Calder Cup Playoffs: Heat Players To Watch

Keep an eye on these five players in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs

Friday, 25.04.2014 / 9:00 AM / Future Watch
By Torie Peterson  - CalgaryFlames.com (@toriepeterson)
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Calder Cup Playoffs: Heat Players To Watch
Keep an eye on these five players in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs

CALGARY, AB -- The Abbotsford Heat take on the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarter-final match-up.

The Heat ended up finishing fifth in the West with a 43-25-8 record and strung together a three-game winning streak in their final trio of regular season games.

Here are CalgaryFlames.com five players to keep an eye on in the opening round:

MAX REINHART

The sophomore forward had a breakout season in 2013-14 and ended up making franchise history in the process. He is now the Heat's all-time single-season leading scorer thanks to his 63-point output (21 goals, 42 assists), topping Krys Kolanos' previous record of 61, which he set in 2011-12.

Heat head coach Troy G. Ward credits Reinhart's maturity as one of the main reasons for his success this season.

"I think it's sorted itself out as to where he's at in the organization, where he stands, where he sees himself and where they see him," Ward explained. "So I think it's been easier for him mentally to be more focused here and compete on a consistent basis than trying to be somewhere else. He's more about his output right now than he is about his surroundings. Last year he was concerned with his surroundings and not so much his output. Those things clouded his ability to play at a higher level."

The Flames 2010 third round pick provided plenty of offence for the Heat against the Griffins this year, posting five goals and seven points in the four-game season series.

Reinhart also played eight games with the Flames this season, notching two assists.

MARKUS GRANLUND

Granlund's 25 goals and 46 points were not only good enough to land him fourth in the Heat's scoring race but also helped him nab Abbotsford's Rookie of the Year Award. He finished off the regular season with a two-goal performance against the Texas Stars and despite missing a large chunk of time with an upper body injury, didn't look like he missed a beat.

The 21-year-old started his first season in North American a bit slowly, adjusting to the pace and style, but settled in quickly and never slowed down from that point forward. He developed great chemistry with fellow Flames prospect Sven Baertschi earlier this year so that may be option Ward looks at up front.

Impressed with Granlund's play in the AHL, the Flames recalled the Finn earlier this year to see how he fared in the NHL. He skated in seven games, scoring two goals and three points while putting nine shots on net.

SVEN BAERTSCHI

While it certainly hasn't been the season Baertschi envisioned, the Swiss forward has turned a corner in recent months in Abbotsford and has become one of their most lethal weapons up front.

There's no doubt he struggled when he first arrived in Abbotsford in December, posting just five points in his first 16 games with the team, but he has rebounded nicely with 16 points in his final 14 games of the season. He has also rifled 27 shots on net in his last 14 outings.

Recently, the Flames 2011 first rounder has found himself playing on a line with Corban Knight and Tim Miller. Ward believes placing Baertschi and Knight together has sparked the former offensively.

"[Baertschi's] just had more time and space. He's felt a little bit more comfortable, maybe, on zone entry. When you're a smaller guy and you're agile and you're quick, you want to try to get in the offensive zone unscathed. You don't want to be banged up before you get in there. It's one thing to battle down low but your zone entry time, you want to be able to play fast. He's been able to do that with Corban. Corban's a terrific passer and I think that's helped him the most to be honest with you."

In the season series between Abbotsford and Grand Rapids, Baertschi has one goal and five points to his name.

JONI ORTIO

Like Granlund, Ortio's first full season in North America has been superb. He started the season with the Alaska Aces in the ECHL due to the number of netminders jostling for spots throughout the depth chart but when some space opened up in Abbotsford, he took a hold of the starting gig and hasn't let go since.

The 23-year-old went 27-8-0 with the Heat this year, posting a 2.33 GAA and a .926 save percentage. He has made 30+ saves in 16 games this season.

In his last five games, he has five wins to his name and has made 172 saves on 184 shots.

"He's gotten a rhythm back," Ward told the Canadian Press earlier this week. "It's a different game in the NHL and it took a while to get his rhythm and AHL condition, shots are from bad angles, not calculated up top."

Ortio had a 4-4-0 record with the Flames this year, picking up a 2.51 GAA and a .891 save percentage. He collected his first NHL win on Mar. 5 when he 30 saves in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

BLAIR JONES

Another player entering the postseason on a hot streak is Jones. The 27-year-old went on a tear in his final five games of the regular season, scoring three goals - two of which were game winners - and seven points.

That offensive burst started in his first game back from injury. The time away, while frustrating in terms of not being able to do much, likely sparked that production and solid play.

"From just starting skating after not doing anything for a few weeks, I never really felt that bad. I was happy with that and actually had decent legs ... that first game back," Jones said.

"I've had my fair share of injuries this year so it was kind of nice, with what I had, to rest. My body got a chance to rest."

The Central Butte, SK native averaged a point-per-game in Abbotsford this season, scoring 17 goals and 38 points in 38 games.

Jones scored two goals during his 14 games with the Flames this season.

2014 FLAMES PICKS
SAM BENNETT
CENTRE - CGY
Round 1 - 4th Overall
MASON MCDONALD
GOALTENDER - CGY
Round 2 - 34th Overall
HUNTER SMITH
RIGHT WING - CGY
Round 2 - 54th Overall
BRANDON HICKEY
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 3 - 64th Overall
ADAM OLLAS-MATTSSON
DEFENCE - CGY
Round 6 - 175th Overall
AUSTIN CARROLL
LEFT WING - CGY
Round 7 - 184th Overall