It’s that time of year again where the rookies get their first chance to impress the coaching staff for the upcoming season. This camp means a little more to some players as it may be their last chance to try and impress upon the staff. And for others it will be their first taste of pro hockey. Let see who are some key players to watch.
Leland Irving – Irving has been in the Flames system for a while now after the Flames drafted him in the 1st round in 2006 and is getting to that point in his career that if he wants to make an impression and move up in the depth charts he has to do it now, otherwise he may be best served to move on to a new franchise.
Joni Ortio – Calgary drafted Joni in the 6th round of the 2009 draft and they are hoping he turns out to be another diamond in the rough from Finland. He has posted decent numbers in the Finnish junior league and he also backstopped the Fins to a bronze medal in the World Under 18 Championships. He will likely go back to Finland this year to gain more experience. But he is an interesting prospect for 3-4 years down the road.
Chris Breen – Joining a now growing list on solid D prospects for the Calgary Flames Breen is a tower. At 6’7″ 225 pounds he already has the size to play at the highest level. The 21 year old was signed by the Flames as a free agent after his career in Peterborough came to an end. Chris is a long range prospect for the Flames but because of his massive size if he can show a power game he has a chance to make this team down the road.
T.J. Brodie – T.J. has the potential to be a huge steal for the Flames after drafting him in the 4th round in 2008. T.J. is an offensive defenceman who put up 56 points in 65 games last year in junior. Brodie is another long term project but could be looking at making an impact with the big squad in a couple years.
Tim Erixon – The Flames 1st round pick in 2009 will be looking to make a positive impression this year and possibly play in Abbortsford. Erixon’s greatest asset he has is he played last year against men in the Swedish Elite League for Djurgarden. Tim is a smooth skater and has a solid first pass out of the zone. It will be interesting to see if the Flames want him in Abbotsford or if he goes back to Sweden for one more year in the Elite League.
Mikael Backlund – If you follow the Flames you saw what Mikael brought to the table for the Flames last year playing in 23 games last year getting 10 points and being a +5. Not only that but Brent Sutter loved his commitment to the defensive side of the game. Backlund has the tools to play in the NHL it will be a matter of if the Flames make room for him this year or if he starts the year in Abbotsford and is a mid season call up.
Bill Arnold – The Flames 4th round pick in 2010 has been groomed on the US under 18 team. Bill put up some impressive numbers for the National squad racking up 51 points in 64 games. Bill has committed to Boston College for the next season and I suspect he will play there for the next couple of years minimum. I am curious to see how his skill level compares to the rest of the prospects at this camp.
Bryan Cameron – If your problem is no high end offensive talent and few draft picks then the solution is sign an over aged junior. The Flames did just that with Bryan Cameron and this move could have a lot of NHL GM’s kicking themselves. Bryan put up 53 goals in 62 games playing for the Barrie Colts last year. He has the natural skill to be able to put the puck in the net and I believe will be given a chance to play in Abbotsford this year.
Ryan Howse – The Flames 3rd round pick in 2009 did a great job playing for a pretty bad Chilliwack Bruins squad last year putting up a point a game and potting 47 goals in those 72 games. Foot speed will be the biggest concern for Howse. He will need to show that he has the game to game speed to be able to compete at the pro level. Like Cameron I suspect Howse will be given a shot to make the Abbotsford team.
These are just a handful of the players I’ll be keeping my eye on as the camp moves forward. As I will have the opportunity to be at the Saddledome to watch these kids first hand. As always the prospect camp is free to the public, so don’t miss this opportunity to get a look at some future NHL stars.
Have a good one!
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About the Author
Written by Shane Hoopfer
Die hard Flames fan since 1980, and a closet baseball junkie. Also a big Dolphins, and Stampeders fan!