Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Takeaways from the 2016 Calgary Flames Development Camp -- Wednesday


2012 21st-overall pick Mark Jankowski (77) takes on defenseman Brandon Hickey (50) at Winsport on Wednesday.
Photo credit: Nick Fleehart (Twitter)
The Flames' annual Development Camp for prospects is taking place through this week at Winsport! Tuesday and Wednesday have largely been days of power skating and drills, revealing some very intriguing developments surrounding the club's future.

While I was not at Winsport on Tuesday, I was in attendance for Wednesday's sessions at Canada Olympic Park. Here are some observations from the day's festivities.

- Jon Gillies looked solid in his short time on the ice in the morning; however, he left the ice halfway through the session. No official reason has been given for his early exit.

- Mark Jankowski was head-and-shoulders above any of his peers on Winsport ice on Wednesday. His skills and finesse with the puck were unparalleled. He's really developed from the raw talent he was at his first Development Camp five years ago to a personification of the high praise given to him by then-Flames GM Jay Feaster at the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh.

- Big Hunter Smith was the recipient of a lot of Jankowski's passes during the 2-on-1 drill, but he failed to impress once the puck received his stick. Though he positions himself well, more often than not the play seems to die on his stick. He needs to work on his skating and getting his powerful shot off more quickly and consistently.

Austin Carroll battles for the puck on Wednesday.
Photo credit: Nick Fleehart (Twitter)
- 2014 7th-rounder Austin Carroll was easily the best player not named "Jankowski" on the ice during the morning session. Though he's never been afraid to use his size (dating back to his days with the Victoria Royals of the WHL), Carroll has really progressed in both his puckhandling and skating attributes. He's not afraid to shoot the puck, either, and he does so with promising power. He's a dark horse to crack the 2016-17 Calgary Flames roster.

- Also standing out on the ice? 2016 6th-round draft pick Eetu Tuulola. Tuulola was one of the Flames' feistiest prospects out on the ice today, constantly fighting for the puck down to the whistle, and expressing audible dissatisfaction after his rare failures. He has a hard, quick shot, and displayed guts in front of the Flames' brass during the afternoon session by attempting to pull off a spin-o-rama during the 1-on-1 drill.

- Diminutive centre Matthew Phillips was incredibly impressive Wednesday. Many of his moves could only be described as Johnny Gaudreau-esque, as could his explosiveness and hockey IQ. Though he's only (a generous) 5'7", his talents more than make up for his short stature.

- 2015 2nd-round pick Rasmus Andersson had a rough day on the ice Wednesday. By the time the 2-on-1 portion arrived halfway through the morning practice session, he looked gassed. This could potentially be attributed to the fact that just before the session, he'd endured a lengthy powerskating session, but it'll be interesting to see how he fares in a game situation on Thursday.

Brandon Hickey snaps his stick during a shot on Wednesday.
Photo credit: Nick Fleehart (Twitter)
- Brandon Hickey needs to work on his shot, but his defensive play was stellar. The 2016 Canadian World Junior team member was one of the best defensemen on the ice Wednesday; multiple times, he broke up potentially dangerous one-timer passes with a good stick, reminiscent of some similar plays T.J. Brodie was involved in breaking up during the 2015-16 season. He'll definitely be one to watch on Thursday.

- Brett Pollock, acquired from the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline along with Jyrki Jokipakka and a 2nd-round pick at the 2016 draft in exchange for Kris Russell, was quietly solid on Wednesday. Though he didn't especially stand out, he put his good shot to use on multiple occasions.

- David Rittich and Mason McDonald were both good on Wednesday. According to many people sitting around me, Rittich markedly improved from Tuesday's sessions, and from my observations, he seemed to be making some solid saves from close range. However, his positioning was not always up to par.

- Adam Ollas-Mattsson was sound defensively. He was never flashy -- and, really, didn't need to be -- but he made all the right choices on the back-end.

- Adam Fox was one of the better defensemen on the ice in the afternoon sessions. He consistently played opposing forwards with good positioning, and he broke up many 2-on-1s.

- Also impressing on the back-end? Kenney Morrison. Despite some occasional positioning errors, Morrison always regained his positioning very quickly and more often than not managed to effectively break up rushes. He and Fox are two of the Flames' most promising defense prospects.

- Sticking with the defense: Oliver Kylington brought all of the known goods, in his excellent speed and skating. He still looks as skinny as a pole on the ice, and hopefully he manages to add some more muscle in the offseason.

- Walk-on Spencer Foo occasionally made the opposing goalie look like, ahem, a foo. He has really soft hands, and he is really good at making the goalies open up the five-hole. Foo also possesses quick skating and a nice, hard shot.

Brayden Burke calls for the puck during a drill on Wednesday.
Photo credit: Nick Fleehart (Twitter)
- Lethbridge Hurricane and fellow walk-on Brayden Burke turned heads in the sessions with some silky moves. He was quick in his skating, and like Tuulola, was quite keen on the puck. It'll be interesting to see if he receives a contract, but my bets fall on the "he will" square.

- The two goaltenders on the ice for the afternoon session: Tyler Parsons and Nick Schneider. Parsons looked good down low, but he struggled with the high shots, especially on the glove side. Schneider had some rebound trouble on Wednesday, but managed to maintain good positioning and quickness despite this.

- Linus Lindstrom and Mitchell Mattson both possess good, quick releases. However, I found that Lindstrom didn't stand out much in comparison to fellow 2016 draft choice Mattson. The latter stuck out in both good and bad ways: while he kept getting the puck poked off of his stick during the 1-on-1 drill, he made up for it on the last play of the 2-on-1 drill, hammering home a one-timer bar-down over the left shoulder of Tyler Parsons.

- Finally, 2016 6th-overall draft choice Matthew Tkachuk was very impressive on Wednesday. Though he still looks incredibly raw, he possesses a wicked shot and excellent hand-eye coordination. Like Tuulola, he had the guts to try a spin-o-rama, and unlike Tuulola, he actually managed to turn said spin-o-rama into a shot on goal, which was stopped. Tkachuk has good hockey IQ, can make great passes, and is very sound positionally. One area which he still needs to work on is his skating -- especially at the beginning of the session, he simply wasn't as fluid in his mechanics as many of his peers (though, as he warmed up, his movements seemed to become more in-sync). Tkachuk may be the Flames' most complete prospect not named Jankowski, and he's still just eighteen years of age. He'll be a treat to watch for years to come.

The Flames continue their Development Camp tomorrow at 9:30 AM -- scrimmage day! Seats are limited, so if you want to attend, get there early. If you can't make it, you can follow along on my Twitter page (@FollowingCGY), or, on this very website, where a recap of the scrimmage will be posted tomorrow night.