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Five high speed players for the Calgary Flames to target this offseason

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Kapanen Flames

It’s difficult to assign a grade to the rookie season that Ryan Huska recently concluded as head coach of the Calgary Flames.

You have a coach tasked with deprogramming the Darryl Sutter five-man neutral zone approach out of the majority of a recently aggravated roster that essentially forced the future Hall of Fame coach out of his seat.

Huska then had to implement a new method of attacking and a new method of defending.

He also had to deal with the talent drain of seeing four premier talents in Zadorov, Lindholm, Tanev and Hanifin shipped out over the course of the season.

Despite that, the 48 year old Cranbrook native had the team post the exact same .540 points percentage record by the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline as Darryl had the Flames post as of the March 3, 2023 deadline.

Impressive.

Add in that Huska was given a roster that wasn’t exactly built for the style he wanted to coach, and you can make a case for Ryan to get a high B or low A on the season. Let’s make it an A- considering the games were enjoyable to watch.

 

Flames Lacking Speed

“given a roster that wasn’t exactly built for the style he wanted to coach,”

What does that mean exactly?

While not wanting to give up too much information following his hiring, Huska emphasized that speed would be crucial to reformatting his team when it comes to generating quality offensive opportunities.

“For me, the way I see this team playing, you get them to understand the importance of being quick with how you’re getting to the other end so you can get the puck to the net as fast as you can,” said Huska to Danny Austin of the Calgary Sun last July. “Then, their skillset takes over.”

That was the plan.

In hindsight, the Flames may not have the right ingredients just yet. Calgary’s fastest skater, Martin Pospisil, brought a sizable impact while in the lineup, but even then, one fast player does not a fast team make.

 

Speed bursts over 20mph

League Average: 1,692
Calgary Flames: 1,392

Speed bursts over 22mph

League Average: 77
Calgary Flames: 53

 

There is more nuance to fast hockey than just skating fast. Generally, a good line only needs one or two burners to create an extra second or two on an odd man advantage. You can generally get by with only one player rocketing over the blue line as a far lane option. Some of the top point producers in the NHL register very low amounts of speed bursts over a full season.

For more info on who was fast and who wasn’t, check out CHN’s analysis of footspeed on the Flames. Calgary is missing a few high-end skaters who would enable an aggressive transition-based offense to succeed.

[Stats Flips: Which Flames Players Were the Fastest Skaters in 2023-2024]

So, who are some of the fastest skaters available on the market this offseason? Today, we’ll utilize data from NHL Edge’s player tracking tech to give us an idea of who may be a prime candidate.

#1: Martin Nečas

Martin Necas Flames Hurricanes

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The 25-year-old all-position forward takes the top spot with a crescendo.

Elliotte Friedman reported on a May 17 episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast that the Hurricanes don’t seem ready to sign an expensive long-term deal with the arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, so it’s possible that the Flames make a push to acquire the Nove Mesto na Morave, Czechia product.

When it comes to speed, Nečas is a top five player in the NHL. He finished fifth in the league in +20mph speed bursts with 363 and third in +22mph speed bursts with 49.

In terms of speed bursts above 20mph per 60, Nečas had 13.3. This gives him an edge over Calgary’s far-and-away fastest player, Martin Pospisil, who clocked 11.46 per 60.

For those paying attention, Nečas had almost as many speed bursts above 22mph as the entire Calgary Flames in 2023-2024, who recorded 53. Martin Pospisil had 13.

For a team like the Flames, who need a solution down the middle for Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon, Martin Nečas is your best bet. While there may be reasons that acquiring him might prove a bit too costly, his speed will always be the counterpoint.

An arbitration-eligible RFA, Nečas is expected to earn a contract north of a seven million dollar annual average value.

Precedent for a trade price would likely be based the Kevin Fiala transaction. The LA Kings sent Brock Faber (at the time not expected to be as good as he is already) and a 2022 first-round pick (No. 19 – Liam Ohgren) to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Fiala on June 30, 2022.

Projected contract: Seven years at $7,500,000 per season.

The rest of the players listed are UFAs as of July 1, 2024.

#2: Anthony Duclair

Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Blow the dust off that friendly rumour. There was a time when Jonathan Huberdeau and Duclair ran roughshod upon the league.

Duclair posted some strong numbers in terms of footwork.

The 28 year old from Pointe-Claire, Quebec, recorded 7.31 bursts over 20mph per 60 minutes of ice time. That number would rank Duclair behind only Pospisil, Walker Duehr, Kevin Rooney and Adam Klapka. The latter three played diminished roles and had more gas in the proverbial tank when they did see ice time.

In terms of of speed bursts over 22mph, Duclair hit that marker 15 times, putting him in the 95th percentile among the NHL.

The veteran of eight different teams finished the season with 24 goals and 18 assists for 42 points in 73 games.

Projected contract: Three years at $5,000,000 per season.

#3: Chandler Stephenson

Likely pricing himself out of Vegas, Stephenson has consistently played strong transition hockey during his five seasons with the Golden Knights. His total speed bursts over 20mph dwarf those of any member of the Flames.

 

Total Speed Bursts Over 20mph  

Stephenson: 217
Pospisil: 153

Backlund: 120
Mangiapane: 105
Coleman: 80
Kadri: 78
Sharangovich: 73 

League Average: 73 

Rooney: 70
Huberdeau: 44
Greer: 40
Coronato: 39
Zary: 29
Hunt: 14
Pelletier: 9
Kuzmenko: 6
Klapka: 6
Schwindt: 3 

 

Due to playing an increased role, Stephenson’s high total gets diminished a bit to 9.13 speed bursts per 60 minutes of play. Fast, but not Pospisil fast. The 30 year old Saskatoon native had 16 goals and 35 assist for 51 points in 75 games last season.

Projected contract: Four years at $5,500,000 per season.

#4: Jack Roslovic

Limited by injury, lineup drama, and a trade to the Rangers, Roslovic still managed to turn on the jets frequently. His 175 speed bursts over 20mph through 59 games and 917:01 of ice time had him at an 11.45 rate per 60.

Roslovic scored nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points with the Blue Jackets and Rangers from 2023 to 2024.The author of 45 and 44 point seasons prior to this year, there is plenty of latent talent waiting there if the right coach can tap into it.

An apology and a dinner or two may need to be exchanged between players if the Flames were to bring Roslovic into the fold.

The response.

Projected contract: Three years at $3,500,000 per season.

 

#5: Kasperi Kapanen

Much like Roslovic, Kapanen is more known for his individual efforts.

There lies a bit of an issue with some faster players.

Does their speed help take the zone, create distance from neutral zone defenders, and lead to team goals? Or is it mostly wasted on high effort individual plays with mediocre success rates?

The latter explains Kapanen’s underwhelming six goals and 16 assists in 73 games last season. Add to that some legal trouble this summer, and Kasperi may have a lower cap hit than even his 22 points translate to.

Despite all of the noise, the 27 year old from Kuopio, Finland, can be tough to handle due to his speed. His 8.45 speed bursts per 60 (148 total) would make him a difference-maker on the Flames. His 22 speed bursts over 22mph in 2023-2024 far exceeds Pospisil’s team-best 13.

Pittsburg Head Coach Mike Sullivan spoke on Kapanen’s abilitys following the former 44 point scorer being claimed by St. Louis off waivers.

“To a certain extent it’s on all of us because we didn’t find a way to maximize his potential. He brings a ton of speed. He has the ability to shoot the puck. He has good offensive instincts. Brings a lot of size, ” said Sullivan on Kapanen’s potential as a player.

“There’s so many attributes that Kappy brings that are really attractive. For whatever reason, we couldn’t find a way to get his potential out of him, and that falls on all of us.”

If Ryan Huska can get Kapanen or Roslovic focused on looking for targets and reading the play, Craig Conroy and Co. may land a couple home run UFA acquisitions in terms of cap hit and game impact.

Projected contract: Two years at $2,000,000 per season.

 

More from CHN:

[Tough Roster Decisions Loom for Craig Conroy and Co.]

Conroy Calgary Flames

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