Joe Colborne, who suffered a wrist injury back on Oct. 28 against the Montreal Canadiens, has been officially activated and should play tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. With the Flames‘ roster at maximum capacity, someone had to be sent down, and that someone was prospect Michael Ferland.
Prior to getting injured, Colborne had no goals and eight assists through 11 games, along with 12 penalty minutes. He was one of the Flames' top point-getters, but has since fallen within the team's standings. Which is a good thing. Because if he hadn't, that would have meant nobody was scoring at all. So.
Colborne is a natural centre, but the Flames have often used him at wing both last season and this. Centre is a pretty full position on the Flames – Sean Monahan is now the number one, and rookies Josh Jooris and Markus Granlund occupy the second and third lines – so we should expect to see him on the wing, both to give him an easier return to action, and so he doesn’t take time from other young players.
As for Ferland, the second-year pro only scored one assist over his 10 games, but his first NHL goal seemed as if it was just around the corner. Averaging 11:21 a game, Ferland provided a steady presence in the bottom six, and occasionally flashed quite a bit of skill. He played relatively easy minutes, starting in the offensive zone more often than not and facing lesser competition, and was a negative possession player (42.6% CF, and a -3.1 CF% rel, tied for eighth worst on the team). While he has a great deal of potential, the AHL is the place for him right now as he continues to grow and develop. There, he should receive more minutes and play a bigger role on the team as he matures into what looks to be a tough, capable player. It's to be seen if he'll be a scorer at the highest level, but his AHL stats – a point per game in Adirondack this season before he was called up – are good so far.
The only injured Flames now are Mikael Backlund and Sam Bennett. Bennett has resumed skating and may be able to get some game action in around February. He was never placed on the Flames’ active roster, so there’s no worry about his nine games kicking in. In all likelihood, the Flames will send him to Adirondack for a conditioning stint before giving him a tryout in Calgary and ultimately sending him down to Kingston, but that’s months away.
Backlund, on the other hand, had abdominal surgery and is not skating. Granlund is the remaining call up, and will likely stay with the team until Backlund is ready to return to action, thus filling the Flames' quota for European centres whose names end with "-lund". In all seriousness, though, he's earned it, and with what looks to be, at the very minimum, quite a few more weeks with the Flames, still has the chance to earn a full time roster spot.
In the mean time, barring further injuries, these look to be your Calgary Flames for the next little while. It’s a lineup that includes three rookies (Johnny Gaudreau, Jooris, and Granlund), and seven players under the age of 25 (the rookies, Colborne, Monahan, Lance Bouma, and TJ Brodie – plus Paul Byron is 25 himself). It’s young and it’s versatile.
What we’ve seen during this rash of injuries is the Flames have a handful of prospects on the cusp of making the NHL. Jooris officially made it during this stint. Granlund is still present. Ferland and Sven Baertschi aren’t too far off. These were the final four forwards cut from training camp, and they’ve continued to prove themselves worthy. So regardless of what happens the rest of this season – although, with the Flames closer to their optimal lineup, in theory they’ll improve – there’s a lot to look forward to.
by Ari Yanover