Frolik scored the lone goal in his debut, but Calgary fell 3-1 to the Edmonton Oilers in pre-season action at Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday. The game marked the first time the 27-year-old pulled on a Flames jersey after signing a five-year contract on July 1st.
“Before the game I was excited for sure,” Frolik said. “It was a long summer and I was waiting for this time. It was a good debut and it felt pretty good.”
He impressed his boss with the performance.
“Michael is a great two-way player,” coach Bob Hartley started. “I think he’s a very underrated player. We saw his speed. We saw his hockey sense tonight. He can score goals and he’s going to be a big, big part of this hockey club. He can fill in on so many roles, so many responsibilities, that he’s going to give us a lot of options.”
Frolik saw 17:48 of ice time -- second only to Sean Monahan amongst forwards -- while skating alongside the likes of Sam Bennett, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler as Hartley mixed lines.
He wasn’t the only one making his debut.
Defenceman Dougie Hamilton, the second of Calgary’s big offseason acquisitions, also played his first game for the Flames.
“For a first game it was okay,” said Hamilton, who logged 21:26 of ice.
“There's a lot of things I already know I can improve on and, I guess, it's good for me to recognize it right away. It's a good first step. A lot of things to do better, but I felt OK and I guess that's a positive.”
Like Frolik, he saw plenty of partners, too. At times, the 22-year-old was paired with Tyler Wotherspoon, TJ Brodie and captain Mark Giordano.
The shuffling of Frolik and Hamilton was by design.
“That was the plan,” Hartley said. “We’re trying with the addition of Dougie, the addition of Michael Frolik up front, we have some options. We’ll have some decisions to make and the best way to make those decisions, and they might change game-to-game, is if we get a taste of what certain players can do playing in certain roles with different players, I think it’ll be a good investment for the regular season.”
Benoit Pouliot scored with 2:52 remaining to give Edmonton a 2-1 lead late in the third period, converting on a 2-on-1 set-up by Jordan Eberle to beat Joni Ortio after Emile Poirier failed to connect on a pass with Giordano in the Oilers zone.
“It was a tough bounce,” Giordano said. “I thought I should have had that one in the slot there and instead it gets by me and they go down and score. I think it was good to get the first one out of the way and get some rust off and go from there.
“You'd rather have bad things happen to you now, obviously, than in the games that count but for us, at the end of the day, it's getting our game going and getting sharp again and we need to improve on that.”
With Ortio on the bench in favor of the extra attacker, the Flames couldn’t find the tying goal.
Justin Schultz added an empty netter with 7.1 seconds remaining for the 3-1 final.
Ortio finished with 12 saves on 13 shots in nearly 30 minutes of work.
After a scoreless first period, featuring a no-goal declaration on a Giordano punt and a Monahan crossbar, Frolik put Calgary on the board.
A quick outlet from Jonas Hiller to Johnny Gaudreau put the Flames in transition on the power play. Gaudreau spotted Frolik with a step on the Edmonton defence, and sprung the 27-year-old in alone, zipping a shot by the glove of Oilers starter Ben Scrivens to give Calgary a 1-0 lead 6:07 into the second period.
“It was a great play by Hiller,” Frolik said. “I think he made a nice pass there. Johnny made a great pass onto my stick and I just tried to shoot it and it went in. It was a great play by those two guys.”
It was a short-lived lead. Just 48 second later, Mark Letestu managed to snuff his sixth effort under the pad of Hiller and across the goal line to tie the game 1-1.
Hiller finished with 15 saves on 16 shots.
Frolik had two chances to regain the lead for the Flames. Sprung in alone shorthanded, the winger managed to get an initial deke off while being interfered with but couldn’t score. Awarded a penalty shot, Frolik went in alone again on Anders Nilsson, on in relief of Scrivens, but couldn’t beat the goaltender.
“The thing is, if you do that, you have to go upstairs,” Frolik said. “I didn’t do that. I wanted to go high and it didn’t. It’s kind of my move, but I have a couple more to use next time.
“I think scoring two would have been nice, but one is enough.
“Save it for the season.”