The Calgary Flames have been known for being patient with player development, and that remains the case as we check in with the prospect pool this season.
Much like the Flames, AHL affiliate Stockton Heat have had an up-and-down season. The Heat began 2016-17 with plenty of promise but have fizzled recently, suffering 10 straight losses from Jan. 21 to Feb. 18 and dropping several spots to find themselves sitting seventh in the Pacific Division.
Despite some recent scoring woes, there is plenty to be excited about with a prospect pool as deep as Calgary’s.
There are some notable players on the bubble, like forwards Garnet Hathaway and Hunter Shinkaruk and defencemen Brett Kulak and Tyler Wotherspoon, all of whom have spent time in the NHL both this season and last and look to be inching closer to becoming full-time NHLers.
Whether or not they see more NHL action this season will depend on the Flames’ playoff push and where they find themselves heading into the post-trade deadline stretch.
Here’s a look at some of Calgary’s top prospects who haven’t yet had their chance in the NHL spotlight, and what they’ve been up to lately.
Jon Gillies, 23, G
Drafted: third round, 75th overall, 2012 (Calgary)
Season to date: 30 GP | 12-12-4 | 3.08 GAA | .906 SV% | 1 SO
Gillies’ first pro season in 2015-16 was cut short after just seven games when he underwent hip surgery. Now fully healed, Gillies has claimed the No. 1 role with the Stockton Heat for the 2016-17 season, but has lacked the consistency he held throughout his impressive NCAA career.
“Consistency has always been a big part of my game and I’m still trying to find that,” Gillies told Postmedia’s Kristen Odland back in December. “You hate to lose but you definitely try to find the positives where you can. But it’s definitely coming along.”
“Missing so much time, I have to commit to the process a little bit more than just expecting to be at the top all the time but I’m definitely starting to feel better when I play,” said Gillies, who is widely regarded as the future answer to Calgary’s goaltending questions.
Though Gillies’ career-low numbers this season aren’t quite up to expectations, they should be taken with a grain of salt as his Heat teammates haven’t been able to find their scoring touch of late, suffering a string of losses that cannot be attributed to poor performances from Gillies or his crease counterpart, David Rittich.
Rittich, signed as a free agent last June to back up Gillies, is currently leading all AHL rookie netminders in GAA (2.29) and SV% (.921).
The search for consistency continues, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism in Calgary’s net.
Rasmus Andersson, 20, D
Drafted: second round, 53rd overall, 2015 (Calgary)
Season to date: 44 GP | 3 G | 17 A | 20 P | 34 PIM | plus-15
Like many young Swedish defenders, Andersson has long admired Erik Karlsson’s playing style. You can certainly see glimpses of Karlsson’s game in Andersson’s offensive prowess, strong skating, and ability to slow things down and move the puck with efficiency.
It’s no surprise, then, that Andersson’s stock is rising—and fast.
After leading all OHL defencemen in points (60) last season and earning a first team All-Star selection, the Barrie Colts alumnus has already earned top-pairing honours in Stockton.
Andersson’s 20 points on the season so far ranks him first among Heat defencemen, and his 17 assists solidifies his status as a playmaker.
Oliver Kylington, 19, D
Drafted: second round, 60th overall, 2015 (Calgary)
Season to date: 40 GP | 4 G | 12 A | 16 P | 14 PIM | plus-2
Already in his second year of professional hockey, Kylington has proven to be a quick study. The Swedish defenceman even got his first NHL call-up last year, playing about 17 minutes during the Flames’ last game of the 2015-16 campaign.
For Kylington, who often found himself already quarterbacking the Heat’s power play as a rookie, this year is less about learning a new style and much more about polishing his own.
The 20-year-old has already passed last year’s points totals in seven fewer games, and his plus-2 rating is a far cry from the minus-15 of his rookie campaign.
Mark Jankowski, 22, C
Drafted: first round, 21st overall, 2012
Season to date: 43 GP | 16 G | 17 A | 33 P | 10 PIM | plus-3
No prospect exemplifies the Flames’ patient approach more than Jankowski, and it looks like that patience is about to pay off soon.
The lanky high school kid then-Flames GM Jay Feaster selected in 2012 has blossomed into a legitimate NHL prospect who is almost ready for the big leagues.
The 22-year-old got a small taste of NHL life when he made his NHL debut on Nov. 28, but was sent back to Stockton shortly after where he is excelling in his first year in the pros.
Jankowski leads all Heat teammates in goals (16) and total points (33), and is tied for second in assists (17).
The late-blooming centreman’s impressive rookie season earned him a spot on the Pacific Division squad for January’s 2017 AHL All-Star Classic, and has certainly grabbed the attention of Flames general manager Brad Treliving, who says there is “no question” the youngster is “knocking at the door” of the NHL.
“He’s had an impact on the game on a lot of nights and in a lot of different ways,” Treliving told The Calgary Sun‘s Wes Gilbertson. “He’s relied upon heavily there in all situations — five-on-five, power play, penalty kill, important faceoffs. His growth has been excellent throughout the year.”
Morgan Klimchuk, 21, LW
Drafted: first round, 28th overall, 2013 (Calgary)
Season to date: 45 GP | 13 G | 17 A | 30 P | 18 PIM | plus-7
Klimchuk was the third of three forwards selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, behind Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier.
Now in his second year in Stockton, the Calgary native has more than tripled his rookie points total, and he’s done so in 10 fewer games. The winger is second on the team in total points and first in assists.
Klimchuk has yet to lace up his skates for a stint in the NHL, but his strong play with linemates Hunter Shinkaruk and Mark Jankowski could suggest a call might not be in the too distant future.
Dillon Dube, 18, C
Drafted: second round, 56th overall, 2016
Season to date: 29 GP | 10 G | 25 A | 35 P | 34 PIM | plus-13
Dube was a surprise addition to Team Canada ahead of the 2017 World Junior Championship, but his performance throughout the tournament would prove he was a worthy selection.
Known for his versatility, Dube’s quick, shifty style of play complemented Team Canada’s offensive core and helped the club to a silver medal with three assists and a solid commitment to playing on the all-important checking line.
“He may be looking at a similar role like that to get to the NHL,” Flames GM Brad Treliving, said of Dube following the tournament. “He showed his versatility. We know he’s creative and has very good offensive instincts and all those things, but what I took away from it is that his line was a real dependable line. You could tell the coaches had trust in them. They played in matchup roles and late in games and starting shifts in games. Guts-of-the-game types of things, as I like to call them.”
The Cochrane, Alta., native’s third season with the Kelowna Rockets has been shorter than most, as he didn’t suit up for his first game of the season until mid November due to a knee injury. He has been on a points spree ever since, though, even registering his first career hat trick in January.
Tyler Parsons, 19, G
Drafted: second round, 54th overall, 2016
Season to date: 26 GP | 17-4-3 | 2.25 GAA | .926 SV% | 4 SO
It’s been quite a year for Tyler Parsons.
The Michigan native shone in the international spotlight during the 2017 World Junior Championship, stopping just about everything that came his way to help Team USA to the gold medal.
The Michigan native also starred for the London Knights during last year’s Memorial Cup-winning run, earning himself the title of CHL Memorial Cup Most Outstanding Goaltender in the process.
Chalk it up to great training and a seemingly unshakeable mental focus.
“He’s a mentally strong person,” Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy said of the goalie in January. “Especially talking to some of the guys last year in London, trying to get a feel for what he’s like … the one thing everyone said was how mentally focused he is.”
Now in his third season with the Knights, Parsons is once again putting up impressive numbers, sitting in the top 10 league-wide for save percentage and ranking third in goals against average.
Adam Fox, 19, D
Drafted: third round, 66th overall, 2016 (Calgary)
Season to date: 26 GP | 4 G | 26 A | 30 P | 6 PIM | plus-16
After two years in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, Fox has made a big impact in his freshman season at Harvard.
The first-year blue liner out of Jericho, N.Y. has been going at a pace better than a point-per-game — as a defenceman, no less — and ranks first among d-men and freshmen on the team.
Fox proved to be an integral part of Team USA’s gold medal-winning entry in the 2017 World Junior Championship, registering four assists during the tournament while helping to hold down the blue line. His impressive playmaking and ability to show up under pressure was most evident in the thrilling gold medal game against Team Canada, in which he registered three assists in Team USA’s eventual shootout win.