Top Shelf Prospects: Calgary Flames
Earlier this week I launched “Top Shelf Prospects” a look at the top prospects for all teams in the NHL. Monday I started with the Anaheim Ducks, Tuesday I moved on to the Boston Bruins, and yesterday I looked at the Buffalo Sabres. Continuing along our alphabetical journey through the NHL, we have the Calgary Flames. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since the draft, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick. A player who was either drafted in the 4th round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL.
Top Prospect: Sven Bartschi, Right Wing/Left Wing
Born Oct 5 1992 — Bern, Switzerland
Height 5.10 — Weight 181 — Shoots Left
Selected by Calgary Flames round 1 #13 overall 2011 NHL Entry Draft
In 1981, Lanny McDonald joined the Calgary Flames. After scoring 66 goals in 1982, his epic mustache became the face of the franchise. When he finally retired after winning the Stanley Cup in 1989, he did so after playing half a season with the player who would be the new face of the franchise for most of the nineties, Theoren Fleury. When Fleury left the Flames in 1999, he was playing on a team that featured the Flames next stud Right Wing, and face of the Franchise for the 00s in Jarome Iginla. Today as Iginla is entering what surely is the twilight of a long and illustrious career, a new stud Right Wing is ready to join the Flames. Sven Bartschi came up late in the season as an emergency recall from Portland of the WHL and wowed the Calgary faithful scoring 3 goals in 5 NHL games. The Flames and their fans certainly hope they have found the heir to the throne of terrific Calgary Flame Right Wingers.
Bartschi absolutely destroyed the WHL last season, scoring an incredible 94 points in just 47 games. He followed that up with 34 points in 22 playoff games. Bartschi was quite simply the most dominant offensive player in the league last season. Offensively, Bartschi possesses every weapon a talented winger should have. He has very quick acceleration, excellent balance, great edgework, agility and and good balance on his skates. This combined with his soft hands, and quick stickhandling make him extremely dangerous off the rush. He is often able to fool a defender and leaving him looking silly as he cuts by him for yet another scoring chance. Bartschi is also a pure sniper, with a deadly accurate wrist shot and very deceptive release. This aids him in piling up the goal totals, after Bartschi uses his great hockey sense help him to find openings in the defence. With good puck control ability, excellent vision, and hard crisp passing skills, Bartschi is also a talented playmaker. He knows how to find the open man and puts the puck right on the tape giving teammates plenty of opportunities to score.
Bartschi may be listed at only 5’10”, but he is a tenacious forward who is relentless in puck pursuit and forechecking. He is also a courageous player who is not afraid to take a hit to make a play and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice to score goals. Defensively, Bartschi must continue to move his feet and be actively involved in his own zone when he doesn’t have the puck. This is an area that he should work on to improve.
Due to his October 1992 Birthdate Bartschi is eligible for the AHL next season. However I think that given the splash he made last spring, it would not surprise me at all if he made the big club in training camp. Perhaps it is time for Bartschi to learn what it means to lead the Flames, and there is no better person for him to learn that from than Jarome Iginla. A solid mentorship would help Calgary both now and in the future.
Max Reinhart, Center
Born Feb 4 1992 — Vancouver, BC
Height 6.01 — Weight 185 — Shoots L
Selected by Calgary Flames round 3 #64 overall 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Since being drafted Max Reinhart has really grown as an offensive force for the Kootenay Ice and become a real leader for the team. Reinhart is a fast skater with good agility and quick moves. He has shown the ability to create offense off the rush and he is able to control the puck and make plays at high speed. Reinhart sees openings and is able to make good crisp passes to teammates. While Reinhart is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer he also has a deceptive shot that can often beat goalies and find the back of the net.
Reinhart is wiling to mix it up along the boards, and to be involved in both the offensive and defensive zone. However he really needs to work on adding some bulk to his frame in order to be more successful in these aspects of his game. It is likely that Reinhart is still at least a year away and that he will play in the AHL next season.
Sleeper Special: John Gaudreau, LW
Born Aug 13 1993 — Carneys Point, NJ
Height 5.06 — Weight 150
Selected by Calgary Flames round 4 #104 overall 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Listed at just 5’6″ and 150 lbs, it is easy to see why Gaudreau fell to the 4th round of the 2011 draft despite good stats for Dubuque in the USHL. Gaudreau left Dubuque and was a freshman at Boston College last season. The pint-sized scorer was an integral part of the team that would win the NCAA Frozen Four tournament.
What Gaudreau lacks in size he makes up for in skill and heart. He is an explosive skater who leaves opponents in his dust, and is able to cut wide on defenders and take the puck to the net. He also has very good hands, and a wide variety of moves that enable him to beat defenders one on one. Gaudreau has excellent puck control and good vision. He is a creative player who is willing to try plays that many other players never would, and as an 18 year old freshman at BC, he found these moves would continue to work against NCAA competition. Gaudreau has shown no fear at the NCAA level, challenging opponents in the corners and the front of the net. He has high level hockey IQ and is often able to find the soft spot in a defence and get open to unleash his accurate one timer.
I like Gaudreau as a sleeper because if he was a player with the exact same skill set, but 4 inches taller, he easily would have been a first round pick. Gaudreau has all the talent necessary to make the next level, the question will always be if his body can hold up to the NHL rigour long term.
In reviewing the Flames system, I saw a group that was very thin after Bartschi. Reinhart is a decent prospect but there are very few NHL teams that would have him considered the 2nd best player in the system. The third best Flames prospect is goaltender Leland Irving, a 2006 draft pick who has been developped slowly and steadily and who is now knocking on the door to take a backup job with the Flames. In fact he did a great job in a short callup for them last season. However the team’s prospect depth really fell off after that, and this was a very thin system prior to the 2012 NHL Draft. Next in line would be Greg Nemisz, a former first round pick from 2008. However the former Windsor Spitfire has not been able to translate his offensive game from the OHL to AHL. He’s beginning to look like a bottom 6 player and marginal prospect at best.
All hope is not lost though, as I felt the Flames did a very good job of adding much needed depth at this year’s draft, and I really liked what they did in getting great value with many of their day 2 draft picks. Their 1st round pick, Mark Jankowski, has been widely criticized, however he has also been praised by respected scouts such as Craig Button. We also know that the Flames own GM Jay Feaster has lavished very heavy praise on the youngeter, stating that he may be the best player in the draft. He’s a player I can’t really comment too much on, as I did not have the opportunity to see him last year, but I am intrigued and hope to get a good viewing of him a soon as possible.
What I do know is this, the infusion of talent that this draft provided is extremely important and has helped the Flames replenish many areas of a depleted prospect pipeline. Its no secret that some of the Flames best players (Jarome Iginla, Mikka Kiprusoff, …) are aging and will not be around forever, and so continuing to build their stable of prospects will be important for the Flames in the next few seasons.
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