by Eric Francis | Sportsnet
For the first time in decades the Calgary Flames have started cashing in on their organizational depth – a luxury the franchise simply hasn’t had since the ’80s.
After several years as deadline sellers, Brad Treliving’s goal of restocking the cupboards has resulted in an AHL affiliate in Stockton that is amongst the league’s best.
So deep is the team, it remains third in the Pacific Division despite losing five of its opening day starters to the Flames.
Mark Jankowski, Garnet Hathaway and Andrew Mangiapane, who made up one of the AHL’s hottest lines to start the season, are all up with Flames with the first two playing significant roles.
David Rittich was also called up and his play as the Flames backup netminder has been so steady the club traded away Eddie Lack.
Marek Hrivik was recently summoned by the Flames after posting a point-a-game in the minors.
Yet, there are still several top-notch prospects with the Heat as part of the Flames’ impressive crop of youngsters. What’s more, an impressive six youngsters in the organization played in the world juniors, including two captains, Dillon Dube (Canada) and Juuso Valimaki (Finland), and three medalists, including Dube, Linus Lindstrom (Sweden) and American Adam Fox.
A look at the Flames top prospects by league:
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Juuso Valimaki, 19, D, Tri-City Americans
Drafted: First round, 16th overall, 2017
Season to date: 19 GP | 5 G | 15 A | 20 PTS | +6
The Finnish defenceman continues to be a point-a-game player as he was last year in Tri-City.
However, injuries have limited his effectiveness this season, including at the world juniors where the Finnish captain had a goal and three assists in five outings.
He immediately flew back to Calgary to get checked out by doctors who advised him to take several weeks off before returning to the WHL.
With his poise and size, Valimaki is a cinch to be a top-four defenceman in Calgary in the next couple years.
AHL STOCKTON HEAT
Rasmus Andersson, 21, D
Drafted: Second round, 53rd overall, 2015
Season to date: 29 GP | 4 G | 17 A | 21 PTS | +14
The Swedish rearguard just got an AHL all-star team nod as part of a solid start that has seen him help spearhead the Stockton Heat’s impressive record.
He has distanced himself from fellow second rounder Oliver Kylington, who is also having a solid season. The overwhelming feeling of those close to the team figure Andersson won’t be in the AHL much longer – he’s been that good.
Oliver Kylington, 20, D
Drafted: Second round, 60th overall, 2015
Season to date: 30 GP | 2 G | 16 A | 18 PTS | +5
Off last weekend with the flu, the left-handed shooting blueliner earned AHL all-star consideration, but ultimately wasn’t named to the team.
A great skater with solid offensive skills who also kills penalties, he’s a big reason why the Stockton Heat have continued to win with a great defensive corps that has had to overcome the loss of four significant forwards to the Flames.
Tyler Wotherspoon, 24, D
Drafted: Second round, 57th overall, 2011
Season to date: 33 GP | 4 G | 16 A | 20 PTS | +20
Wotherspoon refuses to be written off as a legitimate candidate to be one of the next Flames call-ups. Resurrected his stock this year with a solid campaign in Stockton where he’s just one point behind Andersson amongst defensive scoring leaders and sits an impressive plus-20.
Spencer Foo, 23, RW
Acquired: Free agent in 2017
Season to date: 32 GP | 7 G | 8 A | 15 PTS | -3
His first pro hat trick last month demonstrated the increased confidence he’s gained in his first year after signing as a collegiate hotshot.
He’s playing top six minutes and is getting plenty of offensive chances despite the fact the team is without its top two centres. He’s also the first over the boards on the Stockton Heat’s power play, but is still working on translating several of his chances into more points.
Expectations were high on the Edmonton native who signed with the Flames this summer after garnering Hobey Baker consideration following a 62-point season (in 38 games) with Union College.
Ryan Lomberg, 23, LW
Acquired: Free agent signing in 2017
Season to date: 32 GP | 4 G | 7 A | 11 PTS | +3
Flames fans shouldn’t be shocked if the 5-foot-9, 191-pound wrecking ball sees some time in Calgary this season, should the Flames need a fourth line mucker.
His 82 penalty minutes with Stockton this year is a testament to how good the speedy winger is at getting under the opposition’s skin. The small but fearless winger is sure to be a fan favourite in Calgary if given the chance.
Morgan Klimchuk, 22, LW
Drafted: First round, 28th overall, 2013
Season to date: 33 GP | 10 G | 13 A | 23 PTS | +6
Two years after struggling to just three goals in his first full AHL season, the Calgary native is back to scoring as he did in junior where he was a three-time 30-goal scorer.
With all the call-ups gone, he currently leads the Stockton Heat in scoring.
Used in every situation imaginable, the speedy winger may be in line for a promotion to the big club despite concerns with his ability to play in heavier games.
Jon Gillies, 23, G
Drafted: Third round, 75th overall in 2012
Season to date: 22 GP | 10-8-2 | 2.54 GAA | .918 SP
Now that David Rittich is the Flames backup and Eddie Lack is gone, the former collegiate national champion is back to carrying the load in Stockton.
He’s seen increased shots of late due to the large number of call-ups, but has been steady as the backbone of a team now relying on goaltending and defence to carry the day.
Tyler Parsons, 20, G
Drafted: Round 2, 54th overall, 2016
Season to date: 19 GP | 9-8-0 | 3.08 GAA | .907 SP (ECHL)
The trading of Lack opened the door for the former world junior/Memorial Cup champion to start plying his trade at a higher level than the ECHL, where he’s played all season.
However, a lower body muscle pull before Christmas has put his AHL debut on hold until, likely, this weekend when Stockton plays three times.
He returned to Calgary to be checked out and is back to skating and working out.
With Gillies carrying the load in Stockton, don’t be surprised if their prized goalie prospect is shipped back to Kansas City with an eye on getting him more playing time down the road.
Dillon Dube, 19, LW, Kelowna Rockets
Drafted: Second round, 56th overall, 2016
Season to date: 27 GP | 18 G | 21 A | 39 PTS | +7
The Cochrane, Alta. native was captain of Canada’s world junior entry, winning gold in dramatic fashion.
The Kelowna Rockets star paced Canada’s power play and penalty kill, scoring three goals and adding two assists in seven tourney games, including a brilliant snipe to open the gold medal matchup.
The Flames were most impressed with his leadership throughout his second spin with the national junior squad. One of the best prospects in the WHL night in and night out, Dube’s speed and skill stick out even on a powerhouse team like Kelowna.
Matthew Phillips, 19, C, Victoria Royals
Drafted: Sixth round, 166th overall, 2016
Season to date: 43 GP | 30 G | 35 A | 65 PTS | +11
Flames invested plenty of man-hours into watching Phillips in Victoria where the captain simply continues to pile up points as the WHL’s sixth-leading scorer.
The question, of course, is whether his 5-foot-6, 141-pound frame – yes, you read that right – can carry him into the pro ranks.
The Flames figure it’s worth finding out and signed the Calgary native on New Year’s Eve.
A project who they believe will get plenty stronger, the club that took a flier on Johnny Gaudreau believes Phillips might just be worth the wait
Glenn Gawdin, 20, C, Swift Current Broncos
Drafted: Fourth round, 116th overall, 2015 by St. Louis
Season to date: 41 GP | 32 G | 43 A | 75 PTS
Gawdin has been a pleasant surprise for the Flames, who signed him in November after being impressed by his showing in the rookie tourney and in main camp.
Playing on a line with top-10 scorers Tyler Steenbergen and Aleksi Heponiemi in Swift Current, Gawdin sits third in WHL scoring.
The 6-foot-1, 190 pound Richmond, B.C., native continues to be motivated by the fact the Blues didn’t sign him and no team took a chance when he went back into the draft.
Adam Ruzicka, 18, C, Sarnia Sting
Drafted: Fourth round, 109th overall, 2017
Season to date: 37 GP | 20 G | 21 A | 41 PTS | +3
A big, solid prospect dominating with the Sarnia Sting, Ruzicka had just two assists in five outings in what was supposed to be a leading role with the Slovakian team at the world juniors.
It highlighted exactly why the kid with all the tools wasn’t drafted until the fourth round, as he’s simply too inconsistent and disengaged too often.
Flames are hoping for more grit and fire from the youngster, who has dropped considerably after starting the season third in OHL scoring.
Adam Fox, 19, D, Harvard University
Drafted: Third round, 66th overall, 2016
Season to date: 11 GP | 0 G | 10 A | 10 PTS | +2
Third in scoring at Harvard as a hotshot sophomore defenceman, Fox was one of the best defencemen at the world juniors where the American played a prominent role for the bronze-medalists with one goal and four assists in seven games.
A skilled power play demon whose playmaking skills were on display throughout the tourney in Buffalo, he also played key roles defensively.
In short, the total package.
Linus Lindstrom, 20, C, Skelleftea (Sweden)
Drafted: Fourth round, 96th overall, 2016
Season to date: 26 GP | 2 G | 1 A | 3 PTS | -3
Used in many key situations during Sweden’s loss in the world junior gold medal game, the versatile pivot is a reliable, two-way player who earned the trust of the coaches as they had him killing penalties and taking all the big faceoffs.
At 5-foot-11, 168-pounds he still needs to fill out, especially since he’s playing with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden’s top pro loop.