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Is Next Gaudreau-Like Surprise at Flames Development Camp?

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Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames, NHL trade

Eight years from now, you must wonder if people will be talking about Matt Coronato — or any of the Calgary Flames prospects attending development camp this week — the way they’re talking about Johnny Gaudreau right now.

After eight seasons wearing the Flaming C, Gaudreau is at a fork in the road of his NHL career. He can re-sign with Calgary for another eight years and add to his already impressive Flames legacy. Or he can wait out the next 36 hours or so and sign with any other team of his choosing to start anew.

Either way, he’s going to make a pile of money. Maybe even become the 15th player to make double-digit millions in AAV.

Did anyone really see this coming when Gaudreau, like Coronato and dozens of others are about to do, donned the Flames crest on the ice for the first time at his first development camp in 2011?

It was easy to see how talented Gaudreau was back then despite his diminutive stature. His jersey was way too big for his small frame. It flapped behind him as he propelled himself around the ice, like a tail on a comet. Not a bad way to describe the fresh-faced Calgary Flames rookie at the time, though. His talent was obviously not of this world.

But even then, as he dazzled onlookers with is speed and puck skills, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thought this kid who looked like he’d never need a razor and probably needed a note from his mom to drink a caffeinated beverage was going to score 115 points in a single NHL season. Without much of a growth spurt.

Players can surprise you. Sometimes on the positive side, others on the negative. For Gaudreau, it’s all been positive. The fourth-round pick from 2011 has been a faithful Flame for nearly a decade and has earned his right to choose.

He’s given Flames fans hundreds of electric moments and highlight-reel plays – beginning in that 2011 development camp.

For at least a few moments over the few days, as all the GauDrama plays out, let’s remember to relish the new crop of hopefuls eager to make a dynamic first impression in camp this week.

Coronato making first Flames camp appearance

Coronato is the headliner as the 13th overall pick in the 2021 draft. His skills are undeniable; the Harvard sophomore had 18 goals and 36 points in the ECAC this season. There was no in-person development camp in 2020 or 21 due to COVID-19 so it’s the first opportunity to locally lay eyes on the 19-year-old.

This year’s trio of draft picks — Topi Ronni (2nd round), Parker Bell (5th round) and Cade Littler (7th round) — will all be in attendance.

Same goes for 2020 picks Rory Kerins (6th), Jeremy Poirier (3rd), Yan Kuznetsov (2nd) and Jake Borltmann (3rd).

Joining Coronato from the 2021 draft class are Cole Jordan (5th), Cameron Whynot (3rd), Jack Beck (6th), Lucas Ciona (6th), Cole Huckins (3rd).

“We’re really excited to get everyone here,” Ray Edwards, Calgary Flames director of player development, told the Flames website. “It’s four or five days of pretty intense stuff. Obviously we’ll test them, which is relaly good for us to get data points on them so we can put together a good development plan.”

There will be some lighter moments with a cooking competition and class, as well as a softball tourney with members of the Flames alumni.

“I really wanted to mix the two this year and have our kids understand the history and how important that is to us,” Edwards said. “I think it was important to get some of our alumni involved. It should be a fun week. It’ll go fast but it will be a fun week.”

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