While the Heat may not have had traditional hockey success (team has missed the playoffs 2 out of it’s 3 years in Stockton), it has been successful doing it’s job as a place for the Flames to develop their prospects.
2017-18 saw 4 players (Ryan Lomberg, Andrew Mangiapane, Morgan Klimchuk, Spencer Foo) who started the season on the Heat make their NHL debuts, as well as David Rittich who made his first NHL start and earn his first NHL win. Lomberg recorded his first assist, while Foo chipped in 2 goals. On top of those, Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway, Rasmus Andersson, and Jon Gillies started the season on the Heat and earned extended stays throughout the year.
Let’s take a look at what this year’s team has to offer.
Key departures: D Tyler Wotherspoon (St. Louis Blues), Head Coach Ryan Huska (Calgary Flames), F Emile Poirier (Not qualified), F Austin Carroll (Not qualified), D Cody Goloubef (Boston Bruins), F Marek Hrivik (Vityaz Podolski, KHL)
The Heat will see an influx of new faces this season. Cail MacLean spent the last season as an assistant to now Flames assistant Ryan Huska. He has previously been the head coach of the Adirondack Thunder, and the South Carolina Stingrays.
Junior graduates Dillon Dube, Glenn Gawdin, Matthew Phillips, and Juuso Valimaki are all qualified to play in the AHL. Dube, Phillips, and Gawdin will look to step into top 6 scoring roles and prove their WHL success can translate to the pro ranks. Phillips will look to follow the path of Andrew Mangiapane, and prove size doesn’t trump skill. If he struggles, especially with the crowded forward ranks, he could be a top option to spend some time in the ECHL.
Juuso Valimaki will look to replace Tyler Wotherspoon on the left side of the top defensive pair, and earn his his call-up to the NHL. The Flames may choose to keep him on the Heat for the majority of the season, as a wrinkle in his contract would make this a free year of his 3 year Entry Level Contract, provided he doesn’t play more than 10 NHL games.
Nick Schneider is currently ranked last on a stacked goaltending depth chart, but will likely earn valuable pro playing time sharing the Kansas City Maverick’s starting role with Mason McDonald.
Zach Fischer, while not yet signed to an ELC by the Flames, will be given a chance to fight for an NHL contract as Ryan Lomberg and Hathaway have done in years past.
Brad Treliving also brought in some veteran AHL help to deepen Calgary’s depth chart, but also likely to give new head coach Cail MacLean some players to rely on in his first season.
Alan Quine and Tyler Graovac, both 25, have bounced between the NHL and AHL the last few years, and while it’s doubtful they ever wear the Flaming C, they will provide some leadership and scoring depth for Stockton.
6’6’’ Buddy Robinson, a former prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, will give the Heat some grit and power, which was lost with Tanner Glass and Luke Gazdic moving on.
The Flames also went across the Atlantic to sign German forward Yasin Ehliz and Swedish defenseman Marcus Hogstrom.
Ehliz, 25, won silver with Germany at the 2018 Olympics, recording 3 assists in 7 games. He has spent the last 8 seasons with the DEL’s Nurnberg Ice Tigers, totalling 223 points in 333 games.
Hogstrom, 29, an offensive minded defenseman, has bounced between the SHL and KHL over his career. Both will be eager to land in the NHL, but will likely provide depth and guidance for the Heat all year.
Make or Break
With 3 members of the 2016 draft and 2 from the 2017 draft, time is starting to tick for some of the Flames older prospects. Hunter Shinkaruk and Morgan Klimchuk, both 2013 first round picks, are going into the season on 1 year contracts. Both have fallen behind Andrew Mangiapane on the left-wing depth chart, with Klimchuk only appearing in one NHL game this year, and Shinkaruk not appearing in a single game.
While Klimchuk has indeed improved with every pro season so far, and Shinkaruk having plateaued, this will likely be their last Flames contracts.
From the 2014 draft, Mason McDonald has yet to even crack an AHL roster, and will likely spend another year with the Mavericks, possibly even falling behind Nick Schneider. Brett Pollock, acquired in the Kris Russell trade, finally found a permenant spot on the Heat last year, recording just under a half-point per game. An RFA at the end of this season, he’ll have to continue to improve his stats to earn a qualifying offer.
Staying the course
Andrew Mangiapane, Spencer Foo, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, Tyler Parsons, and Jon Gillies. The Flames most NHL ready, and promising prospects need only continue their impressive development for another year. With Mike Smith entering UFA status at the end of this year, Jon Gillies hopes to prove his worth as a reliable presence in whatever role he may earn. His deal becomes one-way for 2019-20.
Parsons had a tough, injury riddled year, but should bounce back this year, hopefully at the AHL level. Kylington and Andersson will be the “veteran” presences on a fairly young D-core, and will likely earn themselves call-ups via injury or trade. Foo and Mangiapane will be relied on for the majority of the scoring, and will likely get some more NHL time this year.
Of Note: Klimchuk, Shinkaruk, Dube, and Phillips are all Calgary natives, while Schneider just finished his WHL career with the Calgary Hitmen, to give the team a very hometown taste.
by Gordie Taylor