The Stockton Heat have many solid young players on their team, many of their futures could be with the Calgary Flames. Here are five players that deserve a chance to play with the Flames next year.
1: Mark Jankowski
Why: Mark Jankowski has had a phenomenal rookie season with the Heat, so good that he has got the attention of many Flames fans and management. Jankowski made his NHL debut on November 28, 2016 in an overtime loss to the New York Islanders, his lone contest in the NHL to date. Jankowski has been tearing it up for the Heat this year as one-half of the dynamic duo along with teammate Andrew Mangiapane.
Jankowski has been a very reliable offensive presence for Stockton, notching 27 goals and 29 assists and a +19 in 64 games played this year. He leads the team in goals, points, shots on goal and shooting percentage. Oh and also, he has an incredibly accurate, hard shot.
Jankowski tallied the game-winning goal in an important win against San Diego, that goal and that win largely helped the Heat get into the post season. Not only does he scores often, but he also comes a big when his team needs him, not to mention that he’s solid on the defensive side of the puck as well. What more could you ask? Because Jankowski has proven to be a solid two-way player, he definitely deserves a shot at the next level.
2: Morgan Klimchuk
Position: Left Wing
Why: Morgan Klimchuk has had a great bounce-back season this year, tallying 43 points in 66 games for Stockton. He was the main reason the Heat were successful during their five-game road trip, where he finished with five goals and three assists, including the game-winner of a season-changing comeback win against the Texas Start. Last season in 55 games played, Klimchuk registered only a mere nine points which is not what you would want from a former first round pick. Klimchuk is the only player from the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to not play a regular season NHL game, but his time could come next year. He had a very strong preseason for the Flames this year despite not appearing on the scoresheet often.
There is no doubt in my mind that Klimchuk could have some success in the big leagues. He may need a bit more time to develop, but with the Heat’s playoff run coming around the corner, this will be a big opportunity for him to step up and be a big factor to their success. Not too much can be said yet, as there is still the rest of the Flames playoffs and the expansion draft and the Heat playoffs as well. Klimchuk came up big when the Heat needed some guys to step up, which won’t go unnoticed by the Flames’ coaching staff and management.
3: Rasmus Andersson
Why: Many Flames fans believe Rasmus Andersson will a regular in the Calgary lineup for a long time, and I certainly agree. He is a smooth skating, right-handed defenseman who is spectacular defensively but can also provide scoring. In 54 games played, Andersson has three goals and 19 assists. One of his main strengths is his decision making and his distinct ability of taking care of the puck. He is almost always the man that coach Ryan Huska calls upon in big situations, which says a lot.
His solid play in the AHL didn’t go unnoticed. When Flames defenseman Michael Stone went down with injury, Andersson was the call-up. Though he didn’t see any game action on the ice, he remained with Calgary even after Stone’s recovery. It wasn’t until the season finale that he got to see his first ever NHL action. He has returned to the Stockton Heat to help with their playoff push and now that they have clinched, his focus is on playoffs. The Flames will have some decisions to make regarding their blue line in the offseason. Dennis Wideman will most likely not be returning and it remains unclear if Michael Stone will resign or if Bartkowski will still be with the team. So if the Flames lose a couple of defensemen, Andersson could be potentially see regular ice time for Calgary.
4: Oliver Kylington
Why: Some people may disagree with this but I think he should get a chance. Kylington played one NHL game last year on the Flames team that struggled, but this year with the Heat, he has really proven himself among the AHL’s better defensemen. In 60 games played this year, Kylington has six goals and 21 assists for a total of 27 points and is a +3.
Kylington came up big in their clinching game, scoring arguably the most important goal of the game to give the Heat the lead early in the contest. It is obvious that Kylington needs some more time to develop, as he is still a little raw and needs some fine-tuning. Maybe the Heat playoffs, the Flames training camp, and preseason work could give Kylington what he needs to make the next step in his bright career. It is unlikely that Kylington will play in the NHL next year (I think he deserves it) but if the Flames back end suffers an injury, he could make a solid case for a call-up.
5: Jon Gillies
Why: Many people think Jon Gillies is the goalie of the future for the Flames, he played one NHL game this year, in which he was brilliant. He stopped 27 out of 28 shots to pick up a win in LA. Here is the recap from his first NHL game:
He made multiple big saves in the second and third period to lead Calgary to victory. With the Heat, he is 18-14-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA and a .910 SV %. He has been a huge part of Stockton’s success, and many people can tell that the Flames coaching staff, management and fans like Jon Gillies. They certainly like him in Stockton. The Flames have a solid line of goalie prospects, including David Rittich, and young second round pick Tyler Parsons, who just inked his first NHL deal. Gillies is at the top of that list. The backup goalie, Chad Johnson, may not be returning to the Flames next year. So if the Flames don’t sign a new goalie it could be possible that Gillies could serve as the backup.
I realize not all five players will be up in the NHL next year, but there’s a strong chance that a few of them will be at least. Some of you may agree or disagree with my choices, so let me know what you think by commenting below!
FYI: I excluded Hunter Shinkaruk, Linden Vey, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Brett Kulak because they all have played a fair amount of NHL games, so we all have a decent understanding of their abilities at the NHL level.