THE TOP LINE
The Abbotsford Heat coaching staff will have some tough decisions to make through training camp to determine what their top-six forward lines will look like to start the season. There are an abundance of capable forwards at camp this week looking to move up the depth chart and become impact players for the club.
CALGARYFLAMES.COM 3 PLAYERS TO WATCH:
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2011-12: PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS
GP: 47 | GOALS: 33 | ASST: 61 | PTS: 94
PIM: 36 | +/-: 15
SVEN BAERTSCHI - Penciling in a rookie with no AHL experience as a possible top line player may seem a tad premature but Sven Baertschi has proven he can compete with the best of them.
Calgary's 2011 first-round draft pick tore up the WHL last season despite playing only 47 games and when the Flames lineup was ravaged by injuries, he was called up to play for Calgary on an emergency basis. In five NHL games, Baertschi scored three goals and looked right at home in the Flames lineup.
After returning to the Winterhawks, he helped lead the team all the way to the WHL Championship series. Portland fell in Game 7 to the Edmonton Oil Kings but Baertschi led all WHL skaters in postseason scoring with 14 goals and 34 points in 22 games.
With his wide array of offensive skills, Baertschi has the ability to be an immediate impact in the AHL. His 33 goals with Portland last year shows he can finish while his 61 assists are proof is he is an excellent playmaker. Baertschi is deft puckhandler and reads the ice extremely well, making him an excellent puck distributor. He is also a very strong skater.
The 19 year-old is a workhorse when it comes to practice, often staying behind to work on areas of his game he feels are lacking. That determination mixed in with talent make him a candidate to push time on the top line.
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2011-12: ABBOTSFORD HEAT
GP: 47 | GOALS: 30 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 61
PIM: 47 | +/-: 20
KRYS KOLANOS - No one knew what to expect when Krys Kolanos attended the Heat's training camp last fall on a tryout agreement. After all, the forward had missed a portion of the 2009-10 campaign and the entirety of the 2010-11 season recovering from hip surgery.
Kolanos then went and blew expectations out of the water. He didn't look like he missed any time, let alone a year and half of hockey, and quickly established himself as the Heat's go-to guy for offence.
In 47 games in Heat silks, Kolanos scored 30 goals and 61 points. He also played his way into a two-year, two-way deal with the Flames in middle of the season. He played 13 games with the Flames in 2011-12, picking up an assist. He was used primarily on the third and fourth lines during his time in Calgary, showing the organization he is able to play a responsible game at both ends of the rink.
Kolanos has slick hands and is equally adept at making plays as he is at finishing. His offensive instincts are top notch and he was able to gel with quite a few of his teammates last year, making him even more versatile. He has been placed on Team Black at the Heat's training camp and will be reunited with several of those linemates.
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2011-12: ABBOTSFORD HEAT
GP: 64 | GOALS: 15 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 34
PIM: 20 | +/-: 8
DUSTIN SYLVESTER - After a solid 2011-12 season with the Heat, Dustin Sylvester signed a one-year AHL contract with the club in the off-season.
The forward's first season in British Columbia saw him tie the first-year scoring record and capture Abbotsford Rookie of the Year honours. However, like many of his teammates, Sylvester missed time due to injuries throughout the year which hindered his offensive output.
Despite his stature (5-foot-6, 178 lbs), Sylvester plays a physical game and was learned how to avoid and, if necessary, absorb checks. He doesn't hesitate to play in the tough areas and is always willing to battle in front of the net. His speed allows him to get into open areas of the ice, generating scoring chances for he and his linemates, and he is able to hit his top speed quickly.
Another notable aspect to Sylvester's game is the amount of shots he throws on net. Last year, he averaged 2.22 shots-per-game (142 in 64 games). Given his skill and propensity to shoot as often as possible, Sylvester could easily surpass the 20-goal mark this season.
Sylvester was deployed on the top line during parts of last season, clicking with Kolanos and Paul Byron. The trio are in the same group at training camp and could be used together to see if the chemistry is still there.