After dropping the first two games of a four game series against the Toronto Marlies, the Heat outscored the Marlies 12-3 in games 3 and 4 of the year. While it's still quite early in the season, it got me thinking about how far off some of the Flames young talents are from making the lineup.
This short piece will look at Matthew Phillips, Adam Ruzicka, Mathias Emilio-Pettersen, Jakob Pelletier, and Connor Zarys eta for the Flames roster. While none of these players can be considered "locks" for NHL playtime, they are surely the Flames most promising offensive prospects.
The only real prospect with a shot at getting some time with the big club this year is Matthew Phillips. Down the middle the Flames have Monahan, Backlund, Bennett, Gawdin, Ryan, and thats not even considering Lindholm. For that reason, even with a strong start to this campaign, I doubt Ruzicka makes the leap this season.
Phillips on the other hand has a solid chance. The speedy winger has already mustered 4 points in as many games to start the year after a great sophmore campaign with the heat (33 points in 38 games).
The tough injury he took last year didn't help him coming into a shortened camp, but he looks to be starting right from where he left off, creating some nice highlights as well.
If Phillips keeps this up, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a shot with his old pal Glenn Gawdin on the 4th line one of these days.
I can really see two players making the jump directly to the NHL next year. For one, it may be his real last shot before the Flames other prospects jump him in the organizational depth chart.
Adam Ruzicka was taken in the 4th round of the 2017 entry draft and has had his ups and downs ever since. He scored 72 points in his D+1 year but only followed it up with 78 as an overager. A player that has been called inconsistent throughout his whole career had an average debut season with the Heat last year scoring 27 points in 54 games.
However, this season Ruzicka has been put in a place to shine. He's the Heats number one center and already has 6 points including 4 goals. Adam is a big center that plays a pretty decent two-way game and has a wicked shot.
I think because of the guys ahead of him Ruzicka probably won't see any NHL time this season barring injuries. However, pertaining that both Derek Ryan and Sam Bennett move on in the offseason, Ruzicka's role with the big club will most likely be his to lose. If he can maintain his early season form and show some consistency the Flames probably won't hesitate in giving him an audition next year, but if he can't make the jump next year, I don't know if he ever will.
The other guy with a half decent shot next fall is Jakob Pelletier. Troy Durrell went into Pelletiers prospect profile a week ago and the Flames 2019 first round pick is definitely starting to create a hype train within the fan base.
For Jakob, his place on the team will be determined on who all is on the roster next fall, and how he can mature physically. Pelletier isn't Matthew Phillips small, but I doubt Treliving/Ward (Or whoever is in charge) would be too excited with deploying Pelletier in a fourth line checking role. He will definitely have to earn his spot, and I wouldn't be surprised if he spends at least the start of the season in the minors.
Mathias Emilio-Pettersen is one of my favourite prospects within the Flames organization. He started generating hype as a pre-teen, but as he grew older, the guys around him started being able to use their size against him more and more.
After a slow draft year and D+1 season. Emilio-Pettersen played just shy of a ppg pace before turning pro this past summer.
He so far has scored 3 points playing on the third line with the Heat and while the speed and skill is there, he isn't as dynamic of a player as a guy like Gaudreau who made the jump straight out of the NCAA.
For Emilio-Pettersen I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the Mangiapane treatment.
This would mean spending a full year in the AHL, followed by a brief but not full-time callup in his sophmore year before turning pro in the last year of his ELC.
While time will tell if he can jump up the pretty shallow cupboards of the Flames org, Pettersen definitely has some NHL potential and hopefully we can see him take the jump by the 2022-23 season.
The last guy I want to talk about here is Connor Zary.
Zary is currently getting some games in with the Jr. Flames before the WHL starts back up and is already making his mark.
Out of all the guys listed Zary has the best NHLe during his draft year and has already become a beloved prospect for the C of Red fan base.
For him the question will be how long it takes him to adapt to the speed of the pro game.
From watching the Heat games, he definitely doesn't look slow, but the Flames prospect isn't looked at as a potential 3rd/4th liner. I;m sure the organization would love to one day see him in a top 6 role, and for that to happen, his game will definitely need some growth.
With the Flames in a really interesting spot as an organization it will be interesting to see where some of these prospects end up. If they decide to rebuild they may see playing time earlier, or if they go after a high profile player via trade we may see some of them traded. Only time will tell, but there is a lot to be excited for in the near future.
Stats from Eliteprospects, charts via hockeyprospecting