CALGARY, AB -- After the Calgary Flames were unable to lock up defenceman Tim Erixon in an entry-level deal earlier this week, a mild wave of panic seemed to roll through the fan base.
Many questioned if the organization had any other youngsters that could make the leap to the NHL level any time soon. Flames General Manager Jay Feaster understands the concern but is sure the team has legitimate prospects waiting in the wings, ready to make a push for a roster spot.
The first player he singled out was another blueliner who turned a lot of heads when he was given the opportunity to play in three regular season tilts with the Flames at the beginning of last season.
"What T.J. Brodie was able to accomplish this past year in both Calgary and in Abbotsford ... T.J. Brodie is a legitimate prospect who we believe is going to play for us on our blueline."
Brodie ended the regular season with five goals, 34 points and a +3 rating through 68 games with the Heat. The 20 year-old suffered an ankle injury on Apr. 2, cutting his season short, but is expected to be ready for development camp in July.
Another defenseman Feaster is eager to see at camp this summer is Christopher Breen. After some early season struggles, the 21 year-old settled into the pace of playing at a professional level and hasn't looked back since. Paired with Brodie, the duo have become the go-to pairing for Heat head coach Jim Playfair in all situations.
At 6'6 and 224 lbs, Breen is physically ready to play at the NHL level but needs some more time to fully develop his game. That being said, Feaster is adamant about where Breen will end up.
"I'm confident that Chris Breen is going to play here."
Up front, Feaster can see several players making the jump over the next couple of years.
"I think we steps being taken by Lance Bouma. We saw steps being taken by Greg Nemisz this year. I'm excited to see Ryan Howse coming in. I'm anxious to see Mitch Wahl healthy and able to compete.
"You look at what Max Reinhart did this past season, in the postseason in the WHL, and then again in the Memorial Cup."
Bouma and Nemisz both had stints with the Flames last season with Bouma looking quite comfortable in a fourth line, checking role. Given his experience, he's the most likely to push for a spot in the lineup come training camp.
While Feaster and the coaching staff are eager to insert youth into the lineup, he made it clear that the organization would not throw players into the fire if they're not ready.
"That is something that we need to do and we need to do it in an intelligent way. That doesn't mean that we simply start tossing out all the veteran players. It means bringing guys in when they're ready and at the right time."