Welcome to Today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2013 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. I will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2013 draft, as there have been no games since then, 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 2013-14 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. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances (especially due to the fact that the latest NHL season was only 48 games).
It was a season of great upheaval in Calgary. Last offseason the club once again made big additions in Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, and Roman Cervenka in an attempt to get their aging core over the hump and into the playoffs. When the team struggled early, they tried an offer-sheet to Colorado’s restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly, but the Avalanche matched. Whatever Jay Feaster has tried over the last few years to get Calgary into the dance, it hasn’t work, and as the season wore on the club finally made a full-scale commitment to rebuilding. Gone is long time captain and face of the franchise Jarome Iginla who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade deadline move. Also gone is long-time number 1 goalie Mikka Kiprusoff, who retired; and the team’s highest paid defenceman in Jay Bouwmeester, sent to St. Louis in another trade deadline move. After the season ended, Cervenka, who never really worked out, went back to Europe; while Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay were moved to Colorado. To top it all off Jay Feaster has made it clear that other veterans such as Mike Cammalleri are on the block.
With all these moves the Flames accumulated draft picks giving them three first rounders. It is hoped that 6th overall pick Sean Monahan becomes the new face of the Flames and provides them with the number 1 centre they have long been searching for. Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk were two other first rounders. Later in the draft the defence was beefed up with Keegan Kanzig and Eric Roy. Overall, Draft Day may have been the most exciting day for Flames fans this year.
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
Ever since Lanny McDonald joined the Flames in 1981, the team has always had a top flight winger as a franchise face, and offensive leader. When Lanny was ready to retire, a plucky young Theoren Fleury was already in Calgary and ready to take the reigns. When Fleury was traded to the Avalanche, a fresh faced rookie by the name of Jarome Iginla took over the role. Now with Iginla gone, the Flames hope Baertschi is next heir to this throne.
Baertschi came up with much fanfare and promise late in 2012 as an emergency recall. He scored 3 goals in his first 5 games as a Flame, and the raw talent seen in Portland where he was in the midst of ripping up the WHL scoring an incredible 94 points in just 47 games, was evident for all to see. This year, Baertschi made the next step, playing for the Abbotsford Heat during the NHL lockout and posting a respectable 10 goals and 26 points in 32 games for Abbotsford. In the NHL, Baertschi didn’t light things on fire, but 10 points in 20 games for a 19/20 year old NHL rookie can be considered a good debut year.
Offensively, Baertschi possesses every weapon a talented winger should have. He has very quick acceleration, excellent balance, great edgework, agility 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 and heads to the net for yet another scoring chance. Baertschi 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 Baertschi uses his great hockey sense help him to find openings in the defence. Baertschi’s speed game also forces defenders to back off so they don’t get beat wide and Baertschi knows how to pull up, use the defender as a a screen and put the puck on net off the rush. With good puck control ability, excellent vision, and hard crisp passing skills, Baertschi 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.
Baertschi 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, Beartschi 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.
Baertschi got his feet wet in the NHL last season, expect him to once again be there and taking on a bigger role as the Flames have a lot invested in his continued development over the next several seasons.
#2 Prospect John Gaudreau, LW
Born Aug 13 1993 — Carneys Point, NJ
Height 5.08 — Weight 153
Selected by Calgary Flames round 4 #104 overall 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Last year’s super sleeper had another fantastic year this season, pushing him up to the number 2 prospect in Calgary’s system. Putting up 51 points in 35 games, he lit things up for Boston College at the NCAA level. He also participated in the World Juniors, leading the entire tournament in goals with 7 in 7 games, and helping Team USA win the Gold Medal. Coming on the heels of a successful freshman season in 2011-12 where he was an integral part of BC’s Frozen Four Win, Gaudreau has proven to be a producer and a winner at the NCAA level over the last two years.
Listed at just 5’8″ and 153 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. However, what Gaudreau lacks in size he makes up for in pure 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. His great agility, and quick lateral movement make him extremely hard to contain one on one, and when he gets up a head of steam on the rush, he’s a defender’s worst nightmare. Gaudreau has excellent puck handling ability, along with good puck control and protection. Couple those with good vision and passing skill, and he becomes a dynamic and creative player who is willing to try plays that many other players never would, and has found these moves 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 powerful and accurate one timer.
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 rigors long term. He will also need to continue to develop his defensive game. His size will likely always put him at a disadvantage to have trouble containing big forwards, but if he can develop his anticipation and stick skills, he can rely less on his pure size, and more on his talent in the defensive end as well. Gaudreau is apparently heading back for at least one more year at Boston College.
#3 Prospect Mark Jankowski, Center
Born Sep 13 1994 — St. Catharines, ONT
Height 6.03 — Weight 175 — Shoots L
Selected by Calgary Flames round 1 #21 overall 2012 NHL Entry Draft
An off the radar first round in pick out of the Quebec Prep League High School circuit, many draft analysts saw talent in Mark Jankowski but ranked him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Craig Button is one of the few who had him in the first round, and the team he was once GM of agreed and traded down and then took Jankowski 21st overall. A player from excellent bloodlines. He is the nephew of Ryan Jankowski, a current scout who used to work for Montreal Canadiens, and previous head scout for the Islanders who recently took the head scout position at Hockey Canada. His grandfather was Lou Jankowski who enjoyed an 18 year pro career including NHL stops in Detroit and Chicago. His great uncle is Hockey Hall of Famer Red Kelly.
Jankowski’s numbers at Providence, 7 goals, 11 assists for 18 points in 34 games may seem underwhelming for a first round pick. HOwever the NCAA is a big step up in speed and physicality from where Jankowski played last year, and is often tough on freshmen. The numbers for Gaudreau (above) are a rarity, and from this analysts perspective it was a decent, but not great year for Jankowski. However now that he is acclimated to the NCAA, (and he was better down the stretch), bigger things are expected in his second year.
Jankowski is a tall and lanky centre, who has a long, smooth skating stride. He has very good top speed and reaches it quickly with good acceleration. He has a long reach, but soft hands that allow him to be a talented stickhandler and to protect the puck well. He has shown good vision and made some nice passes to teammates. His shot could use a bit more power but he does have a good release. Overall though he seems to need to add some upper body mass as he can be outmuscled at times. With a quick growth spurt at 17, Jankowski’s bulk hasn’t quite caught up to his height yet. When it does he can be very dangerous as the skill set is there. Expect Jankowski to spend another year at Providence working on his game. He will also try out for Canada’s National Junior Team at the August Camp.
Super Sleeper Prospect: Corban Knight, Centre
Born Sep 10 1990 — High River, ALTA
Height 6.01 — Weight 180 — Shoots R
Selected by the Florida Panthers in round 5 #135 overall of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Calgary Flames in June 2013
Corban Knight finished his full four years of NCAA hockey, and saved his best for last. In his sophomore and junior years, Knight was a productive offensive player finsishing around a point per game each year, however in 2012-13 he stepped it up one more level scoring 49 points in 41 games and becoming an All-American and Hobey Baker finalist. Following the season, he was unable to come to an agreement on a contract with the Florida Panthers, who traded him to Calgary for a draft pick.
Knight is an agitator who plays an on-edge, in your face style of game. He has been a source of constant forechecking pressure for the UND team, as his good speed and strong acceleration helps him to get into the offensive zone quickly and pressure the defenceman with the puck. He is physically involved and can be a yapper at times. Knight is always at the centre of attention. If there is a scrum after the play, you can often find Knight right in the middle of it. Offensively, he is more of a playmaker than a scorer. He’s creates offense by digging pucks out of the corners and getting them to teammates out front of the net. Its no surprise that linemates like Brock Nelson and Danny Kristo both put up big goal totals playing with Knight the last two seasons. His wrist shot has decent velocity, but he will need to improve his release in order to be a regular goal scorer at the pro level.
Knight may not project as a top 6 forward, however his good work ethic, fiesty attitude, and solid defensive play mean he could become a valuable contributor on the Flames 3rd or 4th line. Given the Flames current centre situation he should even be battling for a spot come training camp. However there are no guarantees and he will need a good camp.
The Flames hope that the new 2013 draft additions, along with Baertschi, Gaudreau, Jankowski, and Corban Knight can re-ignite the offence as the team rebuilds. The defence meanwhile has youngster T.J. Brodie (a youngster who is considered graduated for the purposes of this report), Patrick Sieloff, and Tyler Wotherspoon. There is some potential between the pipes as well with Laurent Brossoit, and Jon Gillies. Overall the foundation has been laid in Calgary for this rebuild. It is now time to build upon that foundation.
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