Kanzig Ready for Professional Hockey After Final Season of Junior

By Jason Pirie

CALGARY, AB — Six months.

That’s how long Keegan Kanzig had to wait between pro appearances with the Stockton Heat.

Instead of bemoaning about being sent back for a fifth Western Hockey League tour of duty after dressing for a single game, however, the 6-foot-7, 247-pound defenceman decided to make the most of it.

Quit stewing and start doing.

“Actually, I was moving into a new place in Stockton the day I received a call telling me I was being sent back to junior,” said the 6-foot-7, 247-pound Kanzig, who the Calgary Flames nabbed with their third round, 67th overall, pick at the 2013 NHL Draft.

“It was a perfect place right across from the rink. At least I got to stay one night.”

Welcome to the pro hockey life, kid.

At first, being sent back to junior was a huge disappointment, and to be honest I was bitter about it.– Keegan Kanzig

Big Keegan Kanzig is a 6'6" defenseman who finished his WHL career with the Calgary Hitmen (PHOTO BY ROB MCMORRIS)

Big Keegan Kanzig is a 6’6″ defenseman who finished his WHL career with the Calgary Hitmen (PHOTO BY ROB MCMORRIS)

Not an ideal situation to say the least.

Neither was being relegated to the press box as a healthy scratch – due to a numbers game more than anything else – for five of Stockton’s first six contests of the season.

“At first, being sent back to junior was a huge disappointment, and to be honest I was bitter about it, but,” Kanzig said, “it turned out to be the best thing for me. I love the city of Calgary, and the Calgary Hitmen organization is second to none, so it wasn’t like I was going to a place I didn’t like.

“And to top it all off, I was able to have a good year.”

No kidding.

As an overager with the Hitmen, the Athabasca, AB native did his due diligence by notching a career-high 13 goals and 20 points with 75 penalty minutes in 53 games.

In fact, there was even a span following the holiday break where the hulking blueliner went on an unlikely scoring tear, burying six goals in as many games (he had buried a total of six over his first four junior campaigns combined).

It was a during the first period of a mid-season contest against provincial arch-rival Edmonton that demonstrated just how valuable Kanzig can be, though, when he scored twice within a span of 55 seconds before rushing to a teammate’s rescue and dropping the mitts with fellow overager and New Jersey Devils prospect Brandon Baddock.

“I made a lot of improvements throughout my time in that league,” said Kanzig, who finished his WHL tenure with an impressive plus-44 rating and a whopping 565 penalty minutes. “I have definitely become a lot more confident with and without the puck. I’m not strictly defensive anymore; I like to do my best to add some offence.

“Recognizing what I can contribute, I was given some offensive opportunities with the Hitmen and I was able to take advantage of those.”

With his junior career now in the rearview mirror, the 21-year-old is now focused solely on the task at hand.

Keegan Kanzig made his pro debut against the Texas Stars on 10/24/15. Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars

Keegan Kanzig made his pro debut against the Texas Stars on 10/24/15. Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars

To crack the pro game.


Cementing a reputation as one of the toughest defenders to play against in junior – led the WHL with 166 penalty minutes in 2014-15 – Kanzig is looking to bring that sandpaper game to the next level.

He also hopes to develop into more than a one dimensional player, having already made noticeable strides when it comes to his foot speed and mobility over the past season.

“I’ve been working really hard on my skating,” said Kanzig, who can be found on the ice in Calgary three to four times per week and who has been working on his technique with renowned Toronto-based skating coach Dawn Braid. “Being a bigger guy skating has always been viewed as my weakness, but it’s starting to come around. I’m feeling a lot faster and stronger and I feel my skating is ready for pro.”

Following his Hitmen being ousted in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Kanzig was reassigned to Stockton where he suited up for two games.

Still only a cup of coffee, but nevertheless an experience that he says should help him adjust this coming season.

“I just have to keep it simple, rely on the basics, and not try to do too much,” he said. “I have to make sure I’m moving my feet, making good, simple passes and playing the body hard.

“I’m already familiar with the rink and some of the guys down there, so it will be nice that I can just focus on going down there and playing.”

And, while he’s at it, begin scouring the classifieds for new digs.

Kulak Fixed on Full-Time Role with Flames

By Aaron Vickers  – CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB — Brett Kulak isn’t sitting by his phone waiting for a push notification awaiting any potential signings.

Not refreshing Twitter to see if any news is coming that might affect his standing with the team.

Not focusing on anything external.

Just himself.

“If you get caught up focusing on what everyone else is doing … there’s so many players … if you’re focusing on them instead of yourself you’re not going to be improving as much as you can be,” the 22-year-old Calgary Flames hopeful said.

“You see that stuff. You see the guys come and go. It’s your job. Hockey is my life. You take pride in it and you want to do your studies and homework so you know where you stand.”

No one is more curious to see where he stands come training camp this fall than Kulak.

Not after a rollercoaster 2015-16 campaign that saw the 22-year-old start the season with the Flames, slump with Stockton of the American Hockey League, and rebound to nab a one-game return to the National Hockey League and earn defensive player of the year honours with Calgary’s minor-league affiliate by season’s end.


And downs.

Brett Kulak in his NHL debut back on April 11, 2015 with the Calgary Flames.

Brett Kulak in his NHL debut back on April 11, 2015 with the Calgary Flames.

“It’s what you work for your whole life, especially that summer leading up to it,” Kulak said. “You focus on that moment … training camp … that’s your goal to make opening night. When that happened I was feeling really good about myself. I felt confident in my game. They were giving me opportunity in the preseason. I had a good sense and a good belief it could happen.”

The audition came to an end six games into the season, when a dip in play coincided with injured defencemen Ladislav Smid and TJ Brodie returning to health.

Kulak was assigned down to Stockton as a result.

From opening night theatrics at Scotiabank Saddledome to bus rides from Stockton.

From battling Alexander Ovechkin and Connor McDavid on a nightly basis to reworking his game in the AHL.

“That’s just the way it works. I could sense it,” Kulak started.

“I came in and had a good couple first games. I knew my game started to drop off a bit. I got in my own head. A big part of the game for me is the mental side. I could sense my play dropping off. It’s the NHL … you have to be on top of your game, especially as a young defenceman. You have to prove yourself every night. It was best for me to go back to the AHL.”

A self-admitted slump followed soon thereafter.

“I wasn’t playing how I wanted to play and I’d get down on myself,” he said. “It snowballed. I just had to sit back and re-evaluate things and reset. I’m where I am now. I just have to start working to get back to where I want to be. I slowly started working harder and started to improve and I found my game again.”

The rebound wasn’t a small one.

Kulak, who finished with three goals and 17 points in 59 games, was tabbed as Stockton’s top defensive player in a season-ending awards ceremony.

It offered a reaffirmation that Kulak, a fourth round pick (No. 105) in the 2012 NHL Draft, continues to knock on the door of the NHL.

He’s close, he feels.

Really close.

“I think every year I just get better mentally and physically,” Kulak said. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s all going to work out. It’s going to come together.

“I’m going to be a full-timer.”

There’s no set timeline though.

No deadline.

No drop-dead date.

Just the will to get there.

And no focus on who might stand in the way.

“I don’t set a specific timeline, but I set short-term, long-term goals for myself and work at those,” he said. “Eventually it’ll all piece together.

“I don’t look at guys that I’m competing with necessarily for a spot. I’m looking at guys who are above me and who can make me better.

Klimchuk Looking to Seize Opportunity as Second-Year Pro

By Aaron Vickers  – CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB — Morgan Klimchuk got his feet wet in his first season of professional hockey.

He plans to dive right into his second go-round.

And make the most of the opportunity.

“Going into this year it’s remembering what got me there and taking a bit of risk … putting that into your game so you can produce,” the Calgary Flames prospect said.

“For me, it’s making sure I’m remembering that and bringing that into my game and that’s what I’m focusing on this summer. Honestly, it’s playing the game and having fun and scoring. That’s what I did very well at the junior level and that’s what I’m going to do very well this year at the pro level.”

After a standout junior career that saw him amass 118 goals and 267 points in 261 games over parts of five seasons in the Western Hockey League, Klimchuk struggled to replicate similar numbers in his first season with Stockton of the American Hockey League.

Klimchuk, selected in the first round (No. 28) of the 2013 NHL Draft, had three goals and nine points in 55 games as a first-year pro.

Morgan Klimchuk is entering his second year pro after a prolific career in the WHL (PHOTO BY ROB MCMORRIS)

Morgan Klimchuk is entering his second year pro after a prolific career in the WHL (PHOTO BY ROB MCMORRIS)

“Early I kind of struggled a bit,” he said. “That was pretty evident. You get into a role or a mindset where you’re playing safe and try to stay in the lineup and be a reliable guy instead of what got you there. For me it was scoring.

“I was playing a lot of situations last year where I was playing against other team’s top guys and top lines. That’s where I fit in last year. We had a lot of guys who could score, and being a first-year pro that’s where (coach Ryan Huska) saw I would be best utilized.

“This year I’m looking to add onto that … keep all that in my game but play in different situations, offensive situations, and show I can play there. I’m not too worried about it. I know I can do it. I’m looking forward to this year to prove I can play that side of the game.”

Klimchuk will be provided an opportunity to do so.

The Flames didn’t qualify pending restricted free agent forwards Kenny Agostino, Drew Shore, Bill Arnold and Turner Elson. Forward Derek Grant also departed the team as an unrestricted free agent.

The five were among Stockton’s seven leading scorers a year ago.

The roster space screams opportunity to Klimchuk.

And he’s looking to deliver.

“For a young guy like myself I see it as an opportunity,” he said. “There were a lot of guys that were go-to guys on our team that aren’t back. That’s why I’m making sure I have a good summer. If I’m back down there, I’ll be ready to fill those shoes and take over a role that some of those guys would’ve had.

“It’s an opportunity. You want to come here and do as well as you can, but you know if you go down there (to Stockton) you’re going to get an opportunity because those guys are no longer there.

“At the end of the day, it’s pro hockey and you have to earn everything you get. It’s cliché but you have to earn it, like I earned everything this year. I fully expect it, and it’s something I’m excited for if I do end up there.”

Getting Excited For: Jon Gillies

Our “Getting Excited For…” articles to this point have focused on players that will in all likelihood be making their Stockton Heat debuts this October. However, today we’re going to switch it up a little and re-introduce you to goaltending super-prospect Jon Gillies.

Sure, Gillies spent seven games in a Heat sweater last season and some of you may have gotten to witness a glimpse of the skills he brings to the crease every night.

Unfortunately, though, an awkward save late in the first period on November 6th against Bakersfield would be the final save anyone in Stockton would see Gillies make last season, as the netminder was forced to miss the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to hip surgery.

Jon Gillies makes a key stop in the game against Texas to help the Heat shutout the Stars 1-0.

Jon Gillies makes a key stop in the game against Texas to help the Heat shutout the Stars 1-0.

Gillies, 22, now enters what is essentially still a rookie season with a better understanding of the level he is stepping up to because of his brief stint in the AHL last year – through which he didn’t really look like a rookie anyways.

In just seven games as a pro, Gillies racked up two shutouts (in his first three starts mind you) and built an impressive statline reading 2.31 goals-against-average and .920 save-percentage. His most impressive performance without a doubt came on October 21st at Texas in what was his first-ever pro start away from Stockton Arena.

The 6’6” goaltender stopped all 36 shots he faced en route to a 1-0 shutout victory over the Stars, who at the time were the top offensive team in the Pacific Division. What made the performance even more memorable was the fact that it was nothing like his first shutout on opening night.

One of the biggest questions for any rookie goaltender is how will they handle their nerves while they get their feet wet in the pros. That question didn’t really refer to Gillies’ first start, as his team had built a commanding 4-0 lead and already chased the opposing netminder before Gillies had even broke a sweat.

He faced 19 shots all night, stopping them all, but really was never tested outside of maybe one legitimate opportunity.

His 36-save shutout in the Lone Star State couldn’t have been more opposite. Over 55 minutes of hockey were played before a single goal was scored and the longer the game went, the more obvious it became that whichever goaltender blinked first was going to take the loss.

Goaltender Jon Gillies stops one of the 19-shots he faced in his pro debut to earn his first pro win and shutout. (PHOTO BY JACK LIMA)

Goaltender Jon Gillies stops one of the 19-shots he faced in his pro debut to earn his first pro win and shutout. (PHOTO BY JACK LIMA)

A power-play goal from Freddie Hamilton late in the third put the Heat up 1-0 and their goaltender sealed it from there, as he did all night.

Heat and Flames fans alike that saw that performance can’t help but be excited for what the future holds for the former Providence College standout.

The one looming threat over Gillies, though, is how will he recover from his hip surgery and will he be the same goaltender fans saw put on a show in Texas back in October 2015.

Flames Development Camp was the first time fans were able to see Gillies back in action since his injury and all signs point towards him being 100-percent for the start of this season.

At last season’s Stockton Heat exit interviews, General Manager Brad Pascall stated that he fully anticipated Gillies to make a full recovery and that the goaltender was expected to be “the guy” in Stockton come 2016-17.

With this season rapidly approaching and last season’s goaltending woes still fresh in Heat fans’ minds, a healthy Jon Gillies manning the crease is a sight for sore eyes.

There is no reason anyone in Stockton, or Calgary for that matter, shouldn’t be excited for his return between the pipes.

Heat Announce Pair of October Preseason Games

Stockton, Calif. – The Stockton Heat, proudly owned by the NHL’s Calgary Flames, announce two preseason games in October, including a home game against Tucson and an away game in Bakersfield.

The Heat will host the Tucson Roadrunners for the very first time on Friday, October 7 at Stockton Arena with puck drop at 7:30 p.m.

The following day on Saturday, October 8, the Heat will head South to take on the Bakersfield Condors at Rabobank Arena for a 7:00 p.m. faceoff.

These two preseason dates add to the six guaranteed dates already announced. The Heat’s full season schedule will be available in August.

All 2016-17 full season ticket holders will receive two tickets per seat to the preseason game on October 7. Full season ticket packages start at just $380 per seat.

Mini plan packages are also available, beginning at just $60 per seat and include opening night, as well as the ability to select the games that fit your schedule. Ticket packages can be purchased over the phone by calling 209.373.1500 or by visiting stocktonheat.com.

Rittich Impresses in First Up-Close Look

By Aaron Vickers  – CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB — Admittedly, Calgary Flames goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet hadn’t seen stopper David Rittich up close.

Understandably, he was excited with the opportunity to do so at Flames development camp earlier in the month.

And he liked what he saw.

“You’re always nervous when you’re going off watching a guy on video,” Sigalet started. “Some of our scouts saw him live. My set of eyes were through about 10 games.”

“But he came over and his work ethic was great. His English … we still need to work on his English. It helps having a few Czech guys in our system. The skill set he has … he’s a very athletic guy.

“I think there’s some adjustment with the smaller ice. He’ll keep adjusting to that through camp and hopefully he’s ready for the season.”

Rittich signed a one-year, two-way contract with Calgary in June.

He is set to come over to North America after playing the past two seasons with BK Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Extraliga. Rittich played 48 games for BK Mlada Boleslav in 2015-16, where he had a record of 26-22-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

David Rittich signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames on June 13th.

David Rittich signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames on June 13th.

He opened the 2014-15 season with BK Mlada Boleslav and managed a 3.15 GAA and .892 save percentage in 23 games, and was loaned to HC Dukla Jihlava, where he sported a 1.52 GAA and .946 save percentage in seven regular season games, and a 2.41 GAA and .924 save percentage in six playoff appearances.

The 23-year-old was never drafted into the NHL.

“Once our guys identified and spend some time with him, we had (goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet) really dig in, watch a lot of video on him, spend some time with him, and we made a decision to move forward,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said at the time of the signing.

“We’re not giving up anything. At the same token, you always want to do your homework and due diligence. He’s a big guy who has some athletic ability and we’ll see where it goes.

“The way the contract is structured to us is it’s a low-risk move where we feel there’s some upside. Where it goes from there, we’ll wait and see and see how David develops.”

The 6-foot-4, 202-pound keeper is set to start with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League as Rittich makes his adjustment to North America, both on and off the ice.

He’ll work with Sigalet, and Stockton goalie coach Colin Zulianello, in those adjustments.

And there’s a solid base to start with.

At least, based on Sigalet’s first up-close look.

“I tell people he reminds me a little bit of (Andrei) Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay with his skill set,” he said. “He’s a very powerful guy, quick down low, good legs.”

Transaction Tracker 2016

July 19 Update

A quiet couple of weeks on the free agent front became a bit louder yesterday with the announcement that former Stockton Heat and Stockton Thunder goaltender Kent Simpson has signed with the San Antonio Rampage. He now joins former Heat alternate captain Turner Elson and former Calgary Flames forward Joe Colborne in the Colorado Avalanche organization.

July 5 Update

After the first weekend of free agency, which began on July 1, a few former Heat players have found new homes along with a former Vancouver Canuck latching on to the Calgary Flames.

June 30 Update

The Flames cleared Mason Raymond through waivers and will buy out his contract.

June 27 Update

The Flames qualified four of their 14 restricted free agents including Heat players Freddie Hamilton and Tyler Wotherspoon.  Among those not qualified who are considered UFA’s include Kenny Agostino, Bill Arnold, Turner Elson, Kevin Poulin, Joni Ortio, Drew Shore and Bryce Van Brabant.

June 17 Update

Forever enshrined in bobblehead form and to be remembered like Dean Stork, the first captain in Stockton Thunder history, Heat captain Aaron Johnson will be heading over to Germany to play for the DEL’s Adler Mannheim side.

A year removed from a DEL championship, last year Mannheim lost in a playoff qualifier and were unable to defend their title.  Johnson was put up front and center in the European stage during his time with Team Canada during their Spengler Cup championship in December in Switzerland.  Johnson led Canada in ice time and assisted on the Spengler Cup winner.

Johnson will now join the Mannheim side which already boasts former Stockton Thunder forward Ryan MacMurchy and former Adirondack Flames forward David Wolf.

Confirmed Transactions








David Rittich (G) – BK MLADA BOLESLAV (Czech Division 1) to CALGARY FLAMES

Aaron Johnson (D) – STOCKTON HEAT to ADLER MANNHEIM (Germany Division 1)


Daniel Pribyl (F) – HC SPARTA PRAHA (Czech Division 1) to CALGARY FLAMES 

Free Agents

Kenny Agostino – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – St. Louis Blues

Bill Arnold – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – NOT QUALIFIED, NOW UFA

Turner Elson – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – COLORADO AVALANCHE 

Derek Grant – Buffalo Sabres

Freddie Hamilton – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – QUALIFIED

Mitchell Heard – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Michael Kirkpatrick – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Ryan Lomberg – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Louick Marcotte – WICHITA THUNDER (ECHL)

Jakub Nakladal – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Kevin Poulin – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – NOT QUALIFIED, NOW UFA

Joni Ortio – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – NOT QUALIFIED, NOW UFA

Karri Ramo – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Mason Raymond – Anaheim Ducks

Blair Riley – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Yann Sauve – Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)

Drew Shore – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – NOT QUALIFIED, NOW UFA


Dustin Stevenson – DALLAS STARS 

Bryce Van Brabant – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – NOT QUALIFIED, NOW UFA

Tyler Wotherspoon – Restricted Free Agent (RFA) — QUALIFIED

Jankowski Aiming to Make Wait Worth It

By Aaron Vickers – NHL Correspondent

CALGARY, AB — As a first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft who is just starting his professional hockey career, Calgary Flames forward Mark Jankowski understands why he has some doubters.

But he hasn’t let the critics get to him while he gets set to embark on the next stage of his career.

“Some people are going to like you, some people are going to hate you,” said Jankowski, 21, who was the 21st pick. “Even the best people in the world have their doubters. It’s just about my mindset and how I approached every single day. You can’t listen to what those people say. It’s all about me and how I develop and my mindset.”

Jankowski finished his four-year career at Providence College in the spring and signed an entry-level contract with the Flames on Mar. 30.

He played eight games with Stockton of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout and had two goals and four assists. That earned a positive review from one of the people who pushed for the Flames to draft Jankowski as a 17-year-old from Stanstead College, a Quebec boarding school.

“I’ll tell you this,” said Craig Conroy, now assistant general manager with the Flames who was special assistant to GM Jay Feaster when Jankowski was drafted. “From the two [AHL] games I was watching, he was our best forward on the ice, which says a lot. He created more scoring chances. He was the one guy driving the offence. I know some people would say he didn’t play as many games so he has some juice, but to be able to do it …

“I know it’s a snapshot of a couple games, but it gives me promise that this guy is going to be a good player.”

Jankowski played four seasons with the Providence College Friars, winning a NCAA Championship alongside Jon Gillies in 2014-15.  The first round pick of the Flames in 2012 turned pro with the  Heat in April last season (PHOTO BY JACK LIMA).

Jankowski played four seasons with the Providence College Friars, winning a NCAA Championship alongside Jon Gillies in 2014-15. The first round pick of the Flames in 2012 turned pro with the
Heat in April last season (PHOTO BY JACK LIMA).

The timeline to get him to that point has required patience.

“I’ve had to have a pretty good mindset,” Jankowski said. “I know everybody develops differently and I knew when I was drafted I wasn’t going to come in right away and make the team. I knew it was going to be a process and development, so I was just taking it day-by-day when I was in college and tried to work my hardest every single day, whether it was in the gym or how I eat or how I sleep or practicing on the ice.

“It’s every single day, that development.”

The Flames are hoping to see returns on that development when Jankowski attends his first training camp in September. It’s already shown itself physically; Jankowski is listed at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, up from 6-2, 170 pounds when he was drafted.

“We want him to push,” Conroy said. “We want him to push to try to make the NHL team. That should be his goal. It’s our goal for him. If he does that, he’s going to make our team better. But you also don’t want to rush people when they aren’t ready. That said, it’s all about if you come and prove you should earn a spot on the team, well, you’re going to win a spot.”

Jankowski is just as eager.

Developing as a college prospect for four years, plus his sample of the professional life with Stockton, has him eagerly anticipating his attempt to jump to the NHL, and an opportunity to prove others wrong.

“No one really knows how you’re going to take it and handle it,” Jankowski said. “I think I did pretty well coming out of that, coming out of those two weeks. It’s my goal to work as hard as I can and try to make Calgary.”

“I definitely want it. I think that ever since I went to Stockton there, it’s put a little fire in my gut, where maybe I’ll work a little bit harder to make that goal of jumping to the NHL.

“In the back of my mind I want to prove some of these people wrong. Then again, it’s also for me. I can’t really focus on that too much. I can’t focus on the wrong side too much about it, and just focus on me.”

Five Takeaways from Flames Development Camp

By Torie Peterson


This is the first year in recent memory where the Flames have not needed to extend camp invites to free agent goaltenders; with five prospects in the mix, they had their bases covered in net last week. Each one of the goaltenders impressed throughout the course of the week and are likely using camp as a springboard for their training regimen for the next couple of months.

Jon Gillies, who was limited to seven games last season after opting to undergo hip surgery, looked like he hadn’t missed a beat. While he did not play in Thursday’s scrimmage (the other four goaltenders split the pair of 30-minute periods), he had full range of mobility in practices, had sharp reflexes, and excellent rebound control.

Mason McDonald, fresh off his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior League, had clearly made strides over the last year and is hoping to turn pro this fall. He turned heads in the scrimmage, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced in 30 minutes of action at WinSport.

David Rittich, signed this spring out of the Czech Republic, showcased why the organization wanted to get him in the fold. The 6-foot-4, 202-pound goalie was quick on his feet and very athletic in his net.

Tyler Parsons, part of this year’s draft class, was every bit as advertised when the Flames nabbed him 54th overall in last month’s NHL Draft. Athletic, aggressive, and positionally sound, he didn’t look fazed by his first NHL camp experience.

And Nick Schneider, who impressed enough last year as a free agent invite to earn himself a contract, looked as poised as ever in the blue paint. His year-end stint with the Stockton Heat, where he appeared in nine games, seems to have bolstered his confidence.

It’s only July and you can’t put all your eggs in one basket after three days of on-ice sessions in the middle of summer but the Flames management has to be pleased with what all five masked men brought to the table last week.


Just a guess but when Eetu Tuulola’s name was called in the sixth round of this year’s draft, not many Flames fans knew who the winger was.

He has spent his career in his home country of Finland, playing primarily for HPK U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga league, and was ranked 19th among international skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

But people know who he is now.

Seemingly always sporting a smile, the affable forward netted a hat trick in Thursday’s scrimmage and was always visible — in a good manner — during drills at practices.

Now, with his first NHL camp under his belt, he has a decision to make. He can return to Finland for the 2016-17 campaign or head over to North America. His WHL rights are held by the Everett Silvertips, who selected him 40th overall in this year’s CHL Import Draft.

“I think his game is more suited for the North American game,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “Talking with him, that’s really what he’s looking at. He likes the small rink and banging into each other. He thinks that’s kind of cool. I think it’s going to suit him well if that’s indeed which way he goes.”


There were a handful of players at camp preparing for their first full professional season or trying to make a good first impression with management in hopes of making the jump out of junior next fall.

Mark Jankowski, Keegan Kanzig, Andrew Mangiapane, Rasmus Andersson, Mason McDonald, and Brett Pollock were all impressive at camp and want to show the organization they are ready for new, bigger challenges in their careers.

For Jankowski, Kanzig, and Pollock in particular, they each had a cup of coffee with the Heat in 2015-16 and have a better understanding of what lies ahead.

“Going into Stockton at the end of my college season … I thought I held my own,” Jankowski mused. “I thought I was dominating and playing my game, the way I can. I think coming out of there and in my exit meetings, I know it’s going to have to be a big summer for me — training-wise, on and off the ice, and working on all aspects of my game. But I definitely feel that if I work my butt off, I can make that jump (to the NHL).”


After three days of on-ice sessions, it’s safe to say the Flames have plenty of depth on the back-end.

Smooth skating two-way blueliners Oliver Kylington, Brandon Hickey, Kenney Morrison, Rasmus Andersson, and Ryan Culkin all showed why they’re so highly regarded in the system.

The twin towers — 6-foot-7 Keegan Kanzig and 6-foot-5 Adam Ollas Mattsson — have put in plenty of work on their skating and it looks like it has paid off, with both being very mobile and quick in drills and in the scrimmage. 18-year-old Riley Bruce, who stands at 6-foot-7, has filled out his frame and also looked much more comfortable on his skates at his second development camp.

Rookie Adam Fox, selected in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft, also made his presence known. The offensive-minded rearguard showed great vision, leaping up into the play whenever he had the chance and finding his teammates with quick, on-the-mark passes.


When you’re selected sixth overall in the draft, you know that you’ll be the focal point for at least a portion of development camp. But that spotlight didn’t faze Matthew Tkachuk one bit.

He worked diligently all week, trying to absorb as much information as possible to take into his off-season training program. The 18-year-old will be working with former NHLer Gary Roberts this summer, a move that he hopes will get him physically ready to push for a spot with the Flames this fall.

“I want to show where I’ve come as a player and how much I’m willing to buy into the fact that I want to play soon and just make sure I’m ready,” Tkachuk said after fitness testing last Monday.

“I don’t let pressure affect me and I’ve obviously had pressure my whole life. It’s how you deal with it. I feel like I’ve dealt with the pressure really well and I want to continue to deal with it because it’s not about what everyone else says. It’s about what I do and what my mind is set on and what I want to accomplish.”

Tkachuk capped off his first Flames camp by signing a three-year, entry-level contract last Thursday.

“It’s definitely something that I’ve been looking forward to my whole entire life,” he grinned. “Just to sign your first NHL contract, it’s unbelievable. It’s so crazy it’s happening so fast now. It’s a good step, and a step in the right direction. It’s a step forward.”