Let’s be brutally honest here: nobody is going to win a job with the Calgary Flames based on their performance over a four day period in early July. But for players looking to make an impression, the Flames’ annual development camp at Winsport can be a great way to generate some positive momentum.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on at Winsport this weekend.
Fitness testing was on Wednesday, followed by four days of on-ice sessions.
- Thursday: on-ice evaluations at 9 a.m. (Group A) and 10:30 a.m. (Group B).
- Friday: skill development sessions at 9 a.m. (Group B) and 10:30 a.m. (Group A).
- Saturday: skill development sessions at 9 a.m. (Group A) and 10:30 a.m. (Group B).
- Sunday: controlled scrimmage at 9 a.m.
(Parking at Winsport can be a bit of an adventure, so be sure to show up early – especially for Sunday’s scrimmage.)
The bulk of the camp is conducted off-ice and consists of team building and life skills. The on-ice portions are almost exclusively drills to help players develop specific skills that the Flames want them to focus on. Sunday is the exception, a scrimmage where the usually cycle through different in-game situations.
The scrimmage is arguably the only time where it seems fair to judge players, given that they’ve been on the ice for three days already and have likely shaken some of their off-season rust off. It’s also the closest thing to a hockey game most of the players have played in months, and more fair to judge than sometimes monotonous skating and puck-handling drills.
Players to watch
It’s the first camp with the Flames organization for a lot of players: 2019 draft picks Jakob Pelletier, Lucas Feuk, Josh Nodler and Dustin Wolf, Canadian university signing Luke Philp, Russian free agents Alexander Yelesin and Artyom Zagidulin, Swedish signing Carl-Johan Lerby, and former Leafs prospect Andrew Nielsen.
Since they don’t come to training camp in September, this is the only chance to see the European prospects – Feuk, Lerby, Linus Lindstrom and Filip Sveningsson – and the college kids (Nodler, Mitchell Mattson, Demetrious Koumontzis and Emilio Pettersen) live.
With no players with NHL experience at this camp, the interesting thing to watch for is to see if some of the players thought to be the team’s top prospects stand out among the team’s larger crop.
Among the goaltenders, Tyler Parsons is thought to be the one with the most North American pedigree. After a couple rough seasons, can he take a step towards solidifying himself as the team’s goaltender of the future? Or will Zagidulin make a big impression as he takes his first steps into North American hockey?
The blueline group in attendance lacks the star power we typically see, as Juuso Valimaki, Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington have functionally graduated. Can Nielsen, the most experienced pro in camp, stand out? Or will one of the Europeans – Lerby or Yelesin – draw the most attention?
Up front, everyone will be excited to see Pelletier, the most recent first round pick (and the only first rounder in the entire camp). But keep your eyes out for…
- Pettersen, fresh off a strong freshman year with the University of Denver.
- Martin Pospisil, who was one of the USHL’s top scorers last season.
- Milos Roman, who was a big part of the Vancouver Giants’ run to the WHL Finals.
- Sveningsson, who was the top junior-aged player in the Swedish secondary league and helped his team win a promotion to the SHL.
- Matthew Phillips, the smallest man in camp but one of the most tenacious offensive players in the system.
This is arguably the least star-studded development camp the Flames have held in years. But despite that – and maybe even because of that – it could be one of the most interesting in terms of seeing which players distinguish themselves from the pack.