Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. What are these? These are players that have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams. Whether that’s as someone who finally finds their place in the NHL, or as someone who had previously been good but has struggled as of recently. Each day we will be looking at a different team! However, today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Calgary Flames key players.
2021-21 Calgary Flames Candidates
Our first break-out candidate for the 2020-21 Calgary Flames is the former Barrie Colts OHL star, Andrew Mangiapane. Breaking over 100 points in his last two seasons with the Colts, he looked to continue his offensive wrecking path. Last season, the 24-year-old made that next step to secure himself a full-time spot on the Flames roster. He closed out the season by playing 68 games while posting 32 points. In 122 games played in the NHL, he has a total of 45 points, which would make 70% of those points coming from last season. For the left-winger, producing half a point per game last season had to be a pleasing contribution despite being a sixth-round draft pick. He avoided arbitration and signed himself a well-rewarding contract, a two-year deal worth $4.85 million.
Reasons for Optimism
He is Calgary’s most skilled and upcoming forward since Matthew Tkachuk. Mangiapane found himself in a top-six role near the later half of the season, as well in the most recent playoffs. In a great-looking trio with the likes of superstar Tkachuk and two-way forward Mikael Backlund, this player’s game is very likely to elevate. With the projection of this upcoming season’s second forward line to be the same, put your sunglasses on because his season looks bright! All of his goals have come at even strength as he looks to earn his way onto the power-play. His shooting percentage last season was 15.6%, nearly 3% better than Tkachuk. Surely, Geoff Ward will look at those numbers and find some power-play time for the skilled left-winger. With the amount of skill surrounding Mangiapane next season, there is no reason for him to be one of Calgary’s dark horses.
Dube, 22, was Calgary’s 2nd round (56th overall) selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 5’11” left-winger was captain for Team Canada U20 in 2018, supporting Canada to capture their 17th title. Dube had established himself in between the Stockton Heat in the AHL and with the Calgary Flames his last two seasons. In the time spent in Stockton, he’s been a point per game player, combining 55 points in 56 games played. He’s accumulated 70 games in the NHL, calculating seven goals and 14 assists. Calgary’s leader in fewest penalty minutes is known for his speed, passing, and grade-A teamwork play.
Reason for Optimism
Dillon Dube is projected to be in Calgary’s opening night roster. Geoff Ward could leave last season’s third forward group untouched, as they were the most consistent line. There are some other options regarding Bennetts’s very strong playoff input, which found chemistry with Dube. The chemistry jointly brought a fast and much more physical constant pace. Retaining these three together as a constant line could add huge sparks to this team’s offence.
We’ve seen how Dube isn’t shy, whether it’s parking himself in front of the net for a screen, flashy toe-drags, bumping into puck carriers or flying by defenders. He keeps his penalties to a minimum and known for tolerating mistakes at a low cost. The skilled, swift forward has a known drive for hard work and being rewarded, there’s no lack of drive to be shown in his game. By locking up enough experience, he comprehends what it takes to be a competitor and clinch a full-time spot in the NHL. Next offseason will conclude Dube’s ELC and should push him to earn a decent pay raise.
A Calder Memorial finalist and making one appearance in the NHL All-Star Game, he is “Johnny Hockey.” After a season-low of 58 points that led to much criticism, he looks to get back into configuration. Having five straight seasons recording north of 60 points and one point shy of gaining a milestone of 100 points in the 2018-19 season leads to sanguinity. Johnny has put together 445 points in 464 games so far in his career, along with 94 power-play goals.
Reasons for Optimism
The 2019-20 season was almost a mirror image of 2016-17 for Gaudreau. We’ve seen Johnny Gaudreau turn his game around after a year that down spiralled. He’s a dominant winger which exhibits a very intriguing skill set. He is extremely creative with starting and finishing plays, possessing extraordinary stick handling and puck control. The Calgary Flames have relied heavily on the six-year veteran’s high offence presence over the course of the years. The workload has lightened up with the likes of Matthew Tkachuk living up to his hype, and Lindholm showing he can light the lamp.
Did Gaudreau feel the pressure and rely too heavily on himself to post an identical year of his prior 99 points? With other forwards breaking out, this could take the pressure off and give him his confidence back. The fact of the matter is this player is an elite top left-winger in the league. It happens, superstars have an off-year and most of them bounce back the following year.
Embed from Getty Images