Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we 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 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We 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 we pick as our dark horse 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 (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Calgary Flames Prospects
The Calgary Flames went into the season looking to build on their strong second half of the 2016-17 season. Unfortunately, they could never seem to recover that momentum. Injuries were a factor with players like Mike Smith, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, and T.J. Brodie all missing chunks of the season. However, a bigger issue was the fact that many of the Flames support players simply underperformed.
The off-season brings change. The team fired coach Glen Gulutzan, while president of hockey operations Brian Burke walked away. The Flames hired Bill Peters as the new head coach. At the draft, they moved Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. They also signed James Neal.
Top Prospect: Juuso Valimaki
Defence — shoots Left
Born October 6th, 1998 — Nokia, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 204 lbs [188 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1st round, #16 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Valimaki had another strong season with the Tri-City Americans despite missing some time due to injury. He put up 14 goals and 31 assists for 45 points in 43 games. He was even better in the playoffs with four goals and 17 points in 12 games. Valimaki represented Finland at the World Juniors, picking up four points in five games.
Valimaki is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and acceleration in both directions. This allows him to join the rush and get back defensively. His edgework and pivots are also good, allowing him to play his two-way game and transition from offence to defence (and vice-versa) quickly. He also has the lateral agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes on the power play. Valimaki could be stronger on his skates, but this should come as he increases his lower body strength and muscle mass in the coming years.
Offensively, Valimaki’s game has really grown over his junior career. He carries the puck and leads the rush more often than he did when he first came to North America. However, he is still more likely to start things with a good first pass and getting involved as a trailer. He has an excellent point shot that can be a real weapon on the power play. Valimaki’s slapshot is hard and accurate, and he gets it through to the net. He understands how to keep it low, in order to generate rebounds and tip in opportunities for teammates. Valimaki also has a good wrist shot. It features a quick release. He uses it effectively when pressured at the point, getting the shot off quickly before defenders can shut down shooting lanes.
Valimaki is not the flashiest player, but he does a lot really good things out there. His hockey IQ is very high, and he almost always seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick. He has the poise to control the puck and quarterback the play from the line, as well as the passing skill and vision to find open teammates on the power play.
Valimaki plays a simple but effective game in both ends of the rink. Defensively, he is willing to play physical, taking out his man along the boards and clearing the front of the net. However, he does not go chasing big hits, which helps to keep him disciplined in his positioning. He maintains good gap control and has the agility to keep opponents in front of him. He is tough to beat one-on-one. The ability to read the play, and to anticipate attacks can be improved through continued coaching.
Valimaki is ready to leave his junior career behind and head to the AHL. If he plays well in Stockton, he could see NHL time if injuries hit. He is likely a year or two away from making a full-time impact though.
#2 Prospect: Rasmus Andersson
Defence — shoots Right
Born October 27th, 1996 — Malmo, Sweden
Height 6’1″ — Weight 214 lbs [185 cm / 97 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #53 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Andersson had a second strong season with the Stockton Heat. He scored nine goals and 30 assists for 39 points in 56 games, increasing his totals across the board. Andersson even got in 10 games with the Flames but is still searching for his first NHL point.
Rasmus Andersson has good mobility due to very good skating ability. He has very good top-end speed in both directions. Andersson also improved his first few strides and acceleration. He can continue to work on these areas. Andersson’s agility and edgework are top-notch which gives him the ability to cover a lot of ice in both his offensive and defensive game. Adding lower body strength would 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, as well as through skating it himself. He also has good stickhandling ability. His slapshot 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 playmaking 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.
Andersson shows decent positioning in his own zone. He is able to create turnovers with his fast stick. He is also able to quickly transition those turnovers into offensive opportunities. He does not always read the play well or react as quickly as he should, though this has gotten better during his time in the AHL. He also could use more work on his defensive intensity. There are shifts where Andersson seems a bit nonchalant. If he can solve those defensive issues, the offence is there to be an excellent puck-moving defenceman.
Andersson is very close to NHL ready. A good off-season and training camp would likely earn him a spot in Calgary. The top four will be tough to crack as a rookie, but he could be part of the bottom pair and even provide some second unit power play time. The sky is the limit for Andersson given his offensive skill.
#3 Prospect: Tyler Parsons
Goalie — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born September 18th, 1997 — Chesterfield, Michigan
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd Round, #54 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Parsons struggled during his first pro season. He put up a 4.39 goals-against average and 0.856 save percentage in seven games for the Stockton Heat. He also had a 3.16 goals-against average in 28 games in the ECHL. Despite this tough year, there is still a lot of faith in Parsons and he is seen as the Flames goalie of the future.
At 6’1″, Parsons is a little bit smaller than what teams are typically looking for in goaltenders in recent years; however, he overcomes this with outstanding athleticism and quick reflexes. He has a lightning quick glove hand that takes away the top of the net, as well as a good blocker. Parsons’ legs are extremely quick, and he gets up and down and in and out of his butterfly quickly and without opening up too many holes. He can stand to work on his rebound control, though this is something that a lot of young goaltenders struggle with. It is something that can be improved with refined technique.
Parsons moves very well in his crease. He is a very good skater, allowing him to come out to challenge shooters and take away the angle. He is able to recover quickly with his backwards skating, in case a forward tries to beat him with a deke. Parsons has excellent lateral movement, as his side-to-side push moves him across the net quickly. He does sometimes have a tendency to over commit and slide too far though and must improve on this before he is ready to move to the next level.
Playing the Puck
The strong-skating allows Parsons to move outside his crease and collect pucks behind the net. Good stick handling and passing skills allow Parsons to act like a third defenceman and initiate the breakout game. He is particularly adept at making the long breakaway pass and catching the other team making a line change, or creating a quick transition on the power play.
Expect Parsons to earn a full-time AHL job in his second pro season. There is still some development needed in his game, but he will get the chance to do that in Stockton. Despite a rough season, Parsons remains a strong goalie prospect.
#4 Prospect: Dillon Dube
Center/Right Wing — shoots Left
Born July 20th, 1998 — Golden, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #56 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Dube had a breakout campaign in his final year in the WHL. He scored 38 goals and 46 assists for 84 points in 53 games. Dube also added two goals in four playoff games. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors, scoring three goals and five points in seven games.
Dube is a quick skater with good acceleration. He is able to take defenders wide off the rush and change direction quickly to cut to the net or pull up to create a passing or shooting lane. With his excellent balance and good lower body strength, he is hard to knock off the puck. Dube can fight through checks and get to the front of the net, where he has the soft hands to finish plays. Dube’s agility and edgework make him extremely elusive, and he can beat defenders to the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game.
Dube is an undersized centre who plays bigger than what his listed height says, getting involved in the forecheck and battling for space in front of the net. He is not afraid to take on bigger opponents and plays with a non-stop motor. After the whistle, he can be found in the middle of scrums, often working to agitate opponents and get them off their game. Dube isn’t afraid to go to the net, and to battle in the dirty areas of the ice; fighting for pucks in the corners or battling in the front of the net. He is also willing to drive the net both with and without the puck.
Offensively, Dube has the instincts, vision, and passing skill to be a playmaker. Dube sees the ice very well and can thread a tape-to-tape pass through the smallest of openings. Dube has high-end hockey IQ and almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck on his stick. He uses good stickhandling and puck protection in the cycle game to extend plays and wait for his teammates to get open. He also has a heavy shot and quick release to be a sniper and the quick reflexes, and soft hands to bury rebounds or score goals on deflections when he goes to the net.
Dube is tenacious in the backcheck and uses his hockey IQ to anticipate plays and create turnovers. He gets the transition game going very quickly when he does steal pucks or intercept passes. He is willing to block shots and works to provide back pressure and support down low. More upper body strength would help him to contain opposing forwards down low in the cycle game.
With his junior career behind him, Dube is likely to start next season in Stockton. He will need to show that the skills that lit up the WHL, will also work against professional opponents. He is likely a year or two away from the NHL.
#5 Prospect: Oliver Kylington
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 19th, 1997 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2nd round, #60 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Kylington provided offence for the Stockton Heat last season, with seven goals and 35 points in 62 games. The numbers were career highs across the board for the third year AHL player.
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, edgework, 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 is knocked around in battles for the puck. He also has trouble while fighting for position in front of the net.
Kylington shows good passing skills and excellent vision. He has an outstanding first pass. Kylington is 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. Adding muscle can improve his shot. 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 will likely head back to Stockton this season but could be the first player called up in case of injury. He continues to work on adding strength. Kylington is getting close to being NHL ready, but isn’t quite there yet. Expect him to be looking at a full-time spot in 2019.
#6 Prospect: Jon Gillies
Goalie — shoots Left — Catches Left
Born January 22nd, 1994 — Concord, New Hampshire
Height 6’6″ — Weight 225 lbs [198 cm / 102 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 3rd round, #75 overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft
Gillies had a strong season with Stockton. He played in 39 games with a 2.53 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. With Smith’s injury, he also got an opportunity at the NHL level. In 11 games, Gillies put up a 2.88 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
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. Gillies has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net effectively. He also has a decent glove and blocker, taking 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 demeanour. He is able to shake off bad goals and moves forward to make the next save.
Inconsistent rebound control is his biggest weakness, but one he has improved greatly. There is still 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 heads to camp looking to battle David Rittich for the job of backing up Mike Smith. His future with the Flames could be on the line here. At 24-years-old, its time to at least win a backup role. He also has to be concerned that Parsons is moving up the depth chart. Another year in Stockton would likely be a bit of a personal disappointment.
#7 Prospect: Andrew Mangiapane
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born April 4th, 1996 — Toronto, Ontario
Height 5’10” — Weight 184 lbs [178 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 6th round, #166 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Mangiapane was dominant at the AHL level with 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points in 39 games for Stockton. He got some time with the Flames but was unable to record a point in 10 NHL 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 playmaker, 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 coordination, 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.
While he may not have put up numbers in the NHL last year, Mangiapane will head to training camp looking to make the roster. He has solid work-ethic and a lot of determination. The Flames need to improve their secondary scoring and he might be able to provide that. Even if he doesn’t make the team, expect him to be one of the first players considered for an injury call-up.
#8 Prospect: Spencer Foo
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 19th, 1994 — Edmonton, Alberta
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Signed by the Calgary Flames in June 2017
After an outstanding college career, Foo had a solid first pro season. He scored 20 goals and 39 points in 62 games for Stockton. He also got in four games at the NHL level, putting up two goals.
Foo is a solid skater. He has good speed and acceleration. His first step is especially quick, helping him to win races to loose pucks, and to beat defenders one-on-one. Foo also has the very good agility and edgework. He can make quick cuts and change directions on a dime. A low centre of gravity gives him good balance. He could be even stronger on the puck with more muscle.
Foo has good vision and playmaking skill off the wing. He can thread the needle on passes through tight areas. He has high hockey IQ and spots the openings in the defence. Foo is very good at playing a give-and-go style game. Once the puck is off his stick, he heads towards the net and finds open areas of the ice. Foo has an accurate shot and a quick release. He is also very adept at firing a one-time snapshot at the net. Despite his size, Foo is not afraid to battle in the corners or in front of the net.
Foo plays an effective two-way game and was often used as a key penalty killer in college. He sticks with his man and is not afraid to sacrifice his body to block shots. He also anticipates plays, cutting down passing lanes and creating turnovers. Foo brings his willingness to battle for loose pucks to all three zones.
Foo will also be part of the battle for open spots on the Flames forward group. Because he can go back to the AHL without needing waivers, he will need to outperform fellow prospects who do need to clear waivers. In these situations, organizational decisions are often made with the CBA in mind, and being able to keep both prospects.
#9 Prospect: Matthew Phillips
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born April 6th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 5’7″ — Weight 155 lbs [170 cm/70 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 6th round, #166 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Phillips had another monster season with the Victoria Royals. He put up 48 goals and 112 points in 71 games. He took his game to another level in the playoffs with six goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 11 games.
An undersized forward, Phillips makes up for his lack of physical attributes with his outstanding skating. He has a great first step and near instant acceleration. Add to that a very quick top end speed and Phillips has all the tools necessary to create offence out of breakaways and odd-man rushes. He also has good agility and edgework, as he is slippery through the neutral zone. Phillips will need to develop his core strength to be stronger in battles along the boards, and better able to protect the puck.
Phillips has outstanding hands. He can stickhandle while moving at top speed and in very tight spaces. He also sees the ice very well and can make tape-to-tape passes through tight openings. Combine these skills and you have a dynamic playmaker. Phillips has the hockey IQ to anticipate what the other players on the ice are doing and create a scoring chance. He also has the poise and puck control to speed up or slow down the play in order to make plays.
Phillips is also able to score goals, though playmaking is his preferred role. He has a good wrist shot and snapshot and gets both off with a quick release. While the power is decent, it is the accuracy that gives him an edge as he is able to put the puck in the perfect spot.
Phillips works hard in his own zone, but lack of size and strength will likely always be an issue. He can be overpowered in the cycle game and has a tough time containing bigger forwards. His speed and anticipation are used to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers.
With his junior career in the rearview mirror, Phillips heads to Stockton. The Flames have had a lot of success developing undersized but skilled forwards in the past, and hope to strike gold again with Phillips.
#10 Prospect: Morgan Klimchuk
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 2nd, 1995 — Regina, Saskatchewan
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 1st round, #28 overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft
Klimchuk put up 19 goals and 40 points in 62 games. After years of development, it would appear that he is making strides towards the NHL game, finally.
Klimchuk has decent top end speed, but it is his excellent first step quickness and acceleration that really defines his skating. He also has very good agility. He ends up being one of those players who is more quick than fast, as he pounces on loose pucks, and darts through openings with ease, however, he doesn’t have that pull-away gear that makes him a real breakaway threat. His balance is very good and he fights through checks well and is strong on the puck.
Klimchuk is a natural sniper, gifted with a great wrist shot and an excellent one-timer. His outstanding release fools and confuses goaltenders as he seems to have the puck in the back of the net before they know he’s even shot it. Klimchuk has good hockey sense and is able to find openings in the defence where he can set up to unleash that deadly shot. More than just a one trick pony though, Klimchuk works hard in the corners, often winning board battles despite the fact he is merely average size.
He also does extremely well in the cycle game protecting the puck with his soft hands and excellent balance on his skates. Klimchuk gets to the front of the net and can use his soft hands to tip in shots, or to bury rebounds. He also has good vision and ability.
Klimchuk brings his strong compete level to his own end of the ice, where he applies backpressure and supports his defence. He covers his point man well and is willing to put his body on the line to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
Training camp becomes decision time for the Flames. Former first-round pick Klimchuk must either be on the final roster, or he will be put on waivers before he can return to Stockton. This is a turning point for the youngster’s career.
Sleeper: Adam Ruzicka
Center — shoots Left
Born May 11th, 1999 — Bratislava, Slovakia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 215 lbs [193 cm / 98 kg]
Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 4th round, #109 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Ruzicka had a big season with Sarnia, putting up 36 goals and 72 points in 63 games. He became a top line threat for the team. However, things did not go as well in the playoffs as he had just three assists in 12 games. Ruzicka also struggled at the World Juniors, where he had just two assists for Slovakia.
At 6’4″ Ruzicka has excellent size. His skating is decent, especially given his size. However it also does not stand out. His first step is clunky and his acceleration needs some work. However, once he does get going Ruzicka moves pretty well. He also has power in his lower body, fighting through checks when at his best. He is strong on the puck, and can cycle down low as well as win battles along the boards. Ruzicka isn’t the lightest on his feet though, and could use some work on his agility and edge work.
There is a lot of skill here. Ruzicka can play a power forward style of game. When he is at his best, he works the puck along the boards and out of the corners and drives it to the front of the net. He has the hands necessary to bury pucks in close. Ruzicka also has an excellent wrist shot and snapshot. He can also play the role of playmaker. Ruzicka has the ability to make saucer passes, or to get the puck through tight spaces. He has the vision to wait for a teammate to get open. Ruzicka makes tape-to-tape passes in good areas. When Ruzicka is on his game, his size and power can make him very effective in protecting the puck, working the cycle game, and waiting for an opportunity.
The issue here is that there are too many nights when Ruzicka is not on his game. On some nights, he seems content to sit on the perimeter and not get involved in the dirty areas of the ice. There are times when he seems to avoid getting involved in the physical game or battling along the boards. These are issues that Ruzicka must overcome going forward. He did a better job of being consistent in his second OHL season, but there is still room for improvement.
Like his offensive game, Ruzicka’s defensive work is hit-or-miss. There are nights when he is solid on the backcheck, supporting the defence down low, as well as using his stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Ruzicka will need to work on maintaining intensity. He also can get out of position, even when he is playing well. This is another area that is a work in progress.
Ruzicka is a long-term project and should be back in Sarnia next season. If the Sting don’t look like contenders at the OHL trade deadline, expect him to be moved to another OHL team. He is at least two years away from regular NHL action.
The Flames are particularly strong on defence, which means that the loss of Adam Fox in the trade with Carolina shouldn’t be felt too hard. They also have a pair of solid goaltending prospects in Parsons and Gillies. Up front, the Flames lack an elite prospect but have plenty of depth. Glenn Gawdin had a huge season as an overage player in the WHL and heads to Stockton this year. D’Artagnan Joly had better than a point per game in Baie-Comeau. Eetu Tuulola returned to Finland and was a solid contributor in men’s league. Linus Lindstrom is finding his place in the SHL. The Flames attempts to rebuild through the farm were set back recently as the Flames lacked draft picks (especially high ones) at the 2018 NHL Draft. They added just four players, though all four continue to address the need for forward depth.
Embed from Getty Images