CALGARY, AB. – A colder venue and a new slate of opponents are in store for the Stockton Heat this season. Nonetheless, finally, a green light and a schedule for the 2020-21 Heat season has been announced. To date, only the February schedule has been released while other teams in the division work out approval with provincial governments.
Sunday, February 21 vs. Toronto Marlies 2:00 pm (MT)
Tuesday, February 23 vs. Toronto Marlies 6:00 pm (MT)
Wednesday, February 24 vs. Toronto Marlies 6:00 pm (MT)
Friday, February 26 vs. Toronto Marlies 2:00 pm (MT)
Head Coach: Cail MacLean, third season, 61-48-8-6 overall record.
Captain: No official confirmation as of the time of publication. Byron Froese served his first year as captain in the 2019-20 season and has been filling in on the Calgary Flames taxi squad.
Last Season: 30-17-4-4, 3rd in the Pacific Division and 5th in the Western Conference
2019-20 Season Summary:
A season listed by some sources as, “The Best Season in Stockton Heat History,” unfortunately cut off before they could make their shot as potential Calder Cup contenders. The Heat worked their way practically from the bottom up going from second last in the Pacific Division to the top three. They also cracked the top 10 teams in the league, finishing 8th overall.
They got off to a hot start with a three-game winning streak to start things off and seven wins in their first 10 games. They only had one regulation loss in that stretch, losing once in overtime and once in a shootout. They finished with a .618 winning percentage, the best they have had since the team was established in 2015.
Hot or Not?
Based on the current roster, there has been a massive defensive shift by the Heat. Seven out of the 10 listed defensemen were not on their roster last season. It is tough to say if that’ll be a good or bad thing at the moment, but hopefully, this change pays off for strength of the blue line.
Goaltending also promises new opportunities with some new faces in the mix. Artyom Zagidulin showed strength in net last season and will likely be paired with Garret Sparks now that Jon Gillies is no longer with the organization. Roster shifting between the Kansas City Mavericks and Calgary Flames could also see other new and familiar faces in net. Consistency will be a huge factor this season, so hopefully one of the goalies are able to find their footing early and get this team going.
Forward depth seems strong at the moment. However, the accessibility for Flames call-ups has already pulled some of that depth away. Glenn Gawdin, Byron Froese, Buddy Robinson, and Brett Ritchie have received Flames call-ups this season and that’s set to continue throughout the course of the season. This could leave gaps in the lineups when players are on hot streaks but that is the nature of an affiliate team.
- Artyom Zagidulin: Zagidulin had a great breakout season with the Heat last year with a .898 save percentage and 3.07 GAA in 30 games played. He split his time in net with Jon Gillies for the most part, but will most likely move to a more dramatic starting position in this upcoming season.
- Matthew Phillips: The small but speedy Phillips is back. Already having played over 100 games with the Heat at the age of 22. The young forward averaged close to a point per game last season with 33 points in 38 games. He has yet to play a regular season game with the Flames, but this season’s format could be the opportunity he needs to make that jump.
- Alan Quine – AHL (Bakersfield Condors): Quine had a great couple of seasons with the Heat. In his first season in 2018-19, he registered an impressive 52 points between 19 goals and 33 assists in 41 games. He was on track for a similar season in 2019-20 with 46 points in 38 games with 14 goals and 32 assists. He was traded from the Calgary to Edmonton organization in the offseason.
- Ryan Lomberg – NHL (Florida Panthers): The former alternate captain of the Heat will not be joining the team after being signed by the Florida Panthers on a two-year contract. As of February 11th, Lomberg has played two games with the Panthers. Last season he earned 20 points in 21 games with the Heat.
- Jon Gillies – AHL (Utica Comets): Another contract that was not renewed by the Calgary Flames. Gillies spent five seasons between the pipes for the Heat, getting a handful of call-ups to the Flames over the years. He was picked up by the St. Louis Blues on a one-year, two-way contract and has started the season with their AHL affiliate.
- Garrett Sparks: After attending a professional tryout at this year’s Calgary Flames training camp, Sparks has secured a one-year contract. He played six seasons with the Toronto Marlies, earning four Calder Cup playoff runs in that time. So hopefully, he will be able to provide some insight in the first few games of the season as he will surely know his new team’s opponents the best.
- Alex Petrovic: This year will bring a new seasoned veteran to the locker room. Petrovic is a defenseman who has played an impressive 263 NHL games with the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers. Last season he played 54 games for the Providence Bruins, earning 24 points. He is an Alberta-born guy, so he is likely feeling pretty good about playing in his home province this year.
What to Watch For?
The Revolving Door of Call-Ups:
The Heat and Flames are closer in proximity than ever before. Not only will they be located in the same city, but also the same venue. Heat players could be getting shots on the NHL squad much more frequently than in previous seasons. It’s just a matter of moving to a locker room in a different part of the building.
Emerging in a New Division:
The Heat are going to be playing teams that in some cases, they have not seen in years. Depending on how much game footage they watch and how well their research on their opponents are, will likely have a significant effect on their season. The shortened season does not give them a lot of time to get comfortable in the division and will require them to be ready right from puck drop opening night.
Even with the season being four months later, there is still a lot to be excited about. Heat fans will have to wait it out just a little bit longer until the team opens their season in their new temporary home venue of Scotiabank Saddledome on February 21st against the Toronto Marlies at 2:00 pm (MT).