Of the more than a dozen Calgary Flames prospects scattered around Europe getting valuable game experience in, few are standing out as much as Martin Pospisil.
Loaned to Kosice HC of the Slovakian Extraleague, the 21-year-old centre has eight goals and 12 points in 15 games played so far.
However, there’s another number that stands out even more for the second-year pro: 70.
That’s how many penalty minutes Marty Muckraker has accrued in a league not known for the rough stuff.
“He finds trouble in church,” deadpanned Flames GM Brad Treliving of the league’s second-most penalized player.
“He tends to do that. That’s part of his appeal. He’s a bit of a throwback for sure.”
A fourth-round pick of the Flames in 2018, the six-foot-two, 180-pound Slovak continues to prove he’s capable of pot-stirring at any level. This, despite jumping from the USHL to the AHL last year where the team’s youngest player missed three months recovering from a concussion suffered after being knocked out in a scary fight scene that went viral.
Again, for a lad who led the USHL with an unheard of 253 PIMs in 49 games (and then finished second in assists the next year), none of this should be too surprising.
Glenn Gawdin’s European adventure is over.
The 23-year-old centre is back in Vancouver for 14 days of quarantine after voluntarily deciding to leave the EHC Visp Lions of the Swiss B League after just one game. Loaned to the club with an eye on getting reps in ahead of the NHL season, last year’s scoring leader in Stockton felt he was better served skating in Calgary with Flames teammates, who he will soon join.
Juuso Valimaki continues to shine with Ilves Tampere, where the 21-year-old defender has two goals and 19 points in 19 games. The Finnish league’s fifth-leading scorer sits second in the loop with a plus-15 rating, which is an encouraging sign for the Flames first-round pick from 2017 who missed all of last season following knee surgery.
Valimaki is on loan to his hometown team and will join the Flames once plans are announced for camp to start.
Another Flames defenceman who is starring overseas is Johannes Kinnvall, who has five goals and 14 points in 13 games with HV71 Jonkoping. When the 23-year-old free agent was signed this summer, the plan was for him to spend this season in his native Sweden. Those plans won’t change even though he continues to be one of Swedish league’s most prolific defencemen again this season.
WORLD JUNIORS WATCH
If in fact the World Juniors are able to be staged this Christmas in Edmonton, the Flames could have as many as five of their prospects participating.
Connor Zary (first-round 2020) and Jakob Pelletier (1st, 2019) opened selection camp with Team Canada with strong showings that included plenty of offence in the early scrimmages before camp was shut down for two weeks of quarantine, which ends Monday. Indications from the coaching staff suggested Zary, who wasn’t part of last year’s Canadian team, was one of the team’s best players early on.
Canadian junior hockey’s top netminder last season, Dustin Wolf (7th, 2019), was one of three goalies named to the U.S. team’s preliminary camp roster and will most likely be the team’s backup once again to first round hotshot Spencer Knight.
At six-foot-four, 210 pounds, Yan Kuznetsov (2nd, 2020) has a chance of making a real impact with a Russian team full of WJC newbies. The defenceman’s second season with the University of Connecticut is already underway.
“I talked to (coach Igor) Larionov and barring anything dramatic he’ll be on this team,” said Treliving.
“I think he’s going to be a stud.”
Although Sweden’s camp roster has yet to be unveiled, winger Lucas Feuk (4th, 2019) has informed the Flames he has been invited to attend camp.
AROUND THE HORN
Former Flames president of hockey operations, Brian Burke, outlined on Hockey Central the main issue facing NHL team owners as they contemplate how, or if, they might be able to move forward with a 2020-21 season.
The Sportsnet analyst said he spoke with a GM the other day who said the teams are facing losses of $60 million if they play a 60-game season without fans. If they don’t play at all, they’ll lose $15 million.
There is an important U.S. TV contract on the horizon to sign, and the value of each franchise could take a significant hit if the league were to go dark for a full year. Lots at stake as the players and league ponder how best to proceed.
The targeted Jan. 1 start date is a pipe dream now, as players have made it clear they’re not interested in foregoing Christmas for camp.
Flames third-round selection this year, Jeremie Poirier, is off to a torrid start in the QMJHL and was named defenceman of the month for November after posting 10 points in seven outings. The offensive-minded rearguard was the league’s fourth-leading scorer with 16 points in 15 games before the league announced earlier this week it would shut down until Jan. 3.
Diminutive centre Ryan Francis (fifth-round, 2020) is amongst Quebec league leaders with six goals and 21 points in 15 games with Cape Breton.
HOME ON THE RANGE
A growing number of Flames players and prospects continue to skate at the Saddledome daily, thanks to an exemption they qualify for due to strict COVID-19 testing protocols.
“Probably close to 18 or 19 guys,” said Treliving, who is in hurry-up-and-wait mode, like the rest of the hockey world.
“There’s no start date obviously but guys are coming back every couple days. Everyone is wondering when. We try to keep them apprised but there are not a lot of updates. They get updates from the Players’ Association and whenever we get something we know, they’ll know.”
Ditto for the fans.