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Bennett, Poirier among Flames' top five prospects

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- The NHL Draft certainly aided the rebuild of the Calgary Flames.

Two of Calgary's top three scorers last season, forwards Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, were drafted by the Flames. At 20 and 22, respectively, they are part of a core that helped the retooling franchise win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 2004.

But they're far from the only young talent in the Flames system. Calgary has been stockpiling prospects who could have an impact as soon as this season.

Here is a look at the Flames' top five prospects, according to

1. Sam Bennett, C/LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 4), 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Kingston, OHL: 11 GP, 11-13-24; Flames: 1 GP, 0-1-1

The highest draft pick in Flames history, Bennett embodies the next wave of prospects they hope will push their rebuild along. He played in Calgary's final regular-season game and in all 11 playoff games, scoring three goals.

"It's been a crazy year," Bennett said during development camp in July. "At some points it was really tough on me, and other points it was the best time of my life. It was a crazy year, but I was really happy with the way it turned out.

"I'm still only 19 years old, so I think there is tons that I still need to learn."

Bennett's late-season arrival came after his season nearly was eliminated altogether following shoulder surgery last October. After rehabbing the injury, he was assigned to Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League in February. The 6-foot-1, 178-pound forward scored 11 goals in 11 regular-season games, then joined the Flames after the Frontenacs were swept out of the first round of the OHL playoffs.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

2. Emile Poirier, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 22), 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Adirondack, AHL: 55 GP, 19-23-42; Flames: 6 GP, 0-1-1

Poirier, 20, is one of the Flames' three first-round picks from the 2013 draft, along with Monahan (No. 6) and Morgan Klimchuk (No. 28).

After scoring 43 goals in 63 games in his final season of junior hockey with Gatineau of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound left wing scored 19 times in 55 games in his first season as a pro. He also played six games with the Flames.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

3. Micheal Ferland, LW

How acquired: 5th round (No. 133), 2010 NHL Draft

Last season: Adirondack, AHL: 32 GP, 7-8-15; Flames: 26 GP, 2-3-5

The 23-year-old performed well in two stints with the Flames as a rookie last season. But it was in the playoffs that the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left wing made his presence felt.

Ferland finished with two goals and five points in nine games, and he was a physical force against the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference First Round series.

"I know I don't want to play in the American League having a taste of this," Ferland said after Calgary's second-round loss to the Anaheim Ducks. "I want to have a good summer and just get prepared for next year and give myself the best opportunity I can to play on this team."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Brandon Hickey, D

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 64), 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston University, H-East: 41 GP, 6-11-17

A standout first season with Boston University has the Flames optimistic about Hickey's potential. As a freshman, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman scored six goals and had 17 points, helping the Terriers to the NCAA championship game.

Hickey, 19, was the only NCAA player to earn an invitation to Canada's national junior team summer development camp in August.

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

5. Jon Gillies, G

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 75), 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: Providence College, H-East: 39 GP, 24-13-2, 2.01 goals-against average, .930 save percentage

Gillies, 23, was outstanding in his final season at Providence, capping his college career with a 49-save performance to lead the Friars to victory against Hickey and BU for the NCAA championship. Gillies was named the most valuable player of the Frozen Four; he had already earned Hockey East First Team All-Star and Goaltender of the Year awards.

Days later, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound goaltender signed an entry-level contract with Calgary.

"He went through that experience of carrying a team to a championship," general manager Brad Treliving said after the signing. "Being able to play in big games and being on big stages, those are experiences you don't replicate.

"Having guys who have won, I think, is really important."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

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