut to the net or pull up to create a passing or shooting lane. With his excellent balance and good lower body strength, he is hard to knock off the puck. Dube can fight through checks and get to the front of the net, where he has the soft hands to finish plays. Dube’s agility and edgework make him extremely elusive, and he can beat defenders to the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game.
Dube is an undersized centre who plays bigger than what his listed height says, getting involved in the forecheck and battling for space in front of the net. He is not afraid to take on bigger opponents and plays with a non-stop motor. After the whistle, he can be found in the middle of scrums, often working to agitate opponents and get them off their game. Dube isn’t afraid to go to the net, and to battle in the dirty areas of the ice; fighting for pucks in the corners or battling in the front of the net. He is also willing to drive the net both with and without the puck.
Offensively, Dube has the instincts, vision, and passing skills necessary to be a playmaker. Dube sees the ice very well and can thread a tape-to-tape pass through the smallest of openings. Dube has high-end hockey IQ and almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck on his stick. He uses good stickhandling and puck protection in the cycle game to extend plays and wait for his teammates to get open. He also has a heavy shot and quick release to be a sniper and the quick reflexes, and soft hands to bury rebounds or score goals on deflections when he goes to the net.
Dube is tenacious in the backcheck and uses his hockey IQ to anticipate plays and create turnovers. He gets the transition game going very quickly when he does steal pucks or intercept passes. He is willing to block shots and works to provide back pressure and support down low. More upper body strength would help him to contain opposing forwards down low in the cycle game.
There are very few AHL rookies who put up over a point-per-game. After doing that over half an AHL season, Dube looks like he is very close to NHL ready. Expect him to earn a spot on the Flames roster to start the season. With his two-way play, he can be utilized in a bottom-six role to start, while also adding some secondary offence. Dube has the opportunity to be a top-six player if his game continues to develop but will need some time.
#4 Prospect: Jakob Pelletier
The Flames drafted Pelletier with the 26th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Pelletier. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Matias Emilio Pettersen
Centre — shoots Left
Born April 3rd, 2000 — Oslo, Norway
Height 5’10” — Weight 170 lbs [178 cm/77 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 6th round, #167 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
After being drafted one year ago, Pettersen joined the University of Denver. The Norwegian centre scored six goals and 24 assists for 30 points in 40 games as a freshman. He also played at the World Junior Championships in the D1A pool for Norway. He put up three goals and six points in four games, but unfortunately, the Norwegian team finished in 3rd place and missed out on promotion to the main tournament.
Pettersen is a very good skater. His top-end speed is very good but it is his acceleration that really stands out. Pettersen’s ability to change speeds, both with and without the puck, allows him to fool defenders. Once he gets a step on them, he can really turn it on and head to the net. If the defenders back off, he can use the space created as a passing lane to set up a teammate. He is also very shifty, with excellent agility and edgework, allowing him to maneuver through traffic. He could stand to get stronger on his skates though, as Pettersen can sometimes be pushed off the puck and struggles to win battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Pettersen is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He is very creative and will make plays that other players won’t even attempt. Pettersen also combines his skating ability with outstanding stickhandling ability. He can make moves with the puck while moving at top speed. He can also make plays in a phone booth, with the quickness to deke players and goalies in tight areas. A quick change in angles on his stick and with his skating can also open up passing lanes. Pettersen has excellent vision and the passing ability top put the puck through tight spaces and on his teammate’s tape for a scoring chance.
Pettersen’s goals mostly come from in close to the net. His wrist shot and snapshot are accurate and also feature quick releases. However, they lack power and he has trouble scoring from further out. He is more likely to deke a goalie in close or score off a pass from a teammate or banging in a rebound then he is to wire a shot past a goalie. It is hoped that with added upper-body strength and work on his shot he can develop it a bit more. This should also help him battle for loose pucks and space in front of the net.
Pettersen is willing to backcheck and provide support to the defence down low. However, his lack of size and strength can be a limiting factor here as he has some trouble containing opposing forwards with size. He is strong positionally, cutting down passing lanes and looking to create turnovers. When one is created, Pettersen is able to transition quickly to create offensive opportunities.
Pettersen heads back to the University of Denver for his sophomore season. He should be given even more ice-time and responsibility this year. If he can build on a strong freshman campaign, the Flames could offer Pettersen an entry-level contract at the end of the year. Pettersen will also need some time in the AHL, but there is the possibility there Flames have a late-round steal on their hands.
#6 Prospect: Matthew Phillips
Right Wing/Centre — shoots Right
Born April 6th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 5’7″ — Weight 155 lbs [170 cm/70 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 6th round, #166 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Phillips moved from the WHL to the AHL last season. After a monster season in Victoria, he put 13 goals and 38 points in 65 games during his first AHL campaign. It was a strong first year of pro hockey.
An undersized forward, Phillips makes up for his lack of physical attributes with his outstanding skating. He has a great first step and near-instant acceleration. Add in very quick top-end speed and Phillips has all the tools necessary to create offence out of breakaways and odd-man rushes. He also has good agility and edgework, as he is slippery through the neutral zone. Phillips will need to develop his core strength to be stronger in battles along the boards, and better able to protect the puck.
Phillips has outstanding hands. He can stickhandle while moving at top speed and in very tight spaces. He also sees the ice very well and can make tape-to-tape passes through tight openings. Combine these skills and you have a dynamic playmaker. Phillips has the hockey IQ to anticipate what the other players on the ice are doing and create a scoring chance. He also has the poise and puck control to speed up or slow down the play in order to make plays.
Phillips is also able to score goals, though playmaking is his preferred role. He has a good wrist shot and snapshot and gets both off with a quick release. While the power is decent, it is the accuracy that gives him an edge as he is able to put the puck in the perfect spot.
Phillips works hard in his own zone, but lack of size and strength will likely always be an issue. He can be overpowered in the cycle game and has a tough time containing bigger forwards. His speed and anticipation are used to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers.
Phillips will likely head back to Stockton for a second pro season. The Flames have had a lot of success developing undersized but skilled forwards in the past, and hope to strike gold again with Phillips. He needs to add some muscle and strength to his frame.
#7 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
Parsons earned a full-time AHL job during his second pro season but struggled behind a weak Stockton team. He put up a 3.70 goals-against-average and 0.898 save percentage in 20 games for the Stockton Heat. While he was getting plenty of opportunities for Stockton, a pair of injuries suffered in November and February were the main reason for his limited number of games played. Despite this tough year, there is still a lot of faith in Parsons and he is seen as the Flames goalie of the future.
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 to recover quickly with his backwards skating, in case an opponent 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 as 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 a quick transition on the power play.
Expect Parsons to continue developing in the AHL in his third pro season. After limited playing time due to injuries, there is still quite a bit of development needed in his game. He will get the chance to do that in Stockton. Despite a rough season, Parsons remains a strong goalie prospect.
#8 Prospect: Ilya Nikolaev
The Flames drafted Nikolaev with the 88th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Nikolaev. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: Adam Ruzicka
Center — shoots Left
Born May 11th, 1999 — Bratislava, Slovakia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 203 lbs [193 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round, #109 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Ruzicka finished his OHL career with a bang. He scored 11 goals and 37 points in 35 games with Sarnia before being traded to Sudbury at the OHL Deadline. After joining the Wolves, Ruzicka put up 24 goals and 41 points in 30 games. He also added three goals and 10 points in eight playoff games. Playing for Slovakia, Ruzicka scored two goals and three points in five playoff games.
At 6-foot-4 Ruzicka has excellent size. His skating is decent, especially given his size. However it also does not stand out. His first step is clunky and his acceleration needs some work. However, once he does get going Ruzicka moves pretty well. He also has power in his lower body, fighting through checks when at his best. He is strong on the puck, and can cycle down low as well as win battles along the boards. Ruzicka isn’t the lightest on his feet though, and could use some work on his agility and edge work.
There is a lot of skill here. Ruzicka can play a power forward style of game. When he is at his best, he works the puck along the boards and out of the corners and drives it to the front of the net. He has the hands necessary to bury pucks in close. Ruzicka also has an excellent wrist shot and snapshot. He can also play the role of playmaker. Ruzicka has the ability to make saucer passes, or to get the puck through tight spaces. He has the vision to wait for a teammate to get open. Ruzicka makes tape-to-tape passes in good areas. When Ruzicka is on his game, his size and power can make him very effective in protecting the puck, working the cycle game, and waiting for an opportunity.
Criticized for a lack of consistency earlier in his OHL career, Ruzicka was much better in his fourth year in the league. There are still some nights where he seems content to sit on the perimeter and not get involved in the dirty areas of the ice but these are becoming a lot fewer and farther between. Ruzicka is doing a better job of getting involved in the physical game and battling for loose pucks along the boards. As he gets ready to move on to the pro game, Ruzicka must continue this as a lack of intensity will not be forgiven in the AHL.
Like his offensive game, Ruzicka’s defensive work is hit-or-miss. There are nights when he is solid on the backcheck, supporting the defence down low, as well as using his stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Ruzicka will need to work on maintaining intensity. He also can get out of position, even when he is playing well. This is another area that is a work in progress.
Now leaving his junior career behind, Ruzicka heads to Stockton. The Flames hope he will continue to improve his intensity and consistency as he sees his game translate to the pros. He will likely need a year or two in the AHL before being NHL ready.
#10 Prospect: Martin Pospisil
Centre — shoots Left
Born November 19th, 1999 — Zvolen, Slovakia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 181 lbs [188 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round, #105 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
Playing in the USHL, Pospisil had a big season. He put up 16 goals and 47 assists for 63 points in 44 games with the Sioux City Musketeers. However, he put up just one assist in two playoff games. Overall though Pospisil went from the most penalized player (253 minutes) in the USHL in 2017-18 down to just 118 penalty minutes this past season. He also played in five World Junior Tournament games with Slovakia, adding two assists.
Pospisil is a talented player who can also play a physical game. He is a good stick-handler, who can make plays on the rush or control the puck and maintain possession down low on the cycle game. He is able to extend plays while he waits for teammates to get open. Once they do, he has the vision and passing skills to put the puck through tight areas and set up a teammate with a scoring chance. Pospisil gets in quickly on the forecheck and creates havoc in the offensive zone. He forces defenders into mistakes. He is also good at fighting for loose pucks along the boards and getting them to a teammate.
Pospisil is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. While he has the quick hands to finish plays in tight to the net, he can improve his wrist shot. His release can be quicker and his shot stronger. He does a good job of creating havoc at the top of the crease though, getting rebounds, tipping in shots, and one-timing passes in close to the net.
Pospisil brings his tenacious game in all three zones. He fights along the boards for loose pucks and supports the defence in containing the cycle game down low. His positioning is also pretty good and he is able to use his long stick to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers. Pospisil needs to be more disciplined though. He can get himself into penalty trouble at times. He can also be over aggressive in looking to throw a big hit and get himself out of position.
Pospisil should head to Stockton for his first pro season. The Flames hope to see him continue to play an aggressive and physical style, while also putting up some points on the scoreboard. He is a bit of a longer-term project though.
Sleeper Prospect: Milos Roman
Centre — shoots Left
Born November 6th, 1999 — Kysucke Nove Mesto, Slovakia
Height 6’0″ — Weight 194 lbs [183 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round, #122 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Roman put up 27 goals and 33 assists for 60 points in 59 WHL games for the Vancouver Giants last year. He helped the team to the WHL final, where they would fall just one game short, losing to Prince Albert in seven games. He also played for Slovakia at the World Juniors, scoring three goals and four points in five games.
Roman is a very good skater despite not possessing elite speed. While his top-end speed is above average, he is not a burner. However, his first step and acceleration are very good, which help him to win short races to the puck or to drive past a defender and get to the net when he gets a step on him. He has very good agility and edgework. This allows Roman to weave in and out of traffic, and to get around defenders. He is also strong on his skates, with good lower body strength. Roman can fight through checks. He has good balance and is difficult to knock off the puck.
The bread and butter of Roman’s game is his playmaking ability. He has excellent vision and high-end hockey IQ. Roman sees plays developing and finds open teammates in traffic. He can make passes through tight areas, and threads the needle on defenders, or makes an accurate saucer pass on a teammates tape. Roman is a good stick-handler and uses his body to protect the puck on the cycle. He can extend plays and allow a teammate the time and space to get open. Roman works hard to pressure defenders in the corners, creating turnovers on the forecheck. He wins battles for pucks, and when he does, can quickly turn that into a scoring chance.
The majority of Roman’s goals come in close to the net. He has the soft hands and quick release to score in tight. He also has the hand-eye coordination to get tip-ins and pounce on rebounds. However, Roman lacks power in his wrist shot and one-timer. His shot does not challenge goalkeepers from further out. He will need to add some power to be a goal scorer at the next level.
Roman is already good defensively. He reads the play well and cuts down passing and shooting lanes. He is a conscientious back-checker, supporting the defence down low against the cycle game. Roman has a quick stick and can poke check opponents or steal passes to create turnovers. Once he does, he is quick to move the puck up the ice and create offensive chances. He is also good in the face-off circle.
Roman has another year of junior hockey ahead of him. He will be a key part of a Vancouver Giants team that should be strong once again and will look to compete for a WHL title. Once his junior career is done, he likely needs a year or two in the AHL.
The Flames system has some decent prospects but lacks true top-end talent. They will need some of these players to exceed expectations in order to make a real impact in the NHL in the coming years. The depth is greatest up front where forward prospects to watch also include Glenn Gawdin, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Filip Sveningsson, Josh Nodler, Demetrios Koumontzis, Lucas Feuk, Luke Philp, Ryan Lomberg, and Eetu Tuulola. Defenders to keep an eye on are Alexander Yelesin, Rinat Valiev, and Carl-Johan Lerby. The Flames recently drafted Dustin Wolf. He joins Artyom Zagidulin and Nick Schneider as goalies in the system.
Calgary Flames Prospects Main Photo:
Embed from Getty ImagesTORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 29: Calgary Flames Defenceman Juuso Valimaki (8) passes the puck during the NHL regular-season game between the Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 29, 2018, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)