Dom Lunardo | April 11th, 2020
When the puck dropped on the 2019-20 National Hockey League season, few could have predicted how the first few months would unfold for the Calgary Flames and their passionate fan base. An up and down, inconsistent start to the season that saw the Flames go 10-12-3, was completely overshadowed in large part due to allegations surrounding Akim Aliu and Bill Peters which shocked the hockey world. Within a span of 5 days, Peters won OUT as head coach following his resignation, and Geoff Ward was brought in as interim head coach to right the ship.
On the ice, the Flames have been a far better team with Geoff Ward at the helm. Prior to the NHL season being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Flames sat in third place, good enough for a playoff berth in a very competitive Pacific Division. The Flames, as a franchise has some pretty high-profile names donning the “C of Red” in Calgary. Players such as Elias Lindholm, Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Johnny Gaudreau have given Flames fans a glimpse of hope at a playoff spot, and the future is looking fairly promising in Calgary.
With the recent graduations of players like Dillon Dube and Oliver Kylington to the big club, the Flames boast a pretty impressive group of youngsters who will be knocking on the door for jobs in the next year or so. The potent combination of solid, NHL pros mixed in with the “and up comers” streaming down the pipeline, is music to the ears fans of Flames fans from all across Canada. Let’s delve in and take a closer look at Calgary’s top-3 prospects.
Number 3: Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Right-Wing, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Perfecting his craft for alongside Alexis Lafreniere, the consensus number one overall pick at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Rimouski is Dmitry Zavgorodniy coming in at number 3. Since starting his career with the Oceanic back in 2017-18, Zavgorodniy has improved each and every year. His point totals have continued to rise tallying 47 two seasons ago and 64 last year. This year in “The Q”, Zavgorodniy tallied a whopping 29 goals, 38 assists for 67 points in 40 games played to go along with a (+40). Talk about a (half) season for the ages! Blessed with an elite skill-set and ability to produce in the offensive zone, Zavgorodniy should fit in like a new shoe alongside the plethora of talent in Calgary. Zavgorodniy also deploys a competitive nature and uses that to full advantage on the ice. The Flames have a real player here in the form of Dmitry Zavgorodniy.
Number 2: Jusso Välimäki, Defenseman, Stockton Heat (AHL) /Calgary Flames (NHL)
At runner-up is the 6’2, Finnish-born defenceman, Jusso Välimäki who has already seen some time with the Flames at the National Hockey League level. The smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman with a keen eye for producing offense has all the tools to be a star in the making on the Flames blue-line. His size and reach place him in good stead defensively, and allow him to break the cycle and transition to offense effectively. Flames management has been pleased with his development, and see him as a long-time fixture for years to come. At 21 years of age, Valimaki was selected in the first round, 16th overall during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The Flames specifically pinpointed his poise and ability to stay calm under pressure as the main talking points surrounding the big Finn. So far, they’ve haven’t been disappointed with what they’ve seen.
Number 1: Jakob Pelletier, Left-Wing, Right-Wing, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Calgary has their main man in the form of the silky-smooth winger, Jakob Pelletier. Taken in the first round, 26th overall, during last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, the Quebec City, Quebec native brings flair, vision, and quick release, and a high level of top-end skill to the Calgary Flames organization. The last 2 seasons in Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has seen Pelletiter post some monster numbers, including back-to-back 80-point seasons in 2018-19 and 2019-20. With a real knack for the net, Pelletier consistently plays a 200-foot, three-zone game with exceptional fore-checking and back-checking skills. The Flames like his skating ability, powerful strides, and shiftiness with the puck on his stick. Flames fans should be thrilled with the thought of Pelletier forcing his way into the Flames lineup as early as next season.
Honorable Mentions: G Dustin Wolf, C Mathias Emilio Pettersen, RW Matthew Phillips
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images