Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 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 follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). 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 this year. 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 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or 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.
TSP: Calgary Flames Prospects
After a solid run that saw them make the second round of the playoffs in 2014-15, and off-season additions of Dougie Hamilton and Michael Frolik, much was expected of the Calgary Flames last year. The team did not deliver. It was a real up and down season. The Flames had hot streaks mixed in with some runs of absolute ice cold play. At the end of it all though, it was really goaltending that let the Flames down. The trio of Joni Ortio, Karri Ramo, and Jonas Hiller just did not get the job done. All of this added up to the 2014-15 Jack Adams Award Winner, Bob Hartley being fired after the season. It also led the Flames to a further off-season changes. They traded for goaltender Brian Elliot. They also signed free agents Troy Brouwer and Chad Johnson.
Calgary Flames Prospects Scouting Reports
Top Prospect Matthew Tkachuk
The Calgary Flames drafted Tkachuk with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 Draft. There have not been any meaningful games played since the draft. As nothing has changed, I will not be re-writing his pre-draft scouting report. You can find it here.
#2 Prospect Jon Gillies
Goalie — shoots Left
Born Jan 22 1994 — Concord, NH
Height 6’6 — Weight 225 lbs [198 cm / 102 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames, round 3, #75 overall 2012 NHL Entry Draft
Injuries limited Jon Gillies in his first year as a professional. He played in just seven games for the AHL Stockton Heat. He was very good when he got on the ice, putting up a 2.31 goals against average and .920 save percentage. This follows a very good college career, including leading the Providence Friars to the 2014-15 National Championship and being named Frozen Four MVP.
Gillies is a big goalie (6’5) who plays a butterfly style. He comes out of his net to cut down angles and takes advantage of his frame giving the shooter very little net to see. He has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net effectively and has a decent glove and blocker to take away the top of the net. Gillies has outstanding side to side movement. He gets from post-to-post quickly and efficiently. He tracks the puck extremely well and keeps himself square to the shooter, even through cross ice passes or rebounds. Gillies has a very good demeanor. He is able to shake off bad goals and move forward to make the next save.
If there is a weakness though, its in his rebound control as it is inconsistent. He has improved greatly since he was drafted four years ago. There is still some work to be done, but it is much better than it was. Gillies matured and learned to control things in front of him, or direct pucks to the corners. He’s also decent at playing the puck and acts as an extra defenceman in starting the breakout.
Gillies will need some time to develop, especially after this lost season. Expect him to play a year, and maybe two, as a starter at the AHL level before he is ready to make an NHL impact. The Flames will be patient, especially after acquiring Brian Elliott to handle the goaltending duties until Gillies is ready.
#3 Prospect Hunter Shinkaruk
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Oct 13 1994 — Calgary, ALTA
Height 5’11” — Weight 180 lbs [180 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by Vancouver Canucks – round 1 #24 overall 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Calgary Flames, February 22, 2016
In his second pro season, Shinkaruk put up some very good numbers. He would finish with 27 goals and 24 assists for 51 points in 62 AHL games. Despite this, the Vancouver Canucks traded him to the Flames, in a move that we called an absolute steal for Calgary.
Shinkaruk is a quick and shifty skater. He has very good edge work, and strong lateral agility making him very shifty. Shinkaruk is able to use this skill to beat defenders off the rush. He attacks the net when he has the puck in the offensive zone. Shinkaruk uses his ability to shift gears quickly to attack defenders. He can pull up quickly, opening space to get off his wrist shot. Shinkaruk’s stride can sometimes be choppy, but it doesn’t seem to effect his top end speed as he is still above average in that aspect, and has good acceleration. Some refinement to his skating technique could make him even more dangerous.
Shinkaruk has a tremendous wrist shot and excellent release, particularly when coming in on a rush off the left wing. His shot is very accurate, and heavy, and the release fools goalies leading to the puck being behind them before they know what happened. He also has a knack for finding the open areas of the ice and taking an excellent one-timer.
Not just a one trick pony, Shinkaruk also has very good play making skill and vision which makes him very difficult to defend. Shinkaruk is an excellent stick handler and can make defenders look silly in one-on-one situations. Shinkaruk doesn’t really play a hugely physical game, but he is not afraid to battle on the boards or in front of the net. He also is more than willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice to make plays, and is able to make plays off the cycle game.
Shinkaruk’s two way game is decent, but he could be more intense in the defensive end. He reads the play well though, and gets back. Sometimes Shinkaruk can have a tendency to stop moving his feet. He can puck watch a little bit and lose his man.
Shinkaruk will come to Flames camp looking for a full-time NHL spot. There is certainly some competition on the wings, with Brouwer coming into the team’s top nine; and Tkachuk also competing for a position. However, Shinkaruk could steal a spot in Calgary this season, and start to make an impact. He has all the talent necessary to succeed. Even if he ends up back in the AHL, expect to see him get some injury call-ups, and to be in Calgary full-time by 2017-18.
#4 Prospect Rasmus Anderson
Defense — shoots Right
Born Oct 27 1996 — Malmo, Sweden
Height 6’0 — Weight 210 lbs [183 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #53 at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Rasmus Andersson had another outstanding OHL season for the Barrie Colts. Scoring 60 points, he led all OHL defencemen in scoring. He was also great in the playoffs. He scored 15 points in 15 playoff games as the Colts made the conference finals. This came as a follow up to his 2014-15 season where he finished third in scoring amongst OHL defencemen with 64 points.
Rasmus Andersson has good mobility due to very good skating ability. He has very good top end speed in both directions. He has worked to improve his first few strides and acceleration, and while he can still be a little better, it was much improved over his draft year. Andersson’s agility and edgework are top notch which gives him the ability cover a lot of ice in both his offensive and defensive game. He could add more lower body strength and this would help him in his balance, and winning more board battles.
Andersson is a tremendous offensive talent. He is able to move the puck with a good first pass, and through skating it himself as he also has good stick handling ability. His slap shot is hard and extremely accurate, and his wrist shot features a quick release. Andersson uses his agility, and ability to walk the line to open up shooting lanes. He has a remarkable ability to get his shot through traffic. Even with his good shot, the bread and butter of his game is his play making ability. He has very good poise at the line, taking the time to let plays develop. He also has the vision and passing ability to thread the needle and set up teammates in the offensive zone.
Rasmus Andersson shows decent positioning in his own zone. He is able to create turnovers with his fast stick, and is able to quickly transition those turnovers into offensive opportunities. The big red flag though is hockey sense and positioning, as he doesn’t always read the play well. He also could use more work on his defensive intensity. There are shifts where Andersson seems a bit nonchalant out on the ice. If he can solve those defensive issues, the offense is there to be an excellent puck moving defenceman. He also needs to add more muscle. Andersson can be outmuscled in the corners or in front of the net.
Expect Andersson to head to the pro ranks with the Stockton Heat this year. He still has some areas to refine before he is NHL ready. If he can improve at the defensive end, he looks like he can be a major offensive contributor for the Flames in the near future.
#5 Prospect Oliver Kylington
Defense — shoots Left
Born May 19 1997 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6.00 — Weight 185 [183 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in round 2, #60 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
After being drafted in the second round last year, Kylington came to North America and immediately started with the Flames AHL affiliate in Stockton. He had a solid season with five goals and 12 points in 47 games, considering he was one of the league’s youngest player. He even earned a call-up to Calgary, and made his NHL debut.
An outstanding skater, Kylington can rush the puck and get back into position defensively. He has an excellent stride, which gives him great speed and acceleration in both directions. Excellent agility, edge work, and pivots give him the mobility to cover all areas of the ice. He walks the line on the power play in order to open up passing and shooting lanes. Kylington must add lower body strength and improve his balance. He gets knocked around in battles for the puck in the corners and while fighting for position front of the net. He seems a bit skinny out there on the ice at times.
Kylington shows good passing skills and excellent vision. He has an outstanding first pass. Kylington capable of making the long seam pass to spring forwards for breakaways. He has the puck handling skill and shows the poise to skate the puck out of danger in his own zone; to lead the rush; and to quarterback plays from the point on the power play. His shot could use some increased power, and again that could come from adding more pounds to his frame. However he has the ability to get his shot through to the net. He avoids shot blocks, and keeps things low in order to give teammates opportunities for deflections and rebounds. He is very good at the “slap pass”. Kylington also has a very good wrist shot and a lightning quick release.
Defensively Oliver Kylington’s game relies on strong positioning. He also uses a quick stick to take the puck off opponents and start the transition game. Kylington maintains excellent gap control and is tough to beat one on one. He is able to intercept passes, break up plays, and quickly start the transition game. The big concern here again goes back to his strength and balance. He is often overwhelmed by bigger, more physical forwards in the corners and in front of the net. He also has some problems with containment in the cycle game. Kylington does not throw a lot of big hits either. While Kylington has a ton of natural skill, there are also some big question marks surrounding his ability to succeed defensively against bigger forwards.
Kylington should start the season in the AHL again this year. He is a a project who will need more development. The Flames have high hopes that he can correct his flaws and be a solid top four player down the road.
Sleeper Prospect: Andrew Mangiapane
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Apr 4 1996 — Bolton, ONT
Height 5’10 — Weight 182 lbs [178 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in round 6, #166 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Undrafted in 2014, the Flames made Mangiapane a late round pick after he scored 104 points for the Barrie Colts in 2014-15. He followed that up with 106 points in 59 games this season, earning a spot on the OHL Second All-Star team. Mangiapane was excellent in the OHL playoffs. He scored 10 goals and 21 points in 15 games.
Mangiapane is an elite skater. He is extremely fast and has excellent acceleration. Mangiapane is able to beat defenders wide off the rush and cut to the net. He is also extremely shifty and has excellent edgework. This allows him to get elude defenders, and open up shooting and passing lanes. Excellent core strength gives Mangiapane extremely good balance. Mangiapane is stronger on the puck than you would expect, and fights through checks. He also wins more than his fair share of board battles.
Despite his lack of size, Mangiapane forechecks hard and fights for loose pucks. He uses his exceptional agility and elusiveness to spin away from defenders and creating openings to make a pass to a teammate. An excellent play maker, Mangiapane can put the puck tape-to-tape through the tightest of openings. He is an extremely smart player. Mangiapane sees openings and opportunities that others do not. He can slow the game down, or speed it up depending on the circumstances, buying time for teammates to get open.
Mangiapane is also an excellent goal scorer. His shot has decent power, but it is his release that really helps him. The puck is off his stick in a flash. Mangiapane can also score in tight to the net. He has the soft hands to make quick plays in tight to the net. Blessed with good hand-eye co-ordination, Mangiapane also scores rebounds and tip ins.
Mangiapane brings his gritty play, and non stop motor to his own end of the ice. He provides back pressure against the rush and forces opponents into areas where his teammates can make plays. He also reads the play extremely well and cuts down passing lanes. When Mangiapane forces a turnover, he moves the puck quickly in transition.
Mangiapane will be headed to Stockton this year. He should immediately step into a scoring role with the team. He needs some time to adjust to the bigger, stronger, and faster professional game. However, Mangiapane improves each year and has succeeded at every level. He has a strong work ethic. It would not be surprising to see him in the NHL in two-to-three years.
Also in the System
The Flames goaltending pipeline is extremely well-stocked. In addition to Gilles, Mason McDonald is developing nicely. The Flames drafted Tyler Parsons, the top goaltender on the London Knights Memorial Cup winning team. While this has been a position that has plagued the big club over the last several years, the future is bright between the pipes. Calgary has also built depth on the blue line. They have Kenney Morrison, Tyler Wotherspoon and Brett Kulak further down the depth chart. Third round pick Adam Fox is a nice addition.
Drafting Tkachuk and trading for Shinkaruk was a nice start but the forward group could use some work. Former first rounder Mark Jankowski has now finished college and is ready to play pro hockey. His ultimate upside remains a question mark. Brett Pollock is an interesting dark horse at centre. Other recent first rounders, Emile Poirier and Morgan Klimchuk have struggled to take the next step at the AHL level. If either one can find their games, this group would look a whole lot better. The Flames do have a number of young and talented forwards who don’t qualify as prospects though. After years of rebuilding, the team seems poised to finally turn that corner and is set up well going forward.
LONDON, ON – MARCH 6: Matthew Tkachuk #7 of the London Knights skates with the puck against the Kitchener Rangers during an OHL game at Budweiser Gardens on March 6, 2016 in London, Ontario, Canada. The Knights defeated the Rangers 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)