After a surprising run to the playoffs in 2014-15 that included a playoff series win (thanks to the horrible playoff system the NHL has), the Calgary Flames quickly regressed last season finishing completely out of the playoff picture. So which team are they? While two seasons ago was a clear fluke, I think this team is much closer to that team now, with two years of growth for their young core. They finally have a goaltender that they should be able to count on as well. They don’t have a lot of players that should be drafted in 12’ers but they’re all studs or carry plenty of upside. Let’s take a look!
After years of splitting in St. Louis, Brian Elliott gets the chance to be a workhorse with the Flames this season. He was outstanding last season with a 2.07 GAA and .930 sv% in 42 games. Those numbers aren’t realistic over a full season and outside of the Blues system but what is realistic? To be honest, it’s very hard to say. Elliott hasn’t started more than 46 games in 5 straight seasons and his numbers outside of the St. Louis have been putrid in his career. There’s the chance he’s put it all together while he was on the Blues but there’s also a chance Elliott is mediocre, especially if their defense plays like last season. I have Elliott ranked 101th overall for the upside he does possess.
Elliott’s backup will be Chad Johnson who signed in free agency with the Flames. Johnson played extremely well with the Sabres last season with a 2.36 GAA and .920 sv% in 45 games. I’m not drafting Johnson unless I get Elliott and decide I want to handcuff him (not a must) but if Elliott gets injured again, Johnson is must own everywhere. I’d watch his first couple starts to see if I want to stream him going forward.
The Flames defense still starts with their captain, Mark Giordano. The good news is that Giordano set a career high with 21 goals, set a career high in points with 56 and played all 82 games after missing significant time 3 of the previous 4 years. On the other hand, his point rate was a dropoff from the season before due to a double digit drop in assists over 82 games. Regardless of what Giordano we get, he’s going to be a bottom end #1 in fantasy if he stays healthy. The situation is primed for him to succeed so I’m putting Giordano at 72nd overall.
I have a feeling that Dougie Hamilton is going to breakout this year after everybody expected it to happen last season. Despite a horrible start, Hamilton finished with 43 points, 46 PIM and 190 SOG. My expectation is that he’s firmly on the first power play unit now which gives him a chance to get 50+ points right there. A minutes boost should be coming as well. I have him ranked 140th as a strong mid-round pick but I think his stock will rise as we get closer to the season. Hopefully his stock stays lower since he burned so many people last year.
T.J. Brodie is fringe in 12’ers but somebody that I won’t be drafting. The assists are great (career high 39 last season) but everything else is horrible. Brodie had barely over one shot a game leading to 6 goals, the penalty minutes aren’t there and I don’t see him getting PP1 time. If you’re desperate for assists, he could fill the void but I’m looking elsewhere.
After career highs in 2014-15, Dennis Wideman fell off a cliff last season before his suspension for hitting a referee. In 51 games he had only 2+17. With Hamilton in the fold, Wideman doesn’t have the role necessary to be relevant in 12’ers.
Unlike his football counterpart, Johnny Hockey has lived up to and surpassed expectations. Johnny Gaudreau was terrific last season with 30 goals and 48 assists putting him tied for 6th in the entire NHL in points. The shot rate took a big jump to almost 3 per game which is terrific. He repeated 21 PPP which is amazing because it shows that his improvement is coming from even strength play. Now, the penalty minutes are horrible which does put a cap on his ceiling. I put Gaudreau 45th overall but I’ll probably move him up a few spots when I update my rankings (after the top 200). To use a basketball term that JB and Slim say frequently, it won’t be metrics whorish, meaning the player rater won’t love him because it’s not a balanced stat line, but at the end of the day being close to a point per game has a ton of value.
While Gaudreau took a big step in his second season, Sean Monahan stayed about the same in his third season getting one more point than in 2014-15. He’s still only 21 years old so there’s plenty of upside here but I’m not sure we see it with the defensive load he has to carry. From a fantasy perspective, he’s a poor man’s Gaudreau with slightly worse numbers in each category. Monahan is slotted at 67 in my rankings with the upside to close in on the top 50 but not much more without a big uptick in PIM or SOG.
Their linemate appears to be Troy Brouwer who comes over from the Blues on a 4 year deal. His role was a bit limited last season with 18 goals and 21 assists. He’s a good bet to top his previous career high of 43 points but I don’t see a massive jump past say, 50. That said, if Brouwer repeats his 2013-14 with Washington where he had 25 goals, 18 assists and 92 PIM, he’s a clear hold in all leagues. He didn’t crack my top 150 but he’s not far behind. Brouwer will be a great fit on teams who needs goals and penalty minutes in the later rounds.
Sam Bennett is the only other forward I’m drafting in 12’ers because of his upside. I was extremely high on Bennett last season and while his numbers didn’t meet expectations, 18+18 with decent PIM as a 19 year old is a solid rookie season. While the full breakout probably doesn’t come until year 3, I do expect Bennett to take a step this year to around 25+25. I have Bennett at 148th because of that upside; there’s a chance Bennett takes off this year which is a gamble worth taking in the middle to end of your draft. The shots have to increase but now that he’s experienced the league and has the 2C role locked down, I expect an uptick across the board.
While I wouldn’t draft any of them outside of 16’ers or deeper, I will look to stream Michael Frolik, Hunter Shinkaruk and Mikael Backlund in the right matchups.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Matthew Tkachuk
2) Hunter Shinkaruk
3) Oliver Kylington
4) Emile Poirier
5) Brett Pollock
That’s all for now guys. My next preview will be up on Wednesday with the Arizona Coyotes. Only 4 teams left! Despite there being no preview tomorrow, there will be two new things up on the website. First, the next podcast will be up early in the morning previewing the second part of the Atlantic Division so be sure to give it a listen! Also, I hope to have RCL’s up tomorrow afternoon! I’m hoping to get more leagues than last season so please join a league or even better, start up your own! There will be a prize for the overall winner again so take a look at that post tomorrow. Take care everyone!