The kids certainly deserve to be rewarded, and it looks like the Calgary Flames are poised to do just that.
At least two of the team’s highest-profile rookies appear to be in line for an opening night roster spot following the team’s latest paper shuffling.
The Flames put three players on waivers Sunday – Anthony Peluso, Curtis Lazar and Brett Kulak – with an eye on likely demoting them to Stockton.
Should they clear Monday and be sent packing, it would open the door for rookies Dillon Dube and Juuso Valimaki to start the season with the team Wednesday in Vancouver.
Both had brilliant fall campaigns, pushing hard since the beginning of prospects camp to catch the attention of management, fans and the opposition. They impressed right until the end, showing no sign of fading against NHL veterans.
Dube led the NHL in preseason scoring for a good chunk of the silly season, finishing with four goals and two assists in seven games. Despite a hectic schedule of games, he flourished with various linemates, he shone up the middle and eventually proved worthy on the wing too.
That is where the 20-year-old second round draft pick will likely open the season too, on the left side of the club’s third line with Derek Ryan and James Neal.
The former captain of Canada’s world junior-winning squad has done everything asked of him as he enters his first year of pro following a stellar run with the Kelowna Rockets.
He possesses everything today’s NHL requires; speed, skill and poise with a dash of confidence that belies his age.
Ditto for Valimaki, the Flames first round pick in 2017, who didn’t look out of place at all on the Flames back end through a preseason that saw the 19-year-old finish with two goals, three assists and a team-high plus-4.
The team had the day off Sunday following its final preseason game Saturday in Edmonton where a loss left the Flames with a 4-3-3 record.
General manager Brad Treliving cautioned people not to get too excited one way or another about who made the opening night roster.
As he explained, it could change the next day.
Of course, he also reserves the right to keep any of the players cleared through waivers and demote others instead.
Last season, the team’s most impressive rookie in camp, Mark Jankowski, was demoted to start the season despite a fervour in town to keep him with the big boys. He quickly made his way back to the NHL following Flames injuries and his solid start in the AHL alongside Andrew Mangiapane.
Mangiapane has also impressed in camp this year and has likely earned a chance to stay on the 23-man roster, which needs to be declared Tuesday.
Rasmus Andersson, who also played well on the back end, is likely AHL-bound, as is goalie Jon Gillies who outplayed David Rittich, but is the easy demotion based on the fact he doesn’t have to clear waivers.
As it stands, here is the most likely forward roster Wednesday in Vancouver:
Johnny Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk-Mikael Backlund-Austin Czarnik
Dillon Dube-Derek Ryan-James Neal
Sam Bennett-Mark Jankowski-Michael Frolik
Extras Garnet Hathaway, Andrew Mangiapane
On the blue line:
Mark Giordano-TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin-Travis Hamonic
Juuso Valimaki-Michael Stone
Extra Dalton Prout