CALGARY, AB -- Without question, the competition for a roster spot in Calgary is fierce.
18 forwards, 11 defencemen, and 3 goaltenders are at training camp, jostling for position and trying to assert themselves in daily practices, scrimmages, and pre-season games.
Everyone wants to stay in Calgary, no doubt, but when Oct. 7th rolls around, there will be just 23 names left on the roster. Numerous players will go through the standard waves of disappointment when they are assigned to Stockton in the AHL, their respective junior club, or released from their try-out agreement.
But players can't stay crestfallen for long. The blow of not making the roster needs to be converted into motivation -- their next opportunity with the Flames could be right around the corner.
As Josh Jooris proved last year, an early-season call-up can lead to full-time employment in the NHL. The undrafted free agent signee made all kinds of noise during training camp in 2014 and pre-season games, forcing himself front and centre amongst the forward group. Originally assigned to Adirondack, he got the call in October ... and ended up staying in Calgary for the duration of the 2014-15 campaign.
Here are six prospects who could be on the cusp of a call-up if they don't land on the initial Flames roster:
MARKUS GRANLUND - CENTRE
With 55 NHL games under his belt, Markus Granlund has experienced the rigours of the NHL and understands how much work it takes to stay in the lineup night in and night out. He also knows the competition down the middle is steep. There are plenty of capable pivots at training camp and only a handful are staying in Calgary -- some are going to be heading to Stockton simply out of necessity.
If Granlund is initially assigned to the AHL, the coaching staff have a full read on him and are aware of what he brings to the table at the NHL level. He also is versatile. While he is most comfortable at centre, he has played on the wing and shown that he can be productive when out of his natural position.
Granlund is one of the 18 forwards remaining at the Flames training camp.
BILL ARNOLD - CENTRE
Bill Arnold's first NHL game was a wide-eyed affair, coming just days after he completed his collegiate career at Boston College and signing a three-year entry-level deal with the Flames. Getting 13:35 of ice time in the Flames final game of the 2013-14 season, he was more or less soaking up the experience -- it wasn't exactly a showcase of his skill set.
Since that night in Vancouver, he has played in 61 games in the AHL and has gotten accustomed to the pace of the pro game. A jack-of-all-trades type of forward, Arnold can generate offence and is strong defensively. He was trusted in all situations by Stockton head coach Ryan Huska last season and was utilized throughout the four lines over the course of the year. The Boston, MA native is also adept in the face-off circle, a definite asset when management is deciding whom is going to get the call.
ASSIGNED TO STOCKTON: Sept. 27
EMILE POIRIER - RIGHT WING
While many junior players can put up points, few can replicate that kind of offensive production when they turn pro. In fact, most never come close to churning out the points they did in junior when they hit the ECHL, AHL, or NHL.
While Emile Poirier didn't rattle off the 87 points he did in his last year with the Gatineau Olympiques, he certainly showed that his offensive flair wasn't lost in the leap to the professional ranks. The 20-year-old registered 19 goals and 42 points in 55 games and was second in team scoring -- not too shabby for Adirondack's youngest player in 2014-15. The Montreal, QC product also got his first taste of the NHL last year when he was recalled in late February. He ended up playing six games and picked up his first NHL point with an assist in a win over the Philadelphia Flyers in March.
Now, Poirier is out to prove he is ready for more than a cup of coffee with the Flames. He has the speed and skill that could mesh well in the Flames top-nine and has shown a willingness to round out his play without the puck -- a continued commitment to polishing up his defensive game will go a long way with the Flames brass when they are making decisions about recalls.
ASSIGNED TO STOCKTON: Sept. 27
GARNET HATHAWAY - RIGHT WING
It's been quite the year for Kennebunkport, ME's Garnet Hathaway. He earned his first professional contract in 2014-15, skating in 71 dates with the Adirondack Flames and rattling off 19 goals and 36 points. His play turned heads in Calgary and management offered up an entry-level deal this past summer.
He plays a blood-and-guts style of game that coaches love -- he isn't afraid to use his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, is hard to contain on the forecheck, is responsible in his own end, and has an engine that never seems to quit. If he isn't on the Oct. 7th roster, an injury on the Flames third or fourth line could earn him his first taste of the NHL.
Hathaway is one of the 18 forwards remaining at the Flames training camp.
BRETT KULAK - DEFENCE
Blueliner Brett Kulak was well-traveled in the 2014-15 season, spending time in the ECHL, AHL, and made his NHL debut during his first professional season. The Flames' 2012 fifth round pick started the year in Adirondack but a dearth of rearguards limited his ice time. Rather than have the youngster miss out on minutes that would be crucial for his development, the Flames assigned him to the Colorado Eagles in the ECHL. When Ryan Culkin suffered a season-ending wrist injury, he was summoned back to Adirondack and thrived. He was rewarded for his efforts by playing in Calgary's last regular season tilt, logging 19:31 of ice time.
Kulak was one of Calgary's top defenders at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton and is one of the 11 remaining defencemen in training camp. If his development continues to trend upwards at the pace it did last year, he may be getting his second call-up sooner than later ... or he could have one of the coveted seven spots on the Flames defence corps.
KENNEY MORRISON - DEFENCE
There is no question there is a log-jam on defence in Calgary. In reality, only a couple of spots are available on the Flames blueline and will take some time for those assigned to Stockton to get their chance at the NHL level.
Kenney Morrison, fresh off a three-year career at Western Michigan University and a 10-game stint in Adirondack, could be in line for one of the first call-ups on defence. The Lloydminister, AB product is a strong skater who hits top speed quickly and is extremely agile on his feet, meshing well with the fast-paced style of play the organization employs. He has a very hard shot, which makes him a useful piece on the power play, and a quick release. Morrison showed off his offensive prowess during his cup of coffee in Glens Falls last spring, scoring two goals and six points.
ASSIGNED TO STOCKTON: Sept. 27